Bulgogi Style Tofu

One thing I love so dearly about the blogging community is the sharing of ideas… and the creative endeavors that I may not have found myself pursuing had it not been for the collaboration with other bloggers. I was recently contacted by Marly, of Namely Marly, inviting me to participate in this great idea she had to veganize a list of America’s Top Ten New Sandwiches named by the Huffington Post. Isn’t that a great idea?!

If you all know anything about me, it’s that I love veganizing omni eats… so I was already intrigued when I first heard Marly’s idea. But once I saw the details–and that there was a bulgogi Philly Cheesesteak involved–I got more than excited. I was elated. And then I quickly became on a mission to bring back a food that I used to eat at least twice a week: bulgogi.

You see, even though I may reside in the middle of Ohio (land of corn), I have been surrounded by a fairly large Korean community since I was wee little. Heck, even my son has Korean roots. And from the exposure to such a great culture, I have eaten my fair share of bulgogi, kalbi, kimchi, kimbap, bibimbap, mandu, loads of banchan and many more traditional Korean dishes.

Bulgogi was always around, as my son’s Korean grandmother religiously kept a giant vat of bulgogi marinade tucked away in her fridge. And, even though I used to love the stuff back in the day, bulgogi hasn’t crossed my mind in years since shunning meat.

But man, am I ever happy to have it back in my life! This tofu rendition tastes amazing. I really do think it tastes better than the traditional stuff. Seriously, try it. I was even snacking on it uncooked… yum!

Keep your eyes peeled here tomorrow, where I will show you how to use this bulgogi in a recipe for a Korean inspired Philly cheesesteak. For now, this stuff is deeee-lish served over rice.

Bulgogi Style Tofu ~ Vegan & Gluten Free

Ingredients:

  • One 16 oz block extra firm, very dense tofu (see recommended brand below)
  • 4 green onions, chopped (use white part too!)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 average sized onion, sliced
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2/3 cup wheat free tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 6 tbsp organic sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup shredded pear, skin and all

Directions:

First, make sure your tofu is very well drained. Wrap it up in towels and press between two plates with something heavy on top to get all that water out. I pressed mine for well over an hour. A Tofu Xpress would work great here. I also used the brand of tofu shown below (found at Whole Foods)… which is super dense and just perfect for this recipe. If you can’t find this particular brand, just try and get the densest brick of tofu you can find, as the density makes it easier to slice very thinly. Freezing the tofu after draining is also an option if you’re working with a flimsier tofu.

Once it has drained for a good long time, slice the block in half.

Then, make thin slices to the tofu to resemble little tofu steaks.

Arrange them in a deepish dish where they will be able to soak up lots of marinade.

Then cover the tofu slices with your chopped onions, green onions, ginger  and garlic.

In medium sized bowl, combine the tamari, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, mirin, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and shredded pear. Stir really well to complete mix all ingredients together. Pour over tofu and veggies.

Cover and place into the refrigerator. Let marinate at least 8 hours.  It’s really great to do this overnight… a little longer than 8 hours wont hurt anything. In fact, it may even help!

After 8 hours has passed, separate the tofu strips from the marinade. Reserve the veggies and sauce for cooking.

Heat up a cast iron skillet (or other handy dandy pan) over medium heat and drizzle with some sesame oil.

When your skillet is nice and hot, place the strips into the pan in an even layer so that there is adequate room for them to fry up. When you place the tofu in the pan, it should sizzle. (I cooked my tofu in two batches)

Pour enough of the marinade onto the tofu just to cover… make sure some of those veggies get in there too!

Let cook until most of the marinade has reduced, and the bottoms of the tofu slices are nice and caramely brown. Flip over tofu strips and cook until other side turns brown. Continue to cook until all tofu has transformed into delicious Korean bulgogi tofu.

That’s it!

Serve over rice.

Enjoy!

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79 Responses to Bulgogi Style Tofu

  1. […] tasty, even without the beef. For dinner I made something that surprised me. It was Korean bulgogi. In Korea, unfortunately, they use dogs as the meat, however in the United States, we use regular […]

  2. LimeRiot says:

    I made this for lunch today…YUM! I didn’t have time to marinate for the full 8 hours but just an hour still resulted in great flavor. My husband is generally reluctant to eat tofu but he kept coming back for more of this :). Thanks for sharing!

  3. Shana says:

    This recipe is amazing! Even my meat-loving Chinese husband loved it! I used an apple instead of the pear. I plan to make it for my inlaws!

