Korean BBQ Marinade

updated about 4 hours ago
summer
Korean BBQ Marinade Recipe
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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 firm tofu 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.

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. Alongside the customary soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger, Gregory might sweeten it with brown sugar, white granulated sugar, honey, soda (some people swear by 7-Up; others prefer Coke), and/or Asian pear juice, which tenderizes the meat

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!).

Why You’ll Love It

  • It’s the perfect marinade for everything. The marinade can be used on beef short ribs, chicken, extra-firm tofu, or even vegetables.
  • The magic happens once it hits the grill. The sauce caramelizes and provides an irresistible smoky, savory, sweet flavor.
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Key Ingredients in Korean BBQ Marinade

  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce gives a deep, savory umami flavor to the marinade.
  • Sesame oil: Use toasted sesame oil for its roasted flavor.
  • Garlic: You’ll need 2 to 3 cloves of garlic.
  • Scallions: Chopped scallions give the marinade a mild, onion flavor.
  • Ginger: Fresh ginger is best here.
  • Brown sugar: Both light and dark brown sugar will work; use dark brown for a deeper, more caramelized flavor.
  • Asian pear juice or puree (optional): 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.

Ways to Use Korean BBQ Marinade

Korean BBQ Marinade Recipe

Makes about 1/2 cup

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup

    soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons

    toasted sesame oil

  • 2 to 3 cloves

    garlic, crushed

  • 1 to 2

    scallions, chopped

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    grated fresh ginger

  • 1 tablespoon

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    toasted sesame seeds

  • Pinch

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup

    fresh Asian pear juice or puree (optional)*

Instructions

  1. Combine 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, 2 to 3 cloves crushed garlic, 1 to 2 chopped scallions, 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and 1/4 cup fresh Asian pear juice or puree (optional) in a small bowl. Mix well. Taste and adjust quantities, if desired.

  2. Use sauce to marinate beef short ribs or slabs of extra-firm tofu (drained and pressed). Place 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.