Bulgogi means “fire meat” bul (“fire”) and gogi (”meat”) and is a very popular South Korean dish. Traditionally, bulgogi is made of thin slices of beef that have been marinated for hours which are then grilled or stir-fried. My favorite bulgogi is beef served with a side of white rice.
Being a Bulgogi lover this was high on the list of items to try. Although I’m not a vegan I do enjoy a break from meat once in a while. So when a new alternative meat product hits the shelves at Trader Joe’s I’m usually one of the first to try it.
Having a basis to compare it to I was curious to see how Trader Joe’s Korean Beefless Bulgogi would stack up to the beef bulgogi bowls from our local Korean restaurant.
Plant-based food tends to always either hit or miss with me. Trader Joe’s has a pretty good track record when it comes to vegan products from Trader Joe’s so I was extra excited for this one.
What’s In the Box?
Trader Joe’s Korean Beefless Bulgogi comes in a clear plastic bag, and straight out of the bag it looks like a giant blob of frozen, non-appetizing food. In fact, it’s hard to not be completely turned off by the look of it at first.
Unsure of what to do next I read the directions and pushed forward. Did I lose you yet? I promise it gets better from here.
How to Cook Trader Joes Korean Beefless Bulgogi
The box gives four different options to cook: microwave, conventional oven, stove top, and air fryer. I opted to cook the beefless bulgogi in the oven (since most of you have an oven) but immediately I ran into an issue.
The directions say to place the frozen strips in a single layer, however, there was no way to separate the strips. They were completely frozen together in a pile (blob as I referred to it earlier). It was impossible to separate unless I defrosted them.
Out of frustration, I just put the pile on the tray and continued to bake it for the recommended time of 7 minutes.
As the bulgogi was defrosting and heating up in the oven, the sweet smell of the sauce made from sugar, soy sauce, pear, apple and garlic along with hints of ginger filled the kitchen. Oddly enough, the smell was very similar to meat.
Once the timer went off, I took the bulgogi out of the oven and separated it. To no one’s surprise some parts were still cold, so I nuked it in the microwave for one minute and it came out at the perfect temperature.
TJ’s recommended heating options are as follows:
Just make sure that whichever you choose always HEAT FROM FROZEN.
- Remove frozen bulgogi strips from packaging and place into a microwave safe dish.
- Heat strips for 3-4 minutes on HIGH or until heated throughout.
- Carefully remove dish from microwave and serve.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove frozen bulgogi strips from packaging and place into a single layer on a baking sheet.
- Bake strips for 5 to 7 minutes or until heated throughout.
- Use a non-stick pan on medium heat.
- Remove frozen bulgogi strips from packaging and place into pan.
- Heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until heated throughout flipping frequently.
- Remove frozen bulgogi strips from packaging and place frozen bulgogi strips in a single layer in air fryer basket.
- Heat at 375 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes or until heated throughout.
Beefless Bulgogi Taste and Texture
After the bulgogi was done cooking, it was time to inspect it, and I was so surprised! The beefless bulgogi looks exactly like beef. You can see the shape and texture of each slice and it’d hard to differentiate it from strips of beef if you were to purchase them from the supermarket for fajitas. The look and feel when I put my fork and knife into the strips to cut them was unmistakable.
Now, the question everyone is waiting for. Does the beefless bulgogi taste like beef?
The first bite I took made it hard for me to believe I was not eating beef. I had to take a second to look at the packaging to make sure that I grabbed the right product.
As with any meat alternative, the beefless bulgogi strips were designed to capture the look and feel of real beef. Trader Joes hit the mark here.
To make sure there was no bias I asked an impartial friend to try the dish and he could not believe it wasn’t beef.
If you’re a vegan who misses the texture of meat and enjoys the flavors of traditional bulgogi, this is the dish for you. You will get the sensation of eating meat while enjoying the Korean beefless bulgogi from Trader Joe’s and staying true to being vegan.
Trader Joes Korean Beefless Bulgogi Nutrition Facts
Per serving the beefless bulgogi contains the following:
- Calories: 230
- Total Fat: 11g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
- Sodium: 580mg
- Total Carbohydrate: 15g
- Dietary Fiber: 5g
- Total Sugars: 6g
- Includes 6g added sugars
- Protein: 16g
- Iron: 5.3mg
The beefless bulgogi is very good source of dietary fiber, protein and iron, while not surprisingly coming in a bit high in sodium. Don’t be scared off by this if you balance your sodium intake throughout the day.
The beefless bulgogi is made of plant-based ingredients and spices and is labeled for vegans.
It contains wheat gluten and therefore is not gluten free.
Trader Joes Korean Beefless Bulgogi Ingredients
WATER, SAUCE (SUGAR, WATER, SOY SAUCE, [WATER. DEFATTED SOYBEAN FLAKES, WHEAT, SALT). PEAR PUREE, ONION, GARLIC, APPLE PUREE, CARAMELIZED SUGAR SYRUP (SUGAR, WATER) MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, GINGER, GREEN ONION EXTRACT [WATER GREEN ONIONS, MALTODEXTRIN, SALT, PECTINASE], DEXTRIN, BLACK PEPPER, GUAR GUM, XANTHAM GUM), TEXTURED SOY PROTEIN (SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, RICE FLOUR, WHEAT GLUTEN, COCOA POWDER) SOYBEAN OIL.
CONTAINS: SOY AND WHEAT
Korean Beefless Bulgogi Price
The price of the entrée is $4.49 and has three servings per package. You can easily turn this into a few meals by adding some rice and green onion and leave the table feeling very satisfied, making the cost per serving extremely reasonable.
What we think Trader Joes could do better…
The beefless bulgogi lacked sauce. Yes, there was sauce, in fact that was the “glue” that kept the bulgogi in a pile and the reason it wouldn’t separate when we took it out of the package.
It just seemed like there would be quite a bit from the description and the packaging, however, after we cooked it there barely any sauce on the plate. You can still taste the marinade, and it is a very good flavor, but there should be a bit more sauce included with the strips.
If a Trader Joes crew member is reading this review we would be grateful if you could pass this suggestion along to someone that can make this happen!
At the end of the day, Trader Joe’s did a fabulous job when creating the Korean Beefless Bulgogi. Whether you’re a meat eater, a vegetarian, or a vegan, we think you’ll enjoy this one! It’s a delicious, healthy, a great value and just something different.