Easy Korean Beef
A quick and flavorful Korean Beef recipe that can be made in just 15 minutes!
The best place to start is in the name itself. Korean ground beef could likely not get any broader, and it was not until we started developing this recipe that we ever noticed it. This is a bulgogi style sauce served over ground beef (or sliced steak depending on the recipe) and typically eaten in a Korean BBQ setting or over rice. We first encountered the dish as a simple ground beef recipe served over white rice, and thus that was the subset we wanted to analyze.
The most distinguishing taste of this meal is the brown sugar / soy sauce combo. Of the recipes we looked at, most kept the ratio between these equal. More specifically, most recipes use ¼ cup of each per lb. of beef. While we felt the ratio was solid, we thought that when served over rice it wasn’t quite enough. So, with equal ratio we increased it to 1/3 cup of soy sauce and brown sugar. Additionally, just to give the sweet a slight edge, we added 1 Tbsp of granulated sugar.
Most recipes include ginger in the sauce, as did we, though we did include a bit more than average. Too much, however, can push the sauce closer to teriyaki which is not the desired taste. For another touch of acidity, we decided to include rice vinegar as well, which was not a common inclusion. We feel it helps boost the savory qualities in the dish.
Some Korean beef recipes really pack the heat with as much as 2 tsps of red pepper flakes. Surprisingly, in our set, this was the only source of spice (though I imagine many other hot pastes or sauces would work well). Perhaps more traditional recipes, ones that do not use ground beef, have more ideas on how to add heat. Our favorite part is not the heat, though, but rather the sweet and savory combo, so our spice is down at the minimum we observed, ½ tsp. Feel free to bump this up if you really enjoy spice.
When it comes to cooking the beef, we decided to expand. Almost none of the recipes included an onion. We felt onions do a good job of capturing sauce, so we put ½ of one in with the beef. Soy sauce adds quite a bit of sodium, but when it is over rice, we felt the flavor became just a bit muted. So, we added salt directly into the beef cooking step, which gives it enough flavor to still standout on the white rice. Some recipes serve less rice relative to beef as well, another valid way to make sure sufficient flavor is in each bite. Additionally, rather than save green onions for garnish, we incorporated them into this step as well. This gives the beef the right blend of flavors before the sauce gets in.
This dish is designed to pack a sweet and savory flavor over hot white rice. It has great flavor and requires little effort to throw together.
We would love to hear how your Korean Beef turned out!