Jullie: Cooking with Mom | Korean-Style BBQ Shortribs

Back when the blog was still known as “Mangoes & Palm Trees”, my mom and I got together a few times for a Cooking with Mom series. Each recipe was our take on a different Filipino classic. All comfort foods. And readers really loved these dishes! (The crispy pork belly and garlic fried rice is still the blog's top-viewed recipe ever.) Now that the blog...and our style of cooking...have gotten a bit of a revamp, I’ve been wanting to bring mama back for more collaborations! :D

This time around, we're tackling one of our absolute favorites for grilling: Korean-style shortribs! My family and I love going out for some Korean food, and so often at family BBQ's, shortribs make an appearance. My mom and I, however, wanted to come up with a lighter twist on this hearty dish. So today's recipe was inspired by Judy Joo, host of the Cooking Channel’s Korean Food Made Simple, and her version of "kalbi.". 

To start, the marinade for the shortribs only has ten key ingredients. You could technically find plenty of bottled, ready-to-go marinades at the Asian market, but Mom and I really wanted to try making our own. Especially since these bottled versions can have ingredients we've been trying to cut out of our diets lately...Preservatives we can't pronounce. MSG. Lots of sugar. Loads of sodium...So, two important swaps in this recipe are: coconut aminos, instead of soy sauce, and coconut sugar, instead of brown sugar.

In the last few months, my mom and I have been cooking up some of our favorite Asian foods, but reworking the recipes to make them a little healthier. I bought these Big Tree Farms products at my local Sprouts Market recently and have loved cooking with them! The coconut sugar and the coconut aminos are made from the coconut blossom nectar, but the aminos still adds that savory umami factor, just like soy sauce, and the sugar has almost the same flavor notes that brown sugar does! And, they're both organic and non-GMO!

For freshness, grated garlic, onion, and ginger are also added to the mix. You can use a plain ol' box grater or just throw everything into a food processor. The fine texture just allows all of the flavors to blend really well in the marinade.

Another fresh component is the Asian pear. This fruit helps to give the BBQ its signature sweetness and to tenderize the meat. This is a common ingredient in Korean marinades, but if you can't find it, I've also seen regular pears or even apple sauce used as substitutes.

Just combine all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl...

And whisk it all together! Done!

Finally, the short ribs! This beautiful cut of meat has fat marbled all throughout, so after grilling, the short ribs are tender and have so much flavor. A little tip when shopping: Asian markets usually just label these as "short ribs" or "Korean short ribs". In other stores, you might also find them labeled as "flanken cut short ribs".

Simply pour the marinade over the meat, then flip the individual pieces around to really distribute the marinade and completely coat the meat. Then, cover and chill in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours! (We went with the full 24-hour treatment! The longer, the better!)

The next day, all you have to do is take the ribs out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. This allows the meat to come to room temperature, so they cook evenly.

The thin short ribs actually grill up very quickly over medium-high heat. You only need about 1-2 minutes per side. No covering or walking away! In practically no time at all, the marinade will caramelize and give you those perfectly charred grill marks!

To serve, you can leave the short ribs in whole strips or cut them down into smaller pieces. We also decided to serve ours with spicy kimchi (a classic Korean side) and baby bok choy sauteed in a combo of coconut oil and sesame oil!

(*The kimchi is a sugar/msg-free and vegan-friendly brand called Wildbrine! I discovered this kimchi back when Chelsea and I first did Whole30, and I've stuck with it ever since.)

I love how easy it is to make these Korean-style shortribs...You can make a delicious marinade right in your very own kitchen, and it'd be a great dish to serve for those last few Summer cookouts! Smoky, savory, with a hint of sweetness...It's such a yummy balance of flavors, and you can pull it all off with just 10 simple, fresh, and real ingredients! Pile them high on your plate, and have absolutely zero guilt while devouring. ;)

Korean Style BBQ Shortribs (serves 2-3, adapted from Judy Joo's Korean Food Made Simple)

1.5 lbs thinly cut beef short ribs (korean or "flanken" style)
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
6 tbsp coconut aminos
3 tbsp coconut sugar
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/4 yellow onion, peeled & grated
1 Asian pear, peeled, cored, & grated

  1. Place the short ribs in a large Ziploc bag or a large dish. Lightly coat both sides of each rib with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the coconut aminos, coconut sugar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, onion, and Asian pear. Whisk together.
  3. Pour marinade over the short ribs. Turn/flip the meat to make sure its evenly coated. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours. Remove from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  4. On a grill set to medium-high heat, cook the short ribs 1-2 minutes per side. 
  5. Serve in whole strips or cut into smaller pieces with kitchen shears. Serve with kimchi and veggies!