Beef Bulgogi

Marinated beef seared and stuffed in lettuce wraps with rice, scallions, and Kimchi. This could be an awesome appetizer or a dinner!


Beef Bulgogi

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The first time I had something wrapped in lettuce I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to like it. I mean… why not use a tortilla or bread or any number of delicious wrapping things. Lettuce? Really? That’s the best you can do?

Of course, when I tried it, my mind was immediately changed. Lettuce, you see, is nature’s wrap. It crunchy, healthy, and never over-powers the stuff that it’s wrapping. Plus, because lettuce tends to be smaller, it makes for either an appetizer or a meal. Just eat as many as you want!

This marinated beef dish, bulgogi, is a staple in Korean restaurants. The beef is thinly sliced and quickly seared and served with various toppings. Add some crunchy lettuce and you can make little bulgogi wraps!

While the steak is kind of the star of the show here, it’s also a perfect opportunity to use one of my favorite condiments: Kimchi. It can barely even be called a condiment when I eat it because I can consume it by the pound…

Beef Bulgogi

Serves 4
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Marinated beef seared and stuffed in lettuce wraps with rice, scallions, and Kimchi. This could be an awesome appetizer or a dinner!

Adapted from Gourmet Today.


1 pound flank steak, sliced across the grain into 1/8 inch slices
1/4 Cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Teaspoons sesame oil
2 Teaspoons chili oil
1 bunch scallions, minced (separate the white and green parts and use green parts for garnish later)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon neutral oil (for cooking)

Accompaniments: Lettuce (I think romaine might work best), white rice, Kimchi, thinly sliced garlic, scallion greens.


1) Slice the flank steak thinly across the grain.

2) Mix all the steak marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add your sliced steak.  Let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

3) Prep all your other ingredients like washing the lettuce, slicing garlic or scallions, cooking rice, or just getting kimchi out of the jar.

4) Cook the steak in a very hot pan (I used a cast iron pan) for about 45 seconds per side.  Don’t overcrowd the pan.

5) As the steak is cooked, pull it off onto a plate.

6) Serve immediately making small wraps with lettuce, steak, rice, and toppings.

Marinating the Steak

The marinade for this bulgogi version is very delicious. Maybe my favorite beef marinade that I’ve tried. To start, get a good piece of flank steak and slice it thinly across the grain. That’ll make it really tender and easy to eat.

steak sliced
Pretty thin but not paper thin.

Then you’ll need some things for the marinade. If you start cooking with a lot of Asian flavors, you’ll notice that they tend to use the same things over and over again in sauces and marinades. For this one, I had almost everything except the scallions and fresh ginger in my pantry already.

bulgogi ingredients
Tasty stuff!

Mix all your ingredients except the neutral oil and scallion greens in a large bowl and then add your sliced flank steak. Stir it together and let it marinate for at least 15 minutes. There’s really no need to go longer than an hour on this marinade because the steak is so thin.

steak marinating
This doesn’t need to marinate for long…

Other Ingredients

While the steak is marinating you can prep your other things. I really recommend making a pot of rice to go along with this. You can eat the bulgogi straight with the rice if you don’t want to do the lettuce wrapping thing, but the rice also works well in the lettuce wraps.

The star of the accompaniment show though, for me anyway, is definitely this stuff:

I could eat this whole jar. Wait… I did.

As far as lettuce goes, I used butter lettuce for my version here but if I were to make it again I think I’d use something a bit sturdier like Romaine. The butter lettuce was just a bit too frail to hold up to all the fillings in the bulgogi. Even when I doubled up my lettuce, it was still hard to keep the filling contained.

I also sliced up some raw garlic very thinly. The flavors in the beef and kimchi are really powerful so the garlic doesn’t really overpower them. One or two very thin slices works nicely.

Maybe not the best lettuce choice…

Cooking the Steak

You can use any number of pans to cook the steak in. I like using a cast iron pan just because it can get really hot and sear the beef nicely. Whatever pan you are using, get it going over high heat and then add just a bit of oil to the pan to get it lubed up.

When the oil it hot, add the beef in a single layer! Don’t add it all at once and make sure the pieces aren’t overlapping. I had to do mine in a few batches. If you cook too much at once then the pan will cool down and you won’t get a good sear on the meat.

Ideally, it’ll just take about 30-45 seconds per side to cook.

steak sizzling
Sizzle sizzle!

