Asian Recipes/ Dinner/ Recipes

Easy Weeknight Korean BBQ Beef Bulgogi

24/02/2022 (Last Updated: 28/02/2022)

Tender, glossy beef that cooks in minutes! If you love Korean BBQ, you’ll love this incredibly easy Korean beef bulgogi recipe with slivers of carrot and shiitake mushrooms for the perfect weeknight dinner.

A plate of stir fried beef and vegetables cooked in Korean BBQ sauce.

Why We Love This

The perfect balance of sweet and savoury flavour in this effortless Korean beef bulgogi marinade will leave you with the most tender, juicy BBQ beef ever. Cook it on the grill, or on a frying pan in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Serve your freshly cooked bulgogi beef with kimchi, pickled onions or pickled garlic for extra flavour (with even more serving ideas below!).

And if it’s not completely devoured in one sitting, any leftovers are amazing for lunch the next day.

A plate of Korean BBQ beef and veggies.

What is Bulgogi? 

Bulgogi (불고기) literally means ‘fire meat’ in Korean. It usually refers to meats (such as beef, chicken or pork) cooked over a grill or open flame. While it’s often associated with Korean BBQ, there are a few main differences:

  • Bulgogi is a traditional Korean dish where thin slices of beef and vegetables are marinated in a blend of soy sauce, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Pear juice is added for a hint of sweetness and to tenderise the meat. It’s usually pan fried or cooked over a special mesh grill so that the smaller slices of vegetables don’t fall through into the flame. 
  • Korean BBQ, on the other hand, is usually not marinated, and the meat and vegetables are cooked separately over an open charcoal grill. 

Where We Learned This

Ellie at F&C Korean Food & Culture Academy first taught us how to make beef bulgogi. She runs a series of cooking classes where we also learned how to make traditional homemade kimchi and Korean seafood pancakes.

What You’ll Need

  • Bulgogi Sauce / Korean Beef Marinade – Make your own homemade bulgogi sauce or sub with store-bough sauce. Note that some brands will be spicy and others won’t, so choose the best one to suit your tastes.
  • Beef – You can use any cut you like, but for the best texture and flavour aim for the highest quality you can afford. Try it with thin slices of marbled beef sirloin, tenderloin, skirt steak, flank steak or scotch fillet/ribeye. If you’re lucky, you might find pre-sliced beef at your local butcher or Asian grocery. If not, you can always ask them to slice it for you, or slice it yourself at home. Sub with pre-sliced supermarket stir fry steak to save time, or swap for pork, lamb or chicken if you prefer. 
  • Shiitake Mushrooms – Sliced shiitake mushrooms not only add a depth of umami flavour, they soak up all the incredible marinade flavours too, adding a juicy chewiness to the dish. We used fresh shiitake mushrooms from our nearby Asian grocer. Sub with dried shiitake mushrooms that have been soaked in boiling water for around 20 minutes.
  • Veggies – We use thinly sliced carrots, onion and leek, but you can use just about anything you have on hand. Spinach, bok choy, capsicum/bell pepper and bean sprouts would also make great additions.

For the Bulgogi Sauce / Korean Beef Marinade: 

In addition to sesame oil, raw sugar, garlic, ginger and black pepper, you’ll also need:

  • Korean Soy Sauce – This is different to Chinese style soy sauces. Since it’s made from soybeans, salt and water (no wheat) it has an earthier, saltier flavour. The best substitute would be Japanese tamari (which is usually gluten-free), otherwise, just use whatever soy sauce you have on hand.
  • Pear Juice – The secret ingredient to bulgogi’s deliciously soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture. The enzymes in Asian pears help to tenderise the meat while adding a touch of sweetness. You can often find it at Asian groceries, or buy it online. Otherwise, substitute with grated fresh nashi pear, grated apple, apple juice, pureed kiwifruit, minced onion or even a splash of coca-cola. They’ll all have this magic effect when added to a tasty marinade. We’ve also seen people use apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar in a pinch, although the flavour will be different, either will get you through.

How to make Beef Bulgogi:

  1. Mix the water, soy sauce, pear juice, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, ginger and black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add in the thinly sliced beef, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, leek, onions and spring onions and stir through to coat evenly in the marinade. Pop the marinated bulgogi in the fridge for a minimum of 10 minutes (or even better, overnight).
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan, skillet or wok over high heat. Separate the bulgogi into two batches and stir fry each for a few minutes until beef is cooked through.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Slicing the Meat – It’s so much easier to slice meat thinly when it’s partially frozen first. Wrap in clingfilm, lay on a baking tray and pop in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you’re ready to slice, remove the cling film and slice thinly across the grain. Aim for 2mm to 3mm (1/8 inch) slices. 
  • Use a Hot Pan – For the best flavour and caramelisation, cook on a super hot cast iron skillet. This will help to sear the meat and lock in the juices. Otherwise, a non stick wok or frying pan will work just fine. 
  • Marinate Overnight – While you can start cooking after the minimum 10 minutes, the flavours will be so much richer if you allow it to marinate overnight. 
  • Cook in Batches + Avoid Adding Excess Marinade to the Pan – This will prevent the meat from boiling in the pan, which would cause it to become chewy rather than tender.
  • Leftover mushrooms? Make a mushroom pate dip for the appetiser!

