Famously known as “gochujang” or “Korean chili paste,” it is one of the most popular Asian chilies pastes that can be served as an accompaniment to dishes or used as an ingredient during cooking.
The unique flavor of gochujang is sure to leave you craving for more; no wonder it is incorporated into many Korean dishes. At first, I was not sure why I always wanted a plate of spicy Tteokbokki, whether it is the soy sauce or the gochujang; however, one thing is for sure, the spicy goodness would not be complete without gochujang.
If you’re all out of gochujang and cannot run to the grocery store to restock on the spicy condiment, there is no need to worry because you can use some viable alternatives in a pinch.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang (also referred to as Korean chili paste) is a savory, sweet, and spicy condiment popularly used in Korean cooking. The condiment is produced by mixing fermented soybean powder with chili powder, glutinous rice, barley malt powder, and salt.
A simple way you can make gochujang at home would be to add some malt powder in water and heat it to about 40 degrees Celsius, add sweet rice flour, and allow the mixture to sit for about two hours (enzymes in the malt powder will convert starch to sugar). The next thing will be to boil the mixture with some rice syrup until the consistency becomes creamier, take the heat off and allow to cool; next, add some fermented soybean powder, hot chili powder, and salt, and you will have a thick gochujang paste.
Uses of Gochujang in Recipes
If you have had Korean food before, then there is a chance you’ve tasted the famous gochujang because it is used in numerous Korean dishes. Just a walk inside a Korean supermarket, and you may even get to see some plastic tubs of hot pepper paste; well, those are the highly prized Korean chili pastes.
Gochujang can be used in many recipes, and despite the recipe, the paste will always add that much-needed kick and deep flavor thanks to its concentrated and intense flavor. You can use gochujang as a marinade for meat dishes like the Korean bulgogi, used in soup or stews, or incorporated into dipping sauces.
Because of the thick consistency of this paste, it is usually thinned out by adding some sort of liquid.
Below are some examples of recipes that use a fair amount of gochujang
- Soondubu Jjigae (Korean Soft Tofu Stew)
- Bibimbap sauce
- Tteokbokki (Stir-fried rice cakes with gochujang sauce)
- Gochujang Saewu Gui (Grilled Spicy Marinated Shrimps)
- Dark-Twigim (Fried Korean Chicken Wings)
- Gochujang Fried Rice
- Buldak (Korean Fire Chicken)
- Kimchi Udon with Scallions
- Gochujang-Ranch Crispy Chicken Bowl
- Spicy Pork Bowl with Greens and Carrots
- Grilled Pork Ribs with Gochujang Barbecue Sauce
- Crunchy Gochujang Fennel
- Spicy Kimchi Miso Soup
- Gochujang-Braised Chicken and Crispy Rice
- Gochujang-and-Sesame-Roasted Winter Squash
Substitutes for Korean Chili Paste (Gochujang)
You may think just because Korean chili paste has seen its popularity in western countries skyrocket, the item’s availability should skyrocket as well; sadly, getting the item is not as easy as you would expect. If you live outside Korea and you’re all out of gochujang, the best option would be to go to a specialty store or shop for the item online. Still, if you’re in a hurry, this may not be something you would consider, so the next thing is to make a substitute for the Korean chili paste.
The only downside to using a substitute instead of the real chili paste is that the flavor may be different mainly because the authentic gochujang uses soybean left to ferment for long. You may not have this option if you make a replica at home, and however, you can still come close with these substitutes.
A homemade Miso-based sauce may be the most common replacement for gochujang because the flavor of miso paste comes the closest to gochujang. After all, both of them include fermented soy.
Because of the urgency, it’s good to skip all those fermentation processes and grab some miso paste because it already contains fermented soy some Korean chili powder (if you can’t get Korean chili powder, use some paprika mixed with cayenne powder) for that extra kick.
Use this homemade sauce as a direct swap for Korean chili paste in your recipe, but note that the flavors may be a little different.
If you’re familiar with sriracha, you may already know that gochujang is often used as a substitute for sriracha, so reversing the case wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
Sriracha’s sweet and spicy flavor makes it a viable replacement for gochujang in many recipes. The only thing to keep in mind when substituting is that sriracha is hotter than gochujang and a little thinner.
The runnier consistency may not be ideal in an authentic Korean dish. Using sriracha as a substitute for gochujang means you have to reduce quantity wherever the recipe calls for gochujang.
If you have a thing for spicy food, harissa paste is just the thing for you. You may get even hotter, harissa, depending on the brand you choose, but one thing is for sure: they all have a smokey flavor with plenty of heat.
Because of the heat, you may want to reduce the quantity you add to your food.
For a replacement with the same appearance as the real deal, sambal oelek is sure to come in handy if you make a bibimbap recipe; it even goes well with meat and soups recipes.
As for flavor, they are quite different, but samba oelek would be a good start if you are looking for a last-minute replacement for gochujang.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Can I replace gochujang with tomato sauce?
Well, if you’re desperate, you could use tomato paste to replace gochujang, although it is not a perfect swap as they have different flavors. You can add some chili powder to make the tomato paste spicier.
How long can I store gochujang?
The best storage option for this Korean chili paste is in the refrigerator, and Gochujang can last for two years if appropriately sealed in the refrigerator.
Is gochujang healthy?
Well, the Korean chili paste, just like many other spicy foods out there, may help burn fat, kick up metabolism, and improve heart health.
This red chili paste has a delicious savory taste that complements many dishes. It is widely used in Korean cuisines, but if you live in a region where you cannot get this spicy goodness, the option for a substitute may just save the day.