Korean Beef Bulgogi

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 22/01/2024 Updated: 22/01/2024
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 2 hours 20 minutes
Let’s make classic Korean bbq at home with this beef bulgogi recipe. This easy Korean bulgogi recipe features smoky, sweet, and savory tender thinly sliced beef that only takes 15 minutes to cook!
Korean Beef Bulgogi

When it comes to Korean food, beef bulgogi is hands down one of my favorite dishes. The tender thinly sliced beef is marinated to perfection and then caramelizes when cooked over a hot stove or grill creating a juicy, smokey, savory, sweet, and aromatic experience.

A pair of chopsticks lifting up beef bulgogi from a plate.

With every bite, bulgogi beef will welcome you with an explosion of flavors. The bulgogi marinade is made with Asian pear, ginger, onion, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, mirin, and sesame oil for the perfect complex umami flavor combination.

This Korean beef bulgogi recipe is really easy to make. After the beef bulgogi is marinated, it will only take 15 minutes to cook! If you are looking for more Korean food recipes, check out our japchae, tteokbokki, and jajangmyeon.

A top down view of a bulgogi bowl with various vegetable sides, kimchi, and rice.

What is beef bulgogi?

Bulgogi (불고기) translates to “fire meat” which refers to the traditional cooking method of cooking the meat over an open flame. Beef bulgogi is a classic Korean dish that is known for its sweet, savory, and aromatic bulgogi marinade and caramelized, charred grilled flavor. It is made with the most tender cuts of beef, pork, or chicken. The most common form of bulgogi is made with beef that is typically served at Korean bbq restaurants.

Korean bulgogi is often garnished with sesame seeds and green onions and can be served with rice, wrapped in lettuce, or served with noodles. Korean beef bulgogi is often served with kimchi, pickled vegetables, and other Korean side dishes.

A top down view of a plate of Korean beef bulgogi surrounded by table settings.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

This Korean bulgogi recipe yields the most flavorful and tender bulgogi beef you will ever have. Here are 3 reasons why you should make this recipe.

  1. Explosion of Flavors. The bulgogi marinade is made with Asian pear, ginger, onion, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, mirin, and sesame oil for a delicious combination of savory, sweet, and umami notes.
  2. Quick and Easy. The hardest part about this Korean bulgogi recipe is waiting for the beef to marinate! Once the beef is marinated, it will take less than 15 minutes to cook!
  3. Versatile. You can enjoy your Korean beef bulgogi in a variety of different ways! You can either serve it with rice or noodles or wrapped in lettuce with kimchi (ssam).
A bulgogi bowl on a table featuring beef bulgogi, kimchi, vegetables, and rice.

Kitchen Equipment

You will use the following kitchen equipment items for this easy Korean beef bulgogi recipe. I’ve linked everything that I used for you below.

Ingredients

You will need the following ingredients to make this Korean beef bulgogi recipe. I’ve linked everything that I used below.

  • Boneless Thinly Sliced Ribeye: use pre-sliced cuts of ribeye that you can find at any Korean grocery store or Asian grocery store.
Thin sliced beef and a yellow onion for making beef bulgogi.
  • Soy Sauce: regular soy sauce is the base for the bulgogi marinade. I used Korean soy sauce for the most authentic flavor.
  • Toasted Sesame oil: toasted sesame oil adds a nutty umami flavor.
  • Light Brown Sugar: light brown sugar is the main sweetener that adds a rich molasses-like sweetness that pairs well with soy sauce.
  • Honey: Honey adds a gentle floral note of sweetness to the bulgogi sauce.
  • Mirin: mirin or cooking wine adds a sweet and tangy flavor. You can either use Japanese mirin or Korean mirin.
  • Black pepper: black pepper season the beef.
  • Asian pear: Asian pear is a large round pear with tan skin that has a sweet-tart flavor with floral notes. It is juicy, crisp, and mildly sweet.
  • Yellow onion, garlic, and ginger: yellow onion, garlic, and ginger add the fragrant aromatic flavors to the bulgogi sauce.
  • Toasted sesame seeds: toasted sesame seeds for garnish.
  • Green onion: thinly sliced green onion for garnish.
All the ingredients for a beef bulgogi marinade organized and labeled.

Substitutions and Additions

You can customize your Korean beef bulgogi recipe with the following suggestions for substitutions and additions.

Substitutions

  • Beef: instead of ribeye, you can opt for top sirloin or beef tenderloin instead.
  • Soy sauce: You can experiment with different flavored soy sauces such as light soy sauce, tamari, or liquid aminos.
  • Sweetener: you can use just brown sugar or just honey instead of a combination of the two.
  • Fruit: instead of Asian pear, you can use an apple, or kiwi instead.

Additions

  • Spice: for spicy bulgogi, go ahead and add Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) for added heat.
  • Vegetables: for a well-balanced bulgogi beef meal, add sliced mushrooms, bell peppers, and carrots into the bulgogi marinade for a more vegetable-forward stir fry.

