This spicy Korean BBQ chicken rice bowl is a tasty, easy-to-make, hot summer dinner that can be whipped up in no time! The chicken is bold in flavor, while the crisp veggies help balance the bowl and keep each bite refreshing.
Summer is making itself very present here in Louisiana. With temperature feeling like it's in the triple digits and our schedules cramped to the max, it is really tempting to skip a meal or two. So we thought it's time to share a super easy-to-make and easily customizable dinner: this easy, spicy Korean BBQ chicken rice bowl!
The chicken, marinaded in a sweet and spicy Korean BBQ marinade, is super flavorful and bold in flavor, while the abundance of fresh, crisp veggies keep the rice bowl well balanced and refreshing. All of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time, so that you can enjoy a healthy meal, even if you've had a long day or if the heat is making you feel like a couch potato.
Customize this spicy Korean BBQ chicken rice bowl to make it YOUR own!
This spicy Korean BBQ chicken rice bowl is the ultimate definition of make-it-your-own! Feel free to substitute the veggies, starch, and even protein to your preference. The only ingredient that is not so negotiable is the sauce/ marinade for the chicken. It is the flavor bomb that flavors the whole bowl and will keep you coming back for another bite!
Include some crisp lettuce and greens
Although this chicken rice bowl is very customizable, we still recommend that you include some crisp lettuce, greens, fresh vegetables, and even fruits to help balance the bold flavor of the marinade. This will keep the rice bowl refreshing, light, and flavorful. Some recommended veggie substitutions are: purple cabbage, napa cabbage, jicama, apple, pear, kale, broccoli, spinach, and sprouts.
Make it vegetarian with tofu
Another substitution we like to make with this spicy Korean chicken rice bowl is swapping out the chicken for tofu! It's a wonderful substitution if you're trying to eat more sustainably or just want to enjoy a meatless meal. Plus, It helps lighten up the bowl as well!
If you want to substitute the chicken for tofu:
- Dice 1 ½ pounds of firm tofu into roughly 1 inch cubes and pat each cube dry with clean paper towels.
- In a fry pan, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and heat it over medium to medium high heat. Once the oil is hot and starts to shimmer, sear each sides of the tofu cubes for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the tofu cubes from the pan and let them drain on paper towels.
- Wipe the fry pan with a paper towel to remove leftover oil.
- Make the spicy Korean BBQ marinade* and pour it into the fry pan. Bring the marinade to a low simmer and add in the seared tofu cubes. Coat the tofu throughly and add them to your bowl when assembling.
*If you prefer a thicker sauce, you can whisk 1 teaspoon of cornstarch into to the marinade before heating it up. After heating up the marinade, let it simmer for about 10 to 20 seconds to activate the cornstarch. Make sure to stir the sauce occasionally to prevent scorching.
Make the Korean BBQ chicken bowl with other grains
As most of you probably already know, both Kyong and I are lovers of many starches, especially rice, lol. So occasionally, we do like to swap our classic, white rice for some purple rice or even Korean multigrain rice, aka japgokbap. So feel free to add some frill to your starch choice! If you're a pasta love, we highly recommend some orzo tossed in a light dressing of EVOO and a pinch of salt and pepper. For those of you who want something cleaner, quinoa is a great substitution!
Some char is good
This marinated chicken, benefits from being grilled and getting a nice char. It gives the chicken an extra depth of flavor and some light smokey-ness which pairs really well with the rice bowl. We prefer to cook the marinated chicken on cast iron grill because it retains the heat, which gives the chicken a really good char. If you are using a cast iron grill, do make sure to grease it well. You can also give the marinated chicken a nice char with a regular cast iron pan or any heavy bottom pans. Do make sure to not overcrowd the pan, or the chicken will be "boiled" instead.
Marinate the chicken ahead of time
With our schedules getting more hectic and busy with the many projects we've volunteered onto ourselves, we totally understand the need to make every meal as easy as possible. This spicy Korean BBQ chicken can be diced and marinated up to 4 days prior and even pre-cooked up to 3 to 4 days ahead of time. Just keep the chicken in it's juices and heat it back up when you're ready to enjoy!
As for the other components, you can shred and cut up most of the veggies up to 2 days ahead of time without any signs of wilting, as long they are properly wrapped or stored in an air-tight container. We do recommend slicing the avocado the day of, to prevent oxidation and browning. Lastly, the marinade for the chicken can be made a whole week ahead of time, as long it's properly stored and kept refrigerated.
If you're looking for other dinner ideas, you may like these:
- Crispy General Tso's Tofu
- Creamy Spaghetti Carbonara
- Baked Orange Cauliflower "Chicken"
- Beef and Broccoli
Cook with love!
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Spicy Korean BBQ Chicken Rice Bowl
For the marinade & chicken:
- ¼ cup gochujang (Korean fermented red pepper paste)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar (or to your preference)
- 2 Tablespoon garlic , minced (about 4-5 cloves of garlic)
- 2 Tablespoon oil , plus more for cooking (or any neutral flavor oil)
- 1 Tablespoon gochugaru (Korean dry red pepper flakes)
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper (optional)
- 8 piece boneless, skinless chicken thighs , cut into large chunks (about 2 lbs.)
For the bowl:
- 4 cup cooked white rice , or your preferred grain/ starch substitute
- 1 head romaine lettuce , cut into bite size pieces and washed
- 1 large carrot , peeled and shredded
- 1 english cucumber , washed and sliced
- 1 avocado , sliced
- ⅓ red onion , thinly sliced (optional)
- Toasted sesame seed , for garnish (optional)
For the marinade and chicken:
- In a large bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the marinade, except for the chicken. Taste the marinade to see if you'd like it sweeter, spicier, or more salted.
- Once satisfied with the marinade flavor, add the chicken thighs and mix until the chicken is well coated with the marinade. Set aside until ready to cook.*The marinade can be made a week ahead of time and the chicken can be marinaded up to 3-4 days ahead of time, as long it's properly stored and refrigerated.*
- In a large fry pan, add a couple Tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat over medium heat. Once the oil is hot and starts to shimmer, place the marinated chicken thighs in the pan piece by piece to give each piece a good char and sear. DO NOT overcrowd the pan! Let the marinated chicken cook on each side for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are cooked through (165°F). Remove the the cooked chicken, along with all the juices and repeat until all marinated chicken are cooked.*Cooking time for the chicken will vary depending on the size of each piece of chicken and how cold they are.*
To assemble the bowl:
- Arrange the rice (or your preferred grain), romaine lettuce, carrots, cucumber, avocado, and cooked chicken in 4 bowls. Top each bowl with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and enjoy while the rice and chicken are hot!