Ground beef bulgogi is a tasty alternative to classic Korean beef bulgogi that's quick to prepare as it doesn't require any marinating. It is made using a classic bulgogi sauce that turns plain ground beef into a mouthwatering dish that can be used to make the most delicious bowls or lettuce cups!
If you’ve tried Korean beef bulgogi before, then you’ll know how delicious it is! It combines perfectly grilled meat with a sweet and umami-rich soy marinade that lends bulgogi its unique flavor.
This ground beef bulgogi recipe combines the same flavorful bulgogi marinade with tasty ground beef. It’s a favorite of mine as ground beef is easy to find and doesn’t require any marinating or tenderizing. The best part is that it tastes just as delicious, especially when served in a bowl or ssam style.
Ground Beef Bulgogi Ingredients
To make ground beef bulgogi, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Ground beef: You can use any type of ground beef for this dish. If you prefer a leaner cut for health reasons, feel free to use it. And if you prefer fattier ground beef for some additional flavor, you can definitely use it for this recipe.
- Soy sauce: Use regular Japanese (like classic Kikkoman) or Korean soy sauce for this recipe. Just be sure to not use a low-sodium version as they taste different.
- Brown sugar: Brown sugar adds sweetness and flavor to the sauce, plus it’s needed for the right texture. You don’t need a lot, so be sure to add it when you make this ground beef bulgogi.
- Mirin: Mirin is a sweet rice wine that is often used in Korean cooking. It’s a typical addition to bulgogi sauce and really enhances its flavor, so definitely don’t skip it. Plus, you can reuse it for many other dishes such as Japanese teriyaki chicken.
- Aromatics: You’ll also need yellow onion, garlic, and ginger for a delicious flavor boost.
- Green onion: Green onions are also part of classic beef bulgogi. So be sure to use them!
- Sesame oil: Roasted sesame oil is another key ingredient for making beef bulgogi. There are different types of roasted sesame oil. Typically, the darker it is the more intense it will taste. I like to use sesame oil that has a golden color. If you are unsure, I recommend sticking to sesame oil with a lighter color.
- Sesame seeds (optional): Sesame seeds are always a fun addition for some extra texture, so feel free to use them if you have them on hand.
How to make ground beef bulgogi
Prepare the bulgogi sauce. First, add the soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, and minced ginger to a small bowl. Whisk until combined and let the brown sugar dissolve.
Sauté the aromatics. Next, preheat some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and white green onion parts until the onion turns translucent.
Cook the ground beef. Now add in the ground beef and cook until it is fully browned.
Add the sauce, green onion, and black pepper. When the beef has browned, add the sauce, remaining green onion parts, and black pepper. Cook everything for 2-3 minutes until the sauce clings to the ground beef.
Finish with sesame oil. Lastly, add the sesame oil and quickly toss until combined.
Garnish and serve. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve the ground beef bulgogi with your favorite side dishes and toppings. Enjoy!
Tips & Notes
Here are a few quick notes that I recommend taking a look at before trying this ground beef bulgogi recipe at home.
- Don’t skip any of the ingredients as they are really important for the taste of this ground beef bulgogi. There definitely are recipes where you can get away with skipping some of the ingredients, but this ground beef bulgogi isn’t one of them. As this recipe uses only a few ingredients, they all are very important to make this dish taste as intended. So please be sure to use them. 😊
- Make sure to let the sauce cook and thicken. It’s very watery in the beginning but then starts to thicken and cling to the ground beef. So be sure to cook everything for long enough.
- Add the sesame oil in the end and don’t cook it for too long. Sesame oil loses its flavor quickly when heated for too long. So add it when you are finished, quickly toss everything, and serve the ground beef bulgogi.
This ground beef bulgogi tastes absolutely delicious, but if you ever want to try another version, feel free to give one of the following variations a try.
- Make it spicy. This dish uses a slightly sweet soy-based sauce that is really tasty. But you can certainly add a kick of spice with chili peppers or red pepper flakes if you want to try something new!
- Use the marinade with other types of protein. You could use tofu for a vegetarian option or skinless boneless chicken thighs if you prefer chicken over beef. It’s a great way to switch things up.
- Sneak in some vegetables. You could use finely chopped mushrooms, zucchini, or some cabbage to add in some vegetables.
How to serve ground beef bulgogi
- Turn the ground beef bulgogi into delicious bowls. One of my favorite ways to enjoy this ground beef bulgogi is by creating delicious bowls using fresh vegetables and white rice. I usually julienne fresh vegetables like cucumber, carrot, radish, and lettuce with a knife. I also love to drizzle some bibimbap sauce on top. You could also add a fried egg. Serve some kimchi on the side and you’ve got a quick, simple, and nourishing dinner!
- Enjoy the ground beef bulgogi ssam style. If you’ve been to a Korean BBQ before, then you’ll know that you get a bunch of side dishes (called „banchan“), lettuce leaves, and sometimes rice alongside the meat. You then create your own little wrap using the lettuce leaves, meat, and side dishes. This is what you’d call ssam style. This ground beef bulgogi can be enjoyed in the same way! Just serve your favorite side dishes, lettuce leaves, and ssamjang (a type of sauce that tastes great with meat!), and enjoy this ground beef bulgogi in delicious lettuce wraps!
- Add some banchan to your meal. No matter how you decide to enjoy this ground beef bulgogi, I recommend serving a few banchan to your meal if you can! I personally love kimchi, pickled radish, and Korean cucumber salad as they are easy to find or to make at home!
Frequently Asked Questions
As both dishes use different types of meat, there will be differences in the taste of the final dish. But their flavor is very similar as the same sauce is used! And if you let the ground beef brown nicely, it will also develop a nice crust and flavor that can compete with that of steak cut into slices. This dish definitely has that typical beef bulgogi flavor which makes it super delicious!
Bulgogi sauce tastes slightly sweet and has a deep flavor as it’s made with soy sauce. It beautifully blends together with the delicious flavor of browned beef and makes this dish taste very unique and delicious. Other ingredients like ginger give a flavor boost that makes this dish taste extra tasty!
You can store leftovers in an airtight container in your refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can also freeze the ground beef bulgogi for up to 3 months.
More simple and delicious Korean recipes
If you love Korean cuisine, I recommend trying one of the following recipes. They taste absolutely delicious and are actually very easy to make!
- Tteokbokki (Spicy Korean Rice Cakes)
- Korean Cucumber Salad
- Gochujang Chicken Wings
- Kimchi Ramen
Ground Beef Bulgogi
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
Ground Beef Bulgogi
- 1 - 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 small yellow onion sliced or finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 green onions white and green parts separated, sliced
- 1 pound ground beef
- black pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
- sesame seeds (optional) for garnish
- side dishes and toppings of your choice such as white rice, julienned vegetables (radishes, carrots, salad, cucumber), bibimbap sauce, ssamjang, lettuce leaves, perilla leaves
- First, add all bulgogi sauce ingredients to a small bowl and stir until combined.¼ cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon mirin, 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- Next, preheat some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and white green onion parts until fragrant.1 - 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 1 small yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, 2 green onions
- Then add the ground beef and cook until it is fully browned.1 pound ground beef
- Give the bulgogi sauce a quick stir and add it to the pan. Add the remaining green onion parts and season with black pepper. Cook everything for 2-3 minutes until the sauce clings to the ground beef.black pepper
- Add the sesame oil and quickly toss until combined.2 teaspoons roasted sesame oil
- Garnish with sesame seeds (optional) and serve the ground beef bulgogi as desired.sesame seeds (optional), side dishes and toppings of your choice