Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)

Learn how to make the best, most authentic Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef) from scratch. Tender slices of marinated beef grilled until caramelized with crunchy carrots and sweet onions. You can make this classic Korean beef recipe on a grill or prepare it on a stove-top. 

 

Bulgogi - Korean BBQ Beef caramelizing in a hot griddle pan

During my recent work-related training, I met someone who lived in Korea for a year, many years ago. She said she greatly misses the food she used to eat in Korea and asked me if I had a bulgogi recipe. I told her about my galbi (BBQ beef short ribs) recipe and promised her that I would post a bulgogi recipe soon. Here it is!

What is Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef)? 

Bulgogi is a marinated meat dish made with thin slices of beef. It is no doubt one of the most well-known Korean dishes to non-Koreans. The best way to enjoy this Korean BBQ beef is to wrap a bite-size piece of beef in a lettuce leaf with a dollop of ssamjang or doenjang (soybean paste). 

Bulgogi - Korean BBQ Beef being cooked in a hot skillet and stirred with chopsticks

This bulgogi recipe is easy and delicious and will become part of your dinner repertoire in no time. 

Which cut of meat do you need for beef bulgogi?

Beef bulgogi is usually made with thinly sliced rib eye. You can find precut bulgogi meat at most Korean markets. Any tender, flavorful cut of beef, such as sirloin and tender loin, works well. I like to use tenderloin for the elderly people.  

How is the bulgogi marinade made?

A classic Korean bulgogi marinade is a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, etc. As a further flavor enhancer and tenderizer, Korean cooks traditionally add a grated Asian pear to the marinade. 

Close-up of caramelized pieced of Korean BBQ Beef with crisp veggies in a black skilletIf you cannot find Asian pears, you can omit it or use an apple instead. Some Korean cooks swear by kiwi or pineapple, but you will have to make sure you don’t over-marinate the meat as these are very strong tenderizing agents.

Although the same marinade can be used for both bulgogi and galbi (beef short ribs), I tend to use more ingredients for galbi and marinate much longer in order to tenderize the tough and fatty cut of meat for grilling. Bulgogi, on the other hand, is thinly sliced, so I find all that tenderizing is unnecessary.

The important thing when making Korean BBQ  is to find the right balance between saltiness and sweetness. Using generous amounts of garlic and sesame oil is necessary to create authentic bulgogi. The same marinade also can be used for chicken or pork.

Cooking the meat

If you are pan-frying you beef bulgogi, do not crowd the skillet. If you add too much meat at once, it will not brown nicely but rather cook in its own juice. For a stronger flavor and especially tender BBQ Beef, I recommend marinating the meat overnight.

 

Korean BBQ Beef (bulgogi) served on a small white plate

What are the perfect side dishes for beef bulgogi?

Oi muchim (Korean spicy cucumber salad) 
Sigeumchi Namul (Korean Spinach Side Dish)
Sukju Namul (Seasoned Bean Sprouts)
Pa Muchim (Scallion salad)

….and many more! Feel free to explore my recipe archives. 

Have you tried this bulgogi recipe?  Please rate the recipe below by either clicking the stars or leaving a comment! And make sure to share your creations by tagging me on Instagram! Stay in touch by following me on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

4 from 6 votes
Bulgogi ( Korean BBQ Beef)
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Marinating
1 hr
Total Time
20 mins
 

Learn how to make the best, most authentic Bulgogi (Korean BBQ Beef) from scratch. Tender slices of marinated beef grilled until caramelized with crunchy carrots and sweet onions. You can make this classic Korean beef recipe on a barbecue or prepare it on a stove-top. 

Course: Main
Cuisine: Asian, Korean
Keyword: Asian, bbq, beef, bulgogi, classic, easy, grilled, Korean, marinade, protein, summer
Servings: 4
Author: Hyosun Ro
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds thinly sliced beef rib eye or top sirloin*
  • 3 scallions cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot thinly sliced
Marinade
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine or mirin
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons Asian pear grated, optional
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Remove any excess blood from the pre-sliced meat using paper towels. 

    Korean beef BBQ
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a large bowl. If using packaged pre-sliced meat, separate the slices. Add the meat and vegetables to the marinade and toss gently to combine everything well. Marinate the meat for about an hour.
    bulgogi1
  3. Grill on a charcoal or gas grill or pan fry in a skillet over high heat until slightly caramelized. Preheat and lightly oil the pan with sesame oil before adding the meat. If pan frying, do not crowd the skillet.

Recipe Notes

*Pre-sliced bulgogi meat is sold at any Korean market. Pay a little more to get good quality meat. If cutting the beef at home, partially freeze for about an hour to firm it up for easier slicing. Cut across the grain into about 1/8-inch thick slices.

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Comments

  1. Ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo,
    Choahheyyo. Bulgogi mahshissuhyo!