FAQs

Can I freeze bulgogi?

Yes, you can freeze marinated bulgogi meat before or after cooking. To freeze it before cooking, it’s a good idea to buy the meat in bulk, thinly slice and marinate, then portion out into freezer safe bags to freeze for up to three months.

What should I serve with bulgogi?

Bulgogi is often traditionally served with steamed rice, homemade kimchi, soy pickled onions and daikon pickles. Try it with lettuce cups (from baby romaine or cos lettuce) to make wraps, filled with bulgogi, fresh garlic and onion slices, and ssamjang dipping sauce.

How long will it last?

Cooked bulgogi will last 3-4 days in the fridge.

Can I cook it on a BBQ or charcoal grill like Korean BBQ?

Yes you can, but if you do, it’s better to keep the finely chopped veggies separate from the meat, otherwise they can fall through the gaps in the grill plate. Cooking over charcoal is a great way to get extra caramelisation and smoky flavour into the meat.

Can I make this with ground beef instead?

Absolutely. You’ll need to cook it in a frying pan / skillet as we’ve done today, as it would be impossible to cook on a charcoal grill.

Variations

  • Make It Vegetarian – Swap the beef for extra veggies such as bok choy or capsicum/bell pepper. Throw in extra shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, enoki mushrooms or any of your other favourite mushroom varieties.
  • Make It Extra Spicy – Add a tsp of gochujang to the marinade.
  • Even More Flavour – Try it with a splash of homemade umami sauce.
  • Beef Bulgogi Bowl – Serve it on top of a rice bowl or noodle bowl, with sliced tomato, cucumber, julienne carrot, or traditional Korean sides like namul, and a soft or hard boiled egg on top.
  • Optional Garnishes – Top with fresh slices of spring onion / green onions, sesame seeds, fresh kimchi, gochugaru (red pepper flakes) or shichimi chilli powder. Add pickled onions or pickled garlic for even more flavour!
  • Add Toasted Ground Sesame Seeds – Into the marinade for an extra depth of nutty, earthy flavour.
Beef bulgogi cooked with shiitake mushrooms in a bowl next to wooden chopsticks.

Serve your beef bulgogi with these Korean favourites:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and a star rating below!

Close up shot of the finished beef bulgogi.

Easy Weeknight Korean BBQ Beef Bulgogi

Tender, glossy beef that cooks in minutes! If you love Korean BBQ, you'll love this incredibly easy Korean beef bulgogi recipe with slivers of carrot and shiitake mushrooms for the perfect weeknight dinner.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Korean
Servings: 4 serves
Calories: 330kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

For the Marinade:

Instructions

For the Marinade:

  • Mix the water, soy sauce, pear juice, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, ginger and black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add in the thinly sliced beef, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, leek, onions and spring onions and stir through to coat evenly in the marinade.
    300 g tenderloin steak, 4 shiitake mushrooms, 2 carrots, 1 leek, 2 onion, ½ cup water, 4 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp pear juice, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 2 tsp sugar, 2 tsp garlic, 2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp black pepper, 2 spring onion / green onion
  • Pop the marinated bulgogi in the fridge for a minimum of 10 minutes (or even better, overnight).

To Cook the Beef Bulgogi

  • Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan, skillet or wok over high heat. Separate the bulgogi into two batches and stir fry each for a few minutes until beef is cooked through.
    2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Transfer the bulgogi into serving bowls and garnish with spring onion and sesame seeds. See notes for serving ideas.
    2 spring onion / green onion, 1 tbsp white sesame seeds

