Dak bulgogi, or chicken bulgogi, is a variation of the popular Korean beef bulgogi dish that uses chicken instead. The chicken is marinated in a sweet soy based sauce and grilled to perfection, giving it a delicious smokey flavor.
For more healthy Korean recipes, check out my Healthy Korean food guide.
🐣 What is Dak Bulgogi?
Dak bulgogi consists of juicy chicken thigh pieces marinated in a Korean soy based marinade, also known as bulgogi. The marinade is usually used with thin beef brisket to create the popular beef bulgogi dish that is often served at Korean barbecue restaurants. However, the marinade is also delicious on other protein types such as chicken.
🍎 Calories and Nutrition Facts – How To Make It Healthy
A serving of dak bulgogi with rice runs at 430 calories with 37 grams of protein, 20 grams of fat, and 42 grams of carbs.
The dish is predominantly made of chicken, a lean protein source, so the bulk of the additional calories will come from the marinade. It's key to portion the marinade ingredients mindfully to keep overall calorie content low.
Here's what I did to make this dish low calorie:
- Portioned 6 ounces of boneless skinless chicken thigh
- Portioned the individual ingredients for the marinade at 85 calories in total
- Limited usage of sesame oil to 1 teaspoon given that it is a calorie dense ingredient
- Used cooking spray instead of cooking oil, which saves more than 100 calories
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredients, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of this recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
Chicken Thigh – I used boneless skinless chicken thigh, which is a great lean protein source that is still juicy with every bite. You can also use chicken breast, but it will be a lot dryer and is not that much lower in calories.
Sesame Oil – Sesame oil is a vital component to any bulgogi marinade, bringing it a sweet nutty flavor.
Soy Sauce – Gives the marinade its umami salty flavor.
Mirin – An Asian rice wine used to balance out the flavor. You can buy it at your local Asian grocery store or online.
Sugar – I used 1 teaspoon, which is a small amount that is enough to balance out the saltiness of the marinade. Traditionally, apples are also used as a sweetener in bulgogi recipes, so feel free to blend up some and add it in for an even more authentic flavor.
Rice – A serving of brown rice is only 160 calories. You can also use white rice, which is similar in calorie content.
Garlic and Onions – The classic Korean aromatics that are used in almost everything
Sesame Seeds and Scallions – To garnish the bulgogi
To learn more specifically about the different Asian spices and condiments, check out my Asian spices guide.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Make the marinade – Start by mincing the garlic and onions into small, fine pieces. Mix the rest of the marinade ingredients together thoroughly
Marinade the chicken – Trim off the excess fat from the chicken thigh and dip it in the marinade. Let the chicken marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight to let the flavor fully seep through.
Cooking the Chicken
To cook the chicken, you can go about doing it a couple ways, including cast iron, grilling, air fryer, and oven.
I would highly recommend the cast iron method, as it's an easy way to achieve that smoky grilled meat flavor from the comfort of your stovetop. Cast irons are very inexpensive and is easily my favorite kitchen tool. The lodge cast iron is my favorite brand.
Cast Iron on Stovetop – Using a cast iron, cook the chicken for about 3-5 minutes each side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Make sure the chicken is fully spread out so that the chicken cooks evenly.
Air Fryer – Turn the air fryer on to 380F and cook the chicken for about 18-20 minutes. Be sure to place the chicken on a single layer and flip the chicken over halfway through it's cooking time.
Oven – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put the chicken on a baking sheet with foil. Bake the chicken for about 25-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
Grill – Turn the grill on to between 325-350F and cook for about 5-6 minutes on each side.
🍽 What to eat it with
Serve it with ssam, or leafy wraps – Korean BBQ is often served in lettuce or perilla leaf wraps to give it some freshness.
Serve it with a side of rice – This dish goes super well with a side of white or brown rice.
Top it over a bibimbap – Make it a great nutritious meal by serving it bibimbap style. Check out my bibimbap recipe to see how.
Make it spicy – It just requires adding a couple more ingredients. Check out my spicy chicken bulgogi recipe to see how.
Bulgogi flavor is a sweet and salty flavor that combines sesame oil, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar. It's one of the signature flavors of Korean cuisine.
No, dak bulgogi is not spicy as there are no spice agents in the marinade. If you would like a spicy version, check out my spicy chicken bulgogi recipe.
Cook it on the cast iron – This will give the meat a delicious smokey flavor without the need of a grill! You can get a cast iron easily online.
Marinade the chicken overnight – Doing so will allow to flavor to seep through
Flatten out the chicken – Chicken thigh often has a thick part that can be flattened out by cutting it. Doing so will allow the chicken to cook evenly. Learn more about how to pound chicken thighs.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Use pre-made bulgogi marinade – Makes it more convenient if you are in a hurry or don't want to make your own marinade. You can get it at your local Korean grocery store or online.
Use beef or seafood – This marinade also goes wonderfully with beef and seafood, such as salmon.
Skewer it for a fun summer party snack – Not the traditional way to eat it but it's great for a weekend grill party.
Dak Bulgogi Recipe (Korean BBQ Chicken)
- Cast Iron
- 2 clove Garlic
- ¼ Onion
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Mirin
- 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
Chicken and Rice
- 6 oz Chicken thigh (Boneless skinless)
- 1 serving Brown rice
- Scallions and sesame seeds (For garnish)
- Start by mincing the garlic and onions into small, fine pieces. Mix the rest of the marinade ingredients together thoroughly
- Trim off the excess fat from the chicken thigh and dip it in the marinade. Let the chicken marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight to let the flavor fully seep through.
Cooking the chicken
- Cast Iron on Stovetop – Using a cast iron, cook the chicken for about 3-5 minutes each side, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Make sure the chicken is fully spread out so that the chicken cooks evenly.
- Air Fryer – Turn the air fryer on to 380F and cook the chicken for about 18-20 minutes. Be sure to place the chicken on a single layer and flip the chicken over halfway through it's cooking time.
- Oven – Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put the chicken on a baking sheet with foil. Bake the chicken for about 25-35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165F.
- Grill – Turn the grill on to between 325-350F and cook for about 5-6 minutes on each side.