Substitutes for Gochujang: A Guide for Korean Cooking

Korean cuisine is well-known for its unique blend of flavors, with one of the key ingredients being gochujang. This fermented chili paste has a complex, spicy, and slightly sweet taste that can make any dish irresistible. But what happens when you can’t find gochujang or run out of it? Don’t worry; there are plenty of substitutes for gochujang that you can use. In this guide, we’ll explore the best alternatives to gochujang and how to use them.

SubstituteFlavor ProfileTextureSpiciness LevelCommon Uses
Hot SauceTangy, spicyThin liquidMedium-HotMarinades, dipping sauces, dressings
Miso PasteSavory, umamiThick pasteMildSoups, stews, marinades
Red Pepper FlakesSpicy, smokyDry flakesMedium-HotSeasoning for meats, vegetables, pizza
Tajin SeasoningSweet, tangy, spicyDry seasoningMedium-HotMarinades, dressings, dips
Harissa PasteSpicy, smoky, sweetThick pasteHotGlazes, dips, spreads

Overview of Substitutes

Before we dive into the specific substitutes, let’s discuss the different types of alternatives you can use in place of gochujang:

  • Spice blends: These are pre-made mixes of different spices that can replicate the flavors of gochujang. They are convenient to use and usually readily available in stores.
  • Hot sauce: A good hot sauce can provide the same level of heat as gochujang, but it won’t have the same depth of flavor. You can use hot sauce if you’re in a pinch, but it’s not the best substitute for complex dishes.
  • Miso paste: Although it’s not as spicy as gochujang, miso paste has a similar umami flavor. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a milder substitute.
  • Red pepper flakes: These are dried and crushed chili peppers that are often used in Korean cuisine. They won’t provide the same texture as gochujang, but they will add heat and flavor to your dishes.
  • Tajin seasoning: This Mexican spice blend contains chili powder, lime, and salt. While it’s not a traditional Korean ingredient, it can work as a substitute for gochujang in some dishes.
  • Harissa: This North African chili paste has a similar level of heat to gochujang, but it has a different flavor profile. It’s a good option if you’re looking for a new twist on Korean-inspired dishes.
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Now that we know the different types of substitutes, let’s explore each one in more detail.

Best Substitutes for Gochujang

Spice Blends

Spice blends are a convenient and accessible option for a gochujang substitute. You can find them in most grocery stores or online. Here are some spice blends that can replicate the flavors of gochujang:

  • Kimchi spice blend: This is a mix of chili flakes, garlic, ginger, and other spices that are commonly used in kimchi. It has a similar level of heat and flavor to gochujang, but it’s not as sweet. You can use it in stir-fries, marinades, or dipping sauces.
  • Bibimbap spice blend: This mix of chili powder, garlic, sesame seeds, and other spices is often used in bibimbap, a popular Korean rice bowl dish. It has a mild heat and a nutty flavor that can work well in stews, soups, or noodle dishes.
  • Asian five-spice: This is a blend of cinnamon, cloves , fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns that is commonly used in Chinese cuisine. It has a sweet and savory flavor that can work well as a substitute for gochujang in marinades or glazes.
  • Gochugaru: This is the Korean name for red pepper flakes, which are a staple ingredient in Korean cooking. You can mix gochugaru with other spices like garlic and ginger to create a gochujang-like paste. While it won’t have the same texture as gochujang, it will provide a similar level of heat and flavor.

Hot Sauce

If you’re looking for a quick and easy substitute for gochujang, hot sauce can do the trick. Here are some hot sauces that can work well:

  • Sriracha: This Thai hot sauce has a similar level of heat as gochujang, but it doesn’t have the same depth of flavor. You can use it in dipping sauces or as a condiment for noodles, rice bowls, or stir-fries.
  • Tabasco: This Louisiana hot sauce has a strong vinegar flavor, which can be overpowering in some dishes. However, it can work as a substitute for gochujang in dishes that have a sour or tangy flavor profile.
  • Cholula: This Mexican hot sauce has a mild heat and a smoky flavor. While it’s not a traditional Korean ingredient, it can work as a substitute for gochujang in some dishes.
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Miso Paste

Miso paste is a fermented soybean paste that is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. While it’s not as spicy as gochujang, it has a similar umami flavor. Here’s how you can use miso paste as a substitute for gochujang:

  • Miso and gochugaru paste: Mix miso paste with gochugaru (red pepper flakes) to create a paste that has a similar texture and flavor to gochujang. You can use it in stir-fries, marinades, or dipping sauces.
  • Miso and honey sauce: Mix miso paste with honey, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to create a sweet and savory sauce that can work well as a substitute for gochujang in marinades or glazes.

Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes are dried and crushed chili peppers that are often used in Korean cuisine. They won’t provide the same texture as gochujang, but they will add heat and flavor to your dishes. Here are some ways you can use red pepper flakes as a substitute for gochujang:

  • Red pepper flakes and soy sauce: Mix red pepper flakes with soy sauce, honey, and rice vinegar to create a sweet and savory sauce that can work well in marinades or glazes.
  • Red pepper flakes and garlic paste: Mix red pepper flakes with garlic paste, soy sauce, and sugar to create a paste that can work well in stir-fries or noodle dishes.

Tajin Seasoning

Tajin seasoning is a Mexican spice blend that contains chili powder, lime, and salt. While it’s not a traditional Korean ingredient, it can work well as a substitute for gochujang in some dishes. Here’s how you can use Tajin seasoning as a gochujang substitute:

  • Tajin and soy sauce: Mix Tajin seasoning with soy sauce and honey to create a sweet and spicy marinade for meats or vegetables.
  • Tajin and lime juice: Mix Tajin seasoning with lime juice and olive oil to create a tangy dressing for salads or roasted vegetables.
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Harissa Paste

Harissa paste is a North African chili paste that is made from roasted red peppers, chili peppers, and spices. While it’s not a traditional Korean ingredient, it can work well as a substitute for gochujang in some dishes. Here’s how you can use Harissa paste as a gochujang substitute:

  • Harissa and honey glaze: Mix harissa paste with honey and olive oil to create a sweet and spicy glaze for roasted meats or vegetables.
  • Harissa and yogurt dip: Mix harissa paste with Greek yogurt and lemon juice to create a tangy dip for vegetables or pita chips.

Conclusion

While gochujang is a unique and flavorful ingredient, there are many substitutes that can work well in a variety of dishes. Whether you choose to use hot sauce, miso paste, red pepper flakes, Tajin seasoning, or Harissa paste, you can still achieve a delicious and spicy flavor in your cooking. Experiment with different substitutes and find the one that works best for your taste buds and the dish you’re making.

Remember to use these substitutes in moderation, as they can be quite spicy. Start with a small amount and taste as you go, adding more as needed. With these substitutes, you can create delicious Korean-inspired dishes without having to search high and low for gochujang.

What’s your favorite gochujang substitute? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

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