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      The 7 Best Gochujang (Korean Chili Paste) Substitutes

      If you are looking for the best gochujang substitute, you are in the right place. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the seven best substitutes for the korean chili paste. 

      gochujang substitute

      What is gochujang?

      Gochujang is a Korean fermented chili paste that is commonly used in Korean food and as a Korean condiment. It has a unique flavor due to the fermentation process which separates it from other hot sauces and spicy pastes. 

      The paste has a spicy flavor, though its heat level is fairly mild. Of course this depends on the variety and brand of gochujang you use. Not only is it spicy, it has a rich umami flavor, likely due to the presence of soybean in the dish. 

      Origins

      There is much speculation about the origins of gochujang. Some claim red peppers were brought to Korea in 1592 during the Japanese occupation of Korea, but these claims have been disputed. 

      In fact, the red pepper used in gochujang is native to Korea. Along with this, there are records going back to the 9th century documenting the use of gochujang in Korean cooking. 

      Historically, gochujang has had medicinal properties, especially in aiding one’s digestion. Now, gochujang is used mostly to flavor dishes, but this doesn’t take away from its medicinal benefits. 

      Recipes

      There are many recipes in Korean cuisine that use gochujang as a central ingredient. Here are a few Korean dishes that use gochujang.

      • Bibimbap: A rice dish topped with sliced vegetables, meat, a fried egg, and a spicy gochujang sauce.
      • Tteokbokki: A stir-fried rice cake dish cooked in a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce.
      • Dakgalbi: A stir-fried gochujang marinated chicken dish made with vegetables.
      • Jeyuk Bokkeum: A spicy pork stir-fry made with gochujang marinated pork. 
      • Kimchi Jjigae: A spicy stew made with gochujang, tofu, vegetables, and a protein like pork, tofu or seafood.

      There are countless other Korean recipes that use gochujang, but these happen to be the most popular dishes.

      Where to buy

      You should be able to find gochujang at any local Asian markets near you. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find it at local grocery stores near you. But, your best bet is an Asian grocery store or health foods store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. 

      gochujang substitutes

      The 7 Best Gochujang Substitutes

      If you are having a hard time finding gochujang or simply don’t have any on hand, you can always try a substitute. The best substitutes for gochujang paste are listed down below. 

      gochujang substitute

      1. Miso Paste & Hot Sauce

      It may seem like a strange mixture, but miso paste (aka soybean paste) and hot sauce combine to make a concoction quite similar to gochujang paste. This not only shares a similar taste to gochujang, but a similar texture as well.

      To make the concoction, combine one tablespoon of miso paste with a swig of hot sauce. You can also add a pinch of sugar to mimic the sweetness of gochujang. Stir together and adjust as needed. 

      This is a great substitute for gochujang paste because it mimics the texture of gochujang as well as the umami flavor (from the miso), the sweetness (from the sugar) and the spiciness (from the hot sauce).

      gochujang substitute

      2. Sriracha

      Sriracha, a Thai chili paste, is a good substitute for gochujang because it has a similar flavor profile and a spicy kick. It’s used commonly as a condiment or in sauces meant to enhance a dish’s flavor. 

      One big difference between gochujang and sriracha is the texture. Sriracha has a thinner texture, even thinner than ketchup. Gochujang, on the other hand, is thick like miso paste.

      That being said, both sriracha and gochujang are spicy with a pinch of sweetness and umami flavor. Because of this, I recommend using sriracha as a replacement for gochujang if you want to mimic the flavor.

      To make sriracha taste more like gochujang, you can always add a pinch of miso paste and stir it together. This increases the umami flavor. 

      gochujang substitute

      3. Sambal Oelek

      Sambal Oelek is another great gochujang substitute. It comes from Indonesian origins and is popular all throughout southeast Asia. It’s used as a condiment and in various sauces. 

      The texture is different from gochujang, it’s more saucier than gochujang, which is more like a paste. It also is chunkier than gochujang, which is nicely blended together. Sambal oelek somewhat resembles salsa. 

