Spicy-Sweet Chicken Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps – A Hungry Girl’s Dream!
Here’s the deal: I hate playing favorites with the recipes we share here on PWWB – I love them all! – BUT these Grilled Chicken Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps might just be one of my favorites this summer. Korean BBQ holds an extra special place in my heart because it’s one of my mom’s all-time favorite meals & you won’t believe how easy it is to make bold bulgogi Korean BBQ flavors at home! These wraps are a perfect place to start – they are light but each bite packs a SERIOUS punch of flavor.
It all starts with my go-to bulgogi marinade. I inherited it from my grandma, who was quite the griller back in the day! Slightly more Hawaiian in style than traditional Korean, this recipe for bulgogi marinade is made with punchy aromatics & a good amount of brown sugar, creating the perfect balance of savory & sweet with crave-worthy char. Use it on chicken for dak bulgogi wraps, or swap in your favorite protein & make a tasty rice bowl! (Easy recipe variations included below!)
Once the chicken is marinated & grilled, simply tuck it into chicken bulgogi lettuce wraps with a little sticky rice, pickle-y veg & a quick gochujang aioli. These lettuce wraps are spicy, creamy, funky & so, so good – you’re going to be obsessed!
Grilled Bulgogi Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe Highlights
You’re going to be obsessed with these chicken bulgogi wraps because they’re…
- LIGHT YET FILLING. These lettuce wraps are the perfect light summer dinner but each bite bursts deliciously bold Korean-inspired flavor. An all-around feel-good meal!
- SUPER-VERSATILE. Swap in a different protein or turn it into a rice bowl instead of a wrap…the options are truly endless with grilled chicken bulgogi!
- PERFECT FOR MEAL PREP. Nearly all the heavy lifting for these chicken lettuce wraps comes down to prepping the bulgogi marinade. Prep it ahead of time for a super speedy 15-minute meal later in the week. So easy!
An instant favorite for grilling season! ♡ Read on to learn more about these Grilled Bulgogi Chicken Lettuce Wraps, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
It All Starts with Grilled Chicken Bulgogi Marinade
The base of this grilled chicken bulgogi lettuce wraps recipe is a boldly flavored Korean-inspired bulgogi marinade. This particular bulgogi marinade recipe is very special to me, as I inherited it from my grandma. It’s a little more Hawaiian in style than authentically Korean, but it’s easy to make & packs a big punch of sweet-savory flavor that’s perfect for grilling.
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
You will need…
- Chicken – Of course! You can use either chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this chicken bulgogi recipe. Because they’re grilled for a flavorful charred finish, I prefer using thighs; as they’re a little more forgiving & don’t dry out as easily as breasts. If you choose to use breasts, either pound them out flat or butterfly them by slicing them in half lengthwise. This helps to ensure they cook evenly & quickly, creating juicier grilled chicken bulgogi.
- Fresh aromatics – Here’s where the flavor comes! Yellow onion, green onion, & garlic make this bulgogi marinade explode with bold flavor. Fresh ginger adds pungent spicy-sweetness.
- Asian pantry staples – The base of this bulgogi marinade is a few trusty Asian pantry staples, namely soy sauce, rice wine, & toasted sesame oil.
- Dark brown sugar – For rich, caramelly sweetness to balance the savory aromatics. As a bonus, the brown sugar caramelizes on the grill, creating crave-worthy crusty edges along the grilled chicken bulgogi – SO good! 🙌🏼
- Gochujang – Korean chili paste isn’t necessarily a traditional addition to bulgogi-style marinades, but I love its earthy, funky fermented flavor. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more information, including sourcing tips.
How to Make Chicken Bulgogi Marinade:
It couldn’t be simpler! Add all the bulgogi marinade ingredients – minus the chicken & green onions – to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth & creamy. Pour the bulgogi marinade over the chicken & green onions, tossing well to combine. From there, set it aside to let it work its magic!
No blender? No problem! ⇢ If you do not have a blender or food processor, simply use a box grater to grate the onion & a knife to finely chop the garlic & ginger. Whisk everything together in a bowl – simple! Refer to the Recipe Card, below, for more guidance.
