Trader Joe’s KOREAN BEEFLESS BULGOGI (with recipe hack)


“Plant based Bulgogi style strips marinated in a sweet and savory soy sauce”

Bulgogi is a popular Korean BBQ dish consisting of grilled marinated beef. It’s delicious. Trader Joe’s frozen “Korean Beef-less Bulgogi is their vegan version, consisting of small pieces of mock meat made from soy protein, wheat gluten and other things. Judging from the internet, this product seems to be a bit of a hit especially with vegetarians of course (which I am not). The mock bulgogi strips have a pleasantly chewy texture that kind of make it resemble beef with a pleasantly chewy but tender texture. There isn’t really any sauce on these and I promise these will be tastier with some kind of sauce on them. A no-brainer sauce for these would be some Korean Gochujang (red pepper paste, $1.99 at Trader Joe’s). You can make a fast easy sauce which will match well with the strips with it and give it a little bit of sweet heat. You can either sauté these and cook in a little Gochujang or put it on top after cooking which is what I did (see below)

TJ’s Bulgogi Vegan Strips cooked up into a tasty Stir Fry with vegetables and a little seasoning

Ingredients include soy sauce, pear puree, onion, garlic, apple puree, sugar, cornstarch, guar gum, soy protein, rice flour, wheat gluten and soybean oil

To best enjoy these, what I strongly suggest is don’t do this lazy thing I see on the ‘net about these TJ Beefless Bulgogi strips where people say all they do is microwave this package and put them on top of a bowl of rice. People exclaim “this is the bomb”. Wow, that is a such a low bar. Makes we wonder if these folks ever tasted real Korean cooking where a dishes flavors can explode all over your taste buds? Anway, to me just nuking the package and putting this on rice may be edible but that is so boring people! I suggest you think of these strips as an ingredient, as the main protein to cook up into a dish with. Make a stir fry for instance using these strips which will take you ten minutes of work, most of which is cutting up veggies. Below is one recipe stir fry idea for these vegan strips. First off, these will taste better if you get a nice sear on them, so suggest don’t just nuke them, you should definitely cook them in a pan or wok to brown them up a bit. You can throw a dish together in about 10 minutes with just a little effort. Defrosting needed?! Yes. TJ’s often says “Heat From Frozen” on the package. I disagree about cooking food from frozen – something TJ’s often recommends on their packages (again, geared towards making everything “easy”?) Anyway I do suggest defrosting these before cooking. They defrost fairly quickly. I just left the package in my fridge overnight. Or you could take it out in the morning for that night’s dinner. Or just leave the bag on the counter for maybe an hour or two? In a pinch you could just run water over the (unopened) bag in a bowl till the strips are defrosted. See below for a Stir Fry recipe featuring the “Bulgogi Strips”….

So how close is this to actual beef Bulgogi? First off I should state I’m and omnivore, not Vegan. I adore real Bulgogi especially in a smoky Korean BBQ restaurant using old school charcoal. These Beefless Strips don’t compare but THEY ARE pretty good and do slightly resemble beef though they won’t fool an omnivore that they’re beef. However frankly my Korean wife ate my Stir Fry dish and until I told here this was Vegan and not real beef she she didn’t know at first. What they got right here, is the chewy texture, which is good, it’s a little “beefy and chewy”. But I totally recommend you fix them up as mentioned above and cook them into something tasty, where they are an ingredient and not just the star of the show. A package was $3.49. (Yikes. they went up since I wrote this; now 4.29?) If real beef, at least 10 or 12 bucks I would guess.

Note: While this is Vegan it is NOT Gluten Free as it contains Wheat Gluten. In fact Gluten is what gives this the nice, chewy texture. Buddhist have been using Wheat Gluten to make Vegetarian Mock Meat for a thousand years. This is what “Seitan” is.

RECIPE – EASY BEEFLESS BULGOGI STIR FRY : Put a tablespoon of TJ’s Toasted Sesame Oil (or any oil) in a wok or pan. On medium heat, add the defrosted bulgogi strips in a single layer and let them brown and get seared (maybe 3-5 minutes?). Don’t move them around until they are seared. When they are, add vegetables* of your choosing, cut into bite size pieces. In the dish in the picture above I used 3 cloves of sliced garlic (fresh garlic is a must) 1/2 an onion, 2 sticks of celery, 1/2 a yellow pepper. Increase the veggies as you see fit. Sauté the veggies with the strips for about 5 minutes, stir frying them till crispy tender. I seasoned this for a little more flavor. Add 1 Tbs soy sauce, and a 1/2 tsp of TJ’s Red Boat fish sauce if you have it. Add a tablespoon of Palm Sugar or honey and little ACV, lime or lemon juice for acidity. Turn off the heat and add another teaspoon or two of Toasted Sesame Oil. If you have them, sprinkle on sesame seeds and chopped scallions. I suggest drizzling Gochujang sauce over the top. For a super easy sauce, just mix a tablespoon or two of Gochujang with an equal amount water slowly until its a smooth sauce. Serve with rice of course. Also – Soft lettuce with these is nice (to make “Saam” lettuce wraps) If you want to be a bit lazy and not have to cut up * vegetables, you can just buy a pack of TJ’s frozen Asian veggies mix and cook that with these strips after the browning part.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Theperfectcurry
    Sep 22, 2022 @ 14:18:05

    Looks really good

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  2. Connie Sutherland
    Sep 22, 2022 @ 14:29:33

    I sure wish this didn’t contain wheat — I’d definitely try it if it was gluten-free!

    P.S. I especially appreciate reviews like this, with cooking/prep suggestions.

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  3. Trackback: Trader Joe’s GOCHUJANG (Korean Red Pepper Paste) | Trader Joe’s Rants & Raves (mostly raves, a few rants)
  4. Lina Correa
    Oct 28, 2022 @ 16:13:59

    It was really good! I didn’t have fish sauce and used broccoli instead of celery and pepper, otherwise followed it exactly. Thanks so much!

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    • promacnyc
      Oct 28, 2022 @ 16:54:59

      Really appreciate the thumbs up. Thanks for you comment Lina and suggestion about broccoli. My cooking style is use what I find in the fridge, go with the flow.

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      Reply

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