Being quarantined SUCKS!
By now you’re probably feeling cooped up and bummed because all your favorite restaurants are closed.
However, you can fight the quarantine funk by learning how to make delicious vegan Korean BBQ at home. Don’t think you need to be vegan or vegetarian to enjoy the Korean barbeque recipe mentioned in this post. I’m not and I still found it wonderfully delicious. It was crispy, a bit spicy, and best of all, astonishingly easy to make!
But first, let’s talk about what Korean barbeque is and some ways you can customize any vegan Korean Barbeque recipes (including the featured recipe) to your taste.
What is Korean BBQ?
So Korean BBQ isn’t the name of one particular dish. Locally known as gogi-gui, Korean barbeque refers to the method of grilling meat over a gas or charcoal grill inlaid into a dining table. Interestingly, if you order Korean BBQ at a traditional restaurant, they will serve you meat raw and allow you the option to cook it yourself on the tabletop grill, or have assistance with the cooking process.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a tabletop Korean BBQ grill, we’ll discuss some cooking options for at home vegan Korean barbeque.
For a non-vegan/vegetarian, you can use beef, chicken or pork.. However, we’re also going to go over some awesome meat substitutes to make the most perfectly delicious vegan Korean BBQ dishes.
But before that, you must decide if you are going to marinate your “meat”. Bulgogi is a Korean BBQ dish that features thinly sliced marinated sirloin or tenderloin. Or there’s Galbi, which is short rib meat (of the beef, pork or chicken variety) marinated in a sweet and savory sauce. These are two popular forms of marinated Korean BBQ dishes. Of course, you can choose not to marinate at all. The level of versatility of the best delicious vegan Korean barbecue dishes is almost endless!
Pick Your Protein
The first step for learning how to make delicious vegan Korean BBQ at home is to pick your “meat.”
If you want to make the perfect “chicken” vegan Korean BBQ, then using tofu is a great option because it doubles as chicken quite well. Pro tip: After you press all the moisture out of your block of tofu, coat it in cornstarch. This is a great trick to get it to crisp up better during the cooking process. You can opt to purchase a tofu press; it adds convenience when preparing tofu to cook. Or you can simply wrap your tofu in a couple layers of paper towel and put something heavy on top. I’ve been known to use a cast iron pan to drain the water out of tofu because they’re super heavy.
However, if you are looking for an excellent beef substitute you can use tempeh. Precooked tempeh is an effortless beef substitute. However, whether your tempeh is precooked or not, you can make it taste even better by steaming it in vegetable broth for about 10 minutes before grilling or marinating. Plus, tempeh takes marinades well. Tempeh will soak up the great flavors in your vegan Korean barbeque marinade and enhance any dish.
Conversely, if mock meats aren’t really your jam, there are a variety of vegetables you can use as a base for your vegan Korean barbeque dishes. Some great base vegetables are cauliflower (an excellent chicken substitute), mushrooms (an excellent beef substitute), peppers and eggplant. Additionally, there are some seasoned vegetable dishes that act as an appetizer and side dish to traditional Korean BBQ if you’re just someone that really enjoys veggies.
We’ll be going over the best additions to keep your vegan Korean barbeque traditional, so don’t worry!
At Home Vegan Korean BBQ Cooking Methods
Like I said, don’t worry if you don’t have a tabletop Korean BBQ grill. It would be shocking if you did have one!
You can use your regular grill when learning how to make delicious Korean BBQ at home. When turning your grill into your Korean BBQ, you can use either gas or charcoal grill! Outside grilling is going to be vital to fight the quarantine funk. We can all use some fresh air.
However, if the great outdoors isn’t your thing, you also have some options.
If you don’t have a grill or don’t want to cook outside, you can use an electric griddle. Though, it’s better if your griddle has a grate attachment. You can easily purchase a decent grated electric grill for under $100 online, and you don’t even have to leave the house!
However, if you just want to be able to cook right on your stove, you can purchase a grill top stove pan. This is probably the most inexpensive option for making delicious vegan Korean BBQ at home.
The Delicious Vegan Korean BBQ Recipe
The moment you’ve all been waiting for! It’s recipe time. This particular recipe uses tofu, however you can customize the recipe however you want. Use meat if you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, use tempeh if you want to use the sauce as a marinade to amp up your dish or use any vegetable/vegetables as your base.
The Korean barbeque sauce this recipe is the perfect blend of sweet, spicy and tangy, and will work with any base. However, please note, you will need to adjust the cooking time to whatever base you choose, if you opt not to use tofu. Now let’s get to it!
Deliciously Crispy Vegan Korean BBQ Recipe – Serves 4
- 1 block of firm tofu (or extra firm)
- ½ cup of canned tomato sauce
- ¼ cup of rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup of low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 2 tablespoons of Gochujang paste (this is a red chili paste, you can use sriracha as a substitute if you don’t have it, or if you want a bit milder spicyness)
- ⅛ cup chunky applesauce
- 3 cloves of freshly grated garlic
- 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
- ½ cup of cornstarch (for crispiness)
- Salt – to taste
- Frying oil of choice
- Sliced green onions for garnish
- Press your tofu. The longer the press, the better, but press for a minimum of 30 minutes in a tofu press or using a heavy object.
- To make your Korean BBQ sauce, in a medium metal bowl, combine your tomato sauce, the rice wine vinegar, low sodium soy sauce, honey, Gochujang/chili paste/sriracha, applesauce, garlic, ginger, and white sesame seeds until well blended.
- Next, you’ll prepare the pressed tofu. Slice into about half-inch-thick rectangular pieces, then toss in the cornstarch and salt until each piece is well coated.
- Drizzle a thin layer of oil over a pan preheated to medium high heat. Place the tofu in the pan and get it golden on each side. Note: a couple minutes on each side is all that is necessary. This step serves two purposes. One, it makes delicate tofu a little heartier for grilling, and two, it creates a crispy foundation before we coat it in Korean barbeque sauce and finish it on the grill.
- Once the tofu is golden and crispy on each side, lightly coat in the vegan Korean BBQ sauce, because it’s time to grill these bad boys.
- Use an outside grill or whatever indoor grilling device you have handy. This step will only take about 8-10 minutes over medium heat since your tofu is already pre-cooked. The goal is just to really cook in the flavor of your Korean BBQ sauce and allow it to crisp up even more. Note: there’s no way to undercook tofu.
- Once finished, take your crispy, saucy, delicious vegan Korean BBQ off the grill and garnish with green onions.
Keep Your Vegan Korean Barbeque Traditional with These Additions
You can serve your Korean BBQ tofu over white rice and add Korean side dishes called Banchan. Though banchan is served before the main dish, it’s not necessarily an appetizer because you’re supposed to keep snacking on them during the meal. This is because these side dishes are light and said to help aid in digestion. Popular banchan dishes include:
- Kongnamul – seasoned soybean sprouts
- Danmuji – pickled radish
- Gamja Saelleodeu (potato salad)
- Kkakdugi (radish kimchi)
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your side dishes!
Now is an excellent time to learn how to make delicious vegan Korean BBQ at home. The recipe included features a sweet, spicy and tangy Korean BBQ sauce that you can use with any vegan/vegetarian Korean barbeque recipe. It would even pair well with traditional meats. Plus, you don’t have to have a tabletop Korean BBQ grill, you can make the most delicious dishes right on your own grill or an indoor grill alternative. Go fight that quarantine funk by learning how to make delicious Vegan Korean BBQ at home!