Hawaii-Style Kalbi (Grilled Korean Beef Short Ribs)

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Grilled Hawaii-Style Kalbi Short Ribs are a must-have for your next backyard BBQ! Soak thinly sliced flanken beef short ribs in a savory-sweet Hawaii-style kalbi marinade – my family's recipe made with shoyu, brown sugar, & loads of fresh ginger & garlic. The grilled Korean short ribs cook up in minutes – they’re ready as soon as they’re smoky, caramelized, & meltingly tender. A simple-yet-impressive summer cookout staple, best served plate lunch-style with rice & mac salad! 🤙🏼🌺

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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 a small plate of kimchi.

A Treasured Family Recipe: Grilled Korean Short Ribs, Hawaii-Style! 🤙🏼🌺

Backyard BBQs at here at the PWWB House probably look a little different than your typical Midwest grill out. Of course, we always cook up barbecue staples like Wisconsin-style beer brats, grilled burgers, & BBQ chicken, but our favorite local Hawaii dishes like huli huli chicken & Mom’s mac salad 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 Honolulu! 🥰

It’s always a special occasion when Mom preps Hawaiian kalbi (i.e. 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 flanken beef short ribs soak up a seriously flavorful Hawaii-style kalbi marinade made with shoyu, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, & dark brown sugar – basically all the best things in the world! The longer the kalbi short ribs marinate, the more savory-sweet, umami-rich flavor they soak up. You can’t rush it!

After a long marinate, the super thin kalbi short ribs grill up in no time. The result is smoky, caramelized, & fall-apart tender beef Korean short ribs with the BEST rich sweet & savory flavor. They are SO good, especially when served plate-lunch style with a scoop of mac salad. Hawaiian kalbi is a must-have for grilling season, whether you’re on the islands or the mainland!

Hawaii Kalbi Short Ribs Recipe Highlights

You will LOVE this Hawaii-style kalbi recipe. It’s…

RICHLY SWEET & SAVORY. My family’s homemade Hawaiian kalbi marinade soaks thinly sliced flanken beef short ribs with the BEST sweet & savory flavor. Caramelly-sweet dark brown sugar is the perfect contrast to umami shoyu & sesame oil.

ALL ABOUT THE MARINADE. The Hawaii-style kalbi marinade is the star of this recipe. Loaded with tons of aromatic, savory-sweet ingredients, the marinade gives the kalbi short ribs epic flavor & a meltingly tender texture. Let the beef marinate for 12 hours, but several days is best. So plan ahead!

QUICK & EASY TO GRILL! You’ll make up for the time spent marinating when it comes to cooking these thinly sliced kalbi short ribs. Just throw them on the grill for a few minutes per side & then they’ll be ready to enjoy! You can also use your oven’s broiler to get the same tender & crispy charred results. Perfect for any backyard BBQ!

Total Hawaii-style comfort food! ♡ Read on to learn more about Hawaiian Kalbi Short Ribs, or jump straight to the recipe & get grilling!

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

What are Korean Short Ribs vs. Hawaii-Style Kalbi?

Before we talk about kalbi short ribs, one important thing to understand about Hawaii is that it’s full of many people, cultures, & traditions 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 Hawaii food scene, which has a strong Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, & Korean influence. On the islands, you can sample everything from fresh poke to the best stir-fried noodles & fantastic on-the-go eats like Spam musubi & char siu manapua. Food in Hawaii is as culturally rich & diverse as the local population!

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

  • What is kalbi? ⇢ Kalbi is a term that describes the marinade used to prepare traditional grilled Korean short ribs. It’s the key to all the complex flavor & also a super tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture.
  • Korean vs. Hawaii kalbi marinade. ⇢ Korean immigrants brought their traditional kalbi recipe with them to Hawaii, where it eventually evolved into a uniquely Hawaii-style version that makes use of ingredients that are household staples in Hawaii. A traditional Korean kalbi marinade typically uses Asian pear, which adds subtle sweetness & naturally tenderizes the short ribs, plus staples like soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, & other aromatics. In my experience, the key difference in a Hawaii-style kalbi marinade is swapping Asian pear with brown sugar, which creates the bold sweet & savory flavor commonly found on the islands. As a result, Hawaii kalbi is typically sweeter than traditional Korean kalbi. While my family’s grilled kalbi recipe leans more Hawaii-style, you can easily add Asian pear & gochujang for a more traditional Korean flavor profile.
  • Are kalbi ribs beef or pork? ⇢ You can use either! Our kalbi short ribs recipe uses thinly cut flanken beef short ribs.