Suggested Marinating Time
Aim to let the chicken soak in the bulgogi marinade for at least 12 hours & no more than 3 days for the most tender, juicy, & flavorful chicken bulgogi.
Meal Prep Tip
Save some time during the week by prepping the bulgogi marinade ahead of time. Simply store it in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before you’re ready to start marinating the chicken. When that time comes, simply pour the bulgogi marinade over the chicken – easy peasy!
(A little bonus? The flavors of this Korean-inspired marinade meld together even more as the marinade sits which means even more delicious flavor!)
Refer to the Recipe Notes, below, for more meal prep guidance!
How to Make Chicken Bulgogi on the Grill
With the bulgogi chicken marinated to perfection, all that’s left to do at dinnertime is fire up the grill!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
Grill prep. About 30 minutes before you’d like to begin grilling, pull the bulgogi marinated chicken from the refrigerator. Preheat the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F. Tip! ⇢ This is also a great time to cook a pot of rice, prep leafy lettuce for wraps & work on any other lettuce wrap toppings you like.
Grill the chicken bulgogi. Place the bulgogi chicken on the preheated grill, draining & discarding any excess marinade. Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, or until it reaches an internal temp of 165 degrees F. Once cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces.
No grill? No problem! ⇢ If you do not have an outdoor grill or grill pan, you can prep amazing chicken bulgogi in the oven. Arrange the marinated chicken on a sheet pan. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15-18 minutes, until it’s nearly cooked through. Thinly slice the chicken, then return it to the sheet pan & pop it under the broiler for grill-worthy char.
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How to Serve – Building Chicken Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps!
Once the chicken is grilled, these chicken bulgogi lettuce wraps come together quickly.
My ideal lettuce wrap? ⇢ Spoon a little cooked rice into the center of a lettuce leaf. Top with sliced grilled bulgogi chicken, pickled veggies, & a generous drizzle of creamy gochujang aioli.
- For Pickled Veggies! ⇢ Create a pickling liquid made of equal parts rice vinegar, water, & granulated sugar, boiling until the sugar dissolves. Pour the pickling liquid over finely sliced or grated carrots & daikon radish. If you’d like to stick to a specific recipe, try this one!
- For Creamy Gochujang Aioli! ⇢ Mix mayonnaise with a little garlic, gochujang, & pure maple syrup. For a drizzlier sauce, whisk in a little bit of water until your desired consistency is reached. Simple! Refer to the Recipe Card, below, for full measurements & directions.
Storage & Reheating
Store any leftover grilled bulgogi chicken & other lettuce wraps components in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the chicken & rice in the microwave until warmed through, then assemble bulgogi chicken lettuce wraps as desired.
Easy Recipe Variations
Swap for a different protein. Chicken isn’t the only option here! Use the marinade to make bulgogi beef, bulgogi pork, or even bulgogi fish, tofu, or seitan lettuce wraps. You can even swap with kalbi short ribs if you prefer! Refer to our full Bulgogi Marinade blog post to ensure sure you marinating for the proper amount of time based on the protein you choose.
Different serving methods. While we’re completely smitten with chicken bulgogi lettuce wraps, there are countless other dishes you can enjoy with your grilled bulgogi chicken:
- Bibmbap-style as rice bowls or grain bowls – Make a pile of your favorite grain, then layer it with slices of bulgogi chicken, pickled veggies or kimchi, a fried egg, a handful of fresh herbs, & so on…get creative!
- Tacos – Wrap your bulgogi chicken in a flour or corn tortilla, then add your fave toppings. It’s like a lettuce wrap, except with more delicious carbs! 😋
- Bento Box-Style – A pile of grilled, marinated meat, some sticky rice, & a few sides? What could be better?!
- Stir Fry – Choose your favorite veggies for stir-frying, then use some of the bulgogi marinade as your sauce. Add the grilled chicken in at the end, serve over a mound of rice — easy weeknight goodness!
