If you’re a lover of bulgogi but looking for something a little lighter, then you’re in the right place! This recipe for chicken bulgogi, or Dak bulgogi, features all the incredible flavors of classic bulgogi just made with white meat instead of red meat.
Table of contents
If you’ve not had bulgogi, it’s a Korean bbq dish made of thinly sliced meat marinated in a sweet and savory sauce and grilled or seared until charred and caramelized. It’s incredibly flavorful and so satisfying!
There’s just something about Korean food that I can’t get enough of. I find many Korean dishes to be incredibly savory and satisfying. They’re sweet, spicy, and full of umami. And bulgogi is the quintessential example of a reallllly satisfying Korean meat dish.
The marinade for bulgogi varies, but traditionally it consists of black pepper, garlic, onion, ginger, sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce, sugar and rice wine (mirin). Oftentimes Asian pear or pear juice is added as well—it contains a tenderizing enzyme.
For my version of bulgogi I skip the pear but you could certainly add ½ cup of grated Asian pear to the marinade. I also use gochujang, which is not traditional but it’s Korean and I find it adds a nice savoriness.
If you don’t have gochujang you can use ½ a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes and a bit more honey. Speaking of honey—I use it instead of brown sugar which makes the meat slightly less sweet, but in my opinion I don’t miss that.
What you’ll need:
- low-sodium soy sauce
- grated white or yellow onion
- mirin or rice wine
- toasted sesame oil
- cracked black pepper
What kind of chicken to use for Dak Bulgogi (chicken bulgogi)
For chicken bulgogi I prefer to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, though you can certainly use boneless skinless chicken breasts (as pictured). The prep of this recipe is really quick, and although it does require some marinating time, you can control the length of it.
The meat doesn’t need a long time to marinate, but if you’ve got some extra time let the meat marinate for 4 hours or up to overnight. Crunched for time? Marinate it for just 2 hours. I find the best flavor and texture comes from marinating the meat for at least 4 hours, but you do what works best for you!
How to cook chicken bulgogi
Chicken bulgogi can be cooked on the stove top in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet, or it can be cooked on the grill. I prefer the grill because you get a more robust charring and caramelization. But again, you can certainly use a grill pan for the ease of it.
Something to keep in mind if using the grill and chicken thighs—since thighs are thinner than breasts I recommend cutting them slightly larger (½-inch) so they don’t fall through the grill grate. If you do cut them thickener I recommend marinating them slightly longer to ensure the marinade permeates into the meat.
Lastly, the most important thing to keep in mind when cooking bulgogi is to cook over high heat and to avoid overcrowding the pan or grill. The goal is to get a nice caramelized char on the meat—not to steam it. So be sure your pan is pretty hot and be willing to cook the chicken in a few batches to avoid crowding.
On the grill:
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for high heat. Brush grill grate clean; brush grate with oil to coat. Working in batches if needed, making sure not to over crowd, arrange sliced chicken on the grill grate and grill just until the chicken is cooked through and browned, about 1½ minutes per side. Repeat grilling process with remaining chicken.
On the stove-top:
Heat a cast-iron grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high for 5 minutes. Brush grates of pan with grapeseed oil and, working in batches, arrange chicken in a single layer in the pan. Cook chicken until charred and just cooked through, 1½–2 minutes per side; transfer to a serving platter. Repeat cooking process with remaining chicken.
How to serve chicken bulgogi
Traditionally, bulgogi is served in lettuce wraps with gochujang or doenjang (soybean paste). I like to serve chicken bulgogi in lettuce cups with cooked jasmine or basmati rice, kimchi, scallions and sesame seeds. I’ll also cook down the leftover marinade (safe to eat once it’s brought to a boil and cooked for 1 minute) and drizzle that over top.
If you’d prefer to skip the lettuce cups, simple serve the chicken over rice with the same toppings and some roasted broccoli.
What to serve chicken bulgogi with
The nice thing about bulgogi, if you serve it with rice and lettuce cups, is that it can be a full meal. But if you’re looking for some other ways to use bulgogi, here are some ideas…
- Serve over rice with thinly sliced cucumber, carrots, cabbage and bean sprouts.
- Serve over rice with sautéed mushrooms and sambal oelek (chili sauce).
- Serve over rice with some crispy fried garlic, serranos, and an over easy egg.
- Serve with quinoa and roasted broccoli.
More Korean-inspired recipes you may like…
- Saucy Gochujang Noodles
- Gochujang Chicken
- Gochujang Sauce (use this on meatballs or any kind of grilled meat)
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Chicken Bulgogi (Dak Bulgogi)
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, gluten free if needed
- ¼ cup grated white or yellow onion
- 3 tablespoons honey, or brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon gochujang, gluten free if needed
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon mirin or rice wine*
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
- 2 teaspoons grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil
- Cooked jasmine or basmati rice
- Bibb lettuce leaves
- Sesame seeds
- Thinly sliced scallions
- Whisk together soy sauce, onion, honey, gochujang, garlic, mirin, sesame oil, ginger and black pepper in a large bowl until combined. Add chicken and toss to coat; cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, ideally 4 hours, or up to overnight.
- Heat a grill to high. Brush grill grate clean; brush grate with grapeseed oil to coat. Working in batches if needed, arrange sliced chicken on grill grate and cook just until cooked through and browned, about 1½ minutes per side.
- Heat a cast-iron grill pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high for 5 minutes. Brush pan with grapeseed oil and, working in batches, arrange chicken in a single layer in pan, making sure not to over crowd. Cook chicken until charred and just cooked through, 1½–2 minutes per side; transfer to a serving platter. Repeat cooking process with remaining chicken.
- Reserve the marinade and transfer to a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat; cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve sauce with bulgogi.
- Serve chicken bulgogi with rice, butter lettuce cups, kimchi, scallions, sesame seeds, and ssamjang, if desired.