Hawaiian-Style Kalbi (Grilled Korean Beef Short Ribs)

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A long-time favorite here at the PWWB House, my family's Hawaiian-Style Kalbi recipe (homemade grilled Korean short ribs) is the best! Thinly sliced beef short ribs soak up a local-style Hawaiian kalbi marinade made with soy sauce, brown sugar, & loads of fresh ginger & garlic. They grill up quickly, resulting in smoky, caramelized, & fall-apart tender short ribs with the perfect balance of savory, sweet, & umami flavor. Perfect for quick & easy weeknight dinners and weekend BBQs all summer long!
Kalbi beef short ribs on a white serving plate, topped with sesame seeds & thin sliced green onions. The platter sits atop a cement surface, surrounded by small plates of kimchi & rice.
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Backyard BBQs at my house probably look a little different than your typical Midwest grill out. Of course, we grill up barbecue staples like Wisconsin-style beer brats, grilled burgers, & BBQ chicken, but our favorite local-style Hawaiian dishes are always on the menu, too. That’s just what happens when your dad is born & raised in Wisconsin & your mom is born & raised in Hawaii!

You know it’s a really special occasion when Mom preps Hawaiian kalbi (local-style grilled Korean short ribs). They’re her all-time favorite & I honestly can’t blame her for that – there’s nothing not to love about them! Thinly sliced beef short ribs soak up a seriously flavorful marinade made with soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, brown sugar – basically all the best things in the world! – & grill quickly, resulting in smoky, caramelized, & fall apart tender beef short ribs with the BEST rich sweet & savory flavor. They are so good!

So fire up your grill & get ready for the most simple, flavorful short rib recipe – perfect for grilling season!

Korean beef short ribs on grill grates, grilling over direct flame.

Grilled Hawaiian Kalbi Short Ribs (Grilled Korean Short Ribs) Recipe Highlights

This Hawaiian-style kalbi recipe is…

  • RICHLY SWEET & SAVORY. A homemade kalbi marinade gives these thinly sliced beef short ribs the BEST sweet & savory flavor. Sweet brown sugar is the perfect contrast to salty soy sauce & sesame oil.
  • ALL ABOUT THE MARINADE. It’s all about the kalbi marinade in this recipe. So don’t rush it! These kalbi short ribs will only get better the longer you marinate them. At a minimum, let them marinate for 12 hours. But really, several days is best. So plan ahead! 
  • SERIOUSLY QUICK & EASY TO GRILL! You’ll make up for the time spent marinating when it comes to cooking these kalbi short ribs. Just throw them on the grill for a few minutes per side & then they’ll be ready to enjoy!

This family recipe is pure Hawaiian family comfort food. ♡ Read on to learn more about Hawaiian Kalbi Short Ribs, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!

Hawaiian Kalbi Recipe vs. Korean Short Rib Recipe

One of the amazing things about Hawaii is how many people, cultures, & traditions you can find from all around the Pacific Rim. The islands are a melting pot, & there’s no better way to witness that than by enjoying the local Hawaiian food scene. Food in Hawaii is as culturally rich & diverse as the local population. You can taste everything from fresh poke to the best Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, & Korean food you’ll ever eat! 

Kalbi served local Hawaiian-style, plated with shredded cabbage & scoops of rice, mac salad, & kimchi. The plate sits atop a cement surface alongside a second plate of kalbi, nori furikake seasoning, a gray linen napkin, & a plate of thin sliced green onions.

So how do a Hawaiian kalbi recipe & Korean short rib recipe compare? Let’s break it down.

What is kalbi? ⇢ Kalbi is a term describing the marinade used in a traditional grilled Korean short rib recipe. But the kalbi short ribs found in Hawaii will have more sweetness in the marinade than a Korean marinade.

Both styles rely on staple ingredients like soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, & other aromatics in the marinade. A Korean kalbi marinade will then typically use Asian pear, which gives a subtle sweetness & acts as a natural tenderizer for the short ribs. A Hawaiian kalbi marinade is made with brown sugar, which creates a bold sweet & savory flavor found more commonly on the islands.

While my family’s grilled kalbi recipe leans more Hawaiian-style, you can easily add Asian pear & gochujang for a more traditional Korean flavor profile.

A few other details to clear up: 

  • Kalbi vs. Galbi: You may hear both of these terms used interchangeably because they’re essentially the same! Galbi is the Korean word for “rib” — so it’s just another way to refer to Korean kalbi. 
  • Kalbi vs. Bulgogi: The difference between these two recipes is the type of meat that is used. Kalbi is typically made with short ribs, while bulgogi is made with thinly sliced beef. Otherwise, the marinade flavors are very similar.