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” – it’s another way to refer to Korean kalbi.
  • Kalbi vs. Bulgogi ⇢ The difference between these two dishes is the type of meat that is used. Kalbi is typically made with beef short ribs, while bulgogi is made with thinly sliced beef. Otherwise, the marinade flavors are very similar.

Key Ingredients

Most of the ingredients for this kalbi short ribs recipe, aside from the flanken beef short ribs, are used to make a savory-sweet marinade. My family’s version uses a blend of traditional Korean kalbi ingredients, plus a few Hawaii staples, to give the short ribs irresistible flavor.

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 need…

  • Beef short ribs – The 2 most common cuts of short ribs are English short ribs (meaty sections cut along the bone) & flanken short ribs (thin strips 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 meaty short ribs with nice marbling.
  • Shoyu – This Japanese-style soy sauce is ubiquitous in Hawaii. It has a more mellow, well-rounded flavor than the average mainland soy sauce, but feel free to use your fave soy sauce or gluten-free tamari if desired.
  • Mirin – This sweet Japanese rice wine has a higher sugar content & lower alcohol content, adding tons of flavor to the Hawaii kalbi marinade. We highly recommend hunting for it in the “international” aisle of your grocery store, but you can also use dry sherry or vermouth as imperfect-yet-quick substitutes.
  • Fresh aromatics – Here’s where the flavor comes in! Yellow onion, green onion, & garlic make this Kalbi marinade explode with flavor. Fresh ginger adds pungent spicy sweetness.
  • Toasted sesame oil – Another burst of aromatic, nutty flavor for the kalbi marinade!
  • Dark brown sugar – For the signature caramelly sweetness of Hawaiian kalbi! As a bonus, the brown sugar caramelizes as the ribs cook, creating crave-worthy crusty edges along the grilled Korean short ribs – SO good!
  • Optional: Asian pear – While it’s not always used in Hawaii versions, grated Asian pear is commonly used in the marinade for Korean short ribs. It adds balanced sweetness, plus its natural acidity helps to tenderize the short ribs as they marinate. If you can’t find Asian pears you can also use Bosc pears or other fruits like kiwi or pineapple.
  • Optional: Gochujang – This Korean chili paste is an optional but fun add-in to the marinade. If you like its spicy, funky fermented flavor then give it a go!

My Family’s Hawaii Kalbi Marinade

Amazing Korean short ribs start with a killer kalbi marinade, & this easy recipe is no exception. It’s made with a handful of Asian pantry staples & loads of fresh aromatics, plus a few ingredients that are signature to Hawaii kalbi.

This Hawaii-style kalbi marinade was passed down to me from my mom’s mom, my Grandma Marian – one of the reasons why this recipe is so special to me!

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

To marinate the kalbi short ribs, simply combine shoyu, dark brown sugar, mirin, sesame oil, aromatics, & Asian pear & gochujang (if using), then add the flanken beef short ribs to the mixture. We like to whisk up the marinade in a baking dish that can also hold the short ribs as they soak (less dishes!). Press down to make sure the beef is entirely submerged.

Pro Tip! ⇢ You can also use a blender or food processor to make the kalbi marinade. Simply add the roughly chopped fresh aromatics & the liquid ingredients to a blender or food processor, & the machine will do all the work! No extra chopping or grating required. 🙌🏼

Suggested Marinating Time

The Hawaii kalbi marinade adds a lot of flavor to the short ribs & also tenderizes the meat. The best way to get tender, juicy Korean short ribs is with a longer marinating time. Korean short ribs grill super quickly over high heat – much different than the “low-and-slow” approach required for braised short ribs – so this tenderization is key!

