baked oats green chile chicken enchiladas chow mein bakery-style butter cookies

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2023 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

winter’s end

Recipe: korean barbecue pork lettuce wraps

Spring is just around the corner. In fact, I can see it from where I stand. The R-word is even in the forecast… RAIN. That kinda kills the snowpack, but then it is supposed to turn to snow. Whatever form of water falls from the sky, we have promised ourselves to enjoy this time – the end of winter. It’s been such a lovely season that we thought it fitting to say farewell to winter from Crested Butte.

mount whetstone

paradise divide and the slate river

blowing snow on mount emmons at sunset

The last time I was about to leave the Front Range for Crested Butte, I had a grocery date with Wendy at the new HMart in Westminster. It’s a Korean/Asian grocery store that is closer to me than its Aurora branch in southeast Denver. We wandered around checking out all of the products on offer, catching up on all manner of gossip and cooking and life stuff. As we passed into the meat department, a little Korean woman was grilling marinated pork samples. We each tried it and smiled at one another. Good stuff. The woman placed her hand on a stack of packaged marinated pork and said, “For sale!” Since I was leaving town soon, I declined. Walking toward the fish tanks, Wendy and I leaned into one another and whispered, “I could totally make that at home!” And so I eventually did.

pork shoulder, black pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, pear, onion, green onions, garlic, ginger, sugar (not pictured: gochuchang)

chopping the pear

pear, onion, garlic, ginger


I considered using the galbi (Korean barbecue short ribs) recipe, just subbing the pork for the beef, but then I found a Korean barbecue pork recipe. They’re very similar and both have excellent results. The pork recipe called for gochuchang, but when I opened my container of the chili paste, it had dried up into a dark red rock. So I proceeded without it, but I’ll certainly use it next time.

sliced green onions

pouring soy sauce into the purée with sesame oil and black pepper

adding the sugar

You can use whichever cut of pork you prefer. I went for pork shoulder because I like the dark meat. Pork loin or pork belly works just as well. Try to cut slices about 2 inches by 2 inches by 1/8-inch thickness. It just makes for easier handling. Combine the pork and marinade in a ziploc bag or a bowl and refrigerate. The minimum marinate time is 30 minutes, but I like to push it to 24 hours. Anywhere from 4-8 hours should suffice.

slice the pork

ready to marinate

refrigerate for up to 24 hours

While the pork takes on the nice marinade, you can make the coleslaw. I’d give the coleslaw 2-4 hours for the flavors to integrate, so don’t mix it together right before serving the dish. The Korean coleslaw involves slicing, shredding, and mincing of the vegetables, then tossing it all together with the dressing.

sesame oil, soy sauce, black pepper, sweet onion, red and green cabbages, green onions, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt, sugar, carrots (not pictured: rice vinegar)

shred the cabbage

thin slices of sweet onion

all of the vegetables prepped

I was supposed to add sesame seeds to the dressing, but I somehow overlooked them and forgot. Add sesame seeds if you like. I’m a little bummed to have left those out because they contribute both flavor and texture. The dressing takes seconds to whip up. And if you think that it looks like a small amount of dressing for an awful lot of coleslaw, you’re not alone. I thought the same thing. Turns out, it’s perfect. Not too much, not too little.

pouring the sesame oil and soy sauce

whisking in the rice vinegar

pour the dressing over the slaw

toss to coat

When you are ready, you can grill or pan fry the pork. I prefer grilling because it keeps the mess outside and doesn’t require any additional oil (except a little to grease the grill grates). If you do grill the pork on skewers, take care not to squash them all together or they will take longer to cook. Or you can fry the pork in a little bit of oil in a cast iron skillet – something that will give a nice browned finish to the meat.



Serve the pork with lettuce (I like butter or bib lettuce), steamed rice, the Korean coleslaw, and kimchi. Add whatever else you like to it – some Korean hot sauce if that’s your thing. This is known as sangchu ssam (lettuce wrap) and it can be an appetizer or a meal. Jeremy and I enjoyed it for several meals and it was a lovely combination of vegetables, spice (mmm, kimchi!), rice, and meat. Seeing as our days are getting warmer, this will probably make several appearances at our house this spring and summer!

the spread: korean barbecue pork, korean coleslaw, lettuce, rice, kimchi

ready to eat

Korean Barbecue Pork Lettuce Wraps
[print recipe]

2 lbs. Korean barbecue pork
3-4 cups Korean coleslaw
2 heads butter lettuce or lettuce of your preference
4 cups steamed rice
3-4 cups kimchi

korean barbecue pork
2 lbs. pork
1 medium pear, quartered and cored
1 small onion, chopped into large pieces
8 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 green onions, chopped
4 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil
6 tbsps gochuchang (optional, but good if you like spicy)

korean coleslaw
1 small head of cabbage, shredded
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1 small sweet onion, sliced thin
4 green onions, chopped
1 large carrot, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsps soy sauce
2 tbsps rice vinegar
2 tbsps sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsps crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Marinate the pork: Slice the pork into 1/8-inch thick slices (about 2 inches by 2 inches). Place the pear, onion, garlic, and ginger into the bowl of a food processor or in a blender and purée until it has the consistency of applesauce. Empty the purée into a medium bowl. Add the green onions, soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, sesame oil, and if using, the gochuchang into the bowl. Stir to combine. Put the pork slices with the marinade into a large ziploc bag and seal. Mix the pork and marinade together until evenly distributed. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

