Some might say it’s impossible to replace gochujang. Others might be skeptical. But I’d say there is a list of almost-as-good alternatives for gochujang.
If you’re worried you’ll miss out on this condiment’s robust and distinct taste and aroma, that’s because you haven’t tried Thai Chili Paste or Red Pepper Flake Paste.
These are all fantastic gochujang substitutes that hits all the spots on your taste bud. They are reminiscent of gochujang’s flavor, texture, and aroma.
There are others combinations we’ve prepared for you below that will still yield the same result as gochujang.
More importantly, we have highlighted the proper way you can use them.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a fermented Korean condiment with a robust, spicy, and earthy taste that sometimes tastes like dirt or wood (depending on where it’s made). It also has a sweet undertone.
Furthermore, It is made from gochu-garu, yeotgireum, meju powder, glutinous rice, and salt. The starch from the cooked glutinous rice is where it gets its sweetness.
This condiment is famous in Korean cooking and across Asia —even in the States.
I don’t know about you, but I salivate whenever I think of gochujang. It’s not just the taste of this “pepper paste” that gets my mouth watering — no matter how much the wife pushes me away — it’s always the smell.
You can use gochujang as a condiment on top of ramen noodles, tofu, or rice cakes. You can also use it as a dipping sauce or marinade for meat dishes like beef short ribs or chicken wings.
You can add some gochujang to cooked rice or stir-fried vegetables before serving them if you want something spicy and savory!
7 Best Gochujang Substitutes
1. Home Made Gochujang
If you don’t get a store-bought gochujang, the best alternative is you make one yourself.
Don’t fret; homemade gochujang is less tricky than you’ve thought. It only takes about minutes to whip up. And you’ll still retain that insanely rich, spicy, and savory flavor.
Ingredients You Will Need:
- Three tbsp gochujang paste
- one tsp agave nectar
- Two tbsp rice vinegar
- One tbsp avocado oil
- One tbsp lemon juice
- One tsp ginger paste
- Two cloves garlic diced
- Two tbsp soy sauce
- One tbsp sesame oil
- ½ tsp salt
- Water add to adjust the thickness
In a small bowl, stir together the gochujang paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, agave nectar (or honey), lemon juice, grated ginger, and salt.
In a small pan, cook the garlic, avocado, and sesame oil over medium heat until slightly brownish — for about 2-3 minutes.
Add the gochujang mixture to the pan, stir well and let it simmer for 3-5 minutes. If you’d like a thinner sauce add more water as needed.
Tah-Dah! You have your Gochujang all nice and ready!
2. Red Pepper Flake Paste
If you’re looking for a spicy kick, try the red pepper flake paste.
It’s often compared to gochujang, the famous Korean fermented chili paste.
This alternative is straightforward to make.
You only need to pour a splash of soy sauce into a small bowl. Then add your fresh chile peppers and a pinch of sugar to taste.
Be careful with the sugar since over-sweetening this mixture will alter its flavor.
Once done, you will get that spicy and slightly sweet flavor you crave from gochujang.
It adds flavor to meat dishes, soups, stews, or sauces like pesto or mayonnaise. In South Korea, red pepper flakes are often used as a condiment on top of rice or other dishes.
You can also use it as an ingredient in marinades or dips and any recipe, as you would for gochujang.
To substitute: For every tablespoon of gochujang, use one tablespoon of red pepper flakes paste.
3. Miso and Chili
The mixture of these two gives the closest flavor to gochujang.
It is a paste of fermented bean and soybean mixed with salt, sugar, kuzu (a starch extracted from the kudzu plant), and sometimes dried bonito flakes.
It has a complex umami flavor similar to soy sauce, with a savory taste that is somewhat salty.
The aroma of miso varies from mild to intense depending on its fermenting environment.
And you can not deny the underlining fire from the chili as well.
All you need is to combine miso and Korean chile powder. That’s all. And if you can’t get Korean chili powder, use cayenne powder and sweet paprika.
