This beef bulgogi bowl contains so much flavor, texture, and color! Featuring tender, juicy strips of steak, a crunchy sweet and sour slaw, creamy avocado, a cool & spicy gochujang yogurt sauce, fluffy brown rice, umami-forward kimchi, and a runny, soft boiled egg. A traditional Korean BBQ dish with a healthy, creative spin!
Beef Bulgogi Bowls
I’m excited to bring you these flavor-packed, colorful beef bulgogi bowls.
I tried beef bulgogi for the first time while out to dinner with friends in Chicago. I instantly fell in love with this dish! It’s a Korean beef dish with a wonderful combination of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. After having it at the restaurant, I knew I wanted to re-create it but give it a healthier of a spin.
What is beef bulgogi?
It’s a traditional, popular Korean BBQ dish. It’s made from thin, marinated strips of steak grilled on a BBQ or stove-top griddle. Bulgogi actually means “fire meat.” The perfectly cooked and tender meat is covered in an umami-packed sweet and spicy sauce.
I took the traditional flavors of beef bulgogi and added it to a healthy, colorful bowl. The bowl includes brown rice, a tangy carrot and cabbage slaw, creamy avocado, and a runny soft boiled egg. You can also add kimchi for some funky spice! It creates a beautiful, nutritious, and harmonious meal.
This dish has become a weekly staple at our house because it’s easy to make and addictively delicious. I hope it becomes a favorite for you too!
The star of this dish is the beef. To make it, you will need:
- flank steak; Beef bulgogi traditionally uses a ribeye, but I found great success from a flank steak (which is usually amore affordable cut of meat). The key steps to achieving the incredibly tender bite of steak is cutting the steak into thin strips against the grain, marinating it for a long period of time, and a hot and quick cook method.
- asian pear; this is traditional to a beef bulgogi marinade. Adding grated asian pear adds a sweet, earthy flavor to the dish which brightens the rich Asian flavors. Plus, it helps tenderize the meat. It’s becoming easier to find at most grocery stores. But if you cannot find it, a regular pear or apple works too!
- soy sauce; a main ingredient in the sauce to add salt and umami!
- mirin; a fermented rice wine popular in Japanese cooking; it’s tangy sweet flavor pairs well with the soy sauce and the other flavors in the dish.
- toasted sesame oil; has a rich, nutty aroma that adds something special and memorable to the dish!
- honey and coconut sugar; beef bulgogi sauce is sweet and spicy. Traditionally, it’s loaded with tons off white sugar. To lighten this dish, I used only unrefined sugar (and much less of it). It still creates a perfectly sweet, sticky sauce!
- Gochujang; is a savory, spicy, and sweet fermented red chili paste popular in Korean cooking. It adds funk and spice to the sauce.
- garlic and ginger; adds a pop of citrusy, bold, and spicy fresh flavor that makes the whole sauce sing! I highly recommend fresh as opposed to the spice powder so the garlic and ginger flavors are more pronounced in the dish.
How to make beef bulgogi bowls
Prepare and cook the beef
First, marinade the steak. One of they key ways to achieving super tender beef is by cutting the steak into very thin strips and marinading it for as long as possible (I recommend overnight but a minimum of 4 hours will work too – you want that delicious marinade to penetrate the meat!)
2 tips for cutting the steak: 1). Freeze the steak for about 5 minutes before cutting. This allows the meat to slightly firm up, making it easier to cut. 2). Cut the meat against the grain. The grain is the direction the meat muscles are naturally assigned. Cutting against them helps shorten the muscles, making the meat easier to chew. Here is great tutorial from the Kitchn on how to cut against the grain.
Once the meat is cut, add to a ziplock bag or sealable container. Next, mix together the marinade ingredients and pour over the meat. The sauce is what makes this dish shine. It has all the flavors that I adore about Asian cuisine: sweet, spicy, salty, funky, and sour. It makes your taste buds dance with delight! It’s that good! Now, just let the meat marinate in that beautiful sauce!
