Vegan “Bulgogi” Korean BBQ Beef (gluten-free, refined sugar free, oil free option)
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meatless vegan “bulgogi”!
I grew up eating “bulgogi”, Korean barbeque beef in a soy based sauce with a touch of sweetness, and I’m excited to bring you this meatless Vegan “Bulgogi” recipe! My dad is Korean, so I am half Korean, and this is a pretty quintessential Korean dish that I ate often as a child. I used to eat it at family gatherings over a bowl of steaming white rice, and it was always a crowd pleaser. Think tender meat and caramelized onions swimming in sauce, sprinkled with sesame seeds and green scallions–except of course, now I’ve made it vegan and gluten-free!
Here’s the thing. Making bulgogi taste like bulgogi is all about the seasoning. You can use the same exact marinade and work with mushrooms or your vegan meat substitute of choice. So that’s exactly what I did. I opted to try this recipe with only mushrooms first, but ended up using a mix of mushrooms and soy curls, a soy based protein, for a little more of that “chew”. I’ve also modified the marinade to make things just a touch healthier, without sacrificing the Korean barbeque flavour in all it’s glory.
This Vegan “Bulgogi” will make for a hearty lunch or dinner, and the best part is, it packs plant protein just like the original thing would!
what’s in this Vegan “Bulgogi”?
- This recipe is vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar free with an oil-free option. The marinade can be meal prepped and batch prepared for use with other veggies or plant proteins.
- The marinade → as mentioned, I re-created the traditional Korean barbeque marinade with some healthy swaps to make it gluten free and refined sugar free. Aside from simple swaps, the flavour is on point, and consists of gluten-free soy sauce, sweetener, garlic, ginger and a touch of sesame oil (optional). This sauce really carries the dish and is what makes it bulgogi!
- Caramelized onions → are a necessity in my book! I grew up eating regular bulgogi with thin strips of soft, caramelized onions strewn throughout, and you know my motto: the key to making veganized food taste authentic is recreating it with as many identical components as possible. Re-create the experience!
- Shiitake mushrooms → have a meaty, chewy texture and a natural umami flavour. You can opt for a 100% shiitake mushroom version if you prefer to keep things more veggie based. Mushrooms contain a decent amount of plant protein on their own, and the shiitake variety has one of the best textures to cook with in my opinion.
- Soy curls → were the plant protein substitute I chose to use in this recipe. They are incredibly high in protein, and absorb flavour really well! I would recommend using a mix of mushrooms and soy curls, as directed in the recipe below, for best results.
secrets to success
For best results, I highly recommend not making substitutions to the marinade ingredients. I use gluten free soy sauce because the flavour is true to the original, sans gluten. Coconut aminos and liquid aminos has a bit of a sweetness to it, and a slightly different taste, however if you cannot consume gluten-free soy sauce, you’re welcome to substitute as you wish.
To make this marinade oil free, you can remove the sesame oil but it will similarly change the taste significantly. It is one of the few oils I love to add to recipes for flavour because it’s really a flavour you cannot replicate without!
To sauté your onions, you can also choose to sauté with a little oil, or alternatively water or veggie broth in a nonstick pan. The key is to make sure they are soft, lightly brown and caramelized. This will unlock really delicious flavour.
Alternatives to soy curls I’d recommend are a ground beef alternative, such as the Gardein beef crumbles, super firm tofu (pressed) pulsed in a food processor or vegan meat of choice.
if you like this recipe, try…
- Miso Mushroom Ramen
- Garden Poké Bowl
- Gluten Free Shoyu Ramen
- Sautéed Lotus Root
- Gluten Free Zaru Soba
- Oil-Free Stir Fried Noodles
If you try this recipe out, tag me on Instagram @veggiekins so I can see your delicious re-creations and for a chance to be featured! As always, I love when you share your reviews in the comments below, and if you make any fun substitutions, let me know how it worked out below too!
This post may contain affiliate links.
Vegan "Bulgogi" Korean BBQ Beef (gluten-free, refined sugar free, oil free option)
- 1-2 cups soy curls rehydrated*
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms roughly chopped or pulsed in food processor until chunky
- 1/2 small onion thinly sliced
- korean barbeque marinade
- 1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp fresh ginger grated
- 4 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
- 3 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder or sub cornstarch
- additional sesame seeds
- In a small bowl, whisk together marinade ingredients and set aside.
- Over medium heat, sauté onions until soft and lightly golden and caramelized, then add soy curls and mushrooms to the pan. Cook until mushrooms are soft and lightly glossy.
- Add 1/3 of the marinade to the pan and sauté to coat evenly. Add additional marinade as you see fit, tasting to adjust. The marinade will be quite salty, to start with a small amount and add more to taste, if necessary. To thicken the sauce, you can add an arrowroot powder + water mixture (mix water and arrowroot powder in a small bowl first, then add to the pan).
- Serve over fresh rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.