Korean Grilled Short Ribs (Kalbi)

This recipe is the most authentic lettuce wrap* that I know – Korean grilled short ribs, or Kalbi.
*Lettuce wraps have become one of my favorite ways to sneak some extra vegetables into my diet. We serve them like we do “taco night” – everything goes on the table, and people assemble their own wraps. Of course, the kids won’t touch the lettuce, so they just grab the rest of the components of the meal.

This is authentic, easy to make, and quick to cook. All the ingredients are available at your local grocery store. Sounds too good to be true, right? The hard part is finding the ribs cut this way. Check out your local Asian market, or ask your butcher to cut some short ribs very thin – 1/4″ thick is what you want, but 1/2″ thick is OK.

*Or substitute thin sliced flank steak or skirt steak – see the notes.

Korean Grilled Short Ribs (Kalbi) recipe



  • 2 lbs Korean cut short ribs (sliced 1/4″ thick, across the bone.)
  • 1 head Boston bibb lettuce (for wraps, optional)

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 scallion
  • 1 Pear, peeled and cored
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp rice wine

Marinating the ribs

1. Marinate ribs: In a food processor or blender, pulse the garlic and scallion until finely minced. Add the pear, and pulse again until finely minced. Add the rest of the marinade ingredients, and run until well combined. Toss the ribs and the marinade (I do this in a gallon ziploc bag), and store in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours, turning occasionally to marinate evenly.

2. Prep grill: Preheat grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Clean grate with a grill brush, and brush the grate with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
  • Gas grill: Preheat on high, clean grates, then turn heat down to medium.
  • Charcoal grill: Light coals, wait until covered with gray ash. Then, spread in a single layer of coals over the charcoal grate.
3. Cook ribs: Remove ribs from marinade, and cook over the direct-medium heat for 2-4 minutes per side, or until well browned on both sides. Remove ribs to a plate and let rest 5-10 minutes before serving.

Grilling the short ribs
*On my gas grill, I cook in a 2-2-flip-2-2 pattern; cook 2 minutes, turn the ribs 90*, cook another 2 minutes; flip the ribs, 2 more minutes, turn 90*, final 2 minutes. This gives you a nice diamond pattern on the ribs.
*Watch the ribs carefully – the marinade has a lot of sugar in it, and will burn if left over too hot of a fire.

*Serving: To serve as lettuce wraps, use a head of Boston bibb lettuce, leaves separated and rinsed. I usually serve it with a vegetable stir fry, jasmine rice, and, even though they’re not really Korean, some hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot sauce.

*To be really authentic, you’d serve this with Kimchi, Korean pickled fermented cabbage, but that can be a acquired taste.*
*That’s a euphemism for “it smells awful.”

*A trick I learned at my local Korean barbecue restaurant: Use Kitchen Shears to cut the meat off of the bone.

*If you can’t find Korean cut (aka “Flanken cut”) short ribs, substitute either flank steak or skirt steak, cut on the diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices.

*Because of the quick cooking time of this thin cut of meat, it makes an excellent weeknight dinner. If you’re in a hurry, skip the pear and just whisk the rest of the marinade ingredients; then let the meat marinate for as long as you can. I’ve done this recipe this way, and only marinated the meat for the 15-20 minutes it took for the grill to heat up. It’s not quite the experience of the long-marinated meat, but does make a tasty, quick asian meal when you’re in a hurry.

Questions?  Comments?  Other Ideas?  Leave them in the comments, below.

Related posts:
Click here for my other grilling recipes.
Click here for my Chinese BBQ boneless ribs recipe

Inspired by:
Steven Raichlen – The Barbecue! Bible

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