Cubed grilled tofu

Elevate Your Grilled Tofu with Bulgogi Marinade

Bulgogi is Korean for “fire meat,” but in this reimagined recipe, we’re taking out the meat part altogether. If you’ve never tried it before, bulgogi is a traditional, wildly popular Korean dish made from thinly cut, fat-marbled meat (typically beef). This is soaked in a marinade made from some combination of sweet pear, ginger, garlic, onion powder, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and optional spicy gochugaru, and then grilled over charcoal. The result is a complex, dimensional flavor. You can use this umami bulgogi mix to marinate your tofu before grilling, just as you would with the beef.

Simultaneously savory, sweet, and salty, bulgogi has been enjoyed by foodies since the Goguryeo era (37 BCE to 668 CE). Traditionally, bulgogi is made using specialty Korean Hanwoo beef, but most use regular high-quality cuts of steak. Considering it is made using the most tender parts of beef, tofu’s naturally yielding texture makes it a fitting stand-in. 

Having said that, when adapting this centuries-old dish into a meat-free meal, opt for extra firm tofu to ensure it holds its shape. Also, stick to larger cuts of tofu to ensure they stay structurally sound as they cook. You can always dice ’em up later. As an aid, you could also use bamboo skewers.

It’s time to get funky

Tofu wraps with salad

To make tofu bulgogi, first press your tofu to drain out the moisture. Thoroughly removing the water from tofu is essential when grilling, as without it, the tofu won’t achieve that crispness that you’re going for by firing up the grill in the first place. Plus, dry tofu better absorbs marinade. (An Air Fryer can also help with this step.) Once you’ve soaked it in the marinade, slam it on the grill or cast iron skillet. Tofu is prone to sticking as it cooks due to its low-fat content – oil your pan or grill grates to prevent this. As your tofu grills, brush more of the flavorful marinade on. The natural sugars will caramelize into a rich, charred glaze.

RECOMMENDED:  Interview with a Southern Specialty: BBQ Bologna Sandwiches

From there, you could enjoy and serve your bulgogi tofu the traditional way, which is over rice with diced scallions and black and white sesame seeds. Or, bulgogi tofu can make a flavorful addition to other dishes, as well. Wrap your umami-packed bulgogi tofu into onigiri, or elevate a bulgogi tofu stir-fry with sautéed pears, enoki mushrooms, carrots, and water chestnuts. For a light lunch, serve your bulgogi tofu with kimchi, or make a wrap with hot peppers and lettuce. Bulgogi tofu spring rolls, tacos, and burgers are also options on the table. It makes a versatile part of many great meals.

Our Experts
Our Experts

Look's editorial team comprises seasoned writers and editors who specialize in the food and drink, hospitality, and agriculture sectors. We also collaborate with external experts to ensure the delivery of accurate, current information and unique recipes.

Our goal is to publish informative and engaging articles, offering readers the content they seek, from daily news to cooking tips, tricks, trends, and reviews. To maintain the highest standards of comprehensiveness, currency, and accuracy, our team continually reviews and updates our articles as needed.