Suggested Marinating Time for Kalbi Short Ribs. ⇢ The best way to get grilled Korean short ribs with maximum flavor & tenderness is to let the meat marinate for as long as you can! Submerge the short ribs in the Hawaii kalbi marinade, cover, & marinate in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to 3 days – the longer the better!

Meal Prep Tip!

You can easily prepare the Hawaii kalbi marinade & store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. When you’re ready to begin marinating, shake it up, pour over the short ribs, & let them sit in the refrigerator until it’s grilling time. Simple!

How to Grill Korean Short Ribs

One of the best things about kalbi short ribs is that they are very easy to grill. They’re perfect for busy weeknights 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 preheat your gas or charcoal grill for direct high-heat grilling, about 550-600 degrees F. This is a good time to take the short ribs out of the refrigerator as well so they can get closer to room temperature for an even cook.

Once the grill is hot, take the kalbi 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!

Grilling Tip! ⇢ 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 caramelized & charred bits are the best part of grilled Korean short ribs, anyway! 😋)

Step-by-Step Video

Alternate Cooking Method

Oven-Broiled Kalbi Short Ribs. ⇢ If you don’t have a grill at home or the weather’s simply not nice enough to grill, then try this oven-broiled method instead. Mom often prepares her kalbi this way! It’s just as quick & easy.

Simply place the kalbi short ribs on a lined baking sheet & put your oven’s broiler on high. Broil them for 3 minutes per side until charred & caramelized. The thin strips cook super fast, just like the grilled version!

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

What to Serve with Kalbi Short Ribs

The quick cook time makes these grilled Korean short ribs great for weeknight dinners & they’re also easy enough to prepare for summer dinner parties with friends (they’ll be so impressed!). All you need are a few sides to make it a meal!

Easy-to-make Hawaiian, Korean, & American-inspired sides pair beautifully with tender kalbi short ribs! Serve them alongside your favorite summer sides or banchan (Korean BBQ side dishes), like…

  • A big scoop of Hawaiian mac salad & fluffy white rice, with a side of kimchi. This plate-lunch style is how we love to enjoy grilled Korean short ribs here at the PWWB House!
  • For a more classic American-style BBQ, serve the grilled Korean short ribs with creamy potato salad instead of mac salad.
  • With your favorite sautéed or grilled veggies like bok choy, cabbage, bell peppers, red onions, or even summery sweet corn on the cob!
  • You can also garnish the grilled Korean short ribs with sliced green onions & a sprinkle of furikake seasoning – our favorite umami bomb for any of Hawaii-style dish!

I can’t wait for you to try a taste of Hawaii with this Hawaiian-Style Kalbi! They’re a family fave at my house (especially during grilling season!) & a recipe we’ve enjoyed for generations. There’s so much to love about these grilled Korean short ribs & we know you’ll love them too.

If you do give them a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! Happy grilling! ♡

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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 4-6 1x
  • Category: Main Dishes, Beef Recipes
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: Korean, Hawaiian, Asian-Inspired

Description

It’s always a special treat when my mom preps Kalbi short ribs, the iconic grilled Korean beef short ribs that are perfectly savory-sweet with rich umami flavor. They’re seriously the best & they couldn’t be easier to make at home!

It all starts with a kalbi marinade. It packs a big punch of flavor thanks to bold aromatics like onion, garlic, ginger, & sesame oil, while generous amount of dark brown sugar provides sweetness for irresistibly charred grill marks. This marinade is a recipe we that comes to us from my maternal Grandma Marian, so its sweetness a little more Hawaii-style than traditionally Korean. (Be sure to check out the blog post, above, to learn all about Korean vs Hawaii kalbi!)

Pour the marinade over thin-cut flanken short ribs, then leave it to really soak into the meat – the longer you can marinate the better! 

