Best Vegan Korean BBQ Sauce Recipe is an amazingly delicious. It took me a long time to formulate this recipe and balance the flavors exactly right. Once I got it down, I realized that this sauce was deadly good. It is pretty versatile for vegans too. You can use it for a lot of different applications. I ran a Korean BBQ glazed Brussel sprout dish at a restaurant I ran a few years back and it sold like hot cakes! People really enjoyed it. I never once had a send back on that dish and that is saying something. Now that you got my two sense, let us get down to business.
History of Korean BBQ
Korean BBQ goes back so far it is uncertain the real origins of this particular style of cooking. It is widely known that this art form has come a long way since its inception thousands of years ago. This form of cooking used to be a way of life for nomadic tribes far east, but now days it has reach a level of global popularity that most foods never reach.
Some historians believe Korean BBQ should be credited to the Barbarians of Maek. These were a nomadic tribe that left their homeland of central Asia to travel east. They eventually reached north east Asia, a region where Korea sits adjacent.
The barbarians did not know what they were getting into traveling this far east, so they brought their own foods with them. One of which was a pre seasoned meat called “Maekjeok”. Some speculate that they would preseason their meats for ease of cooking, but I presume they seasoned their meats to preserve them. Due to the fact this time was way before refrigeration. The meat would be grilled over an open fire or slow roasted. Little did they know, this style of cooking would end up being a primitive delicacy in the distant future.
Believe it or not, this style of cooking almost died during this era. The reason being is that the kingdoms in the surrounding areas welcomed Buddhism as their sole practice. Buddhists do not eat meat, so this cuisine was ultimately useless. The only people that were consuming meat were members of outside tribes, that did not stay within the kingdom walls. Ultimately, the prohibition was lifted and all it took was for the Mongols to invade China. If you guys do not know about these events, they were horrible, the Mongols wiped out hundreds of thousands of people. Translated to our current time period, it would be millions.
Once the prohibition was lifted, the cooking style of using pre-seasoned meat over a wood fire spread throughout the Korean peninsula like crazy. The locals gladly adopted this trending food and offered their influence on it as well.
Fast forward to the early 1900’s. Due to Koreas economy, which was agriculture based, eating beef was not a common food to eat for the people. The reason being is the livestock was better used to plow fields rather than slaughtered. However, in the large cities the demand for beef skyrocketed in the 1920s. Why? you ask. There was an increase in bulgogi (Korean BBQ) restaurants.
Of course, Korean BBQ was almost stamped out for good once again, when Japanese imperialist gained control over Korea. The Japanese rule led to beef shortages, which led to ridiculously high beef prices. As you can imagine nobody is going to spend hundreds of dollars on a plate of BBQ.
Korean BBQ refused to die! Bulgogi made a comeback in the 1950’s, when the American government introduced slicing machines during the Korean war. Why did the US Military need slicing machines during the war? It is probably better not to google that. Basically, these machines elevated the Korean BBQ dish as they knew it because now, they could get a thinner more consistent product. This machine contributed to bulgogi’s popularity vastly.
Over the years, sugar factories began to surface in Korea. Then bulgogi became sweeter. Its funny how that happens. All of these factors have contributed to the flavor, popularity, and preparation of bulgogi, or Korean BBQ, as we know it today!
How do You Make Vegan Korean BBQ Sauce?
There are a few different ways to make Korean BBQ sauce. The way I am going to show you today is the easiest. Honestly, this is the best one I have tasted too, so I am going to call that a win! The method here is super simple, you simply just mix everything together and that is it. See, I told you it was simple.
The only part about this recipe that is a little time consuming, is finding the ingredients. This recipe utilizes authentic Korean ingredients that I will get into in once minute. If there is an Asian market near your house, then it these ingredients will definitely be there. These ingredients are also shelf stable at room temperature so you can easily get them off amazon.
Vegan Korean BBQ Ingredients
Vegan Fish Sauce- There are a lot of vegan fish sauce recipesout there in the world, so if you want to make it at home be my guest. Me on the other hand, I think its more efficient in every way to buy a reputable vegan fish sauce. For starters, the people that make this stuff have way more experience in making this particular product taste like the real deal. Secondly, making this stuff will cause your house to smell awfully bad. Lastly, I have tried making three different vegan fish sauces and none are as good as 24 Vegan fish sauce. So, if you want my opinion, buy it. If you do not, then disregard.
Gochujang- If you have not heard of this ingredient, then stop reading this and order it right now. I am telling you this stuff is awesome. Gochujang is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented chili paste. I know that sounds like a lot because it kind of is. Well, the flavor that is. The sauce itself is actually quite simple, but the flavor is a complex umami sensation. This sauce contains no fat and no gluten either! Gochujang contains chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum, and salt. I am willing to bet that 9.5 people out of ten will enjoy this condiment and utilize it if the have it handy.
Hoisin- Hoisin is a relatively more widely known sauce. This is also a sauce you can find in your local supermarket, so there no need to go out of your way to get it. Hoisin is commonly used in Chinese cuisine as a glaze for meats, fish, and also used in stir fry. This sauce is dark in appearance, very thick and offers a sweet and salty flavor that is easily paired with a multitude of ingredients. Hoisin sauce usually contains: Fermented soybeans, fennel, red chili peppers, and garlic.
