Beef bulgogi is a popular Korean dish made of marinated beef strips. Typically served over rice and topped with pickled cucumbers, this recipe combines sweet and savory meat with crunchy sweet and sour veggies.

black bowl of Beef Bulgogi with rice, cucumbers and carrots


Beef bulgogi is a common Korean bbq beef recipe and every family makes it just a little differently depending on their traditions and preferences.

Melinda’s mother-in-law learned this beef bulgogi recipe when she was living in Korea and it has become a family favorite.

The beef marinates in a slightly sweet bulgogi sauce and is quickly seared in a hot pan for perfectly tender, flavorful beef that goes great with white rice and your favorite Korean garnishes.

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ingredients for Beef Bulgogi

Ingredients You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need for Korean beef bulgogi:

  • Thinly sliced beef – Our preferred cuts of beef are ribeye or sirloin, but you could use skirt steak, brisket, flank steak, or ground beef. You could also use thinly sliced pork or chicken if you prefer.
  • Sugar – We use granulated white sugar for our version but some people use brown sugar or a mix of the two.
  • Oils – We use both vegetable oil and sesame oil, but you could use another light oil in place of vegetable oil.
  • Soy sauce – You can use tamari sauce if you need to keep gluten free.
  • Garlic – We prefer fresh, but you could use bottled crushed garlic instead.
  • Green onions – There is no great substitute for this, but you could skip if you prefer.
glass bowl of Beef Bulgogi in a marinade


Step 1 – Sprinkle the sugar onto the meat and work it in with your hands.

Step 2 – Make the bulgogi marinade and marinate the meat. In a large, sealable container, combine oil, soy sauce, garlic, and green onion and mix thoroughly. Next, add in the meat and toss to coat. Finally, seal the lid and refrigerate overnight.

Step 3 – Cook the meat. When you want to eat, heat a skillet over medium high heat and then add the meat along with marinade. Stir fry the meat until cooked through. Remove from the pan and serve over white rice and top with pickled cucumbers and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Beef Bulgogi on a plate with rice, cucumber ribbons and carrot sticks
What is Bulgogi?

Bulgogi is a common Korean recipe and every family makes it just a little differently depending on their traditions and preferences. 

For example, some versions are extra spicy, while others might add a sweetener to make it sweeter. Some use pureed fruits, such as Asian pears or kiwis, to act as a tenderizer for the meat. 

What Cut of Meat is Beef Bulgogi?

When we make the recipe, we use either ribeye or a sirloin, but you can also use flank steak, skirt steak, brisket, or even ground beef. 

If you use ground beef, the only thing you’ll change is the marinating. Instead of marinating the meat before cooking, you’ll mix up the marinade on it’s own to make a bulgogi sauce. 

As the flavors come together, you need to brown the ground beef in a skillet and then add the sauce to the meat. Once you add in the sauce, you will need to continue to cook until ground beef is cooked through and the sauce nicely coats it.

What Does Bulgogi Taste Like?

It has a slightly sweet flavor from the sugar in the marinade but the salty soy sauce along with the sesame oil and green onions balance it out to give it the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavors.

Beef Bulgogi bowl with rice, cucumbers ribbons, and carrot matchsticks

How to Thinly Slice Steak

When you slice steak thinly, it helps to freeze it for 30 to 60 minutes. You do not want to become frozen solid, you just want it firmed up enough that you can more easily slice thin pieces. Remove the beef from the freezer and place on a cutting board. You’ll want to use a sharp knife to cut it into thin slices before marinading it. 

What to Serve with Bulgogi 

We typically serve bulgogi over white or brown rice. You can use quick cooking or regular rice, whichever you prefer. We always make a big batch of Instant Pot white rice because it comes out perfectly cooked every time.

We then top with quick pickled cucumber, thinly sliced carrots, and a little sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Check out our easy recipe for making the pickled cucumbers. The thinly sliced cucumbers have just the right amount of sweet and sour to compliment the beef.

On the side, we often add Korean side dishes such as kimchi. You can then top with a Korean sauce, such as Gochujang sauce or Ssamjang sauce

Beef Bulgogi in a black bowl with rice

How to Make it Ahead of Time 

To make ahead, follow the recipe and then let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Place the container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

If you prefer, you can freeze the beef for up to 2 months. If freezing, you’ll want to make sure to remove as much of the air from the container as possible before storing. We recommend using a sealable plastic freezer bag since it lets you squeeze air out. 

To reheat, place the beef in a pan and heat over a medium flame. You’ll need to cook until warmed through. 

If using frozen bulgogi, first let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before reheating. 

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Servings: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinate: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 20 minutes

Beef Bulgogi

Beef bulgogi is a popular Korean dish made of marinated beef strips. Typically served over rice and topped with pickled cucumbers, this recipe combines savory sweet meat with crunchy sweet and sour veggies.
top down of beef bulgogi in a black bowl with rice and vegetables
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  • 2 pounds Thinly sliced beef
  • 4 tablespoons Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons Soy sauce
  • 5 cloves Garlic
  • 1 bunch Green onions
  • 1 cup Quick pickled cucumbers
  • 1 teaspoon Sesame seeds
  • 2 cups Cooked white rice


  • Sprinkle meat with sugar and work it in thoroughly with your hands.
  • Combine oil, soy sauce, garlic, and green onion, in a large container that can be sealed. Mix ingredients thoroughly.
  • Add the meat to the marinade and toss to coat. Seal with the lid and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
  • When ready to cook, heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the meat to the skillet along with the marinade and stir fry until the meat is cooked through.
  • Serve over white rice and top with pickled cucumber and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.


Serving: 0.5pound, Calories: 605kcal, Carbohydrates: 38g, Protein: 54g, Fat: 25g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 125mg, Sodium: 1392mg, Potassium: 919mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 84IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 79mg, Iron: 5mg
Nutrition Disclaimer: We are not certified nutritionists. Nutrition facts are an estimate and are provided as a courtesy. They are generated by an online API which recognizes ingredient names and amounts and makes calculations based on the serving size. Results may vary.
Author: Kat Jeter & Melinda Caldwell
Course: Main
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: beef bulgogi, beef bulgogi recipe, bulgogi marinade, bulgogi meat, Korean bulgogi
Handwritten signature for Kat & Melinda