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Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles

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Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles uses thinly sliced beef that is marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and quickly cooked over flames to create a tender beef. The beef is then topped over zucchini noodles and garnishes with green onions, sesame seeds and cilantro. You will love this Korean BBQ beef recipe. 

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles on a white plate.

BEEF BULGOGI WITH ZUCCHINI NOODLES 

If you enjoy sweet and savory dishes today’s recipe for Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles is for you!

Tender, thinly sliced beef is marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and quickly grilled to create the most mouthwatering piece of beef.

When we lived in Chicago I enjoyed the wide array of ethnic restaurants that Chicago had to offer.

You could often find Mike and I eating at Thai, Lebanese, Chinese, Spanish, Korean restaurants and more.

I hope to one day be able to travel to Korea myself and eat some of my favorite dishes but in the meantime I try and make some of them at home. 

One dish we like is Beef Bulgogi, which is a dish I first tried in a restaurant in Chicago. It is one of my favorite Korean dishes. I love the bulgogi sauce, it is so flavorful! 

Today’s recipe is for Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles but this recipe is great over rice, in a lettuce wrap or on its own or paired with kimchi.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles with chopsticks.

WHAT IS BULGOGI?

Bulgogi, also known as Korean beef barbecue is made of thin, marinated slices of beef or pork grilled on a open flame barbecue or on a stove-top griddle. 

The sauce is a mixture of sweet and savory flavors and is just so good! 

Bul, meaning “fire,” and gogi, meaning “meat,” or fire meat originated in Korea’s Goguryeo era (the 1st century BCE to the 7th century CE).

It is a very popular dish in South Korea, where it can be found anywhere from upscale restaurants to local supermarkets as pan-ready kits.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles with zucchini noodles.

WHAT TYPE OF MEAT WORKS BEST IN BULGOGI?

I personally enjoy thinly sliced ribeye the most. I find it really absorbs the flavors and is so tender. Two other cuts that work nicely are tenderloin and sirloin.

If you have more time to marinate the meat you can use flank steak or skirt steak. These are a bit less tender so they need more time to marinate.

I suggest 2 hours to really get the flavors into the meat! 

In addition to beef, chicken and pork are also common ingredients used to prepare the dish.

Pork belly, or samgyeopsal in Korean, is another popular cut when making pork bulgogi.

Much like the ribeye, it is tender and fatty which can give the meat a robust flavor.

With any of the meats you will want to marinate first to infuse the flavors and to tenderize. 

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles ingredients.

WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE IN BEEF BULGOGI?

BEEF: I used ribeye in this recipe but you could use a different cut of beef, like tenderloin or sirloin.

If you go with skirt steak or flank steak you will want to marinate it for at least two hours so really tenderize the meat.

The marinade for this recipe also works nicely on short ribs but obviously you wouldn’t be thinly slicing it and cooking it the same way since short ribs are much thicker. 

PEAR: For this recipe I used a bosc pear variety and grated it.

I recommend this variety of pear but you can also use other varieties. If you can find an Asian pear or Korean pear that works great too. 

MINCED GARLIC: I don’t suggest skipping the minced garlic as it adds so much flavor. 

GREEN ONIONS: You will need green onion for the recipe as well as the garnish. 

SOY SAUCE: This recipe uses a good amount of soy sauce which adds a lot of the flavor.

You can use low-sodium if you are trying to watch your salt intake. 

SESAME OIL

MIRIN (or Japanese sake / Korean shochu)

RICE OR APPLE CIDE VINEGAR

HONEY

ZUCCHINI, spiralized for serving

GARNISH: green onions, sesame seeds, cilantro, sliced cucumbers, kimchi or pickled cucumbers

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles with kimchi.

HOW DO YOU MAKE BEEF BULGOGI WITH ZUCCHINI NOODLES?

Combine all ingredients for marinade and mix well.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles in a bowl.

Place steak slices in a heavy duty ziplock bag, pour marinade into the bag and seal tightly

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles marinade in a ziplock.

Massage marinade into the steak slices so marinade is properly distributed.

Let the marinated meat sit (in room temperature, not in fridge) for at least 30 minutes, 1 – 2 hours recommended.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles with marinade in a ziplock.

Grill steak slices on a preheated BBQ, grill pan, large skillet or on a cast iron pan on stovetop in a single layer.

Steak slices are very thin, so the meat will cook very quickly, about 20 seconds per side.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles on grill.

Once meat is thoroughly browned with caramelized edges, place on platter or set aside on the cooler side of the grill.

Repeat steps for the remainder of the meat.

