Traditionally made with thinly sliced sirloin or ribeye, this high protein shortcut version makes bulgogi with ground beef. All it takes is one pan and about 20 minutes to prepare. And the recipe includes an awesome kimchi sauce, low carb rice blend, and other Korean side dishes (banchan) for making awesome bulgogi bowls.
Bulgogi with Ground Beef?
Did you know bulgogi translates to “fire meat” in English? With traditional Korean bulgogi, slices of meat are marinated before grilling or searing in a hot pan. Using ground beef allows you to skip the time in a marinade and cook the sauce right in the pan with the beef.
The bulgogi sauce itself is pretty similar to a traditional bulgogi marinade. There’s a bit of gochujang, soy sauce, garlic and ginger, honey or brown sugar, and rice vinegar.
That covers four out of the five tastes—salty, sweet, sour, and umami. Bitter is the only one missing, in case you’re wondering. And that’s why I like to serve this ground beef bulgogi with roasted Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or a bitter vegetable.
Speaking of sides, let’s talk more about banchan.
Side Dishes for Bulgogi
The star of the show with these Korean beef bowls, in my opinion, is the creamy kimchi sauce. I recently stumbled upon these crispy brussels sprouts that included a blended kimchi sauce and loved the idea. It reminded me of the Japanese-style yum yum sauce in my reader-favorite teriyaki beef bowls.
It’s super easy to make. All you do is toss some kimchi in a food processor with a bit of light mayo, gochujang, honey, and water. You could get creative with other add-ins and seasoning to taste, but I think this combo gets the job done.
In addition to the kimchi sauce, I’ve included instructions in the recipe card below for making a lower calorie rice option, pickled carrots, a few other sides like the cucumber crunch salad from my Korean turkey bowls and roasted broccoli from my firecracker ground bison bowls.
One of my favorite things about Korean cooking is the creative use of vegetables and produce just hanging out in your refrigerator. Click here to check out 15 more Korean side dish ideas.
My recipe makes two pounds of beef with enough kimchi sauce to cover however many bowls you decide to make with all the possible sides. Forgive me for not calculating the nutrition facts of every possible combination. I guess that’s a pro and con of such a versatile recipe.
If you have any questions about nutrition facts, ingredient swaps, sides, or building bowls for meal prep, leave them in the comments at the bottom of this post. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this ground beef bulgogi recipe!
- 2 pounds Extra Lean Ground Beef
- 1/2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Soy Sauce
- 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1 Tablespoon Toasted Sesame Oil
- 4 cloves Garlic, crushed or minced
- 2 teaspoons Crushed Ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 3-4 Scallion Greens, cut into 2" pieces
For the Kimchi Sauce
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) Kimchi with Juices
- 1/4 cup Light Mayo
- 1 Tablespoon Gochujang
- 1 Tablespoon Honey
- 2 Tablespoons Water
- Add all the kimchi ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate while preparing the beef.
- Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, brown the ground beef on one side for 4-5 minutes before breaking apart and fully cooking.
- While the beef cooks, mix the bulgogi sauce ingredients together.
- Add the sauce to the cooked beef and stir everything together. Cook for 3-4 minutes, untouched, until the sauce thickens and begins to caramelize on the bottom of the beef. Turn off the heat and fold in the scallion greens.
- Serve the beef over rice or in lettuce wraps with the kimchi sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and other sides (see notes for low carb rice blend, roasted broccoli, cucumber salad, and pickled carrots).
Low Carb Rice Blend
If you mix cauliflower rice with sticky or jasmine rice, you can hardly tell it's there. A good ratio is 2 cups (280g) of cooked sticky rice mixed with 3 cups (340g) or a 12 oz frozen bag of cauliflower rice.
Cut 12-16 oz of broccoli florets into smaller bite-size pieces and either toss with olive oil or spray with avocado oil and season with salt and pepper. Air fry for 6-8 minutes at 350ºF or bake for 12-15 minutes at 425ºF. You're looking for a bit of browning around the edges and a vibrant green color in the stalks.
To make pickled carrots, thinly slice peeled carrots and place in a large jar or container with a lid. Bring a 1:1 solution of water and white vinegar (or rice vinegar) to a simmer. Use enough water and vinegar to fully submerge the carrots. (I use about 1 1/2 cup total for 8 oz of carrot sticks). Add a tablespoon or two of sugar, pinch or two of salt, and other seasonings like gochugaru to the simmering vinegar and water. Once dissolved, pour over the carrots. After the jar has cooked to room temperature, seal and refrigerate. The carrots will last for a few weeks in the refrigerator.
Cucumber Crunch Salad
Quarter seedless cucumbers and season with a couple pinches of salt. Let the cucumbers rest for 10-15 minutes before rinsing well. To the rinsed cucumbers, add chili crunch or chili oil, rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil. I use 2 tablespoons of chili crunch, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil for about 12 oz of cucumbers.
Soft boiled or fried eggs, kimchi (especially if you're skipping the kimchi sauce), bean sprouts, seasoned spinach, or other traditional Korean banchan.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: about 3 oz (bulgogi only)
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 190Total Fat: 7gCarbohydrates: 9gProtein: 22g