Pull this Bulgogi-style (a.k.a. Korean BBQ) Asian vegan dish together with a flavorful blend of spices, a quick tofu and mushroom prep method, and a simple pan process. Choose how to serve and what toppings to use. You just got twenty minutes back to spend enjoying your evening with a smile on your face from the satisfyingly sweet and savory flavors this dish gives.

plate of tofu and mushroom bulgogi, with radish chips and lettuce wraps in the background.

What is Bulgogi?

The word “Bulgogi” means “fire meat” in Korean and describes the method of grilling thin pieces of beef. The beef is marinated in a sweet and savory mix of soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil with spices and is cooked with garlic and onions. Typically, the sauce contains Gochujang, a fermented, spicy Korean chili paste as well. Then the meat is served over rice or in lettuce wraps, often with Korean side dishes. It’s all about the familiar sweet and savory flavor in the meat and I created a Bulgogi-style version of this beloved dish, using tofu and mushrooms for a flavorful vegan version. Shredded pear or apple are typically included in the marinade for the meat as a tenderizer, which isn’t needed for this vegan version. However, some grated pear or apple would make a nice additional fresh topping to my other suggestions below!

What makes this recipe Bulgogi-style?

I’ve eaten Bulgogi extensively from a local Korean restaurant and researched the dish as well, to arrive at the essential aspects of the recipe needed to emulate the flavors loved by so many. I’ve developed a vegan version with specifics as follows:

  • This recipe is a vegan version of Bulgogi, using tofu and mushrooms instead of beef.
  • I’ve left out Gochujang, mentioned above, which is included in the dish typically. You can customize your version by stirring some in when the components come together in a pan.
  • I’ve simplified the process with the use of dry spices. After tossing the tofu and mushrooms in the spices and roasting them for about 10 minutes, the dish comes together quickly in a pan with Coconut aminos (suggested in place of soy sauce or tamari) and toasted sesame oil.
  • This recipe uses far less oil. Very little oil is needed for roasting the tofu and mushrooms and the toasted sesame oil is only added for taste at the end. This yields a tasty and lighter version.
  • The amount of ground white pepper and chili flakes (Aleppo or red) used yields a preparation that does have a nice subtle kick of heat, that I believe most can tolerate as is.
Overhead view of bowls of rice, lettuce cups, tofu and mushrooms prepared bulgogi style, scallions, radish chips and sautéed spinach, all labeled as such.

How to prep the tofu and mushrooms for this recipe

Shred to prep:

Extra firm tofu and fresh mushrooms are grated using the larger holes of a box grater. This is a fast and simple process. The soft ingredients grate smoothly and easily. This yields a “meat-like” texture, with lots of surface area for the spice blend. It creates a very flavorful protein.

Seasoning:

The shredded tofu and mushrooms are tossed in Asian spices before cooking. I recommend taking ten minutes to make my Asian Spice Blend while you are at it, so you can make this or another Asian dish another time. Or you can measure the spice ingredients just for this recipe- as per the recipe card below. I have left the spicy heat out of this recipe to make it accessible to a variety of eaters, but if you love the heat, I recommend sprinkling some Gochugaru over the tofu and mushrooms as well as the specified spices before cooking for that signature Korean chili heat.

Roast hot and fast:

To create the flavorful tofu and mushroom “meat” the spiced bits are roasted in a 450-degree oven. This allows the moisture to reduce and the tofu and mushrooms to develop a golden surface with a bit of a chew and even a little toasted flavor.

Above: Left: Tofu roasted on its own develops a deep golden color and crunchy texture. Right: Tofu and mushrooms roasted together will retain more moisture than if roasted separately

Ingredient notes

  • Extra Firm Tofu is the tofu of choice for this recipe, for ease of grating and because it has less water that will need evaporating when cooking.
  • Mushrooms– Any mushrooms that are large enough to hold and grate individually over a box grater work. I’ve used creminis (aka baby bellas) as well as King Oysters which are firm and larger-sized. Shiitake might be harder to grate as they seem tougher and more fibrous.
  • Spices– The recipe includes 6 spices plus coconut sugar and mushroom powder. The mushroom powder is optional and you can substitute fresh onion or ginger if you prefer. Pare back the spices if needed or use all 6 spices. See recipe card notes for substitutions and other spice notes.
  • Coconut Aminos– these are a great alternative to soy sauce (which contains 42% sodium) or even the low-sodium variety of Tamari (which contains 29% sodium) because coconut aminos contain only 12% sodium (270 mg per 1 tbsp). They are made from coconut sap and taste very similar to soy/tamari, and I recommend trying them.
  • Coconut sugar is used in place of white sugar because of its caramelized flavor. I’ve used it in my Homemade Asian Spice Blend because it is drier than brown sugar. It contains trace minerals and has a lower glycemic index (though, it’s debatable how healthy coconut sugar is).

Serving + Optional Toppings

  • Sauteed spinach– I chose sauteed spinach with garlic as a topping as an easy green to prepare and it is a component of Bibimbap, a Buddha bowl, of sorts, made with Bulgogi.
  • Radish “chips” – pickled radish is common to eat with Asia meals, but roasting radishes yields a mildly flavored version with can be enjoyed by radish lovers and haters alike 🙂
  • Lettuce cups– any type of lettuce that has rounder leaves, such as Boston or Bib lettuce works well and doesn’t fall apart and Raddicchio leaves, while a tad bitter, are beautiful and hold up great as well, and you can see them pictured in this post.
  • Pickled/Fermented veggies– Buy one of the many options that likely are sold at your grocer, as a healthy and tangy addition to this meal. At the very least, you can slice up some red onion and toss it with some white or apple cider vinegar with a pinch of salt and sugar for a basic quick pickled option.
  • Candied Ginger– this highly optional ingredient is perfect for this dish since it is coated in sugar which fits the savory and sweet flavors of this Bulgogi-style recipe.

