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An overhead shot of sliced bulgogi steak in a bowl with cabbage, cucumber kimchi, and white rice. A bowl of sesame seeds and a jar of cucumber kimchi sit alongside it.

Caramelized Beef Bulgogi Bowl with Tender Steak & Rice

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  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Inactive Marinating Time: 12 hours
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 hours 45 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4
  • Category: Entree Salads & Bowls, Main Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop, Broiled
  • Cuisine: Korean-inspired, American

Description

My family is fanatical about Korean BBQ. This Beef Bulgogi Bowl recipe is inspired by my favorite KBBQ experiences, layering all of the flavors and textures into a hearty rice bowl for an easy-yet-satisfying weeknight dinner.

You’ll start with my go-to beef bulgogi recipe, which yields tender strips of steak that are deeply caramelized and filled with punchy savory-sweet flavor.

The bulgogi beef cooks up in a matter of minutes, and from there you can layer it into a bowl with fluffy rice and your banchan (Korean side dishes) of choice – kimchi, crispy bean sprouts, fresh greens, and more.

Be sure to check out the blog post, above, for plenty more tips, tricks, and serving inspriation to get you started. ♡ Happy cooking!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds ribeye or tender steak of choice, thinly sliced against the grain into ⅛-inch strips (see Recipe Notes)
  • Grandma Marian’s bulgogi marinade (below)
  • 12 tablespoons vegetable oil of choice
  • 8 ounces fresh mung bean sprouts
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • for serving, as desired: leafy lettuce or finely shredded Napa cabbage, kimchi or pickled vegetables of choice (try Mom’s Quick Cucumber Kimchi), gochujang aioli, toasted sesame seeds, etc.

Grandma Marian’s bulgogi marinade:

  • ½ cup shoyu (can substitute low-sodium soy sauce or tamari)
  • ⅓ cup lightly packed dark brown sugar (can substitute light brown sugar)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin or rice wine of choice
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 small Asian pear, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped (can substitute Pink Lady apple or Bosc pear)
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Prepare the bulgogi marinade: To a blender or food processor, combine all listed bulgogi marinade ingredients (shoyu – ginger). Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper as desired. Blend or pulse to combine well. Learn more! Grandma Marian’s Bulgogi Marinade. An overhead shot of marinade ingredients in the bowl of a food processor on a grey surface: shoyu, dark brown sugar, mirin, sesame oil, gochujang, garlic, Asian pear, yellow onion, fresh ginger, salt and pepper.
  2. Marinate the steak: Place the thinly sliced steak in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Pour the prepared bulgogi marinade over top. Toss well to combine, using your hands to separate the steak and ensure each individual piece is well coated. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 3 days.An overhead shot of sliced steak marinating in a clear glass bowl of bulgogi marinade atop a grey textured surface.
  3. Dinner prep: About 1 hour or 30 minutes before cooking, remove the marinated bulgogi beef from the refrigerator and allow to warm slightly. This is also a great time to cook a pot of rice and prep any other bowl toppings you like. Just before cooking, line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up and set aside. Preheat your oven’s broiler to its highest setting, ensuring a rack is positioned directly underneath it.
  4. Sear the bulgogi beef: Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, begin searing the beef in batches. I like to grab a small handful (allow any excess marinade to drip back into the bowl) and carefully place it into the skillet, spreading it into an even layer. Do not over-crowd the pan. Cook for 1 minute, then flip and cook for 30 seconds more. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Continue to sear the remaining bulgogi beef in batches, adding additional oil to the pan as needed. Discard any remaining marinade.An overhead shot of thin strips of marinated steak being seared in a black nonstick skillet atop a grey surface.
  5. Finish under the broiler: Once all of the beef is seared, transfer the sheet pan to the oven, placing it directly under the broiler. Broil 2-3 minutes, carefully rotating the pan halfway through, until the beef bulgogi is browned and slightly crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside for serving.An overhead shot of seared bulgogi beef strips on a foil-lined sheet pan atop a grey textured surface.
  6. Cook the mung beans: Meanwhile, as the bulgogi beef broils, quickly cook the mung beans. Return the skillet used to sear the beef to medium-high heat. Add the mung beans and green onions. Season with a good pinch of salt and ground black pepper as desired. Cook until just warmed through, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any of the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Do not overcook; the crispy sprouts have wonderful texture!An overhead shot of mung beans and green onions being cooked with a wooden spoon in a black skillet atop a white textured surface.
  7. Assemble the beef bulgogi bowls and serve: Add the rice to a large, shallow bowl, then top it off with the bulgogi beef and any other banchan you love. At my house, we always build our bowls with finely shredded napa cabbage, kimchi or Mom’s Quick Cucumber Kimchi. If you’d like even more veggies, feel free to serve with roasted broccoli or asparagus. Enjoy!An overhead shot of sliced bulgogi steak in a bowl with cabbage, cucumber kimchi, and white rice. A bowl of sesame seeds and a jar of cucumber kimchi sit alongside it.

Notes

Jess’ Tips and Tricks:

  • Best cut of beef to use, plus prep tips: As written, this bulgogi recipe works best with tender steak. We love ribeye most, but top sirloin is also a great, slightly more affordable cut. Thinly slicing raw steak can be tricky. I suggest placing the steak in the freezer for about 30 minutes – 1 hour; the meat firms up quite a bit as it chills, making it much easier to slice.
  • Gochujang is a fermented Korean chili paste made from red chili flakes (gochugaru), fermented soy beans, and glutinous rice. It has a distinctive spicy-sweet-funky umami flavor. Gochujang is readily available at Asian grocery stores (often packaged in a red plastic tub), though you can often find it in the “international” aisle of a conventional grocery stores or online. The brands I typically use are Chung Jung One and Mother-In-Law.
  • Rice wine: You can find rice wine in the “international” aisle of most conventional grocery stores these days, though it’s also readily available at Asian grocery stores. Imperfect-yet-quick substitutes for mirin in this recipe include dry sherry or dry vermouth.

Storage and Reheating

Store leftover bulgogi beef in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through, then serve as desired.