Sink your teeth into this perfect vegan bulgogi, a plant-based spin on a delicious Korean classic that's sure to satisfy your cravings. Picture tender chunks of savory seitan, marinated in a sweet and spicy blend of soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, Korean chili, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. The marinade infuses the wheat meat with a rich umami flavor, and when it gets grilled to perfection, the seitan is crispy on the outside while remaining juicy and tender on the inside.
This is one of my easy vegan recipes that can revolutionize your meal prep or quick weeknight dinners. It is perfect served over a bed of fluffy white rice, coconut rice, or my kimchi fried rice, with a side of Korean cucumber salad, steamed broccoli or bok choy for a complete, satisfying meal.
Are you drooling yet? Let's dive in!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
⏰Light-speed: It's faster to make that most bulgogi recipes, because I cook the seitan directly in the marinade. This makes it a clear winner when you want to get a meal together quickly.
✊Vegan AF: Unlike regular bulgogi it also (duhhhh...) doesn't contain any dead animals. The cows will thank you. It's nice to be nice to cows and not kill them. Especially when you can have bulgogi that is just as tender and flavorful made out of trees, leaves, and whatever else us vegans eat...
- Brown sugar- Brown sugar is a key ingredient in the marinade for bulgogi, as it helps to balance out the savory and salty flavors with a subtle sweetness. The caramelization of the brown sugar during cooking creates a beautiful char on the seitan, adding depth and complexity to the dish. Additionally, the sugar helps to tenderize the seitan by penetrating its fibers, resulting in a juicy and succulent bite. You can totally swap this out for coconut sugar (like I use in my kuih ketayap and banh flan), or palm sugar (like I use in my onde onde) which both have similar flavor and mineral content. You can easily swap it out for maple syrup too.
- Mirin- This mellow tasting Japanese rice wine is a versatile ingredient that is often used in Asian cuisine to balance out the saltiness and umami flavors of soy sauce. When combined with other marinade ingredients, mirin helps to create a complex flavor profile that perfectly complements the chewy texture of seitan. Overall, the addition of mirin in seitan bulgogi is essential for achieving an authentic and delicious taste.
- Seitan- I use my own process for seitan that I use in this recipe, because I really think it has better texture and flavor than anything available on the market. You can still get away with using store-bought seitan, or replace it in this recipe with smashed pieces of canned young green jackfruit, or chunks of roasted tofu. Both of those tweaks make this recipe completely gluten free too.
- Gochugaru- a.k.a coarse Korean chili flakes. This ground red chili has a vibrant color and a perfect not-too-spicy flavor. It is essential to get the kimchi flavor. Don’t even think about wapping out crushed red pepper flakes (too spicy and seedy) or god forbid, some other basic-ass chili powder. No. Just grab this stuff online or at an asian grocery store. It’s awesome in many other recipes.
- PEAR?!? There is freaking pear in this? You got that right mommy. Some shredded pear adds a unique dimension of sweetness to this dish that is part of the authentic way of making bulgogi. You can use a regular Bosc or D’anjou pear if you can’t find an asian pear to use in this
There are oodles of other ingredients in this vegan bulgogi recipe, as you can see from the above photo. But rather than prattle on about green onions and sesame seeds here,
you can find the complete list of all ingredients along with their exact quantities on the recipe card below.
- Gluten-free - instead of seitan, use an equal amount of drained young green jackfruit (like I use to make adobong sitaw and kathal ki sabji) that has been crushed by hand slightly. Or you can swap the seitan out for an equal amount of pre-roasted extra firm tofu pieces.
- Soy curls instead of seitan (also a GF hack) - I like using my own seitan recipe for this because I prefer minimally processed, from scratch cooking. That being said, soy curls can make a fantastic imitation for bbq beef, and they are gluten free, as well as convenient compared with making your own seitan.
- Using vegan ground beef style crumbles- Some people actually make bulgogi using ground meat. You could totally swap out the seitan here for ground impossible meat or beyond meat stuff. I actually made a recipe like that for a Korean fast-casual chain at one point, and the restaurant owner s were really psyched to add a vegan protein like that to their menu. So, maybe you will be into that too?
- Mirin- If you cant find mirin, use a mellow “seasoned rice vinegar” in it’s place.
- Tamari - as long as you aren’t making this dish gluten-free, its completely fine to swap out any soy sauce of your preference in place of the tamari
- Other fruits instead of pear- Korean pear is the usual fruit making bulgogi, but it's not always easy to find. Instead, you can use pink lady, or honey crisp apples instead, which works just as well. Kiwi and pineapple are even used by some Koreans, but be careful not to use too much because their acid tenderizes the seitan more strongly than pear.
You wanna see how this yummy thing gets made? I will walk you through the quick and painless process. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Heat a wok or large skillet over a high flame for 90 seconds. Add the sesame oil and allow the oil to heat up for 60 seconds. When the oil is hot, toss in the seitan and stir-fry for 3 minutes until it is golden brown all over, with some crisp edges.
