Bulgogi

June 9, 2022

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Korean Beef Bulgogi – it’s made with tender pieces of steak that have been soaked in a flavorful bulgogi marinade sauce, and it’s quickly pan seared in a cast iron skillet in batches until perfectly browned.

Serving of beef bulgogi paired with rice in a light blue bowl.

What is Beef Bulgogi?

Bulgogi, which translates to “fire meat,” is a popular Korean barbecue dish made with beef such as top sirlioin, ribeye, or tenderloin. The beef is thinly sliced into bite size pieces then it’s marinated in a simple, savory and sweet bulgogi sauce. After that it is either cooked on a charcoal or gas grill, pan seared on a griddle or stir fried in a skillet until the exterior is just browned and caramelized.

Bulgogi is pronounced in English buul-GOH-ghee when pronounced in Korean however there’s more of a “p” sound in place of the “b.”

It’s an incredibly easy dish to make that really wows in flavor and it’s something people of all ages can agree on, making it perfect for a fast weeknight family meal or for entertaining friends on the weekend!

Bulgogi shown overhead in a white serving bowl with wooden chopsticks, rice, green onions and a blue cloth to the side.

Bulgogi Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs top sirloin steak (well marbled with fat throughout)
  • 1/3 cup grated pear
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions light portion only, reserve sliced greens for serving
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine or mirin
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

 

Photo of ingredients used to make steak beef bulgogi.

 

Possible Substitutes

  • Tenderloin, ribeye, or skirt steak will work well here in place of top sirloin.
  • A sweet apple can be used in place of a grated pear. Use something like gala or fuji.
  • Yellow onion (finely chopped) will work in place of green onion if that’s what you have, just omit the garnish.
  • Brown sugar or even honey will work in place of white sugar.
  • Make it spicier by adding 1 tsp red pepper flakes to the marinade.

Collage of six photos showing steps of making beef bulgogi marinade, soaking beef, and searing it in a cast iron skillet on the stove.

How to Make Bulgogi

  1. Freeze steak for 1 to 2 hours for easier slicing. Slice the steak into long strips (if steak isn’t already narrow) about 1 to 1 1/2-inches wide. Then thinly slice beef against the grain about 1/8-inch thick, cut slices into 2-inch pieces.
  2. Make bulgogi sauce: In a mixing bowl whisk together pear, green onion light portion (1/3 cup), garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, and black pepper.
  3. Marinade beef:  Toss beef with marinade mixture. Cover bowl then transfer to fridge and let steak marinade for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
  4. Preheat a skillet: Heat a cast iron skillet over moderately high heat. Once skillet is just smoking add 2 tsp vegetable oil then carefully tilt pan (using hot pads) to coat bottom surface with oil.
  5. Quickly sear half of the steak at a time: Quickly add half of the steak and spread out even (be sure pieces aren’t overlapping or they won’t cook). Let sear until browned on bottom about 30 to 60 seconds. Quickly flip pieces and sear on opposite side until browned about 30 to 60 seconds longer.
  6. Transfer beef to a plate. Using a few paper towels that have been balled up and lightly dampened with water wipe skillet clean. Return to moderately high heat and let heat again.
  7. Add remaining 2 tsp vegetable oil and remaining half of beef and repeat cooking process.
  8. Garnish bulgogi and serve: Serve bulgogi right away garnished with a few tablespoons of sliced green onion greens and toasted sesame seeds to taste.

Bowl full of Korean bulgogi beef shown at a side angle on a marble surface.

What to Serve with Bulgogi

  • Steamed white rice or brown rice
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Sautéed Asian vegetables – carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, pea pods, cabbage or bok choy
  • Fresh vegetables – such as carrots or cucumbers cut into matchsticks
  • Kimchi
  • Fried egg or steamed egg
  • Gochujang hot sauce

Tips for the Best Beef Bulgogi

  • Use a good quality cut off beef. Tender steak works best here, one with plenty of fat marbling.
  • Don’t skip marinating time (be sure to plan ahead). It needs at least 1 hour to soak up some flavor. You can marinade up to 1 day in advance.
  • Stick with fresh garlic and ginger for best flavor. Don’t substitute dried powders.
  • Preheat the pan. If you skip this step the steak will be far overcooked by the time it’s browned on the exterior.
  • Pan sear the steak in batches and spread it out even, this creates a better environment for browning rather than it being over crowded and steaming.

Overhead photo of beef bulgogi served with white rice in a light blue bowl with chopsticks to the side.

More Tasty Asian Recipes We Think You’ll Love

Serving of beef bulgogi paired with rice in a light blue bowl.
5 from 2 votes

Bulgogi

Made with tender pieces of steak that have been soaked in a flavorful bulgogi marinade, and it's quickly pan seared in a cast iron skillet in batches until perfectly browned. Pair it with steamed rice or serve in lettuce leaves to finish it.
Servings: 4
Prep15 minutes
Cook2 minutes
Freeze1 hour
Ready in: 1 hour 17 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs top sirloin steak,* or tenderloin or ribeye
  • 1/3 cup grated pear, or sweet apple
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions light portion only, reserve sliced greens for serving
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine or mirin
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Freeze steak for 1 to 2 hours for easier slicing. Slice the steak into long strips (if steak isn't already narrow) about 1 to 1 1/2-inches wide. Then thinly slice beef against the grain about 1/8-inch thick, cut slices into 2-inch pieces.
  • In a mixing bowl whisk together pear, green onion light portion (1/3 cup), garlic, ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, and black pepper.
  • Toss beef with marinade mixture. Cover bowl then transfer to fridge and let steak marinade for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet over moderately high heat. Once skillet is just smoking add 2 tsp vegetable oil then carefully tilt pan (using hot pads) to coat bottom surface with oil.
  • Quickly add half of the steak and spread out even (be sure pieces aren't overlapping or they won't cook). Let sear until browned on bottom about 30 to 60 seconds. Quickly flip pieces and sear on opposite side until browned about 30 to 60 seconds longer.
  • Transfer beef to a plate. Using a few paper towels that have been balled up and lightly dampened with water wipe skillet clean. Return to moderately high heat and let heat again.
  • Add remaining 2 tsp vegetable oil and remaining half of beef and repeat cooking process.
  • Serve steak right away garnished with a few tablespoons of sliced green onion greens and toasted sesame seeds to taste.

Notes

  • *Look for top sirloin steak with good fat marbling throughout for the most tender result. Prime grade will be your best bet, I find it at a decent price at Costco.
  • For a spicier bulgogi you can add 1 tsp red pepper flakes to marinade.
Nutrition Facts
Bulgogi
Amount Per Serving
Calories 309 Calories from Fat 117
% Daily Value*
Fat 13g20%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 84mg28%
Sodium 838mg36%
Potassium 634mg18%
Carbohydrates 12g4%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 8g9%
Protein 34g68%
Vitamin A 202IU4%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 58mg6%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
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