    How's my Korean?? Hahaha. 1 month and 7 days before I'm off to Seoul.

    I'm actually making bulgogi too this weekend. I use some walnut and cornsyrup too. Wonder if that's usual? My mum never taught me how to cook it, I just try out different recipes and make my own.

    Again your bulgogi looks like the real deal. (Rumble Rumble)<--- that's a comment from my tummy. :)
  2. Your Korean is impressive! Walnut and cornsyrup sound good. Cornsyrup is used by some people, just like I use some honey in mine. Enjoy your bulgogi!
  3. Hi Hyosun, I wanted to let you know that your Korean dishes have inspired me and I decided to pass along the Sunshine Award to you. Cheers, Judy

    http://bebeloveokazu.wordpress.com/2010/05/14/spreading-the-sunshine/
  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful Korean BBQ Beef recipe. I love Korean BBQ. Korean BBQ is so popular in both Taiwan and China but since I moved to UK I have no chance to have Korean BBQ in my life. I will certainly try this recipe in the future and thanks again to sharing this life saver recipe lol.
  5. I love bulgogi! :) its definitely my favorite korean food!!!!
  6. Made it tonight and it was fantastic! Thanks!
  7. Stephanie says:
    I am so happy to have found this recipe. Mt best friend in the US served us galbi and bulgogi all the time and I loved it. I am living in France now and craving Korean food so I will definitely try this soon. Now if I can just get my butcher here to understand what I want him to give me!
    p.s. I remember my friend used kiwi as a meat tenderizer (I am guessing in place of the Asian pear), but warned me not to let the meat soak in it for more than 30 minutes.
    • Stephanie - Welcome to my blog! If you're using good quality and thinly sliced meat, kiwi is not recommended. It tends to break down the meat too much. The effect is really not the same as Asian pear. If using it, make sure you use a very small amount. Hope this helps. Happy cooking!
    • Anonymous says:
      Thanks :) I just made this recipe again and it was great. My whole family loves it. I will try it with chicken next.
    • Stephanie says:
      I just made this for the second time in a month and it was delicious! Thanks so much.
  8. I just made bulgogi for the first time last week. I think it was too sweet though. I will try this recipe next. Thanks for sharing!
  9. Anonymous says:
    Thank you so much for your recipes. I moved away from Atlanta to Brunswick, Ga a few years ago and there are no korean restraunts here :( I was constantly calling my mom but her measurments (along with every other female in my family) is a pinch of this or just little bit of that so things tend to come out a little iffy when I try on my own. I wish I paid more attention growing up but now I can just look on your site for great recipes! Thank you again.
    • Oh I was just there in Brunswick last week for work. Where do you get Korean ingredients there? I'm very happy to hear my recipes can help you recreate the food you grew up with. I look forward to hearing more about your Korean cooking. Thank you for visiting and leaving me the kind comments!
  10. Deacon Hipolito Lagares says:
    Love Korean food!!! I will trying this recipe soon. thank you!!
  11. Zunzeiry Perez Canals says:
    Yummy yummy. >v< I cant wait to get the chance to go to Korea and eat like crazy
  12. miguel alfonso jesuitas says:
    I've went to a lot of Korean restaurants but the bulgogi there can't compare to your recipe Ma'am :) This has become my staple food for the weekends! Thank you!! -Filipino fan
  13. miguel alfonso jesuitas says:
    This is recipe is simply amazing.Thank you so much for your recipes. They're easy to follow and the taste is unbelievable.
  14. Thank you foo this recipe! Just a quick question - how long can I keep bulgogi frozen for?
  15. miss deborah says:
    Hello! I have a really random question. My daughter is a very picky eater and I need to get some meat into her. She showed some interest in ground beef but being Korean, I'm not sure what Korean dishes include the use of ground beef. Anyway, do you think this recipe might work using ground beef rather than sirloin?

    I love your recipes and I love how clear your directions are.
    • It should work with ground beef. Cut the recipe in half and try it.

      Or fried rice with ground beef? Gimbap? Add cooked ground beef to gyeran mari?

      How about meatballs?
      http://www.koreanbapsang.com/2012/03/gogi-wanja-jorim-glazed-korean.html#.U3VgD_ldWlJ

      Or tangsuyuk? Kids usually love that. If she doesn't like the sauce, skip it.
      http://www.koreanbapsang.com/2011/08/tangsuyuk-sweet-and-sour-beef-or-pork.html#.U3VgSPldWlI