At dinnertime, simply light up the grill or broiler, cook for a few minutes per side, & serve alongside  your favorite banchan or a couple scoops of rice & mac salad for the perfect quick & easy meal! ♡ Happy grilling!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 pounds flanken beef short ribs
  • ½ cup shoyu or soy sauce (see Recipe Notes)
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin (see Recipe Notes)
  • 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 shoyu, brown sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, sesame seeds, gochujang (if using), grated pear (if using), grated onion, green onion, garlic, ginger to a baking dish. Season with 1 ½ 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

  • Ingredient Notes:
    • Shoyu is the Japanese-style soy sauce used most commonly in Hawaii. Its flavor is a little more rounded & mellow than the most readily available soy sauces sold on the mainland. Aloha Shoyu is my go-to. If you do not have shoyu on hand, feel free to substitute with soy sauce. You can also swap it out with tamari for a gluten-free dish.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Alternate Cooking Methods:
    • Oven-Broiled Kalbi Short Ribs: If you don’t have a grill at home or the weather’s simply not nice enough to grill, then try this oven-broiled method instead – it’s the way Mom often prepares kalbi at her house. Preheat your broiler to its highest setting, ensuring an oven rack is positioned directly below it. Place the kalbi short ribs on a lined baking sheet, discarding any excess marinade, then place them under the broiler. Broil 3-4 minutes per side, until the short ribs are charred & caramelized.
    • Kalbi Marinade in a Blender: Feel free to skip any chopping/grating of the fresh aromatics & prepare your kalbi marinade in a blender or food processor. Simply add roughly chopped onion, garlic, ginger, & Asian pear (if using) to a blender or food processor with all the liquid ingredients. Blend until smooth, then pour over the short ribs & finish with sesame seeds & sliced green onions. Easy! 
    • 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.

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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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Comments

  1. 2.2.24
    Jolyn M Tenn said:

    I have a question. Would it be ok to let this marinate for 2 days, then add a liquefied kiwi to the mix for an additional day of marinating? Using thick cit flanken ribs so I’d like to add an additional tenderizer to the process. Aloha and thank you for this awesome recipe!

  2. 10.4.22
    Meredith said:

    I bought korean short ribs on an impulse at the store because we just moved from within the city of Las Vegas to the military base on the outskirts. My favorite thing about living in Vegas is the Hawaiian food, particularly the short ribs, as we don’t really have that where we’re from back east. Needless to say, ordering takeout on a military base is not an option unless we wanted to drive across the city to pick it up ourselves. I bought the pack of 7 ribs for the price of one serving from our favorite Hawaiian place in the city. I marinated them for about 36 hours and though they smelled delicious, didn’t know what to expect flavor wise. I popped them in a skillet on the stove (still not settled enough to have the grill up and running) and we ate them with rice. They tasted dead-on, exactly like the ribs served at the Hawaiian joints in the city. I couldn’t believe it. Even my two year old loved them. I fed three people for the price of one and could have fed six for the price of two. Thank you for this amazing recipe!!!!

    • 10.6.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Meredith! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your comment, we’re so glad to hear that you & your family enjoyed this recipe in your new home! If you’re interested be sure to check out our other Hawaiian recipes here & we wish you all the best as you get settled at your new place. 🙂

  3. 8.27.22
    Jacklyn said:

    I made this recipe and allowed it to marinade for a little over 48 hours. I added the Asian pear but not the sesame seeds or gochujang, although I hope to next time. My bf said it was amazing and asked for the recipe. This is probably one of the best things I’ve ever cooked for her. Thank you for sharing such a perfect recipe

    • 8.29.22
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Jacklyn! We are so glad you both loved the recipe & glad you were able to marinate for 48+ hours so the flavor could really shine! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment, it means so much!

  4. 4.9.22
    Annie said:

    Shoyu is the type that f soy sauce and to be honest the taste is totally different than mainland soy sauce.

    • 2.13.23
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      We agree – the flavor is more rounded & mellow in our opinion! We love Aloha Shoyu!

  5. 8.10.21
    Goodluckcat said:

    You hit this one out of the park! Hawaiian plate lunch onolicious!!!❤️

    • 12.30.21
      Erin @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Thank you!!! 💜🤙🏼