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Beef Bulgogi

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Beef Bulgogi is traditionally cooked over hot coals on the barbecue.

Beef bulgogi is a recipe with a long history. About 2000 years! When you try this beef bulgogi recipe, you’ll understand why.

This is so simple to make and perfect for the summer barbecue or cooking indoors in the cold of winter.

beef bulgogi

Amazing simply wrapped in lettuce leaves.


What exactly is beef bulgogi?

My Korean language skills are pretty much non existent but I’ve been told that bulgogi translates as ‘fire meat’. It isn’t spicy so this name most likely refers to the fact that it is traditional cooked over a live fire.

I’m sure that there have been many variations of beef bulgogi over the past 2000 years but originally it was beef cooked on skewers.


Nowadays, it is often cooked in a pan over coals or even indoors. I explain how to get a nice smoky flavour into your beef bulgogi without having to light up your barbecue below.

Getting a smoky flavour indoors…

This is easily done and achieves a flavour to meat, vegetables and seafood that is similar to cooking over a live charcoal fire.

Place the marinated meat in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Light a small piece of lumpwood charcoal and place it on a piece of foil that has been folded over a few times to make it thicker.

Put the foil with the burning piece of charcoal in the centre of the marinating meat and drizzle about 1/2 tsp of oil over it.

It will immediately smoke up. Place a glass lid over the meat and allow it to sit and smoke until most of the smoke in gone. Continue marinating the meat or use immediately.


Which cut of beef?

I have used sirloin and ribeye most when making beef bulgogi. These are the cuts that are traditionally used in South Korea.

I’ve also experimented with skirt steak which got fantastic results.

As long as you look for well aged and marbled beef, you should be fine. Just stay away from more expensive cuts suck as fillet as cooking fillet in this way would ruin your fillet! Beef bulgogi is cooked until well done. 

Tenderising the meat…

In South Korea, pureed Korean pear is used as a meat tenderiser for beef bulgogi.

In the west I haven’t found this necessary. Not only is it quite difficult to find Korean pears, the sirloin and ribeye I use is well aged and marbles and naturally tender. 

Having tried the pureed pear option, I promise you won’t notice a big difference in the flavour or texture of the beef if you leave the pear out. That said, another way of tenderising the meat is to use grated onion. 

I like this. I don’t think it makes the mean any more tender but it does taste good when fried. 

Step by step…

This will be added raw to the pho to cook in the broth at the table.

Ingredients for beef bulgogi

Make things easy on yourself and get all of your ingredients prepared before starting.

Marinating beef

Marinate the meat in the marinade ingredients for at least 30 minutes or overnight. In a rush? Just marinate it as long as you can.

Frying beef strips for bulgogi

The best way to cook the meat is in small batches in a hot pan.

Frying beef

This will help the meat char and caramelise as it cooks.

frying a large batch of beef strips for bulgogi

Another option for the time poor is to fry the beef in larger batches. The meat won’t get as crispy but will still be delicious.

Beef bulgogi

Ready to serve. I recommend serving beef bulgogi hot from the pan.

beef bulgogi in a lettuce leaf

Beef bulgogi is traditionally served wrapped in lettuce leaves with a good sauce.

The Dipping Sauce

The bulgogi dipping sauce I served these lettuce wraps with is so easy to make.

You can find my bulgogi dipping sauce recipe here. It is delicious not only with beef bulgogi but as a dipping sauce or marinade for pork, chicken and beef. 

beef bulgogi

I could pick this up and eat it all over again!

homemade beef bulgogi in lettuce leaf

Dig in!


If you like this beef bulgogi recipe, you might also like to try these recipes…

Beef rendang
Chicken rendang
Chicken 65
sesame chicken
Easy chicken korma

Yield: 4

Beef Bulgogi

homemade beef bulgogi in lettuce leaf
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • 900g (2 lbs) sirloin or ribeye cut thinly across the grain
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil (optional)
  • Crisp lettuce leaves for wrapping
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar [white sugar ok]
  • 1 tbsp honey [ 2 t sugar is also ok ]
  • 4 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp chopped green onion
  • 4 tbsp grated onion


  1. Put the beef steaks in the freezer for about 60 minutes. This will make it easier to slice. Slice the meat as thinly as you can with a sharp knife against the grain.
  2. Place the marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the sliced beef. Marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight. The longer the better.
  3. When ready to cook, heat a lightly greased pan over a medium high heat. If using a non-stick pan, oil is not required.
  4. When smoking hot, add a few pieces of the beef. This will get you a nicely charred and caramelised appearance. You could also cook in larger batches,, see the photo above. Keep hot while you fry the remaining batches.
  5. Serve imediately with lettuce leaves and a good sauce or two.

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