14 flavor-packed recipes for the best Korean barbecue

From banchan to bulgogi, how to bring an epic restaurant-quality Korean spread to your dining table

By Justine Lee
Published July 21, 2021 11:59AM (EDT)
 (Rocky Luten / Food52)
(Rocky Luten / Food52)

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There's no barbecue quite like Korean barbecue. The glorious feast, often reserved for restaurants that specialize in the technique, is defined by air saturated with smoke and tables that quite literally sizzle, due to the grills installed smack-dab in the middle. It's a meal that seems to never end — in addition to the food you order, such as kalbi and kimchi tofu stew, there's a smorgasbord of complimentary banchan, or side dishes, that get constantly (and generously) refilled.

While Korean barbecue makes for an extraordinary dining out experience, it shouldn't strictly be considered restaurant cuisine. Though it's a multicourse meal, it's not tough to successfully execute at home if you think beyond the humble backyard franks and patties. Korean barbecue is so customizable, fun, and easy to assemble that you can actually whip it up in your own kitchen — hybrid grilling tables not required.

Whether you adore gorgeously grilled marinated meats, salivate for a simmering casserole dish, or simply want to eat a bunch of side dishes and call it dinner (which I do on the regular!), there's something on this menu for everyone. Here are 14 recipes capable of crushing your KBBQ cravings.

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The side dishes

Musaengchae (Spicy Korean Radish Salad)

We kick off this meal with a bright, crunchy, spicy radish number as one of our banchan. This salad is sure to awaken your palate for the delicious dishes to follow.

Steamed Eggs with Pollack Roe (Gyeran Jjim)

Every good KBBQ spread needs a bowl of gyeran jjim — creamy, custardy comfort in steamed egg form. Lucky for us, Chef Sohui Kim's recipe seriously delivers.

Japanese Potato Salad

The good ol' spud is the magical unicorn of root vegetables, tasting incredible no matter how it's prepared. Exhibit A: this potato salad that's good both cold or warm, on its own mashed with an effortless Dijon-Kewpie dressing, or as a superb canvas for throwing in whatever leftover vegetables you might have. My favorite mix-ins are canned sweet corn, red onion, and baby cucumbers. Use an ice cream scoop to serve it in flawlessly smooth dollops like they do at restaurants. Or eat it straight from the mixing bowl — there's really no wrong way to potato.

Pajeon (Scallion Pancakes)

Calling all of my fellow herb hoarders to make these savory crispy-crunchy green-packed pancakes! Big batons of garlic chives, cilantro, or minari can work as superbly as scallions here. To keep your jeon light and crisp, Chef Hooni Kim recommends you keep the batter cold and carbonated (club soda fends off a dense mouthfeel), and the pan hot and well oiled. In fact, at his NYC restaurants Danji and Hanjan, Kim notes that they "keep the batter in the freezer, rather than the refrigerator, during service so it is as cold as possible."

Kimchijeon (Kimchi Pancakes)

Should you have a jar of kimchi on the brink of going sour, you can always count on kimchijeon. The twist to Catherine Yoo's take on the classic appetizer is to throw in whole milk and sweet rice flour, ingredients that deliver some tenderness and chewiness you didn't even know were missing.

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The main meats

Mom's Bulgogi with Cucumber Kimchi Salad

I fully acknowledge that saying "my mom's [insert food here] is the best" is subjective. That hardly ever stops me from singing praises for my own mother's cooking. With this mindset, I cautiously tried someone else's bulgogi recipe. Big props to Joanna Gaines for sharing her mom's buttery-smooth bulgogi with cooling cucumber kimchi slaw recipe — it rocks. To my own mom, who's reading this: I still really love your bulgogi!

Kalbi-Style Short Ribs

Why sweat over dinner when it can be fast and easy? These short ribs stay true to the authentic umami, caramelly, spice-forward kalbi marinades used at KBBQ spots. Throw the ribs (or your preferred choice of protein — firm tofu is a terrific plant-based swap) in a bag, let them soak overnight, and chuck them on the grill. Even if you can't stand the heat, grilling these will still be sublime.

Snow Crab with Doenjang-Jjigae Sauce

Flaky crabmeat slathered in a salty meat sauce. Enough said. If clambakes and lobster dinners are your typical cookout fare, be sure to give this dish a try.

Air-Fryer Gochujang Chicken Wings

Remember when I said no grill was required to put together a Korean barbecue feast? That's thanks to killer quick-cook recipes like these wings from Food52 air-frying expert Urvashi Pitre. They're shatteringly crisp and sweetly spicy on the outside, and insanely juicy on the inside. The bonus: The recipe takes only 25 minutes to cook.

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Hot and cold bowls

Bibimbap (Mixed Rice with Vegetables and Beef)

Where there's bibimbap, there's an instant solution to Korean food hankerings that even the fastest delivery app can't beat. The only time-consuming part is to mix, mix, mix the gochujang paste super thoroughly into your rice medley.

Budae Jjigae (Army Base Stew)

I can't think of a more pantry-friendly, throw-it-together casserole dish than budae jjigae. It's as simple as a matter of stirring and simmering, but the hearty flavors are so scrumptious and chock-full of Korea's rich culinary history that you would be hard-pressed to find a stew that compares.

Spicy Buckwheat Noodle Salad

Cold soba noodles swimming in a pool of spicy sauce with crunchy vegetables is not just a perfect dish to accompany richer marinated meats, but a refreshing main meal throughout the warmer months.

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And for dessert . . .

Red Bean Ice Cream

Time for something sweet! This luxurious buttermilk-based ice cream is studded with adzuki red beans, which are at once nutty and syrupy.

Asian Pear Galette With Cardamom Whipped Cream

Okay fine, Korean BBQ joints are unlikely to have baked goods on the menu, but Eric Kim's Asian pear galette can be the whimsical ending to your at-home meal. The ingredients and assembly are simple by design, truly showcasing the powerfully juicy and crisp Asian pear. Do not skimp on the cardamom whipped cream.


Justine Lee

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Barbecue Food Food52 Korean Barbecue Korean Food Recipe