      Hope you find something she likes. Thank you so much for your love!
  16. Monica Chun says:
    Hello, we've recently moved to Korea and I'm looking for Rice Wine at the local market. In Korean, should I ask for "Cheongju"? Is that different from Makgeolli? Thank you!
    • You should ask for "cheongju." "mirim" is okay too. The latter is slightly sweetened. Good luck with your new life in Korea!
  17. I LOVE bulgogi. It was a favorite food when I visited Korea. (For some reason, I also loved those simple little fish shaped pastries I got at the train station.) I just got some sirloin to make some. I want to know how a Korean bapsang has time to make the banchan ( the kimchi is obviously made already). Do you do it ahead of time?
    • Bungeobbang! Red beans inside right? I love them too. Well what you see there are kongnamul (soybean spouts) and mu namul (radish), which are pretty quick to whip up and they last 2 to 3 days for me. Of course I always have kimchi. Oh there's a dandelion salad too, which was also very quick to put together. I usually make some on weekends so we can have during weeknights. And on weeknights, I add a dish or two I can prepare quickly.
  18. Song Jin Hyo says:
    Sounds awesome I am korean too
  19. Cindy Wilson says:
    I was in the process of purchasing your $32 video/cookbook However it wouldn't take my visa debit card and everything was correct! Still look forward to your sample recipes Thank you Sorry your site wouldn't accept me
  20. Dear Mrs Ro, I cook so many of our recipes for my wife and child, we are very grateful for this website. My wife is mostly very appeciative of your cooking style, rather than the too-sweet too-much-sauce style of some other cooking websites that make the food taste like a restaurant. Anyway, we argue about bulgogi because--and she's right about this--all the bulgogi we ever see in Korea is very gray meat. Your bulgogi is dark and caramelly, more like a marinated kalbi than the bulgogi we are familiar with. Are there different kinds of bulgogi? After all, bulgogi just means "fire meat."
    • Hi Diego - I am so happy to hear you and your family like my cooking style! Thank you, and send my regards to your wife. I think it has to do with how you cook it. For this recipe, I cooked it over high heat until the liquid is gone and the meat is slightly caramelized. Cheers!
  21. I love your food. Everything I have made from here has been DELICIOUS!! I am having 12 people over tomorrow and I am making Bulgogi for the first time ever. I can't wait!! Thanks for sharing all your amazing recipes with us!
  22. Daria Shelton says:
    My dad just picked this beef eye round thinly sliced from the store and I had no idea how to cook it. Thank you so much for sharing!
  23. Annette Bradford says:
    What else would you serve this with for a full dinner ?
  24. Michael says:
    Thank you so much for this recipe. It brings back many memories when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer (Pyeong Wha Pong Sa Dan Won) from 1975-77 in Namwon Jeonra Buk Do. Sometime all the teachers at Namweon Boys Middle School would drop by a Kalbi Restaurant or a Bulgogi Chip and have some delicious meat. I really had never experienced such an exquisite dish at that time. I think that I will prepare some myself later in the summer. Thanks for letting me know and reminding me about this wonderful dish. It seems very easy to make.
  25. I love bulgogi and couldn't wait to try this recipe. I followed the instructions carefully and grilled the meat. It came out a bit dry. Did grilling make it so dry? Any suggestions?
    • Hi Kim - Sorry for the late reply. I was traveling for a week, and lost track of email notifications for a while. It's possible. Grilling thinly sliced meat over open fire can dry the meat. If you do, try grilling briefly until the meat still slightly pink. Also, the meat could have been tough to begin with. Pay a little more to buy high quality meat. Hope this helps.
  26. I lived in LA and right next to my work was a little Korean restaurant where bulgogi was my favorite dish. I think he cooked lettuce on the flat top is that a regular thing? Also where I learned to love kimchi much to my husband's dismay. :)
  27. Mark Kuzmanovich says:
    What do you serve it over?
  28. Mark Kuzmanovich says:
    What do I serve it over... Rice?
  29. This recipe is my go to. I’m a Korean immigrant, raised on daily home cooked Korean meals. I made this for my very critical Korean mother and she gave it a very rare A plus. Nevermind the F she gave my rice 😑 (I mixed in brown with rice and she thinks I am trying to kill my children by feeding the brown rice at their age (4.5 and 2.5 btw))
    • Ha ha that's funny what she said about your brown rice! I'm happy to hear your mother approved it. The best judge always is our mother! Thanks for stopping by with the happy notes!
  30. I just wanted to tell you thank you so much for the recipe! I will make the bulgogi this weekend. I was trying your spicy bbq bulgogi recipe the other day and it tastes so much like the restaurants I went to in Korea! my cooking level is up no because of your recipe, and my family loved it too! kamsahamida <3
  31. Thank you for the tasty recipe. Asian pears were out of season, so we used grated sweet onion and it was really good.
  32. Getting married next month to a soldier who loves korean food so I have been all over your website! This bulgogi recipe was so easy to follow and a big hit with my parents so hopefully my soon-to-be husband likes it too! p.s. my Korean neighbor recommended adding a can of coke to the marinade instead of honey/sugar, and it tenderized a cheaper cut of beef beautifully! Thank you ❤️