This Korean Bulgogi recipe is so easy to make and it results in a delicious, aromatic and flavorful beef that can be served over rice or fried cabbage.
I first tried this dish when I visited South Korea for the first time. Before that, I’d never heard of the dish, but once I tried it I became mildly obsessed with it.
If you like Beef & Broccoli, you’ll definitely love Beef Bulgogi. It’s got a similar soy sauce flavor
When I returned to the U.S. after that trip, I spent a couple of months perfecting the recipe to get it tasting exactly like I remembered it in South Korea.
As it turns out, Beef Bulgogi is one of the most popular Korean dishes in the U.S., and in S. Korea too, actually. That’s because it’s easy to make and it’s so delicious. It’s like a basic stir fry dish.
Bulgogi is made with thinly sliced ribeye steak that has been marinated in a sweet soy sauce with Asian pear.
The Asian pear helps to tenderize the meat and give it some sweetness too. Then the meat is carmelized on a hot grill, so it develops these deep umami flavors.
That should help to make it more accessible for American cooks, because there aren’t any special ingredients that you can’t get at home, and there’s no special techniques you must follow. It’s all super easy. And you’ll be delighted with the results.
What Meat To Use?
The best meat for this dish is boneless beef rib eye steak. It’s tender and doesn’t have a lot of connective tissue that can make some pieces of beef tough or difficult to chew through.
Rib eye can be a bit expensive, however, so if you want to use a cheaper cut of meat, I suggest chuck eye, sirloin, flank or skirt steak.
The meat will be tenderized by the pear, so if you have a less tender cut of meat, you can marinate it longer to break down the tissue.
What If I Can’t Find Asian Pear?
An Asian pear is shaped sort of like an apple and has a texture that’s somewhere in between the two fruits. It’s got an enzyme that helps with the tenderizing of the meat, so it’s great if you can find it. But if you can’t, there are a few things you can do.
- You can use kiwi instead. It works in a similar way.
- You can leave it out – which is fine if you’re using a more tender cut of meat.
- You can substitute it with a different type of pear or a sweet apple.
Whichever method you use, you should grate or mash the pear into the sauce, so it’s not chunky. This will give the best distribution to the meat.
How Long to Marinate the Meat?
The marinade adds a lot of flavor to the beef and it also tenderizes it at the same time, thanks to the pear. It’s essential to marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes. If that’s all the time you have, it will at least impart some flavor.
If you can, it’s best to marinate the meat for at least 2 hours, or overnight. But here are a few caveats:
- If you’re using a really tender meat like rib eye or sirloin, 2 hours is enough time. The meat is already tender so it doesn’t need more time to tenderize. When I marinated rib eye for 12 hours one time, the texture of the meat was almost mushy. It was overdone.
- If you’re using a tougher cut of meat (flank or chuck), it can be marinated for longer so 12 hours is just fine.
How to Make Korea Beef Bulgogi
The most important part of this recipe is the beef, so you’ll want to spend a little time extra effort making sure it’s perfect.
Two ways to do that are to marinate the meat in the sauce with a ripe smashed pear. The pear is used to break down the
In a medium bowl, combine the pear, soy sauce, brown sugar, 1 tbsp of the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and red pepper paste. Mix well.
Slice the beef as thinly as possible. Add it to the sauce in the bowl. Marinate for 2 hours to overnight.
Heat the remaining sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef to the pan in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes without moving, then flip and cook on the other side.
The important thing is that the beef gets seared a bit, so it can caramelize, which is what makes all that great flavor. So the pan needs to be really hot, and the beef cannot be crowded in the pan.
If you just toss the beef in all at once and move it around with a spatula until it’s done, it won’t build the flavor you’re looking for. So cook the beef in a single layer, and allow it to brown on one side without moving it, before flipping it to the other side.
Serve over rice or cabbage. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
How to Serve Beef Bulgogi
The best way to serve this delicious meat is over a bed of rice or cauliflower rice (if you want to keep it low carb).
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Korean Beef Bulgogi
- 1 pound boneless ribeye steak
- 1/2 small pear peeled and chopped
- 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil divided
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tbsp red pepper paste
- 2 green onions thinly sliced
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
- In a medium bowl, combine the pear, soy sauce, brown sugar, 1 tbsp of the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and red pepper paste. Mix well.
- Slice the beef as thinly as possible. Add it to the sauce in the bowl. Marinate for 2 hours to overnight.
- Heat the remaining sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the beef to the pan in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes without moving, then flip and cook on the other side.
- Serve over rice or cabbage. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
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Laura is a home cook who loves making new recipes and finding new favorite things to eat, whether at home or abroad. She also runs a popular travel blog and spends a lot of her time traveling for food.