Bulgogi Sauce or Marinade | Korean BBQ Sauce (2024)

Home | Course | Pantry Staples | Condiments | Bulgogi Sauce (Korean BBQ Sauce)

By Kevin

published Jan 05, 2022, updated Aug 21, 2023

5 from 2 votes


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Bulgogi sauce is a Korean BBQ sauce or marinade with a slightly sweet, umami flavor. Use this recipe to make the Korean condiment at home using simple pantry ingredients!

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There are many delicious Korean dishes that are popular worldwide. Here in the United States, there are Korean restaurants in every big city, serving foods like galbi jjim (braised short ribs), bibimbap, and of course, Gochujang sauce.

But of all the many Korean foods to choose from, bulgogi Korean BBQ is arguably one of, if not the most popular dishes in the U.S..

Bulgogi is a dish featuring strips of marinated and seasoned meat, and it’s incredibly delicious. There are seasonings on the meat itself, but I think the bulgogi marinade is what makes the dish so flavorful!

I’ll be sharing my bulgogi flanken short ribs recipe with you in a couple of days, so be looking for that! Today, I’m sharing the recipe for the Korean BBQ sauce.

Bulgogi sauce or marinade

Cuisine: Korean / Asian

Bulgogi has sweet and savory flavors, with hints of pear or apple, ginger, and garlic. In my version, I use applesauce, but the flavor is still fruity and fresh.

Now, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t just share this Korean BBQ sauce recipe in the upcoming bulgogi beef post; I could have. Honestly though, it’s great for so much more than a marinade or dipping sauce for Korean barbecue.

I think you’ll want to have this recipe handy to use for other purposes, so it definitely deserves a post of its own. Truth be told, as I’m writing this, my plan is to use it in my shrimp stir fry tonight. #newrecipetest

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First, I’ll show you what ingredients you’ll need to make homemade bulgogi sauce. You may even have everything already because my recipe uses simple pantry ingredients.

You can whip up a batch in less than 5 minutes, for a fresh tasting condiment that’s better than any store-bought brand. I’ll also share some ideas of other ways you can use it as a sauce or marinade.

Ingredient notes and substitutions

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  • Soy Sauce: This is the primary ingredient in bulgogi sauce. It gives the condiment a wonderful umami flavor. If you prefer, use low sodium soy sauce, and if you’re gluten-sensitive, use tamari instead.
  • Brown Sugar: The sweetness in the marinade comes from both the fruit and a bit of brown sugar. I use brown sugar for the additional molasses flavor, but white granulated sugar could be used instead.
  • Applesauce: Bulgogi sauce is traditionally made with Korean pears or apples. I use applesauce because it helps to thicken the sauce, and prefer the flavor over pear. Feel free to use a pea ror apple.
  • Sesame Oil: This is the traditional oil used for almost every Asian recipe. If you need a substitute, you could use vegetable oil, but you’ll be missing the toasted, nutty flavor.
  • Scallion (green onions): There are just a few needed for a little bite of flavor. Good substitutes are chives, or the white part of leeks.

Making bulgogi marinade

There’s absolutely nothing better than the fresh flavor of grilled marinated meat and that’s the first use for bulgogi sauce. It adds flavor and tenderizes the meat.

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Making it couldn’t be simpler; just add the marinade ingredients to a blender and puree for a couple of minutes, until it’s a smooth consistency.

Some people heat the ingredients in a pan on the stove first, to dissolve the sugar. Personally, I don’t think that’s necessary for a marinade.

However, if you’re planning to use the bulgogi sauce for dipping, that’s different. The marinade may be a little too thin, so you’ll need to cook it down for a few minutes.

How to convert marinade into Korean BBQ sauce

  1. Make the bulgogi marinade. Just make the recipe as shown in the recipe card below.
  2. Simmer to reduce and thicken. Add the marinade to a saucepan and set it over medium high heat. Let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and let the sauce cook for about 5 minutes, or until it reduces and thickens to the consistency you like for a dipping sauce.

Other uses for bulgogi sauce

As a marinade: Because bulgogi can be made with any type of meat, this recipe makes a fantastic marinade for just about any type of protein! Bulgogi beef is the most common, but don’t let that stop you from using it on chicken, pork, lamb, or anything else you’d like.

Here are a few other ideas for using it:

  • Add a couple tablespoons of sauce to a pound of ground beef for meatloaf or bulgogi burgers. Or, simply brush the sauce on top.
  • Use in place of traditional stir fry sauce the next time you make a pork stir fry like Jeyuk Bokkeum.
  • Make a pot of Instant Pot basmati rice and drizzle some of this Korean BBQ sauce on top. Yum!
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Bulgogi Sauce | Korean BBQ Sauce

Bulgogi sauce, a type of Korean BBQ sauce, boasts a complex, slightly sweet yet umami flavor profile. Use it as a marinade or dipping sauce!

Servings: 10

Prep: 5 minutes mins

Total: 5 minutes mins

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  • Using a blender or stick blender, purée all the marinade ingredients together until smooth. Use as-is as a marinade for bulgogi beef or other meat.

  • To use as a dipping sauce, add marinade to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until marinade reduces and thickens to desired consistency. Allow sauce to cool before using.


  1. Traditionally an Asian pear is used, if they are hard to find, a sweet Bosc pear or apple works. I often times use applesauce if on hand as well.
  2. Recipe yields 1 3/4 cups of marinade (enough for 2-3 pounds of meat), or when reduced, approximately 1 1/4 cups (20 Tbsp) of sauce.
  3. Nutritional information shown is for 10 servings (2 Tbsp each) of sauce.


