This super easy Ground Beef Bulgogi recipe will let you enjoy delicious Korean BBQ-style dish at home in just 25 minutes using one pan! As good as any you’ll have in Korean restaurants with its authentic oriental flavors- from the savory ground beef, crunchy carrots, and a silky, umami-filled sauce. Enjoy it topped over freshly steamed rice, nestled in lettuce cups, or filled in between fluffy buns.
Quick and easy meals like this Korean beef bowl are perfect for busy weeknights. I live for rice bowls where the sauce soaks into the rice. Plus in this one, all the veggies you truly need are cooked right in to make it easy as can be.
If you’re looking for another great recipe, this plant based recipe for soba noodles with peanut sauce is a great choice. Or if you are craving healthier takeout style fare in the form of an easy dinner, this Thai fried brown rice or this Thai red curry noodle soup are fantastic choices that deliver lots of flavor.
What is bulgogi?
Bulgogi, which means “fire meat” is a classic Korean grilled beef dish that is popular worldwide. Traditional beef bulgogi is made using thinly sliced beef cuts like sirloin, ribeye, or brisket that are marinated and then either fire-grilled over high heat or pan-roasted.
The marinade is primarily made of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, pepper, and aromatics but this can differ depending on region or preference. Since Korean food is often spicy, seasonings such as gochujang or chili paste are also common.
Easy ground beef bulgogi recipe
This recipe will let you enjoy all the goodness of this classic Korean dish at home so you can skip the take-out and long restaurant queues. Everything is cooked in one pan and is ready to be served in just 25 minutes! It is perfect for hectic weeknights when you need something quick yet filling.
I used ground beef instead of strips to make it easier to cook in a pan so you do not have to fire up your outdoor grill. Traditional bulgogi marinade is made with soy sauce, brown sugar, and Asian pear. To keep this recipe simple, we left out the pear. I usually use coconut sugar and tamari in place of soy sauce and brown sugar but either works here. I also added rice wine vinegar and mirin for more flavor but you can easily leave these out if you prefer to keep it simple.
What You’ll Need
Luckily, we have a local Korean grocery store a mere mile from my house. This makes trying my hand at remaking popular Asian dishes like beef bulgogi at home that taste like the original pretty easy.
If you don’t have a similar place near you, you can find most ingredients at larger grocery stores. What you can’t is available online. The gochujang stores, miren and rice vinegar store well for long periods so it’s worth it. If you’re new to cooking Korean cuisine you might as well start stockpiling ingredients because you’re bound to love it!
- Oil– you can use any oil with a high smoke point to cook the veggies and beef, like avocado sesame oil for this recipe. You’ll be needing sesame oil for the sauce. It adds lots of nutty and earthy flavor that is distinctly Asian! If you do not have this, however, you can use avocado, olive oil, or another mild-flavored oil as a substitute.
- Aromatics– you will need an onion to create a savory base for the ground beef mixture and will also need ginger and garlic to make the savory bulgogi sauce.
- Lean ground beef – use 85% lean meat to have that rich-tasting beef that is not too greasy.
- Veggies– carrots are optional and definitely not traditional, but it adds a sweet crunch and more nutrition to the beef mix and a nice color too. I added red pepper for extra veggies too. You will also need green onions to polish it off and add zippy freshness.
- Sesame seeds– accentuates the nutty flavor even more. You can also use toasted sesame seeds if you want to give them a deeper, almost smoky flavor.
For the Sauce:
- Coconut sugar– a dash of sweetness to balance the savory and spicy flavors from the other seasonings. If you do not have this, just use brown sugar instead. It’s very similar.
- Low-sodium soy sauce– make sure to use a reduced sodium variety. This will add tons of savory and umami flavor to the dish. If you are planning to make a gluten-free version of this dish, use tamari or coconut aminos.
- Gochujang– this is a classic Korean red chili paste that has a robust mix of fiery, sweet, and savory flavors. It is usually made of chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt, and sweeteners. You can use more or less depending on how spicy you want the bulgogi sauce to be.
- Mirin– this rice wine is common in Japanese cooking. It has a tangy and sweet flavor that blends and balances well with the soy sauce. You can substitute it with another cooking sherry or another very dry white wine.
- Rice wine vinegar– a dash will give the sauce a bright balancing flavor! You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar too.
How to make easy beef bulgogi
Make restaurant-worthy bulgogi in just a matter of minutes! It will amaze you how simple yet flavorful this dish is. Let’s start:
- Make the Bulgogi Sauce. Add all sauce ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and whisk together. You’ll use this later.
- Sauté the onion and red pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add avocado oil. When the oil is warm, add chopped pepper and onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until starting to sear.
- Cook the Beef. Add beef, breaking it up with a spatula into small pieces until it’s browned. Add about half of the sauce and stir in as the beef finishes. This gives it that extra oomph of flavor.
- Add the Veggies. Add carrot (if using) and sauce. Let cook 2-3 minutes longer, stirring to mix sauce evenly into the beef. Remove from heat, add green onion and stir lightly.
- Garnish and Serve! Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice, cauliflower rice, in tacos with kimchee, in lettuce wraps, or however you prefer.
Possible variations and pro tips
- Substitute ground turkey, bison, chicken, or even pork in place of ground beef if you want. You may need to add more or less soy sauce or tamari if using a different kind of meat and adjust other seasonings but it should work fine with some tweaking.
- To make this dish gluten-free, make sure to use a gluten-free gochujang and low sodium Tamari instead of soy sauce.
- Make this kid-friendly by reducing or omitting the Gochujang. You can add a bit of siracha or red pepper flakes on top of individual servings to get a bit of kick on the adult versions.
- You can make the sauce and do all the chopping ahead of time. Just store everything in airtight containers in the refrigerator to make prep faster. Store the red pepper and onion together and the carrot and green onion separately since they come into play at different times. This will cut your kitchen time in half. Great for meal prep!
- When cooking the ground beef, let the meat cook undisturbed for a few minutes after breaking into pieces. This will allow the pieces to brown nicely and have crisp edges. If you move the meat too much in the pan, it will turn grayish instead of a nice even brown.
- For more flavor and protein, add a fried egg sunny side up to the top of a ground bulgogi beef bowl for bi bim bap vibes.
Serving and storing ground beef bulgogi
You can serve your Korean beef bulgogi in several different ways. Over white rice as ground beef bulgogi bowls or quinoa, cauliflower rice, fried brown rice, or greens to make it healthier. You can also use this to make lettuce wraps or Korean beef buns! It’s also delicious served with kimchi in taco shells for a fun fusion twist.
Leftovers keep well in the fridge for 4 to 5 days and reheat great so, it’s also great for meal prepping! Make sure to place your leftovers in an airtight container once it’s cool to keep it fresh longer.
More 30-minute meals
- Add all sauce ingredients into a medium sized bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add avocado oil.
- When oil is warm, add chopped pepper and onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until starting to sear.
- Add beef and brown, breaking it up with a spatula into small pieces as it cooks.
- Once beef has browned, add carrot (if using) and remaining sauce. Let cook 2-3 minutes longer, stirring to mix sauce evenly into beef.
- Remove from heat, add green onion and stir lightly. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve over rice, over cauliflower rice, in tacos with kimchee, in lettuce wraps, or however else you prefer.