Tender slices of flank steak are marinated with fresh pear, ginger, garlic and soy sauce in this amazing Korean Beef Bulgogi! You’ll love the sweet heat of the gochugaru spice and the smoothness of the warm, nutty sesame oil.
Easy Korean BBQ Beef Bulgogi
“What’s for dinner?!” 🙄 If you feel like you’re always giving the same answer to that question, this dish is for you! Because, the answer “Korean barbeque” is definitely not a same-old same-old answer! Even in Korea, bulgogi is considered a festive dinner. 🙌
Another nice thing about bulgogi 👉 how fast it is to prepare. The marinade has only a handful of ingredients, but it’s packed with drool-worthy flavor. And, cooking up the thin slices of steak only takes a few minutes!
Sooo, let’s get down to it! Time to add this super tasty meal to your lineup and treat everyone to something fun.
What is Beef Bulgogi?
The word “bulgogi”, pronounced pool-goh-gee, is actually Korean for “fire meat!” That kind of tells you all you need to know, right? It’s a delicious Korean BBQ dish of thin, marinated beef strips cooked on a smoking hot grill, or in our case, a grill pan.
In Korea, bulgogi is a popular restaurant menu item, and diners often have outdoor tables with built-in grills in the center. The marinated meat is brought to the table, and guests can cook their own meat, and eat it right off the grill! Awesome, right?
This is actually a really simple and truly delicious recipe! The combination of ingredients may seem a bit unusual, but trust me, it will turn out super tasty. DO NOT SKIP the pear. 😊
- Steak: For this recipe, I use flank steak.
- Pear: You’ll need about ¼ grated pear to add that classic bulgogi sweetness to the marinade.
- Soy Sauce: I usually go for low-sodium soy sauce; you can also substitute tamari or coconut aminos.
- Garlic: Finely mince two tablespoons of fresh garlic.
- Gochugaru: If you can find it, one tablespoon of gochugaru adds a smoky, fruity heat to the marinade. If you don’t have gochugaru, feel free to substitute crushed red pepper flakes.
- Ginger: Grate up a tablespoon of fresh ginger.
- Brown Sugar: You’ll need one tablespoon of light brown sugar for this recipe; you could also use raw sugar, honey, or even maple syrup.
- Sesame Oil: Just a tablespoon.
- Vegetable Oil: For sautéing the meat.
- Sesame Seeds & Chopped Green Onions: For garnish.
What Kind of Meat to Use for Beef Bulgogi
As you can see above, I like to use flank steak for beef bulgogi. But, any tender cut of steak will do the trick! Top sirloin, New York strip, and ribeye are all great options, too.
You could also use chuck eye steaks, which are similar to ribeye but often less expensive. I don’t recommend other cuts of chuck, or steaks for braising. While those cuts are very tender when cooked low and slow, they don’t do very well when pan-frying or grilling.
What is Gochugaru?
A classic Korean ingredient, gochugaru is made of dried crushed peppers. First, the peppers have their seeds removed, then they’re dried and crushed to a coarse powder with a dark red color. The flavor is rich and full, with a smoky taste and a fair amount of heat.
How to Make Beef Bulgogi
Since you’re placing lots of small pieces of steak into a sizzling hot pan, this is a recipe to be careful with! The hot oil will probably spatter a bit, which can be painful. 😣 I like to use tongs for this part, so my hands don’t have to get too close.
- Slice & Marinate Steak: Thinly slice your flank steak across the grain; transfer the slices to a large zip top bag. Add the grated pear, soy sauce, garlic, gochugaru, ginger, brown sugar and sesame oil; seal the bag and squish everything around to completely coat the meat with the marinade. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour, or put it in the fridge for up to 8 hours.
- Cook First Batch: After the meat has marinated, heat up 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove half of the steak from the marinade and arrange it in the pan in a single layer. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned. Flip over and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, or until browned with crisp edges.
- Cook Second Batch: Transfer the cooked steak to a plate and repeat the cooking steps with the remaining oil and steak.
- Enjoy! Garnish your bulgogi with chopped green onions and sesame seeds, and serve immediately.
Tips for Success
This super fast and truly flavorful entree is very easy to make, especially when you’ve learned a few little tricks. Keep reading for my best insights about how to make great beef bulgogi!
- Don’t Crowd the Skillet: Be sure not to crowd the pan, or the meat will steam and get soupy instead of browned. Cook in batches.
- Count on Cast Iron: The best bulgogi is made on a smoking-hot grill, but you can easily create a similar taste using a cast iron grill pan, or just a plain cast iron skillet. Make sure to get it nice and hot before cooking, and cook small batches at a time to avoid overcrowding.
- The Freezer’s Your Friend: Another important part of making great bulgogi is slicing the meat really thin. The sharper your knife, the better, of course! But, did you know that you can also freeze the meat just a tad in order to cut it more easily? That’s right! Freeze your steak for just about 20 minutes, and it will be much easier to slice.
- Double Up: This is a perfect recipe to double so that you can have an easy meal in the freezer for later! While you’re slicing and marinating the meat, just make twice as much and throw the extra meat with its marinade into a freezer bag. Press out most of the air, leaving just a bit of room for the liquid to expand, and freeze for up to three weeks. Thaw overnight before cooking.
Bulgogi Serving Suggestions
Beef bulgogi is delicious all on its own, or with big Romaine lettuce leaves for wrapping and munching, taco-style. But you can also set up a table of tasty sides, if you’d like! Here are a few great options.
- Rice: Rice goes super well with this tasty beef dish, especially my Instant Pot Jasmine Rice! The fragrance of jasmine rice is just out of this world.
- Sweet Potato Wedges: This is an excellent, healthy side that feels like an indulgence! Try my Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges for a dish that brings lots of texture, flavor, and a touch of sweetness to your table.
- Shrimp: Surf ‘n’ Turf but in a whole new way! I love making a batch of easy Bang Bang Shrimp to go with any Asian-inspired meal.
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Beef bulgogi is easy to refrigerate or freeze for later enjoyment. Here’s how!
- To Refrigerate: Place the beef and sauce in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- To Freeze: Place leftovers in a freezer bag and press out as much air as possible before sealing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating. Frozen beef will last for up to 2 months.
- To Reheat: Place the meat and sauce into a covered skillet over low heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through; do not overcook.
Korean Beef Bulgogi
- 1¼ pound flank steak
- ¼ cup finely grated fresh pear
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon gochugaru, use less if you don't like spicy food (you can also use crushed red pepper flakes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- Chopped green onions, for garnish
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
- Thinly slice steak across the grain; transfer sliced steak to a large zip top bag. You can also use a large mixing bowl.
- To the zip top bag add grated pear, soy sauce, garlic, gochugaru, ginger, brown sugar, and sesame oil; seal the bag and squish everything around to completely coat the meat with the marinade.
- Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, OR put in the fridge for up to 8 hours.
- When ready to cook, heat up 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a grill pan or cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat.
- Remove one-third of the steak slices from the marinade and add to the hot oil in a single layer; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until browned.
- Flip over and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, or until browned with crisp edges. Stir occasionally. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the steak.
- Transfer cooked pieces to a plate and repeat the above cooking steps with remaining oil and steak.
- Garnish with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.
- NET CARBS: 7 g
More Dinner Ideas
If you want more healthy and delicious weeknight meals to make for your family, check out the following recipes!