Bulgogi Lettuce Cups

Inspiration: While Brandon was finishing up his degree during the last several years, he used to eat at some awesome Korean restaurants near campus every now and then, and apparently bulgogi was one of his main loves in life. Who knew? Once this information came to light, it was only a matter of time before it made it onto our menu at home. There aren’t many things that I love more than discovering and making new foods at home.

What We Loved: I’ll hand it to Brandon here – he’s converted me to a bulgogi fan. This recipe was pretty darn delicious. The meat had a rich, savory taste characterized by the great flavors of soy, sesame oil/toasted sesame seeds, and garlic, and there were lovely background hints of lemony ginger. The meat had a nice overall sweetness and left you with just the perfect kick of spice in your mouth, too. Such a great balance. The crisp romaine hearts added the perfect cooling and fresh contrast, and I just loved how the marinade began to caramelize onto the meat as it cooked and browned. Fantastic.

Tips: We rarely, rarely use sugar in any form in any recipes (I’d say we use it a few times per year, tops). However, this is one of the few recipes that does include it, unlike most other recipes on our blog – but since Brandon loves it so much, I wanted to make it authentically for a nice treat. If I’m going to make something with sugar, I always prefer to use real, natural sugar versus sugar substitutes, so I used organic cane sugar in this recipe. I’m wondering if honey would also work – I might give that a go next time as it’s usually my sweetener of choice. Also, if you don’t buy your beef pre-sliced, it works great to just throw it into the freezer and then slice the meat when it’s about half-frozen, which really allows for very easy slicing.

Bulgogi Lettuce Cups
Source: Slightly adapted from Savory Sweet Life

1/3 cup soy sauce
2 scant tablespoons cane sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, plus extra for serving
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1.5 lbs thinly sliced beef (I sliced mine across the grain while it was still half-frozen, which allows for easy slicing)
1/2 small onion, halved and sliced into moon-shaped slivers
2 green onions, finely sliced, plus extra for serving
Lettuce, for serving (I used romaine hearts)

1. Combine the soy, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and ginger in a large bowl. Stir well to combine and dissolve the sugar.

2. Add the beef, onions, and green onions to the bowl. Use your hands to mix and massage the marinade into the beef and onions.

3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour (I marinated ours for four hours).

4. Pan fry the beef and onions in batches on a very hot frying pan until each side is cooked and the edges of the meat are browning and crisping.

5. Serve in lettuce cups with additional green onion slices and sesame seeds.


18 thoughts on “Bulgogi Lettuce Cups

    • I used sirloin, though the original recipe calls for rib eye. I think that a lot of different cuts would work….flank steak would be awesome.

  1. My sister in law who is Korean makes this dish and it is to die for! She uses rib eye and her process takes all afternoon. We all wait (not so patiently) and the end result is sublime!

  2. This looks incredible- and super easy to covert to gluten-free (yay!). I love Korean food and there are so many great Korean restaurants in Honolulu, but just about everything has wheat-based soy sauce in it. Total bummer. But this bulgogi just might be the thing to get me over my little pity party!

    And I love your blog, btw. Getting added to my reader right now :)

  3. I made this last week and it was amazing! Threw in some julienned yellow bell pepper and carrots just for fun. Definitely will add this to my recipe rotation. Thanks for posting!
    Also planning on making your fish with pesto and prosciutto this week. :)

    • Awesome, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it! I like the idea of throwing in the bell pepper and carrots….always great to get more vegetables in there!

      Hope you like the pesto/prosciutto fish, too. That’s one of my favorites :)

  4. I adore bulgogi too! It’s funny, it’s one of those dishes I only seem to order when I’m by myself. Maybe it’s the funny name. Never thought about recreating it at home. You’ve done an excellent job and lettuce cups are a great fresh twist. This could even be a great take to work lunch. Heat up the bulgogi in the microwave and keep the lettuce in the fridge until lunch time. Food envy all around.

    • Thanks so much! I really like that idea of using this for a work lunch….it’s always so hard to think of things that transport well and easily for work. Great idea!

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