Korean Beef Bulgogi – Quick + Easy! (VIDEO)

5 from 17 votes
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Korean Beef Bulgogi is one of the most popular Korean BBQ dishes – the thinly sliced beef is marinated in a delicious, flavorful marinade (read below for my secret ingredient) and cooked quickly over high heat. My quick and easy recipe is perfect for any occasion – and best of all, it’s my Korean wife approved!

Beef Bulgogi Plated with Kimchi and rice

Watch the Beef Bulgogi Recipe Video Below!

Beef Bulgogi is an extremely popular type of grilled meat dish that you can find at every Korean BBQ restaurant. Bulgogi translates to “fire meat” in Korean, and can be made with beef, chicken or pork. (Check out my Spicy Pork Bulgogi if you are looking for spicer pork version!) My other favorite Korean BBQ dish is Korean Marinated Short Ribs (LA Galbi), which is a crowd pleaser!

The best part about this recipe (other than how delicious it is!) is how EASY it is – the marinade comes together super quickly and once mixed with the beef, all you have to do is wait! I love making this for the week because it cooks super quickly in a cast iron or pan. (But if you have access to a charcoal grill, that’s even better!)

I love serving the sweet and savory Korean Beef Bulgogi with freshly steamed rice, kimchi, or red leaf lettuce.

Ingredients for Beef Bulgogi displayed on a counter

Ingredients for Korean Beef Bulgogi

This is the best kind of marinade recipe because all you have to do is blend the ingredients together – read below for my notes and my secret ingredient for the best Korean Beef Bulgogi!

  • Thinly Sliced Beef
    • Pictured below is a thinly sliced ribeye that I picked up from the frozen section of my local Asian grocery (H Mart). I like to use the pre-cut meat at Korean grocery stores because it’s sliced exactly for this recipe. They are usually 1/8″ thick, or 2 to 3mm.
    • I’ve seen this exact cut sold as “spencer cut” at other butcher shops.
    • If you can’t find thinly sliced beef, you can also slice it yourself – the key is to slice as thinly as possible. Wrap your beef (I would use rib eye) in plastic wrap (or place in a freezer safe bag) in the freezer for 30 minutes so it is easier to handle. Slice against the grain into 1/4-1/8″ thick slices.
    • You can also use this marinade with chicken – I like to use chicken thighs.
  • Light Soy Sauce – Use light soy sauce (not low sodium) or all-purpose soy sauce. Do NOT use dark soy sauce!
  • Mirin
    • This is a sweet cooking wine that is used frequently in Korean and Japanese cooking. It provides a great balance to the soy sauce in this recipe.
    • If you don’t have mirin, you can substitute with rice vinegar but add 1 tsp of sugar, as rice vinegar does not have the sweetness of mirin.
  • Korean Pear
    • This is my SECRET ingredient for the best Korean Beef Bulgogi! Korean Pears (sometimes labeled as Asian Pears or Apple Pear) contain an enzyme called Calpain that helps tenderize the meat. The natural sweetness of the pear also adds to the layers of flavor in the beef.
    • Some recipes call for grating your Korean Pear – I think it’s just as effective and much easier to blend the Korean Pear into your Korean Beef Bulgogi marinade!
    • If you cannot find Korean Pears, you can substitute with an apple, kiwi, or even a pineapple.
  • Brown Sugar – this will add a bit of sweetness to the marinade to balance out the savory flavors
  • Sesame Oil – this adds a nutty element to the marinade

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Thinly Sliced raw beef on a plate

What kind of beef should I use?

The key is to use thinly sliced beef (the thinner, the better) – I purchase mine from my local Asian grocery (H Mart), where it’s already pre-sliced into 1/8″ thin (2-3mm) pieces. They’re usually in the frozen or refrigerated butcher section, labeled to be used for Korean BBQ or hot pot (sometimes labeled as “spencer cut”).

If you can’t find pre-sliced meat, you can slice it yourself!

  • Wrap your beef (I would use rib eye) in plastic wrap or place in a freezer safe bag; place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Frozen beef will be much easier to slice yourself.
  • Once frozen for 30 minutes, remove from the freezer. Remove the plastic wrap or from the freezer safe bag and place on your cutting board.
  • Use a sharp knife and slice AGAINST the grain into 1/4 – 1/8″ thin slices (as thin as you can). It doesn’t have to be perfect!
  • Look for beef that has streaks of white throughout the meat. This is fat (or “marbling”) that will ultimately render out and create a juicy, flavorful end result.

Korean Beef Bulgogi: Recipe Instructions

1. Mix Together the Marinade

The first step in making this recipe is mixing together the marinade. In a blender or food processor, add the Korean pear, onion, garlic, ginger, and water and blend until smooth.

Some recipes will call for grating – I like to use a blender for ease and convenience. I have tried the grating method and I noticed ZERO difference in the end result.

Korean pear has a tenderizing enzyme called Calpain. This is what is going to tenderize our beef and one of the secrets to great Korean BBQ!

Korean Pear with Onions and garlic in a blender

2. Strain the Pulp

This is a KEY step in making your marinade – so do not skip it! The blended marinade will have the pulp of all of your ingredients, which you do not want to use. (Otherwise, when you are cooking your Korean Beef Bulgogi, you’ll also be cooking the pulp of onions, ginger, pear, etc.)

Use a cheese cloth bag or a fine mesh strainer to strain the pulp into a large mixing bowl – you should be left with only the juices.