Serving: 2tbsp | Calories: 91kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 652mg | Potassium: 68mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 4IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: condiments

Cuisine: Asian, korean

Author: Kevin

Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!

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I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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Bulgogi Sauce or Marinade | Korean BBQ Sauce (2024)


Is bulgogi sauce the same as barbecue sauce? ›

It is sweet and savory and adds a vibrant flavor to any dish. Meishi Bulgogi sauce is a Korean style BBQ sauce for BBQs and grilling. Its an Ideal addition to your marinades or stir-fry's and makes a superb dipping sauce for burger and nuggets.

What is the difference between BBQ sauce and Korean BBQ sauce? ›

The main difference between Korean BBQ sauce and a more traditional American BBQ sauce is going to be the base. That's because this sauce uses soy sauce as a base rather than your American tomato-style base. Because of this, it's going to be a thinner sauce with a bold savory flavor and a punch of heat.

What's the difference between Korean bbq and bulgogi? ›

The difference between Korean Kalbi and Bulgogi

This recipe showcases the difference between two popular Korean bbq methods. The difference between bulgogi and Kalbi is that one uses Short Rib, and one uses Ribeye, both using basically the same marinade and grilled over fire.

What is bulgogi sauce made of? ›

Bulgogi generally refers to thinly sliced beef marinated in a sauce that is a mix of soy sauce, sugar or honey, sesame oil, garlic, onion, and often pureed Asian pear. Many Korean home cooks tend to marinate the beef overnight and then grill or stir-fry it with sliced onions, scallions, mushrooms, and other vegetables.

Is BBQ sauce and BBQ marinade the same? ›

Marinating is a liquid mixed with spices that you let your meat sit in for a few hrs/ a day, to tenderize and add flavor depth. Sauce is typically what goes on as a condiment after the meat is cooked. Some will use a low sugar sauce to “mop” the meat while on the grill/pit.

Does Korean BBQ taste like BBQ sauce? ›

As opposed to American-style BBQ sauce, which is tomato-based, the primary ingredients in Korean-style BBQ sauce are soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and rice vinegar. Right off the bat, though, you'll notice flavor similarities between the two sauces - there's tang and acidity, umami, saltiness, and a hint of sweetness.

What are the three types of BBQ sauce? ›

Popular Types of BBQ Sauces In the U.S.
  • Tomato-based sauces.
  • Vinegar-based sauces.
  • Mayonnaise-based sauces.
  • Mustard-based sauces.

How is Korean barbecue different from regular barbecue? ›

Taste. While American BBQ mostly has a smoky flavor focusing on vinegar-based sauces, Koreans prefer more savory-sweet marinades. The most commonly used ingredients are sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and honey. Like sesame and soy sauce, some of them are unique to Asian cuisine due to their geographical location ...

Is bulgogi sauce the same as teriyaki? ›

Bulgogi is a sweet, salty beef dish that is comparable to teriyaki but much more rich and flavorful. Whereas teriyaki is solely sweetened with sugar, bulgogi relies also on fruit sugar to add an extra depth of flavor.

What is special about bulgogi? ›

Bulgogi, or Korean beef barbecue, is undoubtedly one of the most quintessentially Korean dishes there are: gorgeously thin slices of ribeye, tenderloin, or sirloin marinated in a savory-sweet sauce and quickly cooked over flame.

What are the three types of bulgogi? ›

There are three types of bulgogi that are typically served at restaurants today – Gwangyang-style of South Jeolla Province, Eonyang-style of South Gyeongsang Province and last but not least, the Seoul-style.

Is Korean BBQ sauce similar to bulgogi sauce? ›

Frequently Asked Questions. Is Korean BBQ sauce the same as this sauce? While Bulgogi sauce is sometimes considered to be a Korean BBQ sauce, their actual BBQ sauce is actually sweeter and doesn't include any spice.

What is the best meat for bulgogi? ›

In a perfect world, you'd want to marinate the steak—rib-eye or sirloin steak are the best cuts to use for this bulgogi recipe—a day before cooking. The marinade recipe varies by maker, but commonly features soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, black pepper, and sugar.

What should you do while meat is being marinated? ›

The meat should be covered evenly with the marinade from all sides. A great way to do this is to put your marinating meat into a zip-lock bag and flipping it halfway though. Another method is to use a big bowl covered with plastic wrap, stirring the meat halfway through the marinating time.

What sauce is similar to BBQ sauce? ›

Hoisin Sauce

An excellent alternative to the barbecue sauce is this Asian sauce made from vinegar, honey, sesame paste, flour, chilies and soy sauce.

What does bulgogi taste like? ›

Beef Bulgogi is crazy tender and juicy seeping with mildly sweet, savory, smoky flavors from the soy, sesame, garlic, ginger marinade. It is intensely flavorful, and tantalizingly delicious. This Bulgogi cooks super fast, so once your steak is done marinating, it's 15 minutes to dinner!

What are the two sauces at Korean BBQ? ›

  • If you can't find Korean soybean paste (DoenJang, 된장), you can use Japanese miso as a substitute. ...
  • At a typical Korean restaurant, sauce #1 (Ssamjang) is served in a small bowl for sharing, while sauces #2 (Sesame oil, salt, and pepper sauce) and #3 (Wasabi and soy sauce) are provided individually to each person.
Jun 8, 2023

What is the name of Chinese BBQ sauce? ›

Char Siu Sauce (Chinese Barbecue Sauce)

A classic Chinese barbecue sauce perfect for marinating, baking, and barbecuing meat, chicken, or seafood.

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