Korean-Style Marinade

Korean-Style Marinade

Our Korean-Style Marinade is a soy and sugar-free take on bulgogi, or Korean barbecue, and can be used in chicken, beef, or pork. This marinade is traditionally made with sugar and honey, so we’re offsetting the glycemic load with Swerve Brown Sweetener (can also use Lakanto Golden) and grated granny smith apple for a punch of sweet and tart flavor.

Since coconut aminos is less salty than soy sauce, we’re amping up the flavor with a bit of heat instead of adding sodium. There are three ways to achieve this: gochugaru, chili garlic sauce, or crushed red pepper. Gochugaru is Korean red chili pepper that is used in the form of flakes or powder and is traditionally used in this dish. It has a sweet and slightly smoky flavor, and the heat level varies between mild and hot varieties.

When purchasing as flakes, maewoon is the hotter variety and deolmaewoon is the milder of the two. You may also see gochujang, which is a fermented Korean red chili pepper paste. However, this is made with soy and may also contain rice. It’s worth purchasing the flake version of this spice if you enjoy the flavor profile, and the sun-dried variety has the richest flavor. If you don’t have access to gochugaru, chili garlic sauce, or crushed red pepper will work. Amount used will vary, to taste.

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Korean-Style Marinade

Korean-Style Marinade

  • Author: Fresh. Out.
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Marinates up to 2 lbs
  • Category: Marinades
  • Method: Optional Reduction
  • Cuisine: Asian


Korean-Style Marinade


  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large granny smith apple, peeled and finely grated or 1/4 cup pureed pineapple, if sugar isn’t an issue
  • 1 medium yellow onion, very finely diced
  • 1/4 cup coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp Swerve Brown Sweetener
  • 2 tsp avocado oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar for paleo option)
  • 1 tsp Red Boat fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • Gochugaru* (Korean red chili pepper) flakes to taste, or 1/4 tsp crushed pepper, or 1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce (more of any of these, depending on heat preference)
  • Additional sliced green onions and sesame seeds for serving.


For the Marinade

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large glass jar with a lid and shake vigorously, until completely combined. Alternately place everything but the onions into a bullet blender cup and pulse until combined. Add the onions and shake well.
  2. Allow the marinade to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes, then shake and taste for heat. Add gochugaru, garlic chili sauce, or crushed red pepper, to taste. 
  3. Place protein into a large zip-top bag and pour in marinade. Remove excess air, seal, and massage to distribute evenly. Refrigerate overnight, then cook as desired. Yes, this is essential. 

Reduction Option

  1. If using with chicken, you can reserve the marinade (after removing the chicken) to make a reduction sauce. Add remaining contents of the marinade bag, 1/2 cup of boiling water, and another tablespoon of coconut aminos to a small sauce pan with a heavy bottom. 
  2. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat and stir constantly for 3 minutes. Lower heat and simmer until reduced by at least half. 
  3. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Strain through a fine mesh strainer (may have to do this twice) and use as a dipping sauce.


*The amount of gochugaru needed will vary greatly depending on hot or mild variety. Start with 1/8-1/4 tsp and work your way up to desired heat level. About 1/4 tsp of the hot variety was enough for us…but we’re wimps. 

Note: While boiling, the reduction won’t be pretty, but you’ll strain it at the end, and all will be good. Promise. Total time does not include optional reduction time. 

Keywords: Korean-Style Marinade, bulgogi, Korean barbecue, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free, gluten-free, paleo, low-fat, low-carb, chicken, beef, pork


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