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Craving Korean BBQ? Try These Mouthwatering Vegetarian Substitutes!

Craving Korean BBQ? Try These Mouthwatering Vegetarian Substitutes!

Are you a vegetarian who loves Korean BBQ? Or maybe you’re just looking for healthier alternatives to the traditional meat-heavy Korean BBQ dishes? Look no further! In this article, we will introduce you to some mouthwatering vegetarian substitutes that will satisfy your cravings and leave you wanting more. From delicious plant-based proteins to flavorful marinades and sauces, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s dive right in and explore the world of vegetarian Korean BBQ!

Craving Korean BBQ? Try These Mouthwatering Vegetarian Substitutes!

The Rise of Vegetarianism and the Need for Alternatives

As more people adopt vegetarian and vegan lifestyles, the demand for meat-free alternatives has increased significantly. Korean cuisine, known for its bold flavors and unique grilling techniques, is no exception. While traditional Korean BBQ mainly revolves around marinated and grilled meats, there are plenty of vegetarian options that can offer the same level of satisfaction and taste. By exploring these alternatives, you can still enjoy the essence of Korean BBQ while staying true to your dietary choices.

Plant-Based Proteins: A Key Component

One of the essential elements of Korean BBQ is the protein-rich main course. While meat is the usual choice, there are several plant-based proteins that can serve as excellent substitutes.

Tofu: The Versatile Powerhouse

Tofu, made from soybeans, is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be used in various Korean BBQ dishes. Its ability to absorb flavors makes it an excellent substitute for meat. When marinated with soy sauce, garlic, and other Korean seasonings, tofu takes on a deliciously savory taste that complements the traditional BBQ experience. Grilled or pan-fried, tofu adds a satisfying texture to your meal.

Tempeh: The Nutrient-Dense Option

Another great plant-based protein option is tempeh, which is made from fermented soybeans. With a dense and chewy texture, tempeh can be marinated and grilled to perfection. Its nutty flavor pairs well with Korean BBQ marinades, and it provides a substantial amount of protein and nutrients.

Seitan: The Meaty Alternative

Seitan, often referred to as “wheat meat” or “wheat gluten,” is a high-protein meat substitute that can be used in Korean BBQ dishes. With its meat-like texture and ability to absorb flavors, seitan can be marinated and grilled just like traditional meats. Its versatility allows it to mimic various meat cuts, making it an excellent choice for those who crave a meaty experience without the actual meat.

Marinades and Sauces: Elevating the Flavor

Korean BBQ is known for its mouthwatering marinades and sauces, which play a crucial role in enhancing the taste of grilled meats. Luckily, these flavors can be easily replicated and adapted to vegetarian substitutes.

Soy-Based Marinades: A Classic Choice

Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil are some of the key ingredients in traditional Korean BBQ marinades. These flavors can be utilized to create delicious marinades for vegetarian proteins like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. By combining these ingredients with additional spices and seasonings, you can achieve that authentic Korean BBQ taste without the meat.

Gochujang: The Spicy Staple

Gochujang, a fermented chili paste, is a staple in Korean cuisine and adds a unique spicy kick to dishes. It can be used as a marinade or a dipping sauce for vegetarian Korean BBQ. Mixed with soy sauce, sesame oil, and other ingredients, gochujang creates a flavorful sauce that adds depth and heat to your meal.

Sesame Oil and Seeds: A Nutty Aroma

Sesame oil and seeds are commonly used in Korean cuisine to add a nutty flavor and aroma. These ingredients can be brushed onto grilled vegetarian proteins, enhancing their taste and texture. Additionally, toasted sesame seeds can be sprinkled on top of dishes for an extra crunch and visual appeal.

Vegetarian Korean BBQ Recipes to Try

Now that we’ve covered the key components of vegetarian Korean BBQ, let’s explore some mouthwatering recipes that you can try at home.

Grilled Tofu Skewers with Spicy Gochujang Glaze


  • Firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • Gochujang
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic, minced
  • Honey or agave syrup (for a vegan option)
  • Sesame seeds (optional)


  1. In a bowl, mix together gochujang, soy sauce, sesame oil, minced garlic, and honey or agave syrup.
  2. Add the tofu cubes to the marinade and let them marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the grill or a grill pan over medium heat.
  4. Thread the marinated tofu cubes onto skewers.
  5. Grill the skewers for about 5-7 minutes on each side, until the tofu is golden and slightly charred.
  6. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top (optional) and serve with a side of steamed rice and kimchi.

Tempeh Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps


  • Tempeh, thinly sliced
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Mirin (rice wine)
  • Brown sugar or sweetener of choice
  • Garlic, minced
  • Ginger, grated
  • Lettuce leaves
  • Sliced cucumber, carrot, and radish (optional, for garnish)


  1. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, brown sugar or sweetener, minced garlic, and grated ginger to create the marinade.
  2. Place the tempeh slices in the marinade and let them marinate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the marinated tempeh slices.
  4. Cook the tempeh for about 4-5 minutes on each side until it becomes caramelized and slightly crispy.
  5. Remove the tempeh from the skillet and let it cool for a few minutes.
  6. To assemble the lettuce wraps, place a spoonful of the cooked tempeh in a lettuce leaf and add your choice of sliced cucumber, carrot, and radish.
  7. Wrap the lettuce leaf around the filling and secure with a toothpick if needed.
  8. Repeat with the remaining tempeh slices and serve with a side of steamed rice.


In conclusion, vegetarian Korean BBQ is not only possible but also incredibly delicious. By incorporating plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, and seitan, and utilizing authentic Korean marinades and sauces, you can create mouthwatering dishes that rival the traditional meat-based BBQ. Whether you’re a vegetarian or simply looking for healthier alternatives, these vegetarian substitutes will satisfy your cravings and leave you wanting more. So, gather your ingredients, fire up the grill, and enjoy a vegetarian Korean BBQ feast that will impress both your tastebuds and your friends!