These Beef Lettuce Wraps are inspired by the classic flavors of bulgogi, a Korean dish loved by many for its rich, deep flavors, including a finger-licking, sweet and savory sauce.
We love to serve these lettuce wraps with carrots, radishes, and lots of kmichi, same as we would if we were sitting down to a big bowl of bulgogi.
What Is Bulgogi?
Thin slices of beef are marinated in a sauce made from soy sauce, sugar, garlic, green onions, sesame oil, and Asian pear. The most common cuts of beef used are ribeye, sirloin, and even sometimes brisket. Beef bulgogi is often served over rice or enjoyed in lettuce, though certainly you could enjoy it with any variety of grains.
As it turns out, the home my husband and I bought in Montclair, NJ has an Asian pear tree right in the back! How lucky are we?! So making a bulgogi-inspired marinade on a whim is easy.
Ingredients For Beef Lettuce Wraps
You’ll want about 1 ½ lbs of beef. We recommend thin slices of ribeye steak or sirloin. If you’re shopping at an Asian market, such as H Mart, you can likely just pick up a package of thinly sliced steak. If not, place the steak in a freezer for about 20-30 minutes before you begin prepping to help make it easier to slice.
To make the marinade, you’ll need:
- An onion: Adds a subtle sweetness to the dish.
- Garlic cloves: We’re using 4 cloves of garlic.
- Ginger, peeled and chopped: The flavor of fresh ginger permeates throughout the entire dish. You can substitute with ginger paste if needed!
- Soy sauce: This takes the place of salt in terms of seasoning the beef. To make this recipe gluten-free friendly, substitute tamari for soy sauce, and check the labels on the Korean sauces or pastes you use.
- Water: To thin out the sauce a bit.
- Rice wine vinegar: Adds a tangy, sweet flavor.
- Doenjang: Korean fermented soybean paste, also referred to as black bean paste
- Sesame oil: If you can find toasted sesame oil, use that! It adds a lovely nutty flavor to the dish.
- Honey: To balance out the sweetness in an otherwise savory recipe.
- Gochujang: Korean red chili paste
For serving: grated carrots, thinly sliced or julienned radishes, scallions, sesame seeds, and of course kimchi! You can use spicy or non-spicy kimchi, whatever you like. And if you want to make it yourself, check out this homemade kimchi recipe.
How Long Does The Beef Marinade?
To make the beef bulgogi marinade, combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment, then pulse until very finely chopped. Place the thinly sliced ribeye (or other beef) in a large container with lid or in a large Ziploc bag. Pour the marinade on top, then toss to distribute (or seal and shake the bag).
Allow the beef to marinate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight. The longer it sits, the more flavor it will have!
How To Make Beef Lettuce Wraps
To cook the beef, heat a very large skillet over high heat. When very hot, simply pour the beef mixture along with the sauce into the pan and cook until the steak is just cooked through, about 3-6 minutes. We recommend a good pair of tongs to stir the meat as it browns.
What’s The Best Type Of Lettuce For Lettuce Waps?
Personally, we like butter lettuce, as the leaves are large and tender, perfect for wrapping about the cooked beef and holding lots of toppings and veggies. Red leaf lettuce and green leaf lettuce are also part of the bibb lettuce family and offer a comparable texture.
If you prefer more of a crunch, you can use iceberg lettuce or even romaine lettuce.
Can This Marinade Be Used With Other Proteins?
Absolutely! While ribeye or sirloin are traditional, the marinade is packed with flavor and would be just as delicious with chicken or pork. If you want to skip the marinade process altogether, you can make the marinade and then use it to flavor ground beef, ground chicken, or ground pork, adding it directly to a skillet after the meat has almost fully cooked through.
How Long Will The Marinated Beef Keep?
It should go without saying that the lettuce needs to be eaten day of, however marinated Korean beef is perfect for meal prep! You can make and cook the beef, then enjoy for up to 5 days after. If prepping lunches for the week, we recommend storing the beef in one container, and storing the lettuce, toppings, and condiments in a separate container. Make sure the container for the beef is microwave-friendly! !
Speaking for the Well Seasoned household, we’ll be making these again and again!
If you make these Beef Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
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More Asian-inspired recipes to try!
- Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice
- Cast Iron Sesame Ribeye
- Shrimp Burger
- Thai Turkey Meatballs with Coconut Curry
- Spicy Ramen Noodles
Beef Lettuce Wraps (Bulgogi Beef)
- Large tupperware with lid or large Ziploc bag for marinating beef.
- Very large skillet or pan
- 1 ½ – 2 lb ribeye or sirloin
- 1 medium sweet onion cut into chunks
- 4 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1" ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ cup soy sauce low-sodium
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup doenjang Korean fermented soybean paste, also referred to as black bean paste
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp gochujang Korean red chili paste to taste
- 2 scallion trimmed and sliced into 1" pieces
- Bibb lettuce
- grated carrots and radishes thinly sliced or julienned
- green onions thinly sliced
- sliced green or red fresh hot chiles such as serrano
- ½ tsp sesame seeds
- fine herbs such as mint, basil, cilantro, and/or shiso leaves
- Partially freeze the beef. Place the steak in a freezer for 20-30 minutes to help make it easier to slice. When ready, pat dry with a paper towel, then use a sharp knife to cut into ⅛" thick slices. Place in a large container (with lid) or in a large Ziploc bag.
- Make the bulgogi marinade. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with blade attachment, add the chopped onion, 4 garlic cloves, ginger, ½ cup soy sauce, ½ cup water, ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, ¼ cup Doenjang, 2 tbsp honey, 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, and 1 tsp gochujang. Process until very smooth.
- Marinate the beef. Pour the marinade over the beef slices, then stir in the chopped scallions. Cover tightly (or seal the bag), then refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Cook the beef. Heat a large skillet over high heat until very hot, about 5 minutes. Pour the beef along with the marinade into the pan, then cook just until the meat is cooked through and browned, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Serve immediately. Serve beef in lettuce cups with vegetable toppings, Kimchi, and fresh herbs.
- Cooked, marinated beef will keep for up to 5 days in a fridge. Do not assembled until ready to serve.
- If making for meal prep, store beef in a separate container (that is microwave-friendly) from condiments and lettuce.
Recipe adapted from Melissa Clark’s phenomenal cookbook Dinner: Changing the Game. It is worth every penny, promise!