Above: Radish chips can roast alongside the tofu and mushrooms. They have a more subtle and sweeter flavor than raw radishes. Candied ginger slices, chopped up, makes a delightful topping as well.

Serving options

Bulgogi meat is typically served over rice or in lettuce wraps and I’ve given you ingredient options to prepare either or both. However you serve this Bulgogi-style tofu and mushrooms there will be satisfyingly crunchy and chewy textures mixed with both tangy, savory, and sweet accents. the tofu and mushrooms reheat well in the microwave the next day as well.

bulgogi-style tofu and mushroom lettuce wraps.
bulgogi style lettuce wraps using green leaf and radicchio
overhead view of tofu and mushroom bulgogi over sautéed spinach and rice
Bulgogi-style Tofu and Mushrooms over sautéed spinach and rice
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plate of tofu and mushroom bulgogi, with radish chips and lettuce wraps in the background.

Shredded Bulgogi-Style Tofu & Mushrooms

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Servings4
Calories356
Pull this Bulgogi-style (a.k.a. Korean BBQ) Asian dish together quickly with a flavorful blend of spices, a quick tofu and mushroom prep method, and a simple pan process. Choose how to serve and what toppings to use.
Kitchen Tools
  • 1 sheet pan
  • 1 saute pan
  • 1 coffee/spice grinder, optional

Ingredients
 

Shredded Bulgogi-style Tofu and Mushrooms
  • 2 blocks extra firm tofu (14 oz. blocks)
  • 1 lb mushrooms of choice (i.e. 2 x 10oz boxes or 1 lb bulk, see notes)
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil (or other unflavored oil)
  • below mix of spices (ok to leave out some or use fresh ingredients in place of any you prefer)
  • 4 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce or tamari, see notes)
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Spice Blend (use 3 tbsp of prepared Sofa Dinners blend or use below): see notes
  • tbsp coconut sugar
  • ½ tsp crushed Aleppo pepper flakes (or red chili flakes or Gochugaru)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper (or black pepper)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp white sesame seeds (or black)
  • 2 tsp mushroom powder (see post for. method, or leave out)
Ingredients for Serving Options
  • 4 cups cooked rice (your choice)
  • 2 bags fresh spinach (for saute option)
  • 2 cloves sliced garlic
  • 4 scallions
  • 8 radishes (prepped with tofu/mushrooms)
  • 8 lettuce leaves (your choice)
  • pickled or fermented veggies (your choice)
  • candied ginger (totally optional- fun addition)

Method:  

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Prepare the spices
  • Either use 3 tbsp of my prepared Asian Spice Blend if you want to make that, or you can assemble the spices as listed here, and mix together before shredding the tofu and mushrooms. See notes below.
Make the Bulgogi-style tofu and mushrooms
  • Drain the tofu and press a bit with paper towel to remove any moisture you can, but no need to press. Grate the tofu on the larger holes of a box grater.
  • Wash the mushrooms to remove any dirt, and grate one at a time on the larger holes of a box grater.
  • Spread the shredded tofu and mushrooms out in single layer on parchment on sheet pan. If you use one pan for each, they will roast more evenly (mushrooms have more moisture and take a bit longer), but you can certainly toss them together on one pan for similar results.
  • If you want to make the "radish chips" then slice radishes, sprinkle with a teeny bit of oil, salt and pepper and lay out in single layer on the sheet pan with tofu and/or mushrooms to roast.
  • Sprinkle the spices over the tofu and mushrooms and roast in hot oven until golden and looking a bit crispy (about 10 min). Don't roast too long, or they will really shrink up. You want some golden color but both ingredients are so full of moisture you have to decide how much roasting will yield a nice result without the ingredients withering away to nothing. The radish chips won't likely get too crispy but are a delightful topping.
  • Briefly sauté the roasted tofu and mushrooms in pan with coconut aminos and sesame oil. If you do have Gochujang and want the added kick, stir in a teaspoon or so. Feel free to include any other blanched veggies here (such as broccoli or cabbage) but I've left those out, for the Bulgogi-style prep. You can chop and include some candied ginger for a delightful zingy flavor. The sugar is appropriate here, as it will carmelize and is already part of the flavor profile
Choose your serving options
  • If serving in lettuce wraps, prepare lettuce leaves of choice, if serving as main dish on plate or bowl, you will use similar components, without the lettuce leaves.
  • Assemble your components as desired such as cooked rice, sauteed spinach, pickled/fermented veggies, scallions, radish chips, sesame seeds, chopped candied ginger.

Notes

  • Mushrooms- you can shred any fresh mushrooms you like. I have used boxed cremini (baby bella) mushrooms and I’ve used fancy King Oysters found in bulk at my grocery store. As long as you can hold them individually to grate them, they will work.
  • Coconut aminos- these taste like soy sauce. You can substitute it with soy sauce or tamari (the low-sodium option). Aminos have far less sodium (12% vs. 29% or 42%).
  • Spices- don’t get overwhelmed by the list of spices. You can leave some out and/or use the fresh versions of any (i.e. clove of garlic, minced onion, grated ginger) when you pull the ingredients together in a pan at the end.

Nutrition (an estimate)

Calories: 356kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 381mg | Potassium: 753mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 2mg | Magnesium: 49mg
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