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Thinly sliced beef, garlic, onions, and scallions marinated in a deeply flavorful sauce and quickly fried to perfection come together in this Korean beef bulgogi. The beef is magnificently tender and full of flavor. No wonder it’s so popular.
This recipe is sure to throw your taste buds into a state of delight. It is so easy to prepare that it will make you forget the notion of take-out and opt for a home-cooked meal.
All it takes is the slicing of some beef, onions, garlic, and scallions, the mixing of a delightfully flavorful marinade, tossing it all together for a short stint in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld, and a quick pan fry. Boom. You’ve got yourself a melt-in-your-mouth, protein-packed meal that is absolutely popping with flavor.
The tenderness of the thinly sliced beef and the way the marinade sinks into every bite make Korean beef bulgogi a recipe that you are sure to come back to over and over again.
Why You’ll Love This Korean BBQ Recipe
There are so many great things about this Korean beef bulgogi. In particular, I appreciate how adaptable it is, how quickly it comes together, and the fact that it makes for awesome leftovers.
- Easily adaptable. Feel free to play around with this one. Add some veggies, sub the beef out in favor of pork, chicken, shrimp, or even tofu. Add a kick of spice. Swap the soy sauce out in favor of coconut aminos if you are gluten-free. See the section below titled “Easy Variations”.
- Quick. Round trip, this recipe takes 1 hour and 25 minutes, but only 25 minutes of that time is active, making it something you can whip up with very little effort.
- Great for leftovers. Korean beef bulgogi reheats so nicely, making it a wonderful recipe to make plenty of and enjoy throughout the week for easy lunches and dinners.
What Is Korean Beef Bulgogi?
Korean beef bulgogi, also known as Korean BBQ beef, is a well-loved (as the name would suggest) Korean entree featuring thinly sliced beef marinaded with onions garlic, and scallions in a flavorful, savory sauce. The whole kit-and-kaboodle is then quickly fried to tender perfection and served over steamed rice.
Beef bulgogi is a relatively simple recipe that only requires 8 ingredients. I have listed them here, but make sure to scroll down to see the full recipe.
- Ribeye. Thinly sliced. You can find pre-sliced beef specifically for bulgogi at most Asian markets. If you do not have access to an Asian market, you can easily slice it yourself if you select a boneless cut.
- Low-sodium soy sauce. Swap it out for liquid aminos if you are avoiding gluten.
- Sesame oil. Make sure you use light sesame oil as opposed to toasted.
- Granulated sugar
- Red pepper flakes
- Green onions
What Cut of Meat Is Beef Bulgogi?
Ribeye is generally the first pick when it comes to making bulgogi. Top sirloin is also a common choice. If you decide to veer in a different direction due to availability or budget, just make sure you look for a tender cut that has some fat in it for flavor.
This bulgogi recipe is pretty fantastic when followed to a tee. That being said, there are some interesting spins you can put on it if you are looking for something a little bit different. Here are some that are exciting to me.
- Vegetarian. This recipe is easily adaptable to a vegetarian diet. Simply substitute a meaty mushroom or cubes of tofu for the beef.
- Pescatarian. Try swapping the beef for some nice, jumbo shrimp for a pescatarian delight.
- Pork. If you aren’t a fan of beef, feel free to use thinly sliced pork instead. Chicken will also work well.
- Add veggies. If you are looking for a more well-rounded meal, toss some thinly sliced veggies in the pan with the beef.
- Bulgogi buns. I love using this beef bulgogi as a filling for bao bun sandwiches. They are like Korean sliders!
How to Make Beef Bulgogi
This recipe is so simple and, while it takes about an hour and a half in total to make, only about 25 minutes of that time are active. The rest is just waiting for the beef to soak in the marinade. Here’s a basic rundown on how to do it. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the full recipe.
- Make the sauce. Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and red pepper flakes
- Marinade the beef. Fill a Ziploc bag with the sliced ribeye, onions, scallions, garlic, and marinade. Mix it all together and place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Fry. On medium-high heat and in just a bit of oil, fry all the goodies from the Ziploc (except for the sauce…reserve that) until the beef is cooked.
- Reduce the sauce (optional). Pour the sauce into the pan and reduce it until thick.
- Serve. Pour the reduced sauce over the bulgogi and serve it all over steamed white rice!
Tips for Success
It’s hard to go wrong with this recipe but, as per usual, I have some thoughts for you on how to set yourself up for success.
- Pick the right cut of beef. You want a nice, fatty cut of beef…but not too fatty. Look for a fine marbling on a ribeye or a top sirloin. The fat will add to the flavor and give you the melt-in-your-mouth feel you are looking for.
- Slice the beef thinly. If you are butchering the beef yourself, go slow and slice as thinly as possible. The thinner the better. It will cook faster, preventing a chewy outcome.
- Don’t skimp on marinating. Marinate the beef, onion, garlic, scallion combo for (at the very minimum) one hour. You can go so far as marinating it overnight. The flavorful marinade really defines this dish. Give it time to sink in.
What Goes With Beef Bulgogi?
Traditionally, this Korean favorite is served over steamed white rice, but it goes well with a plethora of other tasty side dishes as well. Here are some of my favorites.
- Chilled Garlic Soy Cucumbers
- Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts
- Garlic Roasted Green Beans
- Cold Garlic and Soy Green Beans
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
Korean BBQ beef is a tremendous choice if you are thinking about leftovers. It stores well, reheats nicely, and makes an excellent lunch or dinner. So make a big batch, store it properly, and enjoy it throughout the week.
- Storing. Allow the dish to cool completely before placing it in an airtight container and storing it in the refrigerator. It will stay good for up to three days. You can also place the container in the freezer for up to three months.
- Reheating. Heat a bit of oil to medium-high in a frying pan, add the desired portion, and sautee until the beef is heated through (about 5 minutes). If reheating from frozen, allow the bulgogi to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before following the same instructions.
More Easy Beef Recipes
If bulgogi isn’t quite what you’re looking for, no problem! There are so many other awesome (and easy) beef recipes out there. Here are some of my favorites.
- Ground Beef Fajitas
- Asian Beef and Broccoli Noodles
- Sheet Pan Beef and Cheese Quesadillas
- Slow Cooker Mojo Beef and Rice
- Smash Burgers
- 1 pound (454 g) thinly sliced ribeye, (I went to the Asian mart to buy this thinly sliced ribeye. They have it cut specifically for bulgogi but if you don't have an Asian mart around you can easily thinly slice your own ribeye)
- ⅓ cup (79 ml) low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ onion, sliced into half moon slivers
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced or sliced
- 2 stalks of green onions, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
- In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and red pepper flakes.
- Place the ribeye, onion slivers, garlic, and green onions into a large Ziploc bag.
- Pour the liquid into Ziploc bag, seal it, then gently massage the liquid all over the meat, making sure it all gets coated in the mixture.
- Place in refrigerator to marinate for an hour, or even overnight.
- In a frying pan, heat up a little bit of oil then gently add a few slices of the marinated meat to the pan and cook until meat is cooked through – should be fairly quick since they’re so thin.
- This is optional, but I took the remainder of the sauce from the Ziploc bag, poured it into the frying pan with the pan juices of the cooked meat and reduced it down until it was a thick, syrupy, consistency, about 15 minutes. I then poured that sauce on top of my bulgogi and steamed white rice.
- Serve over steamed white rice!
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Photography by Eat Love Eats