Recipe Notes

  • Beef – You can use any cut you like, but for the best texture and flavour aim for the highest quality you can afford. Try it with thin slices of marbled beef sirloin, tenderloin, skirt steak or scotch fillet/ribeye. If you’re lucky, you might find pre-sliced beef at your local butcher or Asian grocery. If not, you can always ask them to slice it for you, or slice it yourself at home. Of course, if you want to save time and make it easier, you can use supermarket stir fry steak. You could even swap for pork, lamb or chicken if you prefer.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms – Sliced shiitake mushrooms not only add a depth of umami flavour, they soak up all the incredible marinade flavours too, adding a juicy chewiness to the dish. We used fresh shiitake mushrooms from our nearby Asian grocer, but you can use dried shiitake mushrooms that have been soaked in boiling water for around 20 minutes.
  • Veggies – We use thinly sliced carrots, onion and leek, but you can use just about anything you have on hand. Spinach, bok choy, capsicum/bell pepper and bean sprouts would also make great additions.
  • Korean Soy Sauce – This is different to Chinese style soy sauce. Since it’s made from soybeans, salt and water (no wheat) it has an earthier, saltier flavour. The best substitute would be Japanese tamari, otherwise, just use whatever soy sauce you have on hand. 
  • Pear Juice – This is the secret ingredient to bulgogi’s deliciously soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture. The enzymes in pears help to tenderise the meat while adding a touch of sweetness. You can often find it at Asian groceries, or buy it online. Otherwise, substitute with grated fresh nashi pear, grated apple, apple juice, pureed kiwifruit, minced onion or even a splash of coca-cola. They’ll all have this magic effect when added to a tasty marinade.
  • Slicing the Meat – It’s so much easier to slice meat thinly when it’s partially frozen first. Wrap in clingfilm, lay on a baking tray and pop in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you’re ready to slice, remove the cling film and slice thinly across the grain. Aim for 2mm to 3mm (1/8 inch) slices. 
  • Use a Hot Pan – For the best flavour and caramelisation, cook on a super hot cast iron skillet. This will help to sear the meat and lock in the juices. Otherwise, a non stick wok or frying pan will work just fine. 
  • Marinate Overnight – While you can start cooking after the minimum 10 minutes, the flavours will be so much richer if you allow it to marinate overnight. 
  • Cook in Batches + Avoid Adding Excess Marinade to the Pan – This will prevent the meat from boiling in the pan, which would cause it to become chewy rather than tender.
  • Make a Vegetarian Version – Swap the beef for extra veggies such as bok choy or capsicum/bell pepper. Throw in extra shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, enoki mushrooms or any of your other favourite mushroom varieties.
  • Bulgogi Beef Bowls – Serve it on top of rice or noodles, with sliced tomato, cucumber, julienne carrot and soft or hard boiled egg on top. Garnish with sesame seeds, spring onion, fresh kimchi and shichimi chilli powder.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Weeknight Korean BBQ Beef Bulgogi
Amount per Serving
Calories
330
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
20
g
31
%
Saturated Fat
 
8
g
50
%
Cholesterol
 
48
mg
16
%
Sodium
 
1080
mg
47
%
Potassium
 
611
mg
17
%
Carbohydrates
 
19
g
6
%
Fiber
 
3
g
13
%
Sugar
 
9
g
10
%
Protein
 
21
g
42
%
Vitamin A
 
5526
IU
111
%
Vitamin C
 
15
mg
18
%
Calcium
 
85
mg
9
%
Iron
 
3
mg
17
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Easy Weeknight Korean BBQ Beef Bulgogi

Miso E-cookbook

Image of laptop and ipad with text overlay.

12 Comments

  • Reply
    Judy Kahansky
    18/08/2016 at 9:10 am

    5 stars
    My husband loves Korean BBQ so I’m definitely going to try this recipe – a bit out of my comfort zone, but you’ve laid it all out beautifully. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/08/2016 at 3:41 pm

      Oh Judy you’re in for some tasty times. Would love to hear what you think after you’ve tried it! 🙂

  • Reply
    Melanie @ Nutritious Eats
    18/08/2016 at 4:17 am

    Yum! Pinning this as my kids love bulgogi and I didn’t have recipe! Thank you!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/08/2016 at 3:40 pm

      Brilliant, should be a good one for them to have fun cooking as well. Hope you guys enjoy!

  • Reply
    Florentina
    18/08/2016 at 3:33 am

    5 stars
    Did someone say shiitake ? My mushroom obsession with these beauties is out of control. Such amazing flavors and health benefits!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/08/2016 at 3:47 pm

      They are so amazing aren’t they! 😀

  • Reply
    Igor @ Cooking The Globe
    16/08/2016 at 10:43 pm

    5 stars
    What an awesome dinner idea. I saw this Korean dish few times on Pinterest but still haven’t tried it. Love the marinade!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/08/2016 at 3:38 pm

      You’ll love it Igor! Happy eating! 😉

  • Reply
    Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
    15/08/2016 at 7:27 pm

    5 stars
    We are so crazy about all the Asian food right now! What a fantastic dish!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      22/08/2016 at 3:33 pm

      Totally! And what’s not to love? Intense flavour, fresh ingredients, intriguing textures – who says food can’t be your favourite pastime?? 😉

  • Reply
    Andrew Prior
    03/08/2016 at 5:02 pm

    5 stars
    I think I’m going to have to try this as it looks and sounds so delicious #allkindsofyum

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      03/08/2016 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks Andrew, hope you enjoy. Cheers for stopping by! 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating




    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.