By Christie Vanover | Published February 7, 2018 | Last Updated March 22, 2023
I was fortunate enough to live in South Korea for a short time. I absolutely fell in love with the country, its people and its food. One of my favorite dishes is kalbi ribs.
Korean short ribs – the cut matters
In America, when we think of short ribs, we think of big beefy chunks of meat attached to a short bone. These usually require a long cook on a smoker or in a braising liquid.
Korean short ribs are cut from the same section of the cow, but they’re cut in the opposite direction, across the bone – flanken style.
This results in a thin slice of beef, similar to a really thick slice of bacon with 3-4 small bones nestled inside. Since the meat is so thin and so marbled, it can be cooked up fast over direct heat, just like a juicy steak.
Read my tutorial to learn more about the different types of beef ribs.
Korean style BBQ is a little different than the states. Most of us have big outdoor charcoal or gas grills.
In Korea, however, it’s very common to find small barbecue grills indoors. In fact, many Korean restaurants have grills right at each table.
Guests are traditionally served raw marinated meat like kalbi, bulgogi and pork belly, and they grill it up and enjoy it along with banchan – small bowls of rice and raw and pickled vegetables, such as kimchi.
Now that we have the right cut, let’s talk marinade. Traditional kalbi marinade includes pureed apples and/or Asian pears. Both of these fruits have enzymes that act as natural tenderizers.
When I first developed this recipe, I tried pureeing apples and pears in the blender, and I didn’t like the grainy texture.
Now, I use baby food. The texture is smooth and it’s all natural. I always buy the Gerber 1st Foods® varieties. They come in 1/4-cup containers, which is the exact amount needed for this recipe.
Other ingredients in the marinade include soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, onion, garlic, sesame oil and a few seasonings.
When I’m really craving grilled kalbi and I don’t have all the ingredients on hand for this recipe, I sometimes cheat and use the premade Korean BBQ kalbi marinade. (Don’t tell anyone.)
I prefer to let the ribs marinate overnight in the refrigerator because I really love to soak the meat with all of those Asian flavors. If you don’t have the time or patience, you can do a quick 30-minute marinade at room temperature. They just won’t be quite as amazing.
See the full recipe card below for servings and a full list of ingredients.
How to grill kalbi
- STEP ONE: No need to dirty a large bowl. Place all of the Korean marinade ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Add the short ribs and marinate them overnight in the refrigerator.
- STEP TWO: Once your meat has marinated, it’s time to fire up the grill to high heat. You can use charcoal or gas. Pull the ribs from the marinade and place them directly over the heat on the hot grill. Grill for 5-7 minutes per side over direct heat.
These can also be cooked over a campfire. Weave the beef onto long metal skewers. Hold over the fire, turning occasionally for about 10 minutes. These are way more fun than hot dogs.
PRO TIPS: Don’t walk away. Since there is sugar in the marinade and the ribs are fatty, you may experience a few flare ups. With a long set of tongs, move the ribs around the grill for 5-7 minutes.
Then, flip them and continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes. I love when the fat morsels get nice and crispy, so I prefer to cook them for the full 7 minutes per side.
Either discard the excess marinade or heat it to a simmer to fully cook it since it was exposed to raw meat.
How to serve Korean short ribs
Remove the grilled kalbi ribs from the grill and place on a platter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and green onions.
Kalbi ribs are very popular at Hawaiian BBQ restaurants. The kalbi rib plate lunch special is usually served with two scoops of white sticky rice and one scoop of Hawaiian mac salad.
The ribs can be served whole or cut between the bones with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. The smaller portions are great for appetizers or finger food at parties.
Leftover ribs should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. You can also freeze grilled kalbi ribs for up to six months.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- Use apple and pear baby food to tenderize the meat
- For the best flavor, marinate for a few hours
- Cook over high heat on the grill
- Keep an eye on the grill because there will be flare ups
Frequently Asked Questions
Both are correct. The characters in the Korean language of Hangul are not the same as English characters, so when the words are translated, they are spelled out based on their sound.
Phonetically, the Hangul word 갈비 translates to kalbi or galbi. And kalbi or galbi basically translates to mean ribs.
Korean-style short ribs (also called kalbi or galbi) are beef short ribs cut across the bone so they are in thin slices. They are sold as flanken cut short ribs. They are marinated and grilled over high heat.
Kalbi marinade is both sweet and savory. It has strong notes of umami because of the soy sauce and sesame oil. The brown sugar, apple and pear add sweetness and it’s all balanced out with vinegar, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes.
Tenderize flanken cut short ribs in my kalbi marinade recipe for several hours. Remove them from the marinade and place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook them in the oven at 400F degrees for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
What to serve with kalbi
Korean kalbi ribs are almost always served with rice and sprinkled with sliced green onions and sesame seeds. Here are a few side dishes that also go great with the beef ribs.
Grilled Kalbi (Korean Short Ribs)
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup pear baby food
- 1/4 cup apple baby food
- 1/4 cup minced white onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes optional
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 2 lbs Korean or flanken short ribs
- 2 cups white rice
- 2 green onions
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
- In a large zip-top bag, mix together the soy sauce, brown sugar, apples, pears, onion, water, garlic, rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper, chili pepper flakes, ginger powder and sesame oil. Add the short ribs and marinate overnight.
- Preheat the grill to high. Grill the ribs for 5-7 minutes per side over direct heat.
- Serve with white rice and a sprinkle of sliced green onions and sesame seeds.
This estimate was created using an online nutrition calculator
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