3. Add In The Seasonings and Beef

Next, add light soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, sesame oil, and black pepper to the strained juice. Once the marinade is thoroughly mixed, add in the thinly sliced beef along with the thinly sliced onions and scallions. Using your hand, mix all the ingredients together until the beef is thoroughly coated in the marinade.

Let this marinate in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours or overnight for best flavor.

Thinly sliced beef marinating in a metal bowl

4. Cook The Beef

Cook the beef in a heavy bottomed carbon steel or cast iron pan (a charcoal grill works great too!) on high heat for about 4-5 minutes or until the beef is fully cooked through.

You may see lot of water get cooked out during the cooking process – this is completely normal!

PRO TIP

Don’t Overcrowd the Pan!

Make sure to not overcrowd the pan and cook the beef bulgogi in smaller batches to maintain the high heat in your pan. Because the marinade has sugar from multiple sources (Korean Pear, Mirin, Brown Sugar), you will be able to caramelize your Korean Beef Bulgogi and get delicious crispy edges. If you cook in batches that are too large, the pan will lose too much heat and the excess water will end up steaming/boiling your meat.

Beef Bulgogi on top of rice

PRO TIPS

Expert Tips for Korean Beef Bulgogi

  • Strain Your Marinade to Remove Pulp
    • This is a KEY step in making your marinade – so do not skip it! The blended marinade will have the pulp of all of your ingredients, which you do not want to use. (Otherwise, when you are cooking your Korean Beef Bulgogi, you’ll also be cooking the pulp of onions, ginger, pear, etc.)
    • Use a cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer to strain the pulp into a large mixing bowl – you should be left with only the juices.
  • Marinate for at least 4-8 hours (overnight is best)
  • Avoid Over-Crowding When Cooking
    • Make sure to cook them in smaller batches to maintain the heat in your pan. Because the marinade has sugar from multiple sources (Korean Pear, Mirin, Brown Sugar), you will be able to caramelize your Korean Beef Bulgogi and get delicious crispy edges. If you cook in too large batches, the excess water will end up steaming/boiling your meat.

How to Store Korean Beef Bulgogi

  • Marinated beef (not cooked)
    • Refrigerator: 4-5 days in an air tight container in the refrigerator
    • Freezer: 2-3 weeks in an air tight container or freezer safe bag in the freezer
      • I recommend portioning out your meat BEFORE freezing it; otherwise you will need to defrost all of it at once.
  • Cooked beef
    • Refrigerator: 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator

What to Eat/Serve with Korean Beef Bulgogi?

One of the best parts of Korean BBQ is the Korean side dishes (called “banchan”) – so when making Korean Beef Bulgogi at home, I would serve it with my favorite side dishes:

If you tried this Korean Beef Bulgogi or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!

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5 from 17 votes

Korean Beef Bulgogi (Video)

Servings: 6
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Marinating Time: 8 hours
Beef Bulgogi on top of rice
This quick and easy Beef Bulgogi is a great way to make authentic Korean BBQ at home!

Ingredients 

  • 2 lb thinly sliced steak, I used ribeye; you can also ask your butcher for Spencer cut

Marinade

  • 1 Korean pear, cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch ginger
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp mirin
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Ingredients to marinate with beef

  • 3 green onions, cut into 2" pieces
  • 1 white onion, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, optional garnish

Instructions 

  • To a blender or food processor, add cubed Korean pear, onion, garlic, ginger, and water. Blend until smooth.
  • Optionally, use a cheese cloth to strain out the pulp and leave the juice in a large mixing bowl. To the juice, add light soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil, and black pepper. Add the thinly sliced beef, thinly sliced onions, and green onions. Mix and marinate for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Over high heat, add a tbsp of oil to a pan. Cook the beef bulgogi in batches until the water cooks out and the beef and onions are nicely caramelized, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Serve with freshly steamed rice and garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

Notes

KEY TIPS:
Strain Your Marinade to Remove Pulp: This is a KEY step in making your marinade – so do not skip it! The blended marinade will have the pulp of all of your ingredients, which you do not want to use. (Otherwise, when you are cooking your Korean Beef Bulgogi, you’ll also be cooking the pulp of onions, ginger, pear, etc.). Use a cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer to strain the pulp into a large mixing bowl – you should be left with only the juices.
Marinate for at least 4-8 hours (overnight is best)
Avoid Over-Crowding When Cooking: Make sure to cook them in smaller batches to maintain the heat in your pan. Because the marinade has sugar from multiple sources (Korean Pear, Mirin, Brown Sugar), you will be able to caramelize your Korean Beef Bulgogi and get delicious crispy edges. If you cook in too large batches, the excess water will end up steaming/boiling your meat.

STORAGE

Marinated beef (not cooked)
Refrigerator: 4-5 days in an air tight container in the refrigerator
Freezer: 2-3 weeks in an air tight container or freezer safe bag in the freezer – I recommend portioning out your meat BEFORE freezing it; otherwise you will need to defrost all of it at once.
Cooked beef
Refrigerator: 2-3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator

Nutrition

Calories: 92kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 3gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 1129mgPotassium: 120mgFiber: 1gSugar: 12gVitamin A: 61IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 28mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Korean
Tried this recipe?Mention @cj.eats_ or tag #cjeatsrecipes!

About CJ

I’m a third generation Chinese-American home cook who has always loved cooking & eating! Welcome to my food blog, where you can find trusted, tested, easy & approachable recipes for the everyday home cook that taste delicious! I am so glad you're here!

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17 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious!! I made a huge batch for a gathering and everyone – including kids – loved it!!