Classic Bulgogi Recipe (Korean BBQ Beef)
Looking for an authentic Bulgogi recipe? Try this Korean BBQ beef! It uses thin beef slices marinated in homemade bulgogi sauce, a blend of soy, sugar, sesame oil, and garlic. Grill or stir-fry for juicy perfection. No extra oil needed! Serve traditionally with rice and kimchi.
“This was divine…..I think your special sauce and not adding the veggies right away helped make this one of the most beautiful bulgogi ever!”michel
Bulgogi and Bibimbap stand out as some of the most recognized dishes in Korean cuisine, celebrated both domestically and internationally. Being a native Korean, beef Bulgogi has been a constant in my culinary journey.
Imagine the tantalizing aroma of thin beef slices, marinated in a rich Bulgogi sauce, sizzling on a hot griddle over an open flame. It instantly transports me back to my favorite Korean BBQ restaurant.
Honestly, I’ve yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t fall for the irresistible charm of Korean BBQ beef. Tender, flavorful beef enveloped in a savory sauce – Bulgogi isn’t just a dish; it’s an immersion into Korean culture.
Served either as the star of your meal or a humble Korean beef bowl, each bite is a piece of Korean culinary heaven!
What is Bulgogi?
Bulgogi, a cherished traditional Korean dish, is the star of Korean BBQ recipes. Its name translates to “fire meat” – reflecting its cooking method over an open flame. With roots tracing back to the Joseon dynasty, it was once a culinary delight reserved for royalty.
Fast forward to today, Bulgogi is a ubiquitous presence on almost every Korean street corner. It boasts thin slices of marinated beef, skillfully grilled to perfection.
The marinade – a captivating blend of soy sauce, sugar, garlic, green onions, sesame oil, and spices – creates an irresistible flavor burst with every bite.
While Korean cuisine offers variants like Chicken Bulgogi and Pork Bulgogi, it’s the Beef Bulgogi that reigns supreme – a classic everyone must savor.
Bulgogi isn’t a one-size-fits-all Korean dish. Its preparation and flavor profile can vary from region to region in Korea. This leads to an enjoyable exploration of Korea’s traditional cooking methods.
1. Traditional Korean BBQ Style
Thinly sliced beef is marinated in a flavorful sauce. Traditionally, Korean bbq beef requires a few hours of marinating time to tenderize the beef and to allow the beef to soak up all the flavor from the marinade.
While some enjoy adding mushrooms and vegetables like carrots or peppers to their dish, I prefer keeping mine focused on the beef.
A touch of green onion or leek adds just enough contrast. My beef marinade recipe promises a perfectly balanced taste for your Korean BBQ experience.
2. Seoul-Inspired Variation
A surprising variation of the well-known Korean BBQ beef, this Seoul-style recipe introduces sea kelp broth into the marinade. The beef is then cooked using a unique dome-shaped pan with a flat bottom.
This innovative cooking technique channels the meat juices and rich broth downwards, providing a flavorful liquid that’s delicious when drizzled over rice. Alongside the beef, typical accompaniments include Korean noodles (dangmyun), mushrooms, and a variety of vegetables.
Discover the full recipe for this Seoul-Style Bulgogi in my cookbook, ‘Korean Cooking Favorites‘.
3. Crispy Version from Jeolla Province
In contrast to the Seoul-inspired recipe, this version from Jeolla Province in South Korea prioritizes a crispy exterior. It differs in that it doesn’t produce a succulent broth.
Commonly used in the Jeolla Province, this cooking technique creates an enticing crunch on the outside of the Korean BBQ beef. To experience this unique spin on a traditional Korean dish, refer to my ‘Crispy Korean Beef‘ recipe.
Although it is not part of traditional Korean bulgogi category, bulgogi made with ground beef is a popular recipe to make a quick Korean ground beef bowl.
Choosing the Right Beef
The choice of beef is a crucial factor in the taste and texture of your Korean BBQ dish. Typically, this traditional Korean dish utilizes thin slices of tender beef. Rib-eye or sirloin are often the preferred cuts for Bulgogi due to their perfect balance of lean meat and fat.
The rib-eye provides a wonderful blend of flavor and tenderness, while the sirloin offers a leaner option without compromising the juicy texture that makes Bulgogi so popular.
Korean-cut frozen beef slices
You’ll want to slice the beef thinly against the grain for optimal marinade absorption, yielding a flavorful and tender result. This technique also promotes quick, even cooking.
However, if you’d rather skip the slicing, Korean stores often sell pre-sliced, frozen Bulgogi meat. Simply defrost and marinate for an authentic, hassle-free Korean BBQ experience.
Homemade Bulgogi Sauce
Korean bulgogi’s success is largely due to its marinade, and having the best sauce is crucial for optimal results. Crafting your own bulgogi sauce yields a superior flavor compared to store-bought options.
Creating homemade bulgogi marinade is a simple process, but it’s important to plan ahead for marination time. Beef should marinate for at least 4 hours, but overnight is preferable.