To substitute: For every tablespoon of gochujang, use ½ tablespoon of miso paste And ½ tablespoon of Korean chili powder.
4. Thai Chili Paste
The two sauces are similar in many ways, but some differences exist.
Thai chili paste is a red-colored paste made of chilies, garlic, and spices similar in flavor to Korean gochujang.
The best part about Thai chili paste is that it can be used in many different recipes—from stir-fries and soups to meatballs—and its flavors are robust enough that they won’t clash with other ingredients in your dish.
Since Thai chili paste has a more intense flavor, use ½ tablespoon for every tablespoon of gochujang. It is crucial to start small and add more if needed.
5. Harissa Paste
With Harissa paste, you also get that smoky flavor with intense heat.
The debate between these two condiments is like a passionate fight between lovers.
Harissa paste has a robust and spicy taste that can be hard to describe. It’s hot but also sweet and slightly sour. It’s made from dried red peppers, garlic, and spices such as cumin and paprika.
Gochujang is made from fermented soybeans and has an earthier flavor than harissa paste.
While harissa paste is often used on meats and vegetables, gochujang is commonly used as a dipping sauce for kimchi or other pickled foods.
Either way, you can use them interchangeably. And I’d recommend a ¼ or ½ of harissa paste for one tablespoon of gochujang.
6. Sambal Oelek
Sambal oelek has a similar appearance to gochujang, which is a good start. It will work well in soups, meat, or even bibimbap.
It also looks like gochujang, which is a good start.
Sadly, they do not have the flavors of gochujang since it has an intense vinegary flavor instead of a spicy, savory taste.
For this reason, you’ll have to replace it in smaller quantities, like ½ tablespoon over one tablespoon of gochujang.
7. Dates and Spices
Cooking with dates and spices is a preferable alternative for people who are allergic to or avoid gluten, soy, and animal products.
It’s also a suitable option whenever you’re out of gochujang.
And all it takes to make this blend is six pitted Medjool dates are;
- One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
- Four tablespoons of water, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
- Three teaspoons of cayenne pepper
- Two tablespoons of tomato paste
Next, blend in the food processor. And use it as you’d use your gochujang.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Gochujang Sauce Spicy?
Yes! Gochujang sauce is among the hottest spices in existence. It’s a spicy Korean condiment made with fermented red chile paste.
It’s usually used as a dipping sauce or as a flavoring in soups and other dishes, but it can also be used as a marinade for meat or tofu.
Although the taste of gochujang varies based on where it was created, it tends to be very hot—sometimes even painful-hot.
The heat is so intense that some people have trouble eating it because they can’t handle it!
Do Grocery Stores Sell Gochujang?
Gochujang can be found at most grocery stores that carry Asian ingredients, like in Asian markets —specifically the international foods section of many grocery stores.
Can You Eat Gochujang Directly?
Yes, if it were a challenge. But it’s not advisable.
You see, gochujang is made from red pepper paste—and red pepper is one of the hottest peppers around.
Thus, you could be punishing yourself.
However, the best way to enjoy gochujang is to use it as an ingredient to make your sauces or dressings.
What Is The Best Way To Use Gochujang?
Gochujang is often a dipping sauce or marinade for grilled meats or seafood.
It can also be added to soups and stews to add a spicy kick without overpowering the dish.
You can also use it as a cooking sauce to enhance the flavor of rice or noodles.
Should Gochujang Be Refrigerated?
Yes, you should refrigerate gochujang after opening the package.
This is because Gochujang goes bad pretty quickly. However, storing it in the refrigerator will stay fresh for at least six months, though you may want to freeze some for longer-term storage.
Phew! At the very least, Gochujang is replaceable.
Any of these chili pastes will work after the initial prep work. So, give this recipe a try the next time your meal calls for gochujang!
I recommend red chili pepper paste. It has a spicy kick, and its flavor is similar to gochujang. You can make ssamjang jjigae without the gochujang if you have some chili pepper paste around!