  4. Gabby says:

    I tried making your recipe today, turned out fantastic. Any ideas on how I could cut the amount of soy sauce? I worry about to much salt. Other then that, amazing recipe!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Gabby! Since the soy sauce lends so much to the flavor, I wouldn’t cut it too much–but you certainly could use low sodium tamari or soy sauce–orrrrr, it may change the flavor a bit, but maybe water down 1/3 to 1/2 of the amount of soysauce with some concentrated unsalted veggie broth.

      Best wishes!

  5. Corinna says:

    I first made this for my son’s Birthday party to accommodate a few non meat eating guests. I also made traditional beef Bulgogi and have to tell you that your version disappeared first! Even the beef lovers couldn’t stop eating it. Thanks for a truly delicious recipe. We are having it again tonight for dinner!

  6. Just made this last week and it was incredible! Spicy and warming and delicious :)

  7. I’m always looking for new ways to eat tofu…can’t wait to try this one out. I’m sure the family will love it!

  8. ESW says:

    I made this recipe tonight for dinner. It was very good, though I think I will try to use a bit less oil next time. It was also a bit too salty for my taste even though I used low sodium Tamari with Braggs (1/2&1/2). I stir fried a bit of carrot and broccoli and tossed that in the sauce as well, I might use only a bit of the marinade in some broth to do the final cooking after the marinade to decrease the saltiness. I have never had bulgogi before so I don’t have anything to compare it to. It was wonderful wrapped in lettuce to add that crunch and counterpoint to the salty sweet bite.
    All in all it was a great success as we scarfed down nearly the whole batch in no time.

  9. Amy S says:

    Just wanted to say this is one of my staple recipes. I LOVE it! And if you don’t count the marinating time, it’s super quick and easy. Thanks!! :-)

  10. Karen says:

    Love, love love this recipe! I haven’t had Bulgogi in years since I became a vegetarian, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this recipe. In the month or so since I Pinned this recipe, I’ve made it four times (including today)! I love it! I added Gochujang and Gochugaru to your recipe and it spiced it up even more!

  11. Danielle says:

    That’s what’s for lunch on this wonderful Sunday! It looks amazing!

  12. Kiran says:

    I just want to tell you how incredibly happy this made me. One thing I’ve been longing for since going veg is Hawaiian BBQ plate lunch like I used to get when I lived in Hawaii and this totally satisfied it! This is about the best tofu I’ve ever had and I already can’t wait to make it again!! YUM! Thanks for this great recipe!

  13. Sean says:

    I found you through The Tomato Tart’s vegan recipe list. This looks amazing. I have always failed at tofu, but this looks like something I can do! Can’t wait.

  14. […] Main Dishes Bulgogi Style Tofu Spicy Vegan Buffalo Wings (Joshua’s favorite thing –like maybe ever) Tempeh Chimchuri Farmers […]

  15. […] Since the beginning of my vegan journey, I have seen tofu as a necessary evil. It would be something that I would have to try very hard to like. And man, have I tried hard to be besties with this veg staple, but our relationship wasn’t very friendly until I discovered a recipe for Bulgogi-style tofu. […]

  16. Holy vegan baloney, that looks absolutely INCREDIBLE. I was directed over here from Christianna at Burwell General Store, and I’m so grateful to her for linking to you! What a wonderful blog you have!

  17. Thanks for this recipe- I found you on the twitters. I started this last night for Valentine’s Day dinner tonight! I am particularly inspired by your conversion of a meat-specific dish to vegan, and can’t wait to try!

    One note- the recipe calls for one “block” of tofu. When I got to the store, there were 10 12 and 20-ounce blocks!

    • allyson says:

      I love the twitters! So happy you found me! the block of tofu that I used was twin oaks brand, which was 16 oz…not sure if that’s typical of other brands, since twin oaks is so darned thick and amazingly dense, but it’s a great question! edited to reflect. :)

  18. Melissa says:

    This looks great, and I can’t wait to try it with my local Twin Oaks tofu! I’m curious though: why the shredded pear?

    • allyson says:

      He Melissa,

      Thanks! I went with shredded pear as adding a fruit to the marinade is traditional to tenderize and sweeten the beef in traditional recipes… but I also think it adds a nice flavor and wanted to go for authentic tasting bulgogi with this recipe. Generally Asian pears (aka Japanese Apple pears) are used in the marinades I am familiar with from my pre vegan days.

  19. Aimee says:

    Making this for the second time! The first time it blew my mind. SO GOOD. Thank you so much for the recipe.

