Healthy Bulgogi

There is a little Korean deli on the first floor of my office building. They have a pretty good selection of standard fare: sandwiches, a hot bar, snacks, drinks, etc. When I fell off the wagon with my eating at the end of last year, it certainly didn’t make things easier by having “bad” in-house options so easily accessible, with one item in particular. I was, and still am, obsessed with their bulgogi sandwich.

For those of who who are unfamiliar, bulgogi is a Korean dish that generally consists of specially marinated beef, and it is frackin’ delicious. You can usually get it at any Korean BBQ restaurant, and the downstairs deli had the brilliant idea of slapping it in a white roll (also delicious) with cheese (I can’t handle flavor of this magnitude!) and basically single-handedly killed my diet. I think you know where I’m going with this.


Naturally, now that I’m trying to clean up my eating again and get back on track, I’m finding myself battling some serious bulgogi cravings! And since the cuts of meat generally used for this dish tend to be very fatty, and the marinade is made with liberal amounts of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sugar, it’s not really something I can justify as a regular menu item. Plus, this particular dish is notorious for using MSG to make it so banging. But instead of resigning myself to a lifetime of bulgogi-less misery, I remembered that I’m a semi-decent cook, and I could create my own, healthier version!


By using lean cuts of shaved beef, measuring out specific amounts of the marinade ingredients, and loading this mother up with veggies (well, I just used onions this time around, but I bet peppers would be a great addition too!), I’ve managed to limit calories without sacrificing flavor!


Admittedly, this doesn’t replicated traditional bulgogi exactly, hence the “healthy” qualifier. But the flavor profile is similar, and the guilt is gone. So I’m counting that as a win in my books.


It’s not the prettiest dish in the world, but served up over some rice and something green on the side (brussels sprouts in this particular instance, what else?) it still looks pretty good. And it tastes damn delicious, which is the most important thing here, right?


Healthy Bulgogi
Print this recipe!

Makes 4 servings.

Seasoned with traditional ingredients, minus the MSG, this healthified version of the Korean classic is sure to satisfy your taste buds without breaking the calorie bank! Enjoy over steamed brown or white rice, or in lettuce wraps. Feel free to swap out the beef for another protein — this dish would also taste great with pork, chicken, or even tofu!


1 lb. thinly shaved steak (Trader Joe’s carries one that is perfect)
1 medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 – 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)


1. Combine soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, sugar, and sesame seeds (if using) in a bowl. Add shaved steak and coat thoroughly. You can add a splash of water if for any reason the sugar is not dissolving or if you are not getting enough coverage on the meat. Cover bowl and marinate in the refrigerator at least 20 minutes, up to 2 hours. The longer the better!

2. Spray a large skillet with nonstick spray and heat to medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until they begin to get translucent and soft, about 2 minutes.

3. Add marinated beef, and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 5 – 7 minutes. Serve over rice and enjoy!


Nutritional info per ¼ serving: 256 calories, 14 g fat, 8 g carbs, 24 g protein. Add 100 additional calories for ½ cup of rice.