Bulgogi Burger (Korean BBQ Burger)
This bulgogi burger is packed with flavors inspired by the popular Korean BBQ, bulgogi. The tender and juicy bulgogi patty also forms the perfect char as the sweet and savory seasoning starts to caramelize on the grill. With its deep flavors, you only need a few simple toppings and some rich and tangy gochujang mayonnaise.
Making a bulgogi burger (불고기 버거) was always on my to-do list. Now that it’s summer, the perfect weather for grill outs, and almost National Hamburger Day (May 28th), I finally got to it.
If you’re craving Korean BBQ, its smoky, sweet, and savory flavors, AND want it quickly, this is the burger for you. This burger is packed with the same flavors, is easy to make, and requires no marination time unlike most Korean BBQ dishes (e.g., galbi, bulgogi). This recipe is a bit faster to prep than my galbi tacos.
You can get creative with your bulgogi burger toppings. However, you really only need a few simple toppings since the bulgogi patty is already packed with bold flavors.
Scroll down to see some of toppings I enjoy eating with my bulgogi burger.
I would say, however, that adding gochujang mayonnaise is a must!
As some of you may already know from previous my posts, I grew up in Seoul, Korea, for a good chunk of my life. I moved there when I was 10 years old and, to be honest, my Korean heritage was pretty foreign to me at the time. During my 8 years there, I learned more about Korean culture and, of course, Korean cuisine.
I noticed some interesting twists on Western dishes. Corn was a regular topping on their supreme pizzas and “bulgogi burger” was listed next to the Big Mac at McDonald’s. The burger looks just like any other burger, but the (pork) patty is doused with a glorious spread of sweet and savory bulgogi sauce.
My recipe is a bit different. Instead of having a separate bulgogi sauce, I season the patty with most of the same ingredients that I use for my traditional bulgogi marinade.
Bulgogi Burger Seasoning
The seasoning ingredients are very similar to what I use for my beef bulgogi marinade. There’s soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, ginger, black pepper, and coconut sugar. The proportions are just a bit different and there’s no need for pureed pear in this recipe. I also add some gochugaru for a gentle kick of spice. You could add more if you want a spicier burger.
When making beef bulgogi, it is recommended to let the meat marinate for at least an hour, and preferably overnight. With this bulgogi burger, on the other hand, you can simply mix in the seasoning, wait about 30 minutes for the patty mixture to come to room temperature, and start cooking. It’s a fast and flavor packed meal.
This burger is perfect for grilling outside this summer, but you can still get nice caramelization and char by cooking these burgers on your stove-top at home. Forms nice char and caramelization on the outside while the meat stays tender and juicy on the inside.
There’s no need for ketchup in this burger. Since this burger is a fusion of flavors from Korean cuisine, I actually prefer a spread that is more subtle and not as acidic.
I highly recommend a generous slather of gochujang mayonnaise with your bulgogi burger. My recipe is extremely simple. It’s mayonnaise with some gochujang and coconut sugar. I also use this in my galbi tacos.
Bulgogi Burger Toppings
I recommend topping it with crunchy, shredded red cabbage for texture and color, and charred shiitake mushrooms for additional umami. Sliced avocado is another great topping.
Tips for the perfect hamburger patty
80% Ground Beef
You need to use ground beef with a good amount of fat if you want your burger patty to be tender, flavorful, and juicy. However, you also don’t want too much fat or else it will be too loose. I find 80% ground beef (80% lean meat, 20% fat) to be the sweet spot, and use it to make my bulgogi burger.
Breadcrumbs and egg
Breadcrumbs make the burger patties more tender by the absorbing juices from the cooked meat. I used dry panko breadcrumbs in this recipe only because I had some leftover from making chicken katsu. The egg acts as a binding agent that is soaked up by the meat and breadcrumbs and holds the patty together when cooked.
Don’t over work the meat
Mix the ground beef until the seasoning is just mixed in. Since the salt in the seasoning will start to break the meat down, overworking the meat and seasoning could result in a tough burger patty.
Divide the mixture into four equal parts and roll them into balls. Carefully flatten them out to be just a bit wider than your burger buns. They will slightly contract in size while cooking.
Make a dimple
Make a dimple or shallow depression that is about 2 thumbs wide at the center of the patty. According to trusty Chef J. Kenji López-Alt, the outside of the burger cooks faster than the inside, causing it to contract and puff. By adding a dimple, however, the center will swell and level out as it cooks and give you a nice and even patty.
Don’t flip too soon
Flip the burger once you notice it forming a nice char and caramelization (about 4 minutes). You also want the patty to cook enough so that it won’t fall apart as you flip it to the other side.
Avoid pressing down on the patty
Don’t press down on the patty as it is cooking. Otherwise, you risk losing rich, meat juices, and serving a dry burger.
Serve burger with…
The burger is great with a side of tangy pickles to cut through some of that rich flavor. I also prefer enjoying the burger with some sweet potato fries instead of regular fries. You’d get a more cohesive and harmonious, sweet and savory meal.
And of course, it tastes great with some cold beer. If you’re in Chicagoland, I highly recommend Moody Tongue Brewery’s Juiced Lychee IPA. It has a crisp and clean taste with subtle hints of lychee, grapefruit, and pineapple flavor. Moody Tongue is also the first two Michelin star brewery. I also thoroughly enjoyed the unique and thoughtfully matched beer pairing they offer with their tasting menu.
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Mise en place
If you make this Bulgogi Burger, I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag me on Instagram!
- 4 brioche burger buns
- extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- cooking oil (e.g. canola, sunflower seed oil)
Patty Mixture Ingredients
- 1 lb 80% ground beef
- ½ egg
- ¼ cup panko crumbs
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp gochugaru
- 1 tbsp garlic, crushed
- ½ tsp ginger, finely grated
- 6 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1 tsp gochujang
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- 3 cups red cabbage, finely shredded
- 3½ cups shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (about 4 large mushrooms)
- 1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced (optional)
- Mix the patty ingredients together in a large bowl until the ingredients are just evenly combined. Avoid overworking the meat mixture. Set it aside as you prepare the other ingredients.
- Mix the gochujang mayonnaise ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a thin layer of EVOO.
- Add the shiitake mushrooms to the skillet, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Once browned and slightly charred (about 2-3 minutes), flip the mushrooms to cook and brown the other side. Set aside in a small bowl.
- Divide the patty mixture into four equal parts and carefully roll them into balls. Gently flatten and shape each patty to be about ¾" thick and just a bit wider than your burger buns (they will contract in size while cooking). Make a shallow depression or dimple at the center of each patty (the patty will swell while cooking and level out).
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat with a thin layer of canola oil.
- Add a patty or two to the pan and let it cook for about 4 minutes or until it is nicely browned with some sauce caramelization.
- Flip the patty and cook for another 4 minutes (or until your desired doneness).
- Spread some gochujang mayonnaise on a bun bottom, add a cooked patty, charred shiitake mushrooms, and shredded red cabbage. Serve immediately with (optional) sweet potato fries.