Sprinkle sesame seed garnish and some chopped green onions just before serving.

Enjoy on top of zucchini noodles for a healthy low-carb meal, with Korean traditional side dishes (such as kimchi or pickled cucumbers). You can also serve it over rice or in lettuce wraps. 

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles with chopsticks.

TIPS FOR MAKING BEEF BULGOGI

  • If using fresh steaks, place them in freezer for 1-2 hours, until they are slightly frozen but are still able to be sliced with a knife. Freezing the meat ahead of time will make it easier for you to make the thin slices required for this recipe. If using frozen steaks, thaw for 1-2 hours in room temperature, or until they have reached consistency where you are able to slice them with a knife.
  • Another alternative is to purchase pre-sliced meat at an Asian grocery store. Many Asian grocery stores (especially a Korean grocery store) carry thinly sliced beef, non-marinated/seasoned exactly for the purpose of cooking Bulgogi. For example when I lived in Chicago H-Mart carried it. 
  • Mirin is Japanese cooking wine, very similar to sake but with more sugar and lower alcohol content. It is a staple in most Asian kitchens/pantries, and can be found in any Asian grocery stores. If not available, feel free to substitute with either Japanese sake or Korean shochu.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles with logo.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH BEEF BULGOGI WITH ZUCCHINI NOODLES?

Aside from the zucchini noodles I suggested in this recipe there are a lot of options when serving bulgogi. 

SALADS: I love pairing light salads with this dish like a spicy cucumber salad, cucumber noodle salad or a seaweed salad

VEGETABLES: Veggies are always a nice pairing with this beef dish. I love serving Bok Choy, Asian Vegetable Stir Fry or Roasted Broccoli. You can also serve the bulgogi wrapped in a lettuce wrap. 

NOODLES & RICE: I love serving this dish with white or jasmine rice, on top of these Easy Korean Noodles or on these Spicy Noodles

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles on a white plate.

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Marinate Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Beef Bulgogi with Zucchini Noodles uses thinly sliced beef that is marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and quickly cooked over flames to create a tender beef. The beef is then topped over zucchini noodles and garnishes with green onions, sesame seeds and cilantro. You will love this Korean BBQ beef recipe. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of rib eye steak, sliced thinly 1/8” thick (see notes for tip)
  • 1/2 of a pear (Bosc variety recommended), grated
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced fresh garlic
  • 2 stalks of green onions, sliced roughly ½” long
  • 5 Tablespoons of dark soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of mirin (or Japanese sake / Korean shochu)
  • 1 Tablespoon of rice (or apple cider) vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons of honey
  • Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
  • Spiralized zucchini, either home-made with spiralizer or store bought.
  • Finely sliced green onions for garnish
  • Sesame seeds for garnish
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • Sliced cucumbers and Korean traditional side dishes ie. Kimchi, pickled cucumbers for garnish

Instructions

    1. Combine all ingredients for marinade and mix well.
      Place steak slices in a heavy duty ziplock bag, pour marinade into the bag and seal tightly
    2. Massage marinade into the steak slices so marinade is properly distributed. Let sit (in room temperature, not in fridge) for at least 30 minutes, 1 – 2 hours recommended.
    3. Grill steak slices on a preheated BBQ, or on a cast iron pan on stovetop. Steak slices are very thin, so the meat will cook very quickly, about 20 seconds per side.
    4. Once meat is thoroughly browned with caramelized edges, place on platter or set aside on the cooler side of the grill.
    5. Repeat steps for the remainder of the meat.
    6. Sprinkle sesame seed garnish and some chopped green onions just before serving.
    7. Enjoy on top of zucchini noodles for a healthy low-carb meal, with Korean traditional side dishes (such as kimchi or pickled cucumbers).

Notes

If using fresh steaks, place them in freezer for 1-2 hours, until they are slightly frozen but are still able to be sliced with a knife. Freezing the meat ahead of time will make it easier for you to make the thin slices required for this recipe. If using frozen steaks, thaw for 1-2 hours in room temperature, or until they have reached consistency where you are able to slice them with a knife.

Another alternative is to purchase pre-sliced meat at an Asian grocery store. Most Asian grocery stores (especially a Korean grocery store) carry thinly sliced beef, non-marinated/seasoned exactly for the purpose of cooking Bulgogi.


Mirin is Japanese cooking wine, very similar to sake but with more sugar and lower alcohol content. It is a staple in most Asian kitchens/pantries, and can be found in any Asian grocery stores. If not available, feel free to substitute with either Japanese sake or Korean shochu.

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