These kimchi bulgogi sandwiches are not your ordinary steak sandwiches. They’re loaded with Korean-style marinated steak, kimchi, mayonnaise, and cilantro. Here’s how to make them.
These kimchi bulgogi sandwiches are gonna disrupt your regular dinner rotation. (Sorry, Meatloaf Monday, you’re out.) These flavor bombs are a flawless balance of heat, tang, and creaminess that makes these an outright repeat. Don’t be tempted to skip any ingredients.–Jenny Howard
Kimchi Bulgogi Sandwiches
For the bulgogi
- 1 ripe pear (any variety) peeled, cored, and cut into chunks (about 1 cup)
- 7 garlic cloves
- 1 medium (9 oz) onion cut into large chunks (about 1 cup)
- 3 scallions (white and green parts) roughly chopped, plus more, thinly sliced, for garnish
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade gochujang
- 1/4 cup regular or low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1 1/2 pounds flank steak
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the sandwiches
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 fresh baguette cut crosswise into 4 equal pieces, or 4 ciabatta rolls
- 2 (7-ounce) cups store-bought or homemade kimchi drained and roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup whole cilantro leaves
Make the bulgogi
- In a blender, combine the pear, garlic, onion, scallions, ginger, brown sugar, gochujang, soy sauce, and sesame oil and whiz until very smooth, about 1 minute, stopping along the way to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Season both sides of the steak with the salt and pepper and place in a medium bowl or resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the steak, turning it over in the bowl or bag to completely coat both sides.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or seal the bag tightly and refrigerate the steak at least 8 and up to 24 hours.
- Remove the steak from the marinade, allowing the liquid to drip off and gently scraping off any excess marinade that clings to the meat. Discard the remaining marinade. Grill the steak to the desired doneness, 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove from the heat to a plate or cutting board and let the steak rest for 10 minutes.
Assemble the sandwiches
- Slice the baguette pieces or ciabatta rolls in half lengthwise and toast lightly. Spread the mayonnaise on the top half of each roll.
- When the steak has rested, cut it into slices 1/4 inch thick (6 mm). Divide the steak evenly among the rolls and then do the same with the kimchi, cilantro, and thinly sliced scallions. Top with the other half of the rolls and serve.
How To Make This Kimchi Bulgolgi Sandwich A Low-Carb Or Gluten-Free AffairThis recipe is easily adaptable for those who wish to eliminate the bread for matters of diet or preference, and with a little attention to a few ingredients, it can also be made gluten-free. In place of the baguette or ciabatta rolls, substitute several large lettuce leaves to wrap around the various filling ingredients for a bread-free treat. If you have a gluten sensitivity, use tamari in place of soy sauce and check that your gochujang and kimchi are both gluten-free.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This sandwich was great! At first I thought it would be too much kimchi (half a cup per sandwich!) but the ratio was perfect.
The marinade was extremely flavorful and it really delivered all the flavors of great Korean food. It does make A LOT of marinade…I do think you could get away with half the recipe (or just save half to use another time). I also used baguette for bread, which was an ok choice, the ciabatta probably would be better as it is not as hard so things don’t squish out. (Side note, this is also amazing as lettuce wraps!).
The photo looks like there is some kind of sauce on the top but there is not one in the recipe. Definitely looking forward to making this again.
Yes, yes, and yes. This is a terrific recipe from every aspect: supremely easy to pull together, most of the work is done ahead of time, and the flavors burst through in every perfectly balanced bite. We loved the gentle heat of the marinade juxtaposed with the tang of the fermented cabbage and the touch of creaminess from the smear of mayonnaise. The beef is both tender and intense; not a bad idea to buy a slightly larger piece of steak and have some leftovers!
I suppose the kimchi and gochujang might pose a challenge to find in your average grocery store, but they can also be made at home. I’ll be making these on the regular. One of my favorite LC recipes so far!
Originally published May 22, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
The heart of this recipe is the bulgogi, and my taster and I agreed it was really excellent. The end result—mine with kimchi and his without—was quite tasty. We will try it again soon with different bread and different kimchi, and we will probably eat the bulgogi served over rice when the mood strikes us.
I prepared and cooked the steak just as described, marinating it for about 9 hours. More might be even better. I grilled the steak on a pellet smoker at its highest setting, which is not quite hot enough for the best sear, but still adequate.
My local grocery store was out of the best gochujang sauce and I had to settle for Annie Chun’s brand. It was also completely out of the soft french rolls I assume to be standard for sandwiches like this, so I used slices from a loaf of crusty olive bread—excellent but, I assume, not authentic.
For kimchi, I purchased a local artisanal kkadugi, which is made with cubed radishes. My taster, who has a reasonably broad palate for a teenager, took one look at it and declined to even try it. Next time I would probably go with a cabbage kimchi but the taster would still decline.
My final purchasing decision for this dish was the mayonnaise, and that choice was simple: I got the chipotle lime flavor, and recommend it highly.