It’s grilling season, and mark my words: these thinly-sliced, marinated Korean BBQ short ribs (also known as kalbi or galbi) will be the hit of your summer cookouts. Best of all, this tender and flavorful Korean short ribs recipe is paleo, Whole30-friendly, and amazingly simple to throw together!
What’s Kalbi or Galbi?
Kalbi (or galbi) is the Korean word for rib. In the culinary context, it refers to one of my favorite Korean grilled dishes from my pre-paleo days: sweet and savory thin strips of beef short ribs that are quickly cooked on a hot grill. Traditionally, the marinade is made with a sweetened soy sauce, so once I went paleo, I naturally assumed my kalbi-munching days were over.
Luckily, I was wrong!
What cut of meat do I use for galbi?
For this recipe, it’s traditional to use beef short ribs, laterally-cut against the grain (a.k.a flanken-style). These long strips are usually about ½-inch thick, and include three or four thin cross-sections of rib bones. In Korean markets, these ribs can typically be found in the cold case by the butcher counter, and they’re usually labeled, “LA galbi.” No Korean market nearby? Call your local butcher to see if they’ll cut Korean-style short ribs for you.
Many of my Korean pals (and their moms) have advised me to soak, rinse, and pat dry the LA galbi before marinating them to get rid of bone fragments. It’s totally up to you if you decide to do so, but I’ve found that it does make the resulting short ribs less gritty.
All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce to the rescue!
You know how I keep telling you that my All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce is super versatile and can be used in countless recipes and cooking methods? (My ever-growing list of recipes utilizing All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce can be found here.) Well, it also makes an amazing marinade for anything you want to throw on the grill or in the oven—like this Paleo Kalbi!
My Paleo Kalbi is Whole30-friendly, too!
My All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce balances umami, tang, and natural sweetness, so it’s already the perfect base for a Whole30-friendly marinade. To punch up the flavors even more, I’ve added extra ginger, scallions, and toasted sesame oil. There’s absolutely no need for added badness to make this dish taste great!
Kiwi is the secret to tender kalbi
Have you noticed that sometimes when you eat kalbi, it can still be chewy and tough even though it it’s been cut thinly and against the grain? By nature, short ribs are a tough cut of beef. One of the secrets I learned from my Korean pals is to add some fresh kiwi to the marinade because kiwi fruit (similar to pineapple, papaya, Asian pear, and ginger) contains an enzyme that breaks down protein and naturally tenderizes the meat. The key is to marinate the meat long enough (at least 4 hours) but not too long or the meat becomes mushy. So beware: don’t marinate your short ribs for more than 24 hours!
What if I can’t find LA galbi?
When you can’t find LA galbi (flanken-style short ribs), an alternative is to buy regular English-cut short ribs, de-bone them, and cut them into thin strips yourself. That’s a pain, though. An easier option? Buy tougher steak cuts, like flank, skirt, or hanger, and marinate them for 4 to 8 hours to make amazing Korean-style grilled steaks.
If you’re cooking tender protein cuts (e.g. rib eye, NY strip, filet migon, chicken, pork tenderloin, shrimp, etc.), you can still use the marinade for Paleo Kalbi, but leave out the kiwi fruit. The fresh ginger can also make the meat mushy, so you can leave it out of the marinade or only marinate for up to 8 hours maximum.
How do you eat kalbi?
It’s really up to you! I like to serve kalbi with plates of butter lettuce leaves, Simple Cauliflower Rice, and kimchi. I use kitchen shears to cut the grilled meat into bite-size pieces and let everyone assemble their own lettuce wraps. Personally, I like to add some grilled short rib, cauliflower rice, and kimchi—and chow down!
How do you store the leftovers?
You can store the leftovers in the fridge for up to four days or freeze them for up to 4 months. I like to cut up the leftover kalbi to add to Kimchi Cauliflower Fried Rice or a tasty Asian-inspired salad (with All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce as the salad dressing).
- Korean-style short ribs (LA galbi or flanken-style)
- Scallions or green onions
- Fresh ginger
- All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce: The perfectly balanced savory and sweet marinade base that doesn’t include soy sauce, brown sugar, or gluten!
- Toasted sesame oil
- Scallions or green onions
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Butter lettuce
How to make barbecue Korean short ribs
Soak the short ribs in cold water for fifteen minutes. Rinse the ribs of any small bone fragments and use paper towels to pat the short ribs dry before setting aside. (You can skip this step, but I think it helps reduce any grittiness.)
In a high powered blender, combine the kiwi, garlic, scallions, and ginger.
Pour in the All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce and toasted sesame oil.
Blitz until smooth.
Pour the marinade over the ribs and toss well to coat. Cover the container and marinate the short ribs for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours in the fridge.
When you’re ready to cook the galbi, you have a few options:
If you’re cooking the kalbi on the grill, heat your gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Throw the short ribs on the grill…
…and cook about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until your desired doneness is reached.
No grill? Heat the broiler on high and arrange the top oven rack so that it’s 6 inches from the heating element. Arrange the kalbi in a single layer on top of a stainless steel wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes per side or until you reach the desired doneness.
Air Fryer instructions
Air fryer? You can make small batches by laying the ribs in a single layer in the basket and cooking them at 400°F for 7 to 10 minutes, flipping them over at the halfway point.
Garnish with thinly sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
Serve whole grilled kalbi pieces as a main course or use kitchen shears to cut the meat into smaller pieces to serve as a starter or party nibble.
Serve the kalbi with a bunch of butter lettuce leaves, Simple Cauliflower Rice, and kimchi—and have everyone assemble their own lettuce wraps!
Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPhone and iPad app, and in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2021).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD
Kalbi (Korean BBQ Short Ribs)
- 4 pounds Korean-style short ribs (LA galbi or flanken-style)
- 1 kiwi peeled and coarsely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 scallions coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 cup All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 head butter lettuce
- Soak the short ribs in cold water for fifteen minutes. Rinse the ribs of any small bone fragments and use paper towels to pat the short ribs dry before setting aside. (You can skip this step, but I think it helps reduce any grittiness.)
- In a high powered blender, combine the kiwi, garlic, scallions, ginger, All-Purpose Stir-Fry Sauce, and toasted sesame oil to make the marinade. Blitz until smooth.
- Pour the marinade over the ribs and toss well to coat. Cover the container and marinate the short ribs for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- When you’re ready to cook the ribs, you have a few options:If you’re cooking the kalbi on the grill, heat your gas or charcoal grill to medium hot. Throw the short ribs on the grill and cook about 3 to 5 minutes per side or until your desired doneness is reached. No grill? Heat the broiler on high and arrange the top oven rack so that it’s 6 inches from the heating element. Arrange the kalbi in a single layer on top of a stainless steel wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes per side or until you reach the desired doneness.Air Fryer? You can make small batches by putting them in a single layer at 400°F for 7 to 10 minutes, flipping at the halfway mark.
- Garnish with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Serve whole grilled kalbi pieces as a main course or use kitchen shears to cut the meat into smaller pieces to serve as a starter or party nibble.
- Serve the kalbi with a bunch of butter lettuce leaves, Simple Cauliflower Rice, and kimchi—and have everyone assemble their own lettuce wraps!