This mouthwatering Hawaiian short rib, or Hawaiian Kalbi recipe, will transport your taste buds to the beautiful islands of Hawaii.
Whether you're looking to impress your guests at a backyard barbecue or simply craving a taste of Hawaii, this recipe is sure to satisfy your cravings.
✅ Why This Recipe Works
Easy to make – No hours of prepping and chopping needed. All you need is to marinate the beef ahead of time. Once you’re ready to eat, it just takes 10 minutes to cook on a cast iron – no fancy grill needed if you don't have access to one.
Flavorful and delicious – By utilizing traditional Korean and Hawaiian ingredients to make the Kalbi marinade and expert cooking techniques, you can make a delicious Hawaiian kalbi recipe with fresh ingredients from home at a fraction of the cost
Low in calories and macro-optimized – This recipe was specially developed by yours truly to be low-calorie and macro-friendly, so you can enjoy this fusion healthy Korean recipe without getting off track on your fitness goals
💭 What is Hawaiian Kalbi
Hawaiian Kalbi, also known as Hawaiian short ribs, is a popular dish in Hawaii that features tender, marinated beef ribs grilled to perfection. The sweet and savory Kalbi marinade is made with a combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, and sesame oil, which gives the dish a deliciously rich and complex flavor.
It is a fusion dish that combines Korean-style short ribs with Hawaiian flavors. The origins of this dish can be traced back to the Korean immigrants who came to Hawaii. They brought with them their love of grilled meat and their recipe for Kalbi, which was adapted and modified to incorporate local Hawaiian ingredients and flavors.
This is a great BBQ dish to make at home.
Hawaiian Kalbi vs. Korean Kalbi
The main difference between Hawaiian Kalbi and Korean Kalbi lies in the preparation and Kalbi marinade. Korean Kalbi typically uses a marinade made with soy sauce, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, and pear puree, while Hawaiian Kalbi uses a marinade made with similar ingredients but may also include brown sugar, pineapple juice, ginger, and green onions.
Additionally, Korean Kalbi is often cut thinner and closer to the bone, while Hawaiian Kalbi may be cut thicker.
🍏 Calories and Nutrition – How to Make It Healthy
Hawaiian kalbi is typically not the most healthy meal since kalbi is made from short rib, which is not a lean protein and is often served with high-fat and high-calorie sides, such as mac salad and scoops of rice.
By portioning the beef used mindfully and swapping for healthier sides, I’m able to keep the calorie content low, increase the protein content, and make a more satiating meal.
This recipe for a serving of Hawaiian kalbi comes in at 330 calories with 23 grams of protein, 18 grams of fat, and 21 grams of carbs.
This gives you the leeway to add a portion of rice and/or some nutritious vegetable sides.
Here’s what I did to make it healthier:
- Portion amount the beef used – I used a quarter pound of beef in this recipe, which adds enough protein content to the dish while being at a manageable calorie level
- Portion the Hawaiian Kalbi marinade ingredients mindfully – Most of the Kalbi marinade ingredients are relatively low in calories except for the sesame oil, which runs at 120 calories a serving. I used a portioned amount of this so that the kalbi marinade still has the right flavor without breaking the calorie budget.
- Omitted high-fat and high-calorie sides – While I love mac salad as much as the next person, for purposes of keeping calories at a manageable level, I would recommend omitting this. Instead, have a 1 single portion of rice for your carb intake (~150 calories per serving), and opt for nutrient–dense vegetable sides.
- Omitted usage of oil – I used cooking spray instead of traditional cooking oil, which saves about 120 calories that are largely from fat
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of this Hawaiian kalbi recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
To make the Hawaiian Kalbi recipe, you will need the following ingredients.
Beef – I used chuck flap steak as it’s a great cut of beef for grilling and is relatively inexpensive. Kalbi is traditionally made from short ribs, which is a similar cut of beef. You can opt to use either or any flanken cut. If your goal is fat loss, I would opt for a cut with a relatively moderate to a little amount of marbling. Opting for a higher quality meat with little marbling will still result in a delicious and tender steak, like the one I used here.