      That being said, the flavor profile is quite similar. Sambal oelek is made from chili, salt and vinegar. Gochujang also contains chili and salt, though it does contain some sugar and soybean and rice powder.

      To make sambal oelek taste more like gochujang, you can add a bit of miso paste and sugar. This will also help you reach a more gochujang-like consistency. 

      gochujang substitute

      4. Harissa Paste

      Harissa paste is another one of the good gochujang alternatives to try. It is made with a combination of chiles, garlic, oil, vinegar and spices. The paste originated in Tunisia in North Africa. 

      The big difference between harissa paste and gochujang paste is the presence of a vast array of spices. Harissa typically includes coriander, caraway, cumin and garlic. Gochujang contains none of these.

      That being said, harissa has a similar texture as gochujang and has a spicy kick, just like gochujang. If you use this as a substitute, be prepared for a slightly different flavor profile. 

      gochujang substitute

      5. Spicy Ketchup

      Spicy ketchup can be another good gochujang substitute since it mimics the spiciness of gochujang. Along with this, it’s thicker than sriracha or sambal oelek, making it a better match consistency wise.

      A big difference between spicy ketchup and gochujang is, of course, the presence of tomato in the ketchup. You notice your dish turns out much more tomato-y like if you had added gochujang.

      That being said, spicy ketchup mimics the spiciness and sweetness of gochujang. It even has an umami taste because of the tomatoes, which naturally contain MSG by the way!

      gochujang substitute

      6. Gochugaru

      Gochugaru, aka Korean chili powder, is another great substitute for gochujang. In fact, it uses the same kind of peppers as gochujang. You will get a very similar flavor and spiciness by using this substitute. 

      The biggest difference, of course, is the texture. Gochugaru is red pepper flakes while gochujang is red pepper paste. While the kind of peppers are the same, the texture will be way off.

      But don’t worry! There is a way to remedy this issue. I recommend combining the gochugaru with miso paste and a bit of sugar or rice syrup. This will mimic the texture, sweetness and umami or gochugaru.

      gochujang substitute

      7. Red Pepper Flakes

      Red chili flakes are another good alternative to gochujang. They can work as a similar substitute as gochugaru, meaning you must combine it with other ingredients to get a better alternative.

      I personally included this substitute in the list because red pepper flakes are something most people have on hand in the kitchen. Another option is ground red pepper or cayenne pepper. 

      Combine your red pepper flakes with some miso paste and sweetener and you have a pretty decent substitute. Use a food process to blend together for even better results. 

      gochujang substitute

      Homemade Gochujang Recipe

      Traditional gochujang might seem very intimidating, but it’s actually not too difficult to make and it tastes much better than the store bought stuff. This thick paste is much better homemade!

      The recipe provided below is adapted from Maangchi.com

      First, gather up your ingredients for this spicy paste. All of the ingredient are listed here:

      • 8 ounces barley malt powder
      • 2 ½ cups sweet rice flour
      • 2 cups rice syrup
      • 1 cup fermented soybean powder
      • 4 cups gochugaru
      • 1 cup kosher salt

      Mix 8 cups of water with the barley malt powder. Strain using a cheesecloth into a large stock pot. Place the stock pot on the stove under medium heat and cook until warm, not hot.

      Remove the pot from the stove and add the sweet rice flour. Stir to combine. Cover and let sit for about two hours in the refrigerator. 

      Transfer the pot back to the stove and put over medium heat. Bring to boil and let the mixture continue boiling for about two hours. This will reduce the mixture quite a bit. Stir occasionally.

      Add the rice syrup, stir well, then remove from the heat. Add the soybean powder, gochugaru and stir and stir well. Continue until there are no more clumps. 

      Transfer to a glass jar or earthenware pot. Cover with a cheesecloth, then the lid. Let sit on the counter for 2-3 months to ferment. Ideally let it sit near the sun during this time. 

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      ABOUT ME

      tia glover rd

      My name is Tia and I am a registered dietitian and content creator.

      My goal is to help young people learn how to eat a nutritious, balanced diet without restriction or giving up cultural foods. 💛

      Hapa/Japanese American 🇺🇸🇯🇵

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