  20. Devosmee says:

    I have this marinating right now…can hardly wait for tonight when i can cook it up!
    I’ve never had bulgogi, but the photos made my mouth water – I think that this will make all my omnivore co-workers VERY jealous when I bring it for lunch this week…

  21. Tangerine says:

    Oh wow! Thank you for this! I’ve been looking for a Vegan Bulgogi and I think this one’s the best I found so far. Yum, I’m going to treat myself some Bulgogi this weekend. Muchas Gracias! <3

  22. Taylor says:

    Marinating this right now and I’m soo excited! I absolutely love Korean food and I haven’t had bulgogi in years! I’m sure this is going to be amazing and I would love it if you could make up some more Korean inspired recipes for your blog :)

  23. Ellen Lederman says:

    This was utterly fantastic! I live in a heavily Korean suburb of Atlanta and have always tried to ignore the smell of bulgogi coming to nearby restaurant tables (I wouldn’t eat it—but I have to admit it smelled good). Now I have my own healthy and cruelty-free version that I can make it home! I can’t thank you enough, Allyson! Just curious: how long did it take to develop this recipe? Surely you didn’t come up with something so incredible the very first time. The depth of the flavors is wonderful. Tasted very authentic. Surely as satisfying as the real thing. I just discovered your blog but now I am hooked! Will get your cookbook and read your blog regularly. (You write well and your photographs are gorgeous.)

    Served this with quinoa (yeah, I know, not Korean or even Asian, but I switched from brown rice) and homemade ban chan (spicy spinach and pickled cukes).

    • allyson says:

      Hi Ellen!

      Wow, thank you so much for your enthusiasm with this recipe. :) That makes my day! I think I made two batches before i felt like I nailed the bulgogi… but I have eaten tons of the stuff in my day. Korean marinades were one of the first things I learned to “cook” when I was in college. :) And, I looooooove cucumber banchan!!

      Thank you again! <3 <3

  24. Jessica Caneal says:

    I have made this dish twice now and it was so incredibly delicious both times. However, I was wondering if you have any tips for making this in a way that is lower in calories? The sesame oil adds 14 grams of fat per Tablespoon which is quite a bit!! Would it be fine to just use less oil in the marinade or do you recommend adjusting the other ingredients as well?

    • allyson says:

      hmm…. I hate to say, Jessica, I am definitely one if those “high fat” vegans (in case you couldn’t tell, e-hem). ;) I’m not exactly sure, but it’d probably be well worth the effort to try just reducing the amount of oil (maybe add an extra tbsp of water in there for good measure?). I’d love to know if it turns out just as tasty, and whether the extra “flavor and/or fat” from the sesame oil is needed or not. :) Sorry, I’m not too much help here.. but I’d say it’s worth a shot!

      ps: so glad you enjoyed the original version! thank you!!

  25. Healthy protein substitute for meat, tasty too!!

  26. […] looking through several viable options, this recipe from ManifestVegan (I dig the name) seemed to make the most […]

  27. […] looking through several viable options, this recipe from ManifestVegan (I dig the name) seemed to make the most […]

  28. lindsey says:

    i made this tonight and, i have to say, it was delicious. we are vegetarian, but my husband isn’t the biggest fan of tofu, so when i find recipes like this i get so excited!

    i let the tofu soak in the marinade for over 24 hours and while this may have been unnecessary, it was quite good. i also overcooked the first batch – but i thought the burnt edges tasted good.

    i highly recommend this recipe.

  29. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

    I also run a food blog and will be featuring your recipe this afternoon.

  30. Looks delicious! I love love love Korean food, but have never cooked it at home. I am going to try this asap.

  31. cooking tofu says:

    As you pointed out the most important part of preparing tofu is to drain it well before marinating. I wish I had learnt that sooner :)
    Great vegan recipe and images are also nice.

  32. Cecil says:

    I made this yesterday (well, I actually started making it Saturday and ended up letting it marinate a good 24 hours before i had a chance to cook it.) It was delicious! It’s funny, back when I ate meat, we made bulgogi all the time, but it never occurred to me to try it with tofu! Reheated the rest of it today, and it was even better!

  33. Kandy says:

    I made this for dinner tonight. It was delicious! Even my tofu-hating, non-vegan, 14 year-old son LOVED this! Thank you!

  34. trina says:

    This marinade is so good! I doubled the tofu (I’m cooking for two families) and covered it with the marinade (1 recipe made enough). It’s sitting in the fridge right now in a big freezer bag. I’ll flip it every couple hours to keep the marinade moving around the tofu. I am so excited for dinner tonight!

    • allyson says:

      Yay Trina! Thank you… :D I really hope you enjoy the end result as much as my family did. It’s good stuff!