- Skewers – Dice the marinated chicken then thread onto skewers. Feel free to layer in some veggies, if you want! Grill them, then serve as kebabs with gochujang aioli as a dipping sauce. YUM!
- Chicken Wings – Don’t bulgogi chicken wings sound like a dream?! Use this post as a guide on how to marinate & grill chicken wings to utter perfection.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you pronounce “bulgogi?”
It sounds a lot like it looks: bull-GO-ghee.
How would you describe bulgogi?
Traditional bulgogi is a well-loved marinated grilled beef dish that originated in Korea. In Korean, the term bulgogi translates to “fire-meat”, which is a nod to its signature preparation of being made over a fiery grill. Today, bulgogi is widely known as the most popular variety of marinated meat served in Korean barbecue.
Bulgogi has been around for thousands of years & for good reason – it’s crazy delicious! My family’s version packs a big punch of bold aromatic flavor, all while maintaining the perfect balance of savory-sweetness.
For even more information on what bulgogi is or what you might find in bulgogi sauce, check out our full Bulgogi Marinade blog post.
How long should I marinate chicken bulgogi?
In my experience, aim for a minimum of 12 hours marinating time to result in the juiciest, most crave-worthy bulgogi flavors when you’re working with chicken. Chicken can stay in the marinade for up to 3 days without losing its texture.
How should I cook bulgogi chicken?
Since bulgogi literally translates to “fire meat,” it goes without saying that grilling bulgogi chicken yields the best flavors. If you don’t have an outdoor grill, don’t fret! You can attain caramelized, charred bulgogi goodness using a grill pan on the stovetop or using the broiler in your oven.
I can’t wait for you to try these Grilled Chicken Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps! They’re the perfect feel-good summer dinner, & I know you’re going to love them as much as we do! If you do give them a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations!
Want More Crave-Worthy Chicken Dinners? Be sure to try our Grilled Chicken Shawarma Hummus Bowls, Chicken al Pastor, Crispy Chicken Carnitas, Shoyu Chicken, or Grilled Bruschetta Chicken! ♡ Happy cooking!Print
Always in the search of light, feel-good dinner for the summer months, these Grilled Chicken Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps just might be my favorite warm weather dinner we’ve ever shared here on PWWB. They’re savory, sticky-sweet, & spicy – an utter delight!
It all starts with my go-to bulgogi marinade, a recipe I inherited from my grandma. While it’s a little more Hawaiian in style than traditionally Korean, it comes together quickly thanks to a blender or food processor & it packs a big punch of flavor thanks to bold aromatic ingredients like onion, garlic, ginger, sesame oil & gochujang. A generous amount of dark brown sugar provides sweetness for irresistibly charred grill marks, which is balanced by a little soy sauce & rice wine for savory flavor.
Let the marinade soak into the bulgogi chicken, then simply grill it up & wrap it in crisp lettuce with rice, pickled veggies, & a drizzle of creamy gochujang aioli. If lettuce wraps aren’t your thing, you’re still in good hands here – refer to the blog post, above, for other serving ideas (everything from rice bowls to tacos!).
A light dinner with deliciously bold Korean-inspired flavor…this grilled chicken bulgogi was an instant favorite here at the PWWB House, & we think you’ll love it too. ♡ Happy cooking!
- chicken bulgogi (below)
- 10–12 leaves leafy lettuce (butter lettuce, leaf lettuce, etc.)
- 2 cups cooked white rice
- kimchi or pickled vegetables
- gochujang aioli (below)
for the chicken bulgogi:
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see Recipe Notes)
- 2 green onions, finely sliced
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled & roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (about 2 tablespoons grated)
- 1/3 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar (can sub regular brown sugar)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (can sub tamari if gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons mirin (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- optional: 1 tablespoon gochujang (see Recipe Notes)
for the gochujang aioli:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 1 tablespoon gochujang
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Prep the bulgogi marinade & marinate the chicken: Add the yellow onion, garlic, ginger, dark brown sugar, soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, & gochujang (if using) to a blender or food processor. Blend or pulse to combine well. (Alternately, you can use a box grater to grate the yellow onion, finely chop or grate the garlic & ginger, & whisk all bulgogi marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.) Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl or resealable bag with the sliced green onions. Pour the prepared bulgogi marinade over top, tossing well to combine. Cover & marinate in the refrigerator at least 12 hours or up to 3 days.