How to Make Korean Beef Bulgogi

Here are the step-by-step instructions on how to make this Korean beef bulgogi recipe.

  1. Mix the beef. In a large mixing bowl, add the thinly sliced beef and sliced yellow onion. Mix to combine.
Thin sliced beef tosses with thin sliced yellow onion in a large glass bowl.
  1. Make marinade. In a food processor or blender, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar honey, mirin, black pepper, chopped Asian pear, yellow onion, garlic, and ginger. Process until smooth. Then pour the marinade over the beef and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.
  1. Cook. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the beef in portions and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the beef is cooked on both sides. Do not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the beef to a serving plate and continue with the remaining beef.
Beef bulgogi cooking in a large skillet.
  1. Serve. Top with freshly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds and serve with rice. Enjoy!
A pair of chopsticks lifting up beef bulgogi from a plate.

Tips for the Best Beef Bulgogi

  • Marinate for at least 2 hours. For best results, marinate the beef for a minimum of 2 hours but ideally overnight or up to 24 hours. This allows the bulgogi sauce to penetrate the meat thoroughly.
  • High heat. Bulgogi is traditionally cooked on high heat for a short amount of time to seal in the juices and create a charred flavor. Using a grill, a cast iron, or a skillet can add a smoky element to the dish.
  • Avoid overcrowding. When cooking the bulgogi beef, cook in batches to avoid overcrowding so the beef has enough space to sear and caramelize properly.
  • For tender juicy beef, avoid overcooking. The beef is done when it is no longer pink. You want to avoid overcooking which can yield burnt, dry beef.

Storage Instructions

Bulgogi beef is best served immediately when cooked. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.

Reheat: you can either cook the Korean beef bulgogi on the stove until warm or microwave covered until warm. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

Frequently Asked Q’s and A’s

What is the best beef for bulgogi?

The best cuts of beef used for bulgogi are ribeye, top sirloin, and beef tenderloin. I highly recommend buying the pre-sliced beef that can be found at any Korean or Asian grocery market. At any Korean grocery market, it will be labeled “bulgogi” in the refrigerator section.

Can I slice the beef myself?

If you do not have access to an Asian grocery store, you can slice the beef yourself by freezing the beef for 2 hours and thinly slice it with a sharp knife.

What is in bulgogi marinade?

This bulgogi marinade recipe is a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, mirin, black pepper, Asian pear, garlic, ginger, and yellow onion.

How do I serve Korean bulgogi?

You can serve this bulgogi recipe with steamed rice and other Korean side dishes such as kimchi, fish cake stir fry, or cucumber salad.

Or you can serve Korean bulgogi with lettuce and perilla leaves to wrap the beef. Pair the lettuce wrap with ssamjang, kimchi, and a touch of rice for the perfect bite!

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Recipe

A top down view of a plate of Korean beef bulgogi surrounded by table settings.

Korean Beef Bulgogi

5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Marinate Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Let’s make classic Korean bbq at home with this beef bulgogi recipe. This easy Korean bulgogi recipe features smoky, sweet, and savory tender thinly sliced beef that only takes 15 minutes to cook!
Servings: 3 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Beef

  • 1 ½ lb boneless ribeye very thinly sliced
  • 1 (5 oz) small yellow onion thinly sliced

Beef Marinade

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar packed
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoon mirin
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small (6 oz) Asian pear peeled, cored and chopped
  • ½ small yellow onion quartered
  • 5 garlic cloves roughly chopped (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ginger peeled and roughly chopped

Garnish

Instructions

  • Mix the beef. In a large mixing bowl, add the thinly sliced beef and sliced yellow onion. Mix to combine.
  • Make marinade. In a food processor or blender, add the soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar honey, mirin, black pepper, chopped asian pear, yellow onion, garlic, and ginger. Process until smooth. Then pour the marinade over the beef and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
  • Cook. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium high heat until hot. Add the beef in portions and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the beef is cooked on both sides. Do not overcrowd the pan. Transfer the beef to a serving plate and continue with the remaining beef.
  • Serve. Top with freshly sliced green onion and toasted sesame seeds and serve with rice. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Marinate for at least 2 hours. For best results, marinate the beef for a minimum of 2 hours but ideally overnight or up to 24 hours. This allows the bulgogi sauce to penetrate the meat thoroughly.
  • High heat. Bulgogi is traditionally cooked on high heat for a short amount of time to seal in the juices and create a charred flavor. Using a grill, a cast iron, or a skillet can add a smoky element to the dish.
  • Avoid overcrowding. When cooking the bulgogi beef, cook in batches to avoid overcrowding so the beef has enough space to sear and caramelize properly.
  • For tender juicy beef, avoid overcooking. The beef is done when it is no longer pink. You want to avoid overcooking which can yield burnt, dry beef.
  • Storage Instructions: the bulgogi is best served immediately when cooked. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months.

Nutrition:

Calories: 682kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 138mg | Sodium: 2496mg | Potassium: 898mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 129IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 6mg

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