Spicy Chicken bulgogi, or Dak bulgogi, is a variation of the well known Korean barbecue dish bulgogi. Using chicken instead of beef and adding some extra kick to it, this spicy chicken bulgogi is sure to be a satisfying protein packed with an extra kick and satisfy your cravings for Korean barbeque.
For more healthy Korean recipes, check out my Healthy Korean food guide.
🐣 What is Spicy Chicken Bulgogi?
Spicy chicken bulgogi consists of chicken thigh marinaded in a spicy bulgogi sauce, which is a spinoff of the classic Korean bulgogi flavor consisting of sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. The spiciness comes from the additional Korean spice condiments, gochugaru and gochujang.
🍎 Calories and Nutrition Facts – How To Make It Healthy
A serving of spicy chicken bulgogi runs at 290 calories with 35 grams of protein, 20 grams of fat, and 12 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 90 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.
Gochujang – Gochujang is a Korean red pepper paste that is often used for sauces. Despite its fiery color, it is not that spicy. There isn't a good substitute for it, but it should be available at your local Asian grocery store or online.
Gochugaru – Gochugaru is Korean red pepper flakes and is used to add a kick to most Korean dishes. This is where most of the spice comes from so adjust accordingly based on your spice preference. You can find it at your local Asian grocery store or online. You can also substitute it with red pepper flakes.
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.
Garlic and Onions – The classic Korean aromatics that are used in almost everything
Sesame Seeds and Scallions – To garnish the bulgogi
🔪 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.
Add veggies, cheese, and carbs and make it a dak galbi – Turn it into another Korean classic dish that is great to eat in a group setting. Check out my dak galbi recipe to see how.
Dak galbi is different from spicy chicken bulgogi in that dak galbi is often cooked with an assortment of vegetables, cheese, and other carb-based based mix-ins, such as noodles or rice. Check out my Dak Galbi recipe to learn more.
Yes, spicy chicken bulgogi is spicy (of course). You can adjust the spice level by adjusting the amount of gochugaru, or red chili flakes, used.
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.
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 spicy 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 squid and octopus.
Substitute gochugaru with chili flakes – You can use red pepper flakes if you can't find gochugaru.
Skewer it for a fun summer party snack – Not the traditional way to eat it but it's great for a weekend grill party.
Spicy Chicken Bulgogi (Dak Bulgogi)
- 1 Cast Iron
- 6 oz Chicken thigh (Boneless, skinless)
- 1 tablespoon Gochujang
- 1 tablespoon Gochugaru
- 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
- 2 cloves Garlic
- ¼ Yellow Onion (Minced)
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- 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.
Ways to Cook 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.