- Prepare the grill & prep the lettuce wraps: About 30 minutes before you’d like to begin grilling, pull the bulgogi marinated chicken from the refrigerator, letting it warm slightly as the grill preheats. This is also a great time to cook a pot of rice, prep the lettuce & any other lettuce wrap toppings you like. Prepare the grill for medium-high direct heat grilling, about 450-500 degrees F. Once preheated, clean the cooking surface by firmly brushing a wire brush over the grates. (If you do not have access to an outdoor grill, you can also preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat.)
- Prepare the gochujang aioli: As the grill preheats, prep the aioli. Add the mayonnaise, garlic, gochujang, & pure maple syrup to a small bowl. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Whisk to combine well. Set aside for serving or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Grill the chicken bulgogi: Place the bulgogi chicken on the preheated grill, draining & discarding any excess marinade. Grill the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, or until cooked through with beautifully charred grill marks. Transfer the grilled bulgogi chicken to a plate or small baking sheet. Once cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Assemble grilled chicken bulgogi lettuce wraps & serve: Spoon a little cooked rice into the center of a lettuce leaf, then top with the sliced grilled bulgogi chicken, a little kimchi or pickled veggies of choice, a drizzle of gochujang aioli, &/or whatever else you love. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Chicken breasts vs thighs: You can use either boneless, skinless chicken thighs or chicken breasts for this grilled bulgogi chicken. I always find thighs to be more flavorful & juicier, so that’s what I typically use. If you prefer to use breasts, be sure to either pound the chicken breasts out flat or butterfly them by slicing them in half lengthwise. This will help them grill more quickly & more evenly, keeping your grilled bulgogi chicken totally juicy.
- Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine. It’s similar to more well-known sake, though it tends to have a higher naturally-occurring sugar content (from fermentation) & lower alcohol content. You can find mirin 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.
- Gochujang is a fermented Korean chili paste made from red chili flakes (gochucharu), fermented soy beans, & glutinous rice with distinctive spicy-sweet-funky umami flavor. Gochujang is a ubiquitous ingredient in Korean cooking, & it’s grown increasingly popular here in the U.S. It’s readily available at Asian grocery stores (it’s often sold in a red plastic tub), though you can often find gochujang in the “international” aisle of a conventional grocery stores or online. I typically use Chung Jung One Gochujang or Mother in Law’s Gochujang.
- Storage & Reheating: Store leftover grilled bulgogi chicken & other lettuce wraps components in separate airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the chicken & rice in the microwave until warmed through, then assemble bulgogi chicken lettuce wraps as desired.
- 15-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for these lettuce wraps comes from prepping the bulgogi marinade & gochujang aioli. Prep in advance to cut down on active prep at dinnertime – it takes 15 minutes, tops:
- Marinate the chicken according to Step 1 of Recipe Directions, above (10 minutes active prep). If you’d like to prep beyond the suggested marinade times above, simply prep the bulgogi marinade in advance. Prepare according to Step 1, storing the bulgogi marinade in a jar or an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days – the flavors meld together even more as the marinade sits. When you’re ready to start marinating (12 hours – 3 days before grilling), simply give the kalbi marinade a shake & pour it over the chicken as described in Step 1. Easy!
- Prepare the gochujang aioli according to Step 3 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (5 minutes active prep)
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.
Ready to Hit the Grill?
If this all still feels new to you, I encourage you to head over to Grilling 101, a compilation of tips and tricks for all of the grilling basics – everything from how to light your grill to how to clean your grill.
All this talk about grilling have you feelin’ ready to hit the grill? Me too! Be sure to check out this post for my 15 go-to marinades you need this grilling season. At our house, a good marinade is at the heart of grilling season. I’m positive these marinades will be on repeat at your house this summer! For even more grilled goodness, be sure to check out all of our Grilling and Smoking recipes.
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