  35. Brandon says:

    This was great BBQed. I marinaded for ~10 hours, then placed directly on the grill. Afterwards, I reduced some of the marinade in a make-shift foil bowl over the BBQ and poured over tofu.

  36. Cindy says:

    Do you refrigerate it to marinade it?

  37. Mei Teng says:

    Lovely dish. The first photo is excellent.

  38. Joe says:

    Wow, that looks great. We’re always looking for new ways to make tofu. I’m really looking forward to trying this.

    Joe

  39. Morgan says:

    That looks so amazing! You did an awesome job!!!

  40. Wow! That looks to great and authentic! Awesome work. :)

  41. Marly says:

    Oh Allyson, I love this post! I cannot wait to try this recipe with my family. I think they’ll go buglogi over it (instead of bananas…get it?)!!! The step-by-step photos are so helpful too. It’s like you’re holding my hand through this recipe. I think I can do it! Have a super weekend!

  42. jessy says:

    ohhhhh, Allyson – your bulgogi style ‘fu looks crazy good! this would rock dan’s world as he looooooves anything with rice vinegar, sesame oil, and green onions. he’s gonna love this so much – and so am i.

    saw that you’ve got twin oaks tofu there. yay! it’s from virginia and is made about 2 hours from where i live. it’s made by a bunch o’ yogis in yogaville out in buckingham (i visited there about a month ago, too – ’twas the best place!). soooo awesome! it’s my favorite ‘fu and their tempeh is the best as well.

    i’ve never had bulgogi style anything before and i cannot wait to get the awesome on. w00t!

  43. veganlisa says:

    Fantastic! Allyson, you are full of great ideas.
    I am really excited about the whole idea of remaking the “10 favourite sandwiches”. I can’t wait to see the whole list come together.

  44. mel says:

    Bookmarked! Have to try this, it looks so gooood!

  45. Alissa says:

    Your photos are always so beautiful! This looks great, and it’s definitely inspiring me to look at some meat recipes and turn them into vegetarian recipes! You always have such great recipe ideas.

  46. Jen says:

    This looks amazing! Korean food is one of my favorites… this is a must-try SOON. Wow. Now I’m hungry. ;)

  47. That looks incredible! I am definately making this, I think even the hubs won’t object to the tofu when it’s covered in a spicy marinade like this one.

  48. Shandra says:

    This looks amazing! I’ve never had a savory dish with pear before, so I’m pretty excited to try this out.

    Do you have a good recipe for a bibimbap style dish? There was a vegan friendly Korean fusion type restaurant where I went to college and their vegan bibim pasta was one my my favorite things in the world. They also had bibim tea rolls. I’ve never been able to replicate it!

    • allyson says:

      Hi Shandra…

      Now that you mention the bibimbap…. I may have to create one for the blog ;) Thank you for the inspiration!!

      ~ Allyson

  49. Alice says:

    bellissima ricetta!!!
    un bacio dall’italia!!!
    :***

  50. Noelle says:

    Allyson, I totally asked for that sandwich but someone had taken it already, little knowing it was you! LOL Cannot wait to see your recipe tomorrow! YUMMERS! I have not had Bulgogi in a long time.

    • allyson says:

      that’s awesome! And, I’m sorry… I was all over that very quick-like! Can’t wait to see yours too! yay!!

  51. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Helen Pitlick, Allyson Kramer. Allyson Kramer said: So… I am proud to say that I had major success making tofu taste like bulgogi! http://www.manifestvegan.com/2011/02/bulgogi-style-tofu/ […]

  52. Amy says:

    Man, that looks SO good. I can’t wait to see the cheesesteak! Is the oil in the marinade *toasted* sesame oil?

    • allyson says:

      yes. I buy mine at a local Asian market… and the label doesn’t specify that it’s toasted (just reads : pure sesame oil). But the color is dark, and the flavor is pungent, so I am assuming that it is. :) Thanks for catching that! I used the same oil to cook with as well, but one could easily get away with using un-toasted oil to fry up the tofu strips.

      Thanks Amy!

  53. PeaSoup says:

    Wow! This looks seriously good – I’m definitely going to have to make this:)

  54. Junia says:

    being korean-american, this marinade looks authentic and your tofu looks like true bulgogi! hehe i’m gonna have to try making this – it’s been ages since i’ve become vegan!

  55. Melissa says:

    Oh man. I am so excited that you posted this. I’m in love with Korean food right now, but I didn’t think I could do many wheat-free meat-free dishes beyond kimchi and bibimbap.

    Yay thanks!

  56. Leinana says:

    Oh my, that looks so amazing! My mouth is literally watering. Can’t wait to see the sandwich version too!