Korean Bulgogi loaded with vegetables and completely vegan. A sweetly spicy main course made for topping rice – with a side of healthy kimchi.
Perhaps Korean food is not the first thing you think of when you crave a bowl of comfort food. This recipe, for a vegetable-packed vegan version of the classic Bulgogi Korean barbecue, might just change your mind. With its savoury-sweet and only gently spicy kick (or no kick if you wish), this is a one-pan dish perfect for spooning over hand-held bowls of hot, steaming rice.
Korean BBQ may ring a bell. I recently posted a Korean BBQ Tofu recipe that also gets inspiration from the spicing of Korea’s quasi-national dish. But this one is all vegetable, so anyone not keen on tofu may wish to give this a go. It is also deeply nourishing. You will feel you are not only nurturing your tastebuds but your body as well
At first glance this recipe looks more complicated than it actually is, especially if you take a gander at the ingredients. In point of fact, in common with quite a few Asian dishes, the effort – such that it is – is just gathering, chopping and stirring. The amount of vegetables may also seem unfeasibly large but trust me that it collapses into a manageable, glossy heap.
What is Bulgogi?
Proper Bulgogi Korean BBQ is meat-based, using strips of thinly-sliced beef (usually rib eye; with short-ribs it is kalbi) and either pan-fried or grilled. The marinade sauce is on the sweet side, so if you are serving this to adventurous children (you never know!) just nix the optional chilli. The sauce really is a barbecue sauce, albeit with ginger, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil, so you could use it on veggie burgers or on anything you might use barbecue sauce.
How do I eat Bulgogi?
Bulgogi is a main dish that is often eaten on its own over rice. It can also be a star element in other dishes: japchae (this is my Food To Glow japchae recipe), bimimbap (again, here’s my recipe for bibimbap), or in a lettuce wrap. In a bun might be nice, too. Like a Korean vegan Sloppy Joe. Accompaniments include kimchi, chopped spring onions and sesame seeds.
How does this version differ from the original?
My version is vegan so that is the biggest difference. I’ve also changed the texture to more of a minced texture. This makes it easier to drive off the moisture inherent in the vegetables and more readily take on the taste of the sauce without needing to marinate (woo hoo!). Proper Korean BBQ often uses corn syrup as the sweetener but I’ve gone for treacly dark brown sugar. Other chefs use agave or honey. My version is also heavy on the ginger, which isn’t usually there either. But I love the spiky, citrussy notes of ginger in this. I think it does a good job of balancing the essential sweetness.
What is in this vegan Bulgogi?
You probably have most for the ingredients, or can easily get them.
Walnuts. These are not only superbly nutritious, they also really contribute to the minced beef texture
Mixed mushrooms – in this case chestnut (cremini) and shiitake. If I was able to get King oyster mushrooms, that would be even better than the chestnut mushrooms. I adore them! I ask for a goodly pile of them, but they mulch down nicely
Aubergine/eggplant. As little cubes they add a nice chewiness and absorb the sauce really well
Carrots also add their own sweetness, texture and nutrients.
Onions, garlic, brown sugar, reduced-sodium soy sauce, grated ginger (lots!), toasted sesame oil, chilli flakes (optional), rice vinegar (optional), spring onions
I seriously doubt any Korean grandmother would recognise this as bulgogi, but it is delicious comfort food with a pile of rice. And the fact that it is high in fibre, full of plants and low in saturated fat scores well with me. And perhaps you, too.
How to make vegan Bulgogi
1) Ensure all of the vegetables are roughly the same size – small. Cube the vegetables not larger than one centimetre and chop the walnuts just a bit smaller (remember, they don’t shrink down).
2) Cook them, in the order described below, in a small amount of oil over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently. I use a cast iron skillet for best results, but any skillet will do.
3) Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and wait for the vegetables to cook down and caramelise slightly. Toss the sauce into the pan and let it bubble up and absorb. Meanwhile cook the rice and slice the spring onions.
That’s it! Enjoy this one-pan dish hot with rice, a spoonful of kimchi, sliced spring onions and maybe even the sesame-lime slaw from my other (quite different!) Korean BBQ recipe.
**Remember to follow me on Pinterest and, if you make my Korean Vegetable Bulgogi, click on the pin at the bottom and leave a photo of your make with a comment telling me what you think, or any awesome changes that you made. Similarly, any Instagram posts tagged @food_to_glow using my recipes will go on my Story if I see them. I’m always so proud when you share my recipes with the world. Yay!!!
Korean Vegetable Bulgogi
Korean Bulgogi (Korean BBQ) loaded with vegetables and completely vegan.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed or coconut oil
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 medium carrots small cubes
- 250 grams aubergine/eggplant small cubes
- 300 grams mixed mushrooms
- 100 grams walnuts finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 5 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce or wheat-free tamari sauce
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes Korean red pepper if possible
- 1/2 tsp ground Sichuan pepper optional
- 2 tsp rice vinegar optional
- 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- Hot brown or white rice
- Chopped spring onions/scallions
Heat half of the oil in a pan over a medium flame. Add the onion and carrots, cooking for five minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Decant this into bowl.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and sauté the aubergine until soft, then add the mushrooms and walnuts and cook until the mushrooms release their moisture. Add the onions and carrots back to the pan and stir.
Whisk together the sauce ingredients.
Add the sauce to the vegetables and let it bubble up; stirring frequently. The bulgogi is ready when the sauce is absorbed
If you want to make it nut-free leave out the walnuts and add more aubergine or mushrooms.
Other serving options: wrapped in lettuce, in japchae, in a bun like a sloppy Joe, in bibimbap
Adjust the sauce to your tastebuds. Traditionally this is a sweet dish but I have cut the added sweetness back. I also like a splash of rice vinegar or lime, but this is not traditional.
The recipe reheats well at a low temperature. Add a little more soy and vinegar plus a splash of water to keep the flavours and to keep it from sticking to the pan.
RIPE FOR PINNING!