Traditionally Beef Bulgogi is a Korean BBQ recipe. This version skips the grilling and instead infuses ground beef with all of the delicious and savory flavors of classic bulgogi. These Ground Beef Bulgogi Bowls are sweet, savory, and slightly spicy.
Korean Beef Bowls with Ground Beef
Bulgogi, which is Korean bbq, translates as “fire meat.” More traditional Beef Bulgogi is made of marinated thinly sliced beef that gets seared on a grill or in a ripping hot pan until charred.
For this recipe we’re skipping the “firing” and cooking everything in one pan using ground beef.
This less-traditional beef bulgogi features ground beef cooked with onion, ginger and garlic then tossed with a classic bulgogi sauce (what’s usually the marinade). To pack the bowls, we serve this flavorful bulgogi ground beef with charred shredded carrots, quick pickled cukes, tender rice and bibb lettuce leaves.
- Onion: white or yellow onion will work here. You’ll also need a box grater to grate the onion.
- Aromatics: fresh garlic and ginger are traditional and add tons of flavor to the ground beef.
- Ground beef: Ground beef is a great weeknight shortcut when you want to enjoy the flavors of bulgogi but don’t have the time for marination. We recommend 90% lean ground beef. Plus, all of the nooks and crannies capture the sweet and savory sauce—so good!
- Low-sodium soy sauce or tamari: if you need this recipe to be gluten-free, use tamari. It’s a little less salty than soy sauce and has a deeper flavor. Learn more about differences between tamari and soy sauce.
- Honey: a dash of honey adds sweetness and balances out the savory flavors of bulgogi.
- Gochujang: Gochujang is not traditional but it is Korean and we find it adds a nice depth of flavor to the recipe.
- Mirin or rice wine: Mirin is a type of rice wine that’s low in alcohol content and high in sugar content. Mirin has a sweet and slightly acidic flavor. It can be found in many Asian grocery stores or specialty stores and is available in both traditional and non-alcoholic versions.
How to Make Ground Beef Bulgogi
1. Cook the onion, ginger and garlic in a couple teaspoons of oil.
2. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking up into small pieces, until cooked through.
3. Drain the beef then return the beef to the pan.
4. Add the bulgogi sauce ingredients and cook until slightly thickened.
5. Season to taste with additional soy sauce, gochujang and/or honey. Serve immediately.
How to Serve Ground Beef Bulgogi
We like to serve ground beef bulgogi in a bowl with rice, butter lettuce, quick-pickled cucumbers and sautéed carrots. Here are some other ways to serve ground beef bulgogi:
- As lettuce wraps in butter lettuce leaves with pickled ginger, kimchi and sambal oelek.
- Over cooked rice with kimchi, sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
- Serve it sloppy-joe style on our Milk Buns.
Storage and Reheating Tips
- Store leftover ground beef bulgogi in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- For longer storage, freeze ground beef bulgogi for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
- Reheating ground beef bulgogi gently in a skillet over medium-low heat on the stove top just until warmed through. Alternatively, you can reheat it in the microwave in 30-second increments.
More Korean-Inspired Recipes to Try
These Korean Meatballs are another ground beef Korean recipe to try. They feature a delicious gochujang drizzle sauce! (If you’re looking for something lighter, check out our Korean Turkey Meatballs.)
If you like the idea of lettuce wraps, then try your hand at these Korean Tofu Lettuce Wraps. Healthy, filling and full of delicious Korean flavors!
Ground Beef Bulgogi Recipe
Pickled Cucumbers (optional)
- 2 english cucumbers, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 (10-ounce) bags shredded carrots
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 cup grated onion
- 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 heaping tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
- 3–4 tablespoons honey
- 3–4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons gochujang
- 2 tablespoon mirin or rice wine
- white sesame seeds
- bibb lettuce
- cooked rice
- sambal oelek (chili garlic sauce)
Pickled Cucumbers (optional)
- Whisk together ¾ cup rice vinegar, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon honey and ¾ teaspoon salt until salt has dissolved. Add 2 sliced cucumbers and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high. Add 2 (10-ounce) bags carrots and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 10–15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in now empty skillet over medium. Add 1 cup grated onion, 4 teaspoons garlic, 4 teaspoons ginger and ½ teaspoon black pepper; cook until starting to brown, 3 minutes.
- Add 2 pounds ground beef and cook, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink; drain beef.
- Return beef to sauté pan and stir in 3 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons gochujang, and 2 tablespoons mirin; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Season to taste with additional soy sauce and honey.
- Serve bulgogi in lettuce cups with pickled cucumbers, carrots, and rice. Top with sambal oelek, if desired.
You may need to use a steel wool to clean the pan. If you don’t care about getting char on the carrots—just cook them until tender, 8–10 minutes. Cut down the cook time: you can get dinner on the table faster if you pull out a second pan. Cook the carrots in a large skillet while you cook the ground beef in a large sauté pan. What’s the difference between a skillet and sauté pan? Sauté pans have straight vertical sides while skillets have shorter rounder sides. Since this recipe uses 2 pounds of ground beef, it’s best to use a sauté pan (keeps things from flying out).
This sponsored post is in partnership with the Iowa Beef Council. As always the thoughts, opinions, recipe, photos and content are all my own.