Rice Wine Vinegar- This is a quite common and delicious Asian vinegar. This vinegar is also referred to as just “rice vinegar”. This vinegar is sweet and has a very subtle acidity. This vinegar is made from fermenting the sugars in rice into an alcohol (wine). The wine is then fermented again, or better yet, continued to ferment until it turns into acetic acid (vinegar). Hence the name rice wine vinegar!
Sesame Oil- Is a vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds.This oil is used as a cooking oil and a flavoring agent. This oil has a noticeable nutty aroma and deep flavor. It is safe to say, that a little goes an awfully long way with this ingredient. This is one of the earliest known crop-based oils.
Soy Sauce- I know we all know what soy sauce is, or you think you do. Soy sauce is made from the fermented paste of soybeans, roasted grain, brine, and Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds. Yup soy sauce is made from rotten mold essentially! No worries though, we have all eaten it and we are all fine. It really makes you wonder though, who invented this stuff? That is a conversation for another time.
How to Use Vegan Korean BBQ
This sauce is so flavorful it can really be used as is. I have used this sauce for many applications and for the most part, everything has been delicious. Let us go into some quick detail.
Vegetables- I have noticed this sauce goes really well with bitter flavors. The fermented saltiness and sweetness of this sauce really balances out with a bitter offset. Some bitter vegetables I have tried are broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes and even cauliflower! All of which turned out delicious.
If you do not have any bitter vegetables on hand you can always hard roast whatever vegetables, you have to bring out that flavor. Grilling is another way to get some smokiness and bitter grill marks to entice the flavor of this sauce.
Dipping Sauce- use this sauce and a unique dipping sauce for your favorite crudites at a party or gathering. I bet you people will be asking you for this recipe!
Pasta- as is this sauce is too intense to eat as a pasta sauce. If you use some of the pasta cooking water to mellow it out, then you have a tasty vehicle for your soba or cellophane noodles.
Rice- Try using this sauce on some rice! When I had this sauce one of my menus, I would always make a quick fried rice for lunch. It was super easy and fast! Garnished with some sliced scallion and sesame seeds and you got a nice lunch!
Meat Substitutes- If you want to get the Korean BBQ vibe but do not eat meat, look no further! This sauce turns your tofu into something special. You can always go for some tempeh bulgogi as well! Grill up some impossible or beyond meats with this sauce and you will be blown away. This sauce does a lot of work all by itself!
Vegan Korean BBQ Tricks and Tips
Measuring precisely- With this recipe, I have done all the work for you! This sauce is as balanced out as it is going to get. Trust me it took me a while to get this one dialed in. Make this recipe first, then taste it. If you prefer a little more of this or that after you try, then be my guest. Let me know if you add a little bit extra of something too. I would love to hear what you guys think!
Application-Be careful how you apply this sauce. You do not want to concentrate the flavor too much. So, cooking in down in a pot may not be the best idea. I have found the sauce is best applied at the last minute. So, if roasting broccoli in the oven, then toss it after it comes out and is still hot.
If you are frying rice or a meat substitute, that is fine just try to add the sauce towards the end of the cooking process, so it does not concentrate too much!
Storage- I would refrigerate this sauce due to the fresh vegetables blended into it. You do not want to make anyone sick. If you decide to leave the garlic and ginger out (I strongly recommend you do not) then you do not have to cool it down.
Shelf life-I doubt this sauce will last long enough to worry about shelf life. The longest I have ever had a batch was one month and it was still as tasty as when it got made. Which makes sense because all the ingredients (except garlic and ginger) in the sauce are preservatives.
- 1 Mixing Bowl
- 1 Whisk
- 1 Microplane / Zester
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
Vegan Korean BBQ Recipe
Perks: Fast, Easy, Gluten-free (minor changes)
Yields: 1 qt
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
- 1 Cup Gochujang
- 1 Cup Honey
- ¼ Cup Hoisin
- ½ Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
- ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
- ½ Tbsp Sesame Oil
- ½ Tbsp Vegan Fish Sauce
- ¼ Cup Soy Sauce
- 2 Clove Garlic Microplaned
- 1 Inch Ginger Microplaned
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.
*To Make this recipe gluten- free, simply buy the gluten-free soy sauce and gluten-free hoisin.
- Can you freeze this sauce?
Yes, you can. If you do decide to freeze this sauce, try to freeze it in amounts you know you will use. You do not want to keep refreezing it.
- Can I replace the rice wine vinegar?
I do not recommend replacing the rice wine vinegar, but if you must then I would use apple cider vinegar.
- Can I blend this in the blender if I do not have a Microplane?
Yes and no. If you do not have a Microplane, then yes you can blend the garlic and ginger. I would not recommend blending the gochujang or the hoisin though. The reason being, it that the blender or food processor whip air into things. If you whip air into the gochujang or hoisin, it will take forever to come out. Itwon’t look right or coat other food items right.
- Can I use agave if I do not eat honey?
Absolutely, if you are not comfortable with eating honey then do not! Agave is a great alternative.
Admin. “Brief Ancient History of Korean BBQ.” Korean BBQ Online, 11 Feb. 2016, koreanbbqonline.com.au/brief-ancient-history-of-korean-bbq/.
P, C. “The History of Korean Barbeque, Banchan, and Dry-Aging.” Food Worth Writing For, 8 May 2020, foodworthwritingfor.com/2018/07/24/the-history-of-korean-barbeque-banchan-and-dry-aging/.