Key ingredients for the Hawaiian Kalbi marinade include soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic, onion, and mirin. Some other key ingredients to note include the following:
Pear – This is a key ingredient used in most Kalbi recipes to help tenderize the meat and give it an additional tart sweetness.
Brown sugar – Hawaiian-style Kalbi is often characterized by its bolder, sweeter flavor from brown sugar. You can also use granulated sugar, but the flavor profile will be more similar to Korean kalbi.
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Switch up the sides – I used Kimchi and brussels sprouts here but you can also use a portion of rice or some slaw.
Use pineapple in the marinade – You can also use pineapple in the Kalbi marinade to make the Kalbi sweeter.
Substitute brown sugar – Granulated sugar, honey, and stevia are some options.
Make Korean kalbi – Omit the brown sugar and use normal sugar or honey.
Make some tacos – Kalbi makes for some delicious tacos. Check out my Kalbi taco recipe to see how.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Make the kalbi marinade – Add the garlic, onion, sugar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pear into a blender. Add a tablespoon of water at a time as needed to help the mixture blend properly.
Marinate the beef – In a large flat bowl, pour the marinate over the beef and let marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Cook the Kalbi – Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over the stove to medium-high heat. Dry the beef as much as possible and cook the beef for about 3 minutes on each side for a medium–rare doneness. If you have a meat thermometer, I would recommend using one for precision, as various meat thicknesses will change this time.
Let the meat cool for about 5 minutes so the juices will flow back in before cutting it into small pieces.
Garnish and enjoy – Garnish with scallions and furikake, serve with sides, and enjoy your Hawaiian Kalbi!
💭 Recipe FAQs
Kalbi is typically made with flanken short ribs. In this recipe, I used chuck tail flap steak, which is a great alternative. I find that it is easier to weigh steak without bones in it to get an accurate read of how much protein I’m consuming. The chuck flap steak is also a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, and this particular steak looked to be of great quality.
The pear in the marinade has the enzyme, Calpain, which tenderizes the meat. If you don’t have a pear, you can also opt to use an apple. Kiwis are also popular but have the risk of over-tenderizing the meat.
For most cuts of beef, it would take about 3 minutes on each side on average to achieve a medium–rare level of doneness.
Yes, you can make this in advance by pre-marinating the steak. You can choose to leave it raw in the fridge for up to 5 days or cook it in advance and store it in the fridge for 3-4 days. Use an airtight container in both scenarios.
💡 Expert Tips
Fully dry the steak before cooking – Cooking the beef in a pool of liquid will cause it to boil instead of giving it a nice sear.
Guide to how long to cook steak for – How long to cook kalbi will depend on 2 factors: the thickness of the beef and your preference for how well-done the beef is. Given the variety of thicknesses of different cuts, it’s best to get a meat thermometer to get an accurate read of the internal temperature of the steak.
Here is some general guidance based on time and internal temperature. I would recommend stopping cooking when the internal temperature is 5-10 degrees away from its goal temperature, as the meat will continue to cook even when taken off the skillet:
- Medium-rare: 3.5 minutes on each side (135 degrees F)
- Medium: 4.5 minutes on each side (140 degrees F)
- Medium-well: 5-6 minutes on each side (150 degrees F)
🍽 Related Recipes
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Hawaiian Kalbi (Short Rib) Recipe
- Cast Iron
- 2 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Mirin
- 1 tsp Brown Sugar
- ½ Pear
- 1 cloves Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Sesame oil
Beef and Garnishes
- 4 oz Beef (Boneless short rib, chuck tail flap)
- Furikake and green onion (For garnish)
- Make the Kalbi marinade – Add the garlic, onion, sugar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pear into a blender. Add a tablespoon of water at a time as needed to help the mixture blend properly.
- Marinade the beef – In a large flat bowl, pour the marinade over the beef and let marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Cook the Kalbi – Heat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over the stove to medium-high heat. Dry the beef as much as possible and cook the beef for about 3 minutes on each side for a medium–rare doneness. If you have a meat thermometer, I would recommend using one for precision, as various meat thicknesses will change this time.Let the meat cool for about 5 minutes so the juices will flow back in before cutting it into small pieces.
- Garnish and enjoy – Garnish with scallions and furikake, serve with sides, and enjoy your Hawaiian Kalbi!
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