You’ll need the following marinade ingredients:
- Asian pear (preferably Korean pear) – It adds a pear flavor to the sauce and tenderizes the meat.
- Kiwi – This highly acidic fruit tenderizes the beef very fast, so use a small amount. If you intend to marinate the beef longer than 4 hours, use half the amount in the recipe (so 1/4 kiwi).
- Instead of kiwi, the same amount of pineapple pieces also tenderize the meat.
- Onion and garlic – Savory addition
- Soy sauce – It seasons and flavors the meat
- Korean tuna sauce or Korean soup soy sauce – It adds umami flavor to the beef and deepens the taste. You can leave it out but I highly recommend adding it. You will love the outcome.
- Rice wine – Optional, but it using, try sweet rice wine (mirim).
- Brown sugar – Adds sweetness with a hint of caramel flavor
- Pepper – Use plenty. Trust me, it tastes better.
- Sesame oil – Provides fragrance to the overall dish.
Other Iconic Korean Dishes to Explore
Don’t miss out on these famous Korean recipes. They are easy to make at home and tastes just like what you eat at Korean restaurants if not better.
How to Make Beef Bulgogi
Step 1. Make bulgogi sauce (marinade)
- Put diced pear, kiwi, onion and garlic in a blender and process until very smooth.
- Pour the onion/fruit puree into a large shallow pan – a 9×13-inch Pyrex baking pan (with a lid) is perfect for this.
- Add soy sauce, tuna sauce (or soup soy sauce), rice wine, Korean plum extract (if using), brown sugar, pepper and sesame oil; mix well.
- You can make this marinade sauce ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Step 2. Prep the beef (optional but recommended).
- Dab sliced beef with a paper towel to remove the extra red myoglobin from the surface. It helps get rid of unpleasant gamy smell if the beef was frozen too long.
Step 3. Marinate the beef.
- Separate the thin beef slices and add them to the marinade sauce. Toss gently by hand to combine everything with a slight massaging motion. Cover and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
Step 4. Cook marinated beef in a very hot skillet
- Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) very hot over high heat. Do Not Add any vegetable oil! Add the beef.
- You can add sliced Asian leek on top as I did, or onion or green onion. You can also add thinly sliced carrot, or pepper if you want it to be more wholesome, but then, it won’t be a classic bulgogi.
Step 5. Cook beef in its own marinade sauce.
- The beef should sizzle as soon as it touches the hot skillet. Let the meat cook in its own juice. Toss the meat around to cook evenly and thoroughly, about 2-3 minutes. It should cook very quickly.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion to garnish.
If you like it as a simple one bowl meal, top it on the white rice and kimchi (or other vegetable side dish) on the side all together in a bowl. Try my vegan kimchi if you prefer mild flavored kimchi.
People traditionally serve Bulgogi as a complete meal, pairing it with rice, vegetables, and various condiments. Try it with lettuce leaves, green onion salad, and ssamjang to make wraps. Often, Korea soybean paste stew is also served together in the restaurants.
But let’s be real, the star of the show is definitely the bulgogi. The tender and juicy slices of beef, combined with the savory marinade, will have you thinking you’ve died and gone to heaven.
Don’t forget to serve a few simple Korean side dishes alongside. Here are my suggestions:
- How To Make Best Cucumber Kimchi (Oi-sobagi)
- Korean Bean Sprout Side Dish (Kongnamul Muchim)
- Korean Spicy Cucumber Salad (Oi Muchim)
- Korean Spinach Side Dish (Sigeumchi Namul)
- Korean Pan-Fried Potatoes (Gamja Bokkeum)
This recipe was originally posted in November 2010. I’ve updated the recipe with minor changes, new photos, and more information.
Classic Bulgogi Recipe (Korean BBQ Beef)
- 2 lb (900 g) beef sirloin or rib eye , thinly sliced, about 1/8-inch thick
- 1 Asian leek or 3 green onion, sliced
- 1/2 large Asian pear , peeled and diced
- 1/4-1/2 kiwi, peeled and diced. See note below
- 1/2 large onion , diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Korean soup soy sauce (gukganjang)
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp sweet rice wine (mirim)
- 2 tbsp Korean plum extract (maeshil cheong), optional
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
To marinate beef
- To make bulgogi marinade, put pear, kiwi, onion, and garlic in a blender and process until very smooth.
- Pour the onion/fruit puree into a large shallow pan – a 9×13-inch pyrex baking pan (with lid) is perfect for this. Add soy sauce, Koran soup soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine, Korean plum extract (if using), pepper and sesame oil; mix well. You can make this marinade sauce ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Dab the beef with a paper towel to wipe out extra liquid on the package if there's any. Separate the beef slices and add them to the marinade sauce. Toss gently by hand to combine everything with a slight massaging motion. Cover and marinate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
To cook bulgogi
- Heat a skillet very hot over high heat. Do not add any oil! Add the beef. You can add sliced Asian leek or green onion on top. The beef should sizzle as soon as it touches the hot skillet. Let the meat cook in its own juice. Toss the meat around to cook evenly and thoroughly, about 2-3 minutes. It should cook very quickly.
- Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onion to garnish. Serve warm with rice and a vegetable side dish.
Is the old recipe still available? This was my go-to bulgogi recipe and I noticed it changed a lot! Added kiwi, skipped the myeolchi broth step, etc. While I’m sure this version is delicious and a little less labor intensive, it’s the version my Korean husband approves of!
The major difference between the two is that the old version has anchovy broth added. You can add 1/2 cup of anchovy sea kelp broth to the marinade. You can skip the kiwi, or used crushed pineapple (2 tbsp) instead. If you skip the kiwi, make sure to marinate overnight. The old version also uses mushroom and onion as an additional topping. You can either cook together with bulgogi, or saute them separately and top over bulgogi. Hope this helps.
I had my first taste of beef bulgogi this past summer, and it has become my favorite way to eat beef sirloin! Now I’m out camping, and introducing new friends to authentic Korean dishes!
I had a craving for bulgogi and this hot the spot!! The flavors were incredible, you’d never know there was pear and kiwi, it all worked so well!
I’m glad that this bulgogi satisfied your craving. Yes, the pear and the kiwi does the wonder to make the beef more flavorful. Thanks for the comment!
Fabulous recipe! Thank you for this. It tasted just like I remember from living in South Korea as a kid.
I absolutely love Korean culture. Especially the food. It’s so yummy. 🙂
I haven’t tried this dish yet, but I’ve made japchae 3 or 4 times for my family. I am getting pretty good at it. I am so excited to learn more about the cuisine.
Are there any specific recipes that you suggest for a beginner cook? (I am still a teenager, ehehe)
Thank you so much!!
You impressed me. I am so happy to know that you are getting good at Korean cooking. Here are a few recipes that I suggest you to try.
Spicy Pork bulgogi: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/spicy-korean-pork/
Chicken Bulgogi: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/chicken-bulgogi-korean-chicken-bbq/
Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes): https://www.beyondkimchee.com/spicy-korean-rice-cakes/
Korean Army Stew: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/korean-army-stew-budae-jjigae/
Ramen Stir-Fry with Vegetables: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/10-minute-ramen-stir-fry-vegetables/
Korean Honey Garlic Chicken Wings: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/korean-honey-garlic-chicken-wings/
Kimchi Fried Rice: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/kimchi-bacon-fried-rice/
Pan-Fried Tofu: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/pan-fried-tofu/
Easy Kimchi Recipe: https://www.beyondkimchee.com/easy-cabbage-kimchi/
Keep up the good work! Don’t hesitate asking any question if you have.
Oh this looks terrific! I love Korean BBQ and Bulgogi, so thank you for sharing the recipe adopted to a pan!
Fantastic, and surprisingly flexible. I didn’t have a pear or kiwi so substituted a grated apple. I think it did the trick. I also used london broil sliced thin. If was still delicious.
My hubby loves bulgogi — such a delicious and flavourful meat! I wish I can have some right now!
Terrific post! I’m lucky in that my local supermarket sells thinly sliced beef that’s appropriate for this dish — so less work for me to do. 🙂 Haven’t made this dish in what seems like forever, and now you have me craving it. 🙂 Really good stuff — thanks.
Thanks so much for the recipe. I only have regular soy sauce so for the marinade I am sure I need less. Any suggestion how many tablespoon needed and do I need to add water maybe to make it 7 tbsp?
The love story you want is Sleepless in Seattle. The recipe is awesome. Can you now please give me your ssamjang recipe?
This looks absolutely deelish and I’m going to make it soon! I love the taste of ginger, would adding a little hurt anything?
Adding a just little bit of ginger will enhance bulgogi nicely. Go for it.
Gawd that sounds delicious… bulgogi at a Korean BBQ place is still the most delicious meat memory I’ve ever put in my mouth… yours looks divine. When I can eat again I will be trying this recipe for sure.
This was divine…..I think your special sauce and not adding the veggies right away helped make this one of the most beautiful bulgogi ever!
thank you again
I made your bulgogi recipe for a party I hosted this weekend. It was soooo delicious, and a big hit with my guests!
My husband can’t wait for me to make it again. Thank you!
Your blog, all of it, is food porn to me. <3
Just went to a Korean shop today looking for dried sea kelp but found a dried sea tangle….are these two the same?
this looks yummy..I'll try to cook this next time 🙂
This is the best Bulgogi I've ever had. Thanks for sharing.
Please let me know how he thinks. Hope he likes it.
It looks absolutely delicious! I will make it tonight and let's see what my Korean husband has to say about it 🙂
Thanks sweetie. They were mighty tasty.
I would never tire of bulgogi and yours look yummylicious!!!