These Korean Short Ribs Start with an Easy Kalbi Marinade

Amazing Korean short ribs start with a killer kalbi marinade, & my Easy Kalbi Marinade is no exception. This kalbi marinade recipe was passed down to me from my mom’s mom, my Grandma Marian. It is made with a handful of Asian pantry staples & loads of fresh aromatics – it’s seriously the best!

Grilled Kalbi ingredients arranged on a cement surface – green onions, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, brown sugar, onion, soy sauce, ginger, pear, & flanken-style beef short ribs.

Note: Full Ingredients List, including measurements, is included in the Recipe Card, below.

You will need…

  • Beef short ribs – The two most common cuts of short ribs are English (cut along the bone) & flanken (cut across the bone, pictured). Kalbi short ribs are typically prepared with flanken short ribs, which are very accessible at most Asian grocery stores. For maximum flavor, look for short ribs with nice marbling.
  • Liquid ingredients – The base of this Kalbi marinade is a few trusty Asian pantry staples, namely shoyu (soy sauce), rice vinegar, & toasted sesame oil. You can also add a little gochujang (Korean chili paste) – my family doesn’t typically use gochujang for our kalbi, but if you like its earthy, funky fermented flavor, you’ll love it!
  • Fresh aromatics – Here’s where the flavor comes! Grated yellow onion, green onion, & garlic make this Kalbi marinade explode with flavor. Fresh ginger adds pungent spicy-sweetness. Grated Asian pear adds balanced sweetness, plus its natural acidity helps to tenderize the short ribs as they marinate.
  • Dark brown sugar – For the rich, caramelly sweetness that is signature to Hawaiian kalbi. As a bonus, the brown sugar caramelizes on the grill, creating crave-worthy crusty edges along the grilled Korean short ribs – SO good!
Flanken-style beef short ribs soaking in homemade Hawaiian-style kalbi marinade in a white ceramic baking dish atop a cement surface.

Suggested Marinating Time

The marinade adds a lot of flavor to the short ribs & it also tenderizes the meat. This tenderization is key, especially since these Korean short ribs grill so quickly. Cooking these kalbi short ribs is much different than “low-and-slow” braised short ribs, for example. The best way to get tender, juicy Korean short ribs is with a longer marinating time.

Suggested Marinating Time for Kalbi Short Ribs ⇢ For grilled Korean short ribs with maximum flavor & tenderness, it’s best to marinate the short ribs as long as you can! Submerge the short ribs with the kalbi marinade, cover, & marinate in the refrigerator at least 12 hours or up to 3 days – the longer the better! 

Meal Prep Tip ⇢ If prepping beyond the suggested marinating window, you can mix up the kalbi marinade marinade & store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to begin marinating, simply give it a shake, pour it over the short ribs, & let it sit in the refrigerator until it’s grilling time. Seriously easy!

How to Grill Korean Short Ribs 

One of the best things about kalbi short ribs is that they are very easy to grill. Perfect for a busy weeknight or when you’re playing host at a backyard BBQ!

Grill tongs holding grilled Korean short ribs over grill grates. The kalbi is charred & caramelized.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

Start by prepping your grill for direct high heat grilling. This is a good time to take the short ribs out of the refrigerator as well so they can get closer to room temperature. Once the grill is hot, take the short ribs out of the marinade & place them on the grill grates. Since they’re so thinly sliced, they grill up in just a couple of minutes per side.

(Note: Don’t be discouraged if your kalbi creates lots of flare-ups on the grill. Since beef short ribs are well-marbled, flare-ups are expected. Honestly, the extra caramelly & charred bits are the best part of Hawaiian kalbi, anyway!)

Serving Tips for Hawaiian Kalbi Short Ribs (Grilled Korean Short Ribs)

The quick cook time makes these Korean short ribs great for weeknight grilling, while the ease of preparation makes them the perfect easy dish to prep for summer dinner parties with friends. (They’ll be so impressed!)

Kalbi beef short ribs on a white serving plate, topped with sesame seeds & thin sliced green onions. The platter sits atop a cement surface.

Serving Suggestions. ⇢ There are plenty of options depending on what serving style you’re looking for. It’s easy to make Hawaiian, Korean, & American-inspired sides work with these tender kalbi short ribs! Serve your kalbi short ribs alongside your favorite summer sides or banchan (Korean BBQ side dishes). At my house, we plate kalbi short ribs Hawaiian-style with rice, mac salad, & kimchi.

Kalbi served local Hawaiian-style, plated with shredded cabbage & scoops of rice, mac salad, & kimchi. The plate sits atop a cement surface alongside a second plate of kalbi, nori furikake seasoning, a gray linen napkin, & a plate of thin sliced green onions.

I can’t wait for you to try a taste of Hawaii with these grilled kalbi short ribs. They’re a family fave at my house for very good reason and I know you’ll love them too.

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!