As my steak finished I pulled it off the pan and heaped it all on a plate. It probably only took me 5 minutes to cook all the meat so make sure everything else is ready to go before you start cooking it. You want to serve the meal as soon as possible once the steak is done.

steak cooked
Perfect for sandwich size!

Making the wrap is pretty straightforward now. Add some rice to your lettuce and then a strip or two of steak. Don’t over-stuff these guys. You could either assemble a bunch beforehand and serve them to guests or just set out all the fixings and let people mix and match what they want.

making wrap
Don’t forget the rice!

The best way to keep these for leftovers is to keep stuff separate. The lettuce would get really soggy if you made a bunch and then tried to store them overnight or something. If you keep everything separate though, they keep just fine and make for a great lunch the next day!

These were really flavorful and seriously if you’ve never tried kimchi, go grab some. If you at all like pickled things and spicy things, you’ll love it.

14 Responses to “Beef Bulgogi” Leave a comment

  1. This looks just right! I am a little nervous about getting the 55 Knives stuff on my site tomorrow. I am such a dummy at those things. Wish me luck. GREG

  2. Bulgogi was the first meal I had whilst in Korea. (My husband was stationed there in 1978-1979.) I never had a bad meal in Korea, we had a maid who was an absolutely heavenly cook.

    And the kimchi – oh the kimchi! It is delicious, in all its variations. I especially liked the radish kimchi our maid would make for me. Young, elongated white radishes, tops and all, made for a spectacularly fresh kimchi.

    Kimchi soup – the best. In fact, any soup I had in Korea was fabulous. We had soup to start every meal during the winter months, and there was a green (I never could get it's name) that resembled swiss chard and made a wonderful soup.

    Just thinking about my year in Korea has made me hungry. I shall have to give your recipe a try, it looks delicious.

  3. Have you thought about making the recipe with gochujang, the Korean red pepper paste? It would be awesome as a replacement for chili oil or an addition. It adds more flavor than heat, really. I'm afraid I've become totally addicted to the stuff.

  4. I’ve been making a similar dish for over 35 years…..learned from a Korean friend of my Aunt and Uncle. We call in Percogi (it’s actually something like Pulcoogi). Instead of ‘chili oil’, as there is already enough oil in the dish already (veg oil, sesame oil) I use Korean Red Pepper. Also, the sesame seeds should be crushed after browning, this brings out the intense flavor, oils and aroma…..wonderful aroma! I find using 2 tblsp of veg oil and 1 tblsp of sesame oil is enough, as I use 4 tblsp of the toasted, crushed sesame seeds(too much oil muddies the taste). I increase the garlic to 4 cloves. This is all marinated for at least 1 hour….increases tenderness and flavor.

    A great way to easily deal with the ginger is…when you buy it, put it in a freezer bag and keep in freezer. When you use it, shave off area of skin and use a grater. Much easier and quicker. I don’t like the taste of ginger ‘chunks’ so this is a perfect way to disperse the flavor.

    Hope this helps some.

  5. Oh, by the way……I cook the meat at med-high heat in a wok and serve over white long-grain rice or Jasmine (scented) rice. Since I started using the scented rice, that’s all I buy now. Smell is great when cooking (in my rice cooker).

  6. I should get my act together and reply in 1 post instead of 3…..

    You can use any cut of beef to make this, as well. Works great with MOOSE meat, too!! I usually use a full round steak, but also use sirloin, chuck, top round, etc.) Usually what may be on sale that week.

  7. I made this for my family tonight and it was a big success! My 4 year old son was in love! I must admit, I accidentally purchased sweet chili sauce instead of chili oil. So I put 2 tsp of the sauce in and 3 tsp of the sesame oil in the marinade. It worked out perfectly!

    Well, I just wanted to let you know that we love your blog and make your food all the time.

    Also, I'm still bitter that the restaurant was a joke… We were already planning our trip to come to Denver just to eat there. :)

  8. Koreans wrap a lot of their grilled meat BBQ in lettuce wraps, they call it "ssam." Adding rice and it's called "ssam bap."

  9. I LOVE this marinade….I have made it lots since first reading about it here…instead of lettuce wraps (those seem like more of a summer thing?), I've been throwing some veggies in the wok after the beef is done and then tossing it all with lo mein noodles. SO yummy and so comforting during the winter months. thanks again for sharing this recipe! :)

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