Korean BBQ Marinade

updated Sep 3, 2022
Korean BBQ Marinade
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Being the primary cook in my household, I was shocked to realize recently that I had no idea how to make one of my favorite marinades. My partner always handles the grilling of galbi (Korean short ribs) plus tofu or tempeh for me, but it seemed silly not to know what went into the sauce for this deeply flavored, salty and sweet Korean-style barbecue. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple and now that I know, I can share it with you, too.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Gregory tells me that he learned how to make galbi, or kalbi, marinade by watching his mom, although it’s never exactly the same twice. I had to analyze his process with eagle eyes as he threw in a little of this and a little of that, never picking up a measuring spoon or cup. I finally came up with the proportions in the recipe below; it met with his approval but he says you should always taste and adjust to your liking (good advice for most recipes, really!).

Ingredients To Use

Alongside the customary soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, Gregory might sweeten it with brown sugar, white sugar, honey, soda (some people swear by 7-Up; others prefer Coke), and/or Asian pear juice, which tenderizes the meat. The marinade can be used on beef short ribs, tofu, tempeh, or even vegetables. Once on the grill, the sauce caramelizes and provides an irresistible smoky, savory, sweet flavor.

Korean BBQ Marinade

Makes about 1/2 cup

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup

    soy sauce

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh Asian pear juice or puree (optional)*

  • 2 tablespoons

    toasted sesame oil

  • 2-3 cloves

    garlic, crushed

  • 1-2

    scallions, chopped

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    grated fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon

    packed brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    toasted seasame seeds

  • Pinch

    freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust quantities, if desired.

  2. Use sauce to marinate beef short ribs (see Korean Barbecued Short-Ribs for details) or slabs of extra firm tofu (drained and pressed) or tempeh. Place the protein in a shallow dish or zip-top bag and coat evenly with marinade. Marinate for at least 2 hours and up to a day, turning at least once.

Recipe Notes

Asian pear juice helps to tenderize meat and also gives the marinade a sweeter flavor. Making 1/4 cup of juice requires about 1/4 to 1/2 of an Asian pear. Use a juicer or blender or finely grate the pear and squeeze to extract the juice.