Craving more local-style Hawaiian food? You’re in the right spot! Be sure to try my Easy Shoyu Chicken, Best-Ever Kalua Pig, or Grandpa Clarence’s Hawaiian Beef Stew, all of which are family recipes & so well loved here on PWWB. Happy cooking! ♡

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Kalbi beef short ribs on a white serving plate, topped with sesame seeds & thin sliced green onions. The platter sits atop a cement surface, surrounded by small plates of kimchi & rice.

Hawaiian-Style Kalbi (Grilled Korean Short Ribs)

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Marinating Time (Inactive): 12 hours – 3 days
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: serves 46 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes, Beef Recipes
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: Korean, Hawaiian, Asian-Inspired

Description

My family’s Hawaiian-Style Kalbi recipe (aka homemade grilled Korean short ribs) is the best! Thinly sliced beef short ribs soak up a local-style Hawaiian-meets-Korean kalbi marinade made with soy sauce, brown sugar, & loads of fresh ginger & garlic. They grill up quickly & result in smoky, caramelized, & fall-apart tender short ribs with the perfect balance of savory, sweet, & umami flavor.

Serve with your favorite banchan or a couple scoops of rice & mac salad for the perfect quick & easy summer meal!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds flanken beef short ribs
  • ½ cup shoyu (see Recipe Notes)
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • optional: 1 tablespoon gochujang
  • optional: 1 small Asian pear, peeled & finely grated
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled & finely grated
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped or grated (about 2 tablespoons grated)
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
  • for serving, as desired: rice, Hawaiian mac salad, kimchi or other banchan of choice, etc. Grilled Kalbi ingredients arranged on a cement surface – green onions, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, brown sugar, onion, soy sauce, ginger, pear, & flanken-style beef short ribs.

Instructions

  1. Prep the kalbi marinade & marinate the short ribs: Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, gochujang (if using), grated pear, grated onion, green onion, garlic, ginger to a baking dish. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Whisk to combine. Add the beef short ribs to the baking dish, pressing down to ensure they are completely submerged in the kalbi marinade. Cover & marinate in the refrigerator at least 12 hours or up to 3 days – the longer the better! Flanken-style beef short ribs soaking in homemade Hawaiian-style kalbi marinade in a white ceramic baking dish atop a cement surface.
  2. Prepare the grill: About 30 minutes before you’d like to begin grilling, pull the short ribs from the fridge to let them come up to room temperature as the grill preheats. Prepare the grill for high direct heat grilling, 550-600 degrees F. Weber Genesis II Propane Grill on a deck.
  3. Grill the kalbi short ribs: Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the grill, place the marinated kalbi short ribs on the grill, shaking off any excess marinade into the baking dish (discard excess marinade). Be sure to place them on the grill such that they’re positioned perpendicular to the grill grates, which prevents them from slipping through as they grill or as you handle them. Grill 2-3 minutes per side, until charred as desired. Korean beef short ribs on grill grates, grilling over direct flame.
  4. Serve immediately: Serve grilled Korean short ribs immediately, with your favorite banchan or BBQ sides. At my house, we enjoy these grilled short ribs Hawaiian plate lunch-style, with rice, macaroni salad, & kimchi. Enjoy! Kalbi served local Hawaiian-style, plated with shredded cabbage & scoops of rice, mac salad, & kimchi. The plate sits atop a cement surface alongside a second plate of kalbi, nori furikake seasoning, a gray linen napkin, & a plate of thin sliced green onions.

Notes

  • Shoyu: In Hawaii, soy sauce is most commonly called shoyu, the Japanese word for soy sauce. It’s a staple ingredient in Hawaiian kitchens. Aloha Shoyu is my go-to. Feel free to swap it out with tamari for a gluten-free dish.
  • Storage & Reheating: These Kalbi short ribs are best served fresh off the grill, though leftovers will keep for a couple of days. Transfer cooled kalbi to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Easily reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave until warmed through.
  • 15-Minute Meal Prep: If you’d like to prep beyond the suggested marinade times above, simply prep the kalbi marinade in advance. Prepare according to Step 1, storing the kalbi 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 beef short ribs as described in Step 1. Easy!

Keywords: kalbi short ribs, korean short ribs, hawaiian kalbi, kalbi marinade, beef short ribs, hawaiian recipes, korean bbq, easy, grilling & smoking, tender, summer

Recipe & Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Kalbi served local Hawaiian-style, plated with shredded cabbage & scoops of rice, mac salad, & kimchi. The plate sits atop a cement surface alongside a second plate of kalbi, nori furikake seasoning, a gray linen napkin, & a plate of thin sliced green onions.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, Facebook, & Pinterest for more easy, modern recipes & fun!

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 & 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 & Smoking recipes.

& lastly! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be teaching you how to grill up some goodness all summer long, & we have so much fun on Instagram!

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Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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