Korean Beef Bulgogi Salad with Green Apple, Pickled Onion and Pomegranate Seeds

Kimchi, bibimbap and bulgogi, the holy trinity of nearly any Korean restaurant menu here in the United States and beyond. And for good reason. They’re delicious! We partake in Bulgogi making with blissful frequency in our home kitchen. Using it as a key ingredient in our Korean BBQ, or tossing it over some steamed rice is pretty normal. But it often finds its way into many a lettuce wrap and even on top of salads.

On a salad is just a great way to enjoy bulgogi. It’s everything all at once: salty, umami, sweet, crunchy, cold, warm, tangy etc… It’s like all the flavors and textures combined in one mouth pleasing dish.

The two things you may find challenging when making your at-home bulgogi:

Slicing the meat paper thin

Finding Asian pear for the marinade

CHALLENGE #1: Rib eye is the preferred cut of beef for bulgogi, on account of its high fat content and natural tendency toward tenderness. Other cuts of beef like sirloin or brisket are also used. But how do you slice it so thin?

HANDY WITH A KNIFE? If you’re good with a knife, you can take a stab at slicing it thin (and even) yourself. Especially if you have a sharp slicing knife or chefs knife, by all means, feel free to slice the rib eye by hand. In order to make it easier to slice, you can either partially defrost an already frozen rib eye or if you’re starting with a thawed rib eye, toss it in the freezer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until frozen half-way through. Then, protecting those finger tips, go to town slicing.

NOT HANDY WITH A KNIFE? If you’re not as handy with the knife, ask your butcher or meat counter assistant to slice it for you – most Western grocery stores should be able to make this happen. There is no shame in asking for help because time is one of our most valuable resources – it’s ok to make things a little more simple. If you’re lucky enough to live by an H Mart or Korean Mart, you should have no problem getting the meat packaged pre-sliced and sometimes you can find it even sliced AND marinated.

CHALLENGE #2: The second challenge when making your bulgogi perfection, is finding Asian pear which is an arguably important ingredient for the marinade. I have made it both with the Asian Pear and without, and truth be told, I couldn’t really tell much of a difference. The idea behind adding it to the marinade, is that that Asian pear contains an enzyme called calpain that helps break down and tenderize the meat. This same miracle marination enzyme is also found in kiwi and pineapple, both of which are considered acceptable substitutes. In my bulgogi marinating experience, using a tender cut of meat and slicing it thin, proves that you are already making choices that should lead to a tender final bulgogi dish, rendering extra enzymes unnecessary. Perhaps when using alternative, tougher, cuts of meat or lesser quality meat, you may consider adding pear to the recipe. Heck, if you can find one toss it in, but don’t NOT make this marinade because you can’t find it.


Korean Beef Bulgogi Salad

Marinated bulgogi beef can partner up in a variety of different dishes. Prepare a large batch for the week and have it in lettuce wraps, over some steamed rice or add it to a salad like this one. You could even eat it straight up on a plate with some pickled cold cucumbers and kimchi on the side.

This salad is all the things. Salt, umami, sweet, sour, crunch, veggies AND meat.

  • Author: Pip
  • Prep Time: 4-5 hours
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 5 hrs
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: Korean
  • Diet: Gluten Free



Marinated Beef Bulgogi

  • 1 pound of rib eye steak – sliced thin maybe 1/4 – 1/8th inch
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 4 T sesame oil
  • 1/4 C white vinegar
  • 3 T light brown sugar
  • 3 T mirin rice wine *
  • 1 sliced Asian pear (optional)
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced or diced
  • 1 T toasted sesame seeds


  • 1/2 green apple, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 C pickled red onions *
  • 1/4 C peanuts, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and deseeded. Sliced thin
  • 1 large carrot shaved into strips (can use a vegetable peeler)
  • 3 T pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 1 + 1/2 head leafy green lettuce


  • 1/2 C tamari (or soy sauce) sauce
  • 1/4 C apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 C white wine vinegar
  • 2 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 T sesame seeds (toasted)

* See Pip Tip Below


Marinated Beef Bulgogi Salad 

  1. Slice rib eye as thinly as possible. For help with home slicing use a sharp slicing or chef knife. Removed pre-frozen rib eye and defrost half way. If already thawed, wrap in plastic and freeze for 1 hour. Remove from wrap and slice thin. 
  2. While beef is freezing prepare marinade. Add everything to a bowl and then add sliced meat. Let marinade 2-4 hours. 
  3. While meat is marinating, prepare dressing and salad. For the dressing simply add all ingredients together and whisk.
  4. For salad, wash and chop up all your vegetables. You know the drill. Add to a big bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. After meat has marinated, remove from marinade and cook on medium high until cooked through. Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes. Toss salad with dressing, add warm bulgogi meat and serve!



Pip Tip: Try to slice your beef as thin as possible – thinner the better. To keep it simple, ask your butcher or meat counter assistant to slice it for you before you take it home. Otherwise, you can wrap it in plastic wrap, and then freeze it for an hour – 1 1/2 hour. Then, using a very sharp knife, and your superior sword slicing skills, slice it yourself!

Pip Tip: The thinner the meat, also the less time you need to marinate. I marinated this rib-eye for 3 hours, but I sliced it fairly thin. You can marinate it over night if you have time, but I don’t particularly think it’s necessary here. 

Pip Tip: Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are the same thing and are often talked about in recipes interchangeably. When rice wine is referred to in a recipe, however, is a type of wine similar to sake but with less alcohol and more sugar.  Think of it like using white wine in a recipe.

Pickled Onions: Heat 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 c white vinegar with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp sugar. Once hot,  add 1 tsp black pepper corns, 1 small thinly sliced red onion and some herbs. Let sit, on the counter for 1 hr. Strain and use in all things salads for an extra kick. Store any extra in the fridge for use all week.


  • Serving Size: 6
  • Calories: 711
  • Sugar: 15g
  • Sodium: 4700mg
  • Fat: 33g
  • Saturated Fat: 9g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g
  • Fiber: 5.7g
  • Protein: 70g
  • Cholesterol: 200mg

Keywords: marinated rib eye, beef, rib eye, bulgogi, apple, red onion, peanuts, green leaf lettuce, green onion, pomegranate seeds, green apple, gluten free, grain free, keto

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1 Comment
  • Gwen Brandon
    August 25, 2020

    This is a great segue into that knife lesson you promised !

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Korean Beef Bulgogi Salad with Green Apple, Pickled Onion and Pomegranate Seeds