To make the spicy yogurt sauce, simply combine the yogurt, gochujang, honey, lime juice and salt. The yogurt sauces adds a cool, creamy component that cuts through the spice and richness of the dish.
Next, in a small bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, honey, and salt. Add in the shredded carrots and thinly sliced purple cabbage and toss till well-combined. The slaw adds a burst of acidity and freshness to also help cut through the richness of the meat.
Once the steak is marinated, take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. This allows it to come to room temperature, which allows for more even cooking. Traditionally, beef bulgogi is cooked on a hot grill, but more modern interpretations tend to pan-fry the dish. I selected the pan-fry version for ease.
Add a teaspoon of sesame oil or other neutral oil to a wok or large frying pan and allow the pan to get screaming hot (this allows the meat to really char and caramelize). Add the pieces of beef and cook for about 1-2 minutes a side. Since it is cut so thin, the meat cooks quickly. Also, do not overcrowd the pan; you may need to cook the beef in batches to make sure the meat cooks evenly.
build the beef bulgogi bowls
Now we can build our bowls. At the bottom, add a scoop of brown. Then top with the cooked beef, carrot and cabbage slaw, avocado, kimchi, the spicy yogurt sauce, and a soft boiled egg. Garnish with sesame seeds, green onions, and mint/cilantro (if desired). Dig in!
Is this dish healthy?!
Yes! This is my lightened up version of beef bulgogi. First, I lightened up the sauce by drastically reducing the sugar and only using natural, unrefined sugars, like coconut sugar and honey. The sauce also uses only wholesome, real ingredients.
Next, the bowls are bursting with nutritious ingredients. It includes fiber-rich brown rice, loads of veggies, and cut-healthy kimchi. It’s a flavor-packed meal you can feel good about eating on repeat!
other delicious bowl meals?
This beef bulgogi bowl is bursting with spice and flavor: crazy tender, sweet and spicy steak, the fresh, crunchy, slightly pickled carrot and purple cabbage slaw, creamy, cool avocado, the spicy, tangy yogurt sauce, fluffy brown rice, umami-forward kimchi, and a runny soft boiled egg. Get ready to be addicted!
If you make these beef bulgogi bowls, please leave a comment below. I absolutely love to hear from you guys and your thoughts on my recipes. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram or pin it on pinterest so I can see your creations!
Beef Bulgogi Bowls
A traditional Korean BBQ dish with a healthy, creative spin!
- 1 pound flank steak ribeye or skirt steak works too
- 4 tablespoons soy
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
- 3-4 teaspoons gojuchang depending on preferred spice level
- 2 tablespoons grated asian pear regular pear or an apple works too
Carrot Cabbage Slaw
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- Dash of salt
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2-3 teaspoons gojuchang depending on preferred spice level
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 large avocado sliced
- 1-2 tablespoons diced green onion
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup kimchi optional
- 2 cups brown rice
- 4 soft boiled eggs optional
For the marinade, combine all of the ingredients and still until well-combined. Add more or less gochujang depending on desired spice level.
Cut steak into thin strips against the grain (easiest to cut if freeze meat for 5 minutes before cutting)
In a large ziplock bag, combine the marinade and steak strips, making sure the marinade covers the meat. Marinade over night (or at least 4 hours).
To cook the steak, heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil in a large skillet or wok. Once the pan is very hot, add the meat and cook for 1-2 minutes per side. The meat will cook quickly since it is cut so thin. Cook the meat in batches so you do not overcrowd the pan, which allows the meat to cook evenly and get a nice char.
For the salad, combine the honey, salt, and rice wine vinegar together in a small bowl. Add the veggies and toss until fully dressed.
Combine all of the gochujang yogurt sauce ingredients and mix well. Add more or less gochujang depending on desired spice level.
For each bowl, add a scoop of rice and top with cooked steak, carrot and cabbage salad, avocado slices, a soft boiled egg, Kimchi, and a dollop of the sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onion slices.
Serve and enjoy!
For more bowl dish inspiration, check out my magic steak bowls!