Add the ginger, grated pear, garlic, gochugaru, scallion, carrots, and bell pepper to the pan. Saute for 3 minutes until the veggies are tender, and the garlic ginger and scallions are fragrant.
Whisk the tamari, mirin, brown sugar, water, and cornstarch in a small bowl using a fork until smoothly combined with no lumps.
Add the sauce to the pan and sauté for about two minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid has mostly absorbed. If it looks dry, you can add a small amount of water to keep it juicy looking.
Sprinkle sesame seeds and sliced scallions over the dish before serving. For a scrumptious meal, serve with short-grain rice, kimchi, and steamed broccoli or bok choy.
- Traditional Korean accompaniments -I love this served with steamed broccoli or bok choy, a healthy side of my homemade kimchi, pickled burdock root, and either short grain rice, or even better- my kimchi fried rice. Want a smokey, totally untraditional Filipino acompanyment that makes the flavors of bulgogi absolutely pop? Serve this alongside my charred eggplant ensaladang talong. I promise you will love it so darn much!
- Noodle protein pal: Serve the seitan bulgogi over your favy Asian noods such as Mie Goreng, Mi Xao Xi Dau, Burmese Khao Suey, Pad woon sen, or Bami Goreng.
- Bulgogi breakfast burritos - use this bulgogi recipe along with your favie scrambled tofu, some fresh kimchi, shiitake mushrooms, and some crisp fresh lettuce to make a heavenly breakfast burrito. Just place all that stuff along with a little drizzle of gochujang into a slightly warmed 12 inch flour tortilla, wrap it, and then grill the burrito in a dry pan to seal it up.
- Vegan buglogi on your nachos- That’s right. What could be a more dope twist on nachos? I put the finished cooked seitan along with some freshly minced red onions and jalapenos onto the nachos when they go in the oven. That way, as the other ingredients heat/melt, the little bits of seitan bulgogi get crispy all around and the fresh onions and peppers just slightly get their raw edge taken down a notch. Drizzle the nachos with a little Korean bbq sauce or Nuoc Mam, and serve alongside some vegan Elotes if corn is in season. If you make this for a super bowl watch party or whatever, don’t forget to thank me when it’s your favorite thing in the galaxy.
💣Looking for some BOMB Asian sweets to serve for dessert?
Follow up your bulgogi with Vietnamese Banh Flan, Chè Ba Màu (a healthy 3-color cold dessert with pandan jelly), Kuih Ketayap, or Martabak Manis (thick Indonesian pancakes stuffed with peanuts and chocolate).
Bulgogi (불고기) is a Korean dish which is made of thinly sliced beef (I cry for the cows…) that is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and other ingredients, and then grilled or stir-fried. The word "bulgogi" is derived from the Korean words "bul" which means fire and "gogi" which means meat, so it translates to "fire meat" or "grilled meat.” My recipe makes it a faster weeknight dinner project, because the marinade is absorbed into the seitan while it cooks.
Here are three ways to reheat bulgogi:
🥘Stovetop: Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the bulgogi and stir fry for a few minutes on each side, until it's heated through.
🔥Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the bulgogi in a baking dish and cover it with foil. Bake it in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until it's heated through.
☢️Microwave: Place the bulgogi in a microwave-safe dish and cover it loosely with a damp paper towel. Heat it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, or until it's heated through.
Remember to check the bulgogi frequently to prevent overcooking or drying out. You may also want to add a little extra marinade or water to the dish to keep the seitan moist during reheating.
This is a great item for meal prep, and lasts very well in the fridge for up to 5 days in a well-sealing Tupperware container. You can also portion it into smaller containers to pack for work lunches. Because of the veggies (particularly the scallions and carrots), I personally wouldn’t recommend freezing it. I mean, it will be edible, but not forgettable. So do what you will with that.
✌️Other dishes that go great with this:
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Vegan bulgogi- vegetarian Korean bbq
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 cups seitan torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- ⅓ cup grated fresh pear
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons gochugaru Korean chili flakes
- 2 scallions cut in ½ inch sections
- ⅔ cup julienne-cut carrots
- ½ red bell pepper sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon Mirin
- 4 teaspoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds to garnish
- 1 scallion thinly sliced to garnish
- Heat the sesame oil over a high flame in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, add the seitan to the pan. Sauté for 3 minutes until the seitan is lightly browned all over.
- Lower the flame to medium. Add the ginger, grated pear, garlic, gochugaru, scallion, carrots and bell pepper. Sauté for 3 minutes until the peppers are looking glossy and tender.
- Mix together the tamari, mirin, brown sugar, water, and corn starch in a small bowl using the tines of a fork
- Add the scallions and the sauce to the pan, and sauté for about two minutes, stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated
- Garnish with sesame seeds and sliced scallions when serving. I like to serve this with short grain rice, kimchi and steamed broccoli, or bok choy.