Choosing between Asian and Mexican cuisine is tough, as they both offer a load of depth and flavor. Make your choice an easy one with this Mexican-Asian taco recipe that brings you the best of both worlds - flavorful umami Bulgogi beef paired with fresh lime, Korean coleslaw, and spicy Mexican crema.
This Korean beef taco recipe is one of our weeknight go-to's because it combines two of the best international cuisines in one seriously easy-to-prepare recipe.
The hardest part of these Asian fusion tacos is preparing the marinade ahead of time to give your Bulgogi beef plenty of time to mingle with the rich flavors of fresh ginger, garlic, and soy.
Usually, I slice my beef in the morning and then toss it into the marinade in the fridge until dinner time. Once you pull the marinated meat out of the refrigerator, the whole meal comes together in under 30 minutes between chopping your purple cabbage, avocado, and cilantro and frying up the flank steak strips.
Follow our recipe below to make some delicious Korean beef tacos with spicy lime crema and serve them up in a mess-free taco holder!
1/4 c. toasted sesame oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 c. soy sauce or tamari
1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 c. hot water
1 1/2 lb flank steak
12 to 14 6-inch flour tortillas
1 small purple cabbage
1/3 bunch fresh cilantro
1 whole avocado, pitted and sliced
1/3 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp Sriracha hot sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Thinly slice your flank steak directionally against the meat's grain and place it in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Place all Bulgogi steak marinade ingredients in a glass measuring cup or small-sized mixing bowl - sesame oil, minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, and hot water. Stir the marinade ingredients until the sugar dissolves completely.
Once combined, pour the marinade over the raw steak and mix until the meat is fully coated. Cover the steak bowl and place it in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hrs.
Once marinated, pull your meat out of the fridge 30 mins before cooking to allow it to get up to room temperature.*
While you wait for your Korean beef to get up to room temperature, prepare your taco toppings. Clean and thinly shred your purple cabbage, slice your avocado, and chop your fresh cilantro. Set aside.
Preheat a large-sized cast-iron skillet on the stovetop over high heat for 5-10 mins.**
Add your flank steak and leave it to cook for 2-3 min. Once lightly browned, stir it and continue cooking. The less you mess with the beef at this point, the more seared your meat will get.
Cook for another 3-5 min, occasionally stirring until the liquid evaporates and the sauce caramelizes on the beef. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Toast your flour tortillas on a hot skillet or directly on your stove grates if you have a gas stovetop. Turn the tortillas frequently, as they tend to burn very quickly. Wrap in a dry dishtowel to keep warm.
In a small-sized mixing bowl, assemble your lime crema ingredients - sour cream, mayonnaise, Sriracha, garlic powder, and fresh lime juice. Whisk until well combined.
Now it's taco assembly time! Pull out your tortillas, topping them with the Korean beef, cabbage, cilantro, avocado, and a big dollop of lime crema. If you'd like, add another squeeze of fresh lime.
Serve and enjoy your Korean steak tacos!
*Cooking your meat while still cold will cool your pan and dry out your beef.
**Your pan is ready when a drop of water sizzles on the pan but doesn't immediately evaporate.
Bulgogi translates to "fire meat" and refers to a famous Korean BBQ preparation, in which thin marinated meat slices grill on a BBQ, stovetop griddle, or a pan, like in our recipe. Although you can use any type of pan to make Bulgogi, we recommend using a cast-iron skillet if you can.
Why? Cast iron's high-temperature retention allows it to give your meat a nice sear that's more similar to the crispy results you'd get on a traditional grill.
You'll see Bulgogi made with beef most often, but pork and chicken are other popular alternatives, too.
The best type of meat to use for a Korean BBQ taco is flank steak. You can also use hanger steak, top sirloin, or flat-iron, but these cuts tend to be quite expensive.
Though flank is a little leaner and firmer than these other options, marinating it and cutting against the grain helps to make your Bulgogi beef strips tender and flavorful without breaking your grocery budget.
This Bulgogi taco recipe isn't completely gluten-free, but you can easily adjust it as needed.
Instead of wheat-based tortillas, choose a gluten-free option instead, like corn tortillas or certified gluten-free wraps. You can also eat these tacos unwrapped on a bed of greens or steamed rice instead.
The soy sauce is another ingredient to check if you're dealing with gluten allergies - read your soy sauce label carefully, as some brands contain wheat-based ingredients.
The beauty of fusion recipes like this one is you have plenty of side dishes to choose from that all blend equally well with the dish.
You can lean into the Mexican flavors in the dish and pair them with citrus beans and rice, nachos, fresh guacamole, salsa, or bean dip.
If you want to enjoy some Korean side dishes with these beef tacos, we have a few favorites - spicy cucumber salad, Doenjang soup, radish salad, or flash-boiled spinach with sesame oil.
If you want a taco topping with a little more zing than the fresh purple cabbage in our dish, turn it into an Asian slaw for tacos instead. You can enjoy this simple addition on top of your Korean beef tacos or the side!
Once cooked, these Korean beef tacos can last up to 3 days in the fridge in a sealed airtight container. Keep the ingredients separate until serving to keep your tortilla and toppings from getting soggy. We don't recommend freezing your leftover meat, as it can get too firm and rubbery when it thaws.
Enjoy your leftovers reheated or make cold tacos the next day - both are delicious!
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