Make classic Korean beef bulgogi with this easy, flavorful homemade BBQ beef marinade recipe. The beef cooks very quickly, resulting in tender, juicy meat. Serve this recipe with rice or in a lettuce wrap for a perfect family dinner.

Bulgogi made with classic Korean recipe served in a bowl.

“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 is a classic dish that really hits home for anyone with Korean roots, often bringing back great childhood memories. But it’s not just for those of Korean descent; this tasty Korean beef dish has won over folks everywhere and has become a go-to meal for dinner.

I absolutely love how my mom whips up her bulgogi that just takes it to the next level. I’m excited to share this easy recipe with you, so you can get a taste of its authentic flavor for yourself.

Beef bulgogi served with rice and Korean vegetable side dish.

Making Korean beef is way easier than you might think. Just start with some super thin slices of beef (specifically cut for bulgogi) and toss them in a tasty marinade with soy sauce, grated fruits, and some other goodies.

Let that beef soak up all those great flavors for a few hours, or even better, overnight—that’ll make it really tender. Then, just throw it on a super hot skillet or grill. That smoky, sweet-savory flavor and those charred edges? They’ll transport you straight to Korean BBQ heaven!

Bulgogi in Korean cuisine isn’t just about beef. You can also enjoy chicken and pork variations such as chicken bulgogi and pork bulgogi, each with unique flavors enhanced by gochujang in the sauce. Try crispy Korean beef for a twist on the classic!

Choosing and Slicing the Beef

Thinly sliced sirloin beef for making Korean bulgogi recipe.

The type of beef you choose is key to how your dish turns out. Usually, thin slices of tender beef, such as rib-eye or sirloin, are the top choices because they have the right mix of lean meat and fat.

Korean-cut frozen beef slices

For the best flavor and tenderness, slice the beef thinly against the grain. This helps it soak up the marinade better and cooks quickly and evenly.

If you don’t want to slice the beef yourself, you can buy pre-sliced, frozen bulgogi meat at Korean stores. Just thaw it, marinate, and you’re ready for an easy Korean BBQ experience.

Homemade Bulgogi Marinade

Ingredients for making bulgogi marinade.

The secret to perfect bulgogi is all in the marinade. Making your own sauce at home is easy and far superior to store-bought versions. The combination of ingredients in this recipe provides the best flavor for any homemade bulgogi marinade you’ll find.

If you can’t find Korean or Asian pear, substitute with sweet apple or bosc pear. For the best result, let your beef marinate in this tasty mix for at least 4 hours, though overnight is ideal. This simple step makes a big difference in taste.

You can also make the marinade in advance and freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Just be sure to thaw it completely in the refrigerator before cooking.

Korean bbq beef prepared by pan-frying cooking method in a skillet.

How to Make Beef Bulgogi

Make beef marinade

Bulgogi sauce ingredients pureed in a blender.

Blend onion and fruits. Put diced pear, kiwi, onion and garlic in a blender and process until very smooth.

Bulgogi marinade made in a pan with sweet and savory ingredients.

Mix with other marinating ingredients.

  • 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.

Prepare beef

Thinly sliced beef sirloin used for making traditional bulgogi (Korean BBQ beef).
Wiping off the extra liquid from the thin beef slices.

Dab sliced beef with a paper towel (optional but recommended) to remove the extra red myoglobin from the surface. It helps get rid of unpleasant gamy smell if the beef was frozen too long.

Marinate Beef

Thinly sliced Korean beef in Bulgogi marinade.

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.

Cook marinated beef

Marinated beef placed on a hot skillet.

Add marinated beef in a very hot skillet.

  • Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) very hot over medium-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.
Sizzling Korean BBQ Beef in a skillet.

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.
Bulgogi (Korean BBQ beef) served in classic Korean way with rice and side dish.

Other Cooking Techniques

Grilling

Grilling Bulgogi over an open flame imparts a smoky, BBQ-like essence that’s hard to replicate with other methods. This technique allows the meat to develop a wonderful charred exterior while retaining a juicy and tender inside.

Pan Frying

Pan frying is a convenient and quick way to cook, especially when a grill isn’t available. It still yields a delicious and flavorful dish, with the added benefit of easier clean-up and control.

Bulgogi (Korean beef) served with rice and zucchini side dish.

Serving Suggestions

For a simple meal, serve this Korean beef over white rice with kimchi or another vegetable side.

Traditionally, it is enjoyed with rice, fresh vegetables, and various condiments. For a hands-on meal, wrap beef, rice, green onion salad, and ssamjang in lettuce leaves.

Pairing it with Korea soybean paste stew replicates a classic restaurant approach. Remember, the star is the bulgogi—tender and richly marinated. Complement your meal with any of Korean side dishes.

Storing and Reheating Tips

To store, cool it to room temperature and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. You can also freeze marinated beef for the same duration. Always thaw in the fridge before cooking.

Reheat bulgogi gently in a pan over medium heat, adding a splash of water if dry. For quick reheating, microwave it covered on medium until warm. It’s best to reheat only once to maintain its juiciness and flavor.

Korean BBQ beef in a serving dish.

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Bulgogi made with classic Korean recipe served in a bowl.

Classic Korean Beef Bulgogi

Make classic Korean beef bulgogi with this quick, flavorful homemade BBQ marinade recipe. The beef cooks fast, yielding tender, juicy meat. Serve with rice or in a lettuce wrap for a perfect family meal.
5 from 25 ratings

Recipe Video

Ingredients

  • 2 lb (900 g) beef sirloin or rib eye , thinly sliced, about 1/8-inch thick
  • 1 Asian leek or 3 green onion, sliced

Bulgogi marinade

Instructions 

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 medium-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.

Notes

Asian Pear: If not available, substitute with sweet apple
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 1/4 kiwi. If marinating less than 4 hours, use 1/2 kiwi. You can also use pineapple instead of kiwi.
Calories: 303kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 69mg, Sodium: 850mg, Potassium: 404mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 211IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 33mg, Iron: 3mg
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