Make the Korean coleslaw: Place the cabbages, onions, carrot, and garlic into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Assemble the lettuce wraps: Skewer the pork slices (don’t pack them too tight) and grill on high flame about 4 minutes a side (8 minutes total) or pan fry the pieces in a skillet with a little vegetable oil over high heat until they are done (5-8 minutes). Serve the pork alongside the Korean coleslaw, lettuce leaves, steamed rice, and kimchi. Wrap a little pork, rice, coleslaw, and kimchi in a lettuce leaf and enjoy. Serves 4-8 depending if appetizer or main meal.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

galbi (korean bbq short ribs) bulgogi bibimbap korean glass noodles

20 nibbles at “winter’s end”

  1. Eva @ Eva Bakes says:

    Looks amazing, Jen!

  2. Lisa says:

    Jen, I think I can eat the pork alone, or mix it in the lettuce-wrap. Or use this pork as one of the dishes for meals. I just like the tastes of it.

  3. Lisa | Je suis alimentageuse says:

    Ooh I have a massive head of red cabbage in my fridge. That Korean coleslaw looks like the bommmb. Great post as always, Jen! (More Kaweah please! hahah. I literally spent about 20 minutes showing my boyfriend your adorable pics of Kaweah the other day.)

  4. JaneM says:

    I am going to have to make this very soon. Small world, I subscribe to Maangchi’s website as well.

  5. jill says:

    As always, looks delicious.

  6. Sophie says:

    I love you for this! Sounds so delicious! The pear in the marinade is just fabulous. The weather is all wonky here in Oregon as well!…. sunny and 60 degrees, then pouring rain sideways, then 35 over night, then more sun. I guess it’s to be expected. I will eat sangchu ssam in any weather, delicious!

  7. YS says:

    Jen – If you pour some hot water over the dried gochujang and let it “soak” overnight, it should re-constitute and can be used for marinades such as this.

  8. Rebekah says:

    Can you use Chicken instead of Pork? I don’t eat pork, but this looks fabulous.


  9. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    I have some left over pork in tomatillo sauce and I’m going to make that slaw and turn it into lettuce wraps!

    Thanks for the inspiration. I always find something to inspire me over here…

  10. Christine says:

    Man, this makes me very sad that I didn’t buy both the gochuchang and the pork belly I saw at HMart two days ago. Maybe before the weekend so we can grill!

    Thanks for the kick in my pants.

  11. Samantha says:

    Jen, thanks for showing us how lean pieces can be cut from a whole pork shoulder, looks good.
    A Wonderful Spread, thanks for sharing (and God’s majestic creation!)

  12. swan says:

    this just rocks! thanks! i couldn’t find a good recipe for pork shoulder yesterday; shoulda looked at your site. love the slaw as well….xo

  13. jamie says:

    check this out. Would you think this is equivalent to store bought?

  14. Currently Crushing On. | How Sweet It Is says:

    […] korean bbq pork lettuce wraps. are […]

  15. jenyu says:

    JaneM – ha! I don’t subscribe to Maangchi, I just found the recipe at the site when I was doing research :)

    YS – Thanks for the tip! I wasn’t sure if it would still be good. Apparently, the seal on the container is not airtight and I figured it probably picked up refrigerator smells as it dried out :( But I appreciate knowing this for future mishaps!

    Rebekah – I don’t see why not :)

    Rocky Mountain Woman – you’re a sweetheart xo

    jamie – thanks! I think you mean this link: If I ever get around to making kimchi, I’ll post here, but don’t hold your breath for anytime soon :)

  16. Tracy | Pale Yellow says:

    I just tried kimichi for the first time and fell in love! The pork looks fantastic, I can’t wait to try this out at home!

  17. From the kitchen and the bar – grilling lots of meat, my adventures with kimchi and a few new beers | Club Schadenfreude says:

    […] also made some “Korean-Style Coleslaw” from here, making it more simple by using shredded cabbage coleslaw mix from the grocery store. Of course, I […]

  18. Shelley says:

    Our family liked this. The kids didn’t really care for the coleslaw, although they tried it. They don’t love cabbage. DH and LOVED the whole thing! We had a 13 year old friend of my son’s over and I just got a text from his mom. She wants the recipe because her son never eats lettuce. Thanks for the recipe!

  19. Japchae Recipe | Korean Japchae | Eat the Love says:

    […] check out some of these other Korean dishes from around the web: Use Real Butter’s Korean BBQ Pork Lettuce Wraps Savory Sweet Life’s Authentic Kalbi Recipe Simply Recipe’s Korean Spicy Cold Noodles […]

  20. Korean BBQ Pork Lettuce Wraps | sparecake says:

    […] From Use Real Butter. […]

leave a reply