Korean food is not only one of my favorite cuisines, but one that I find super healthy and filling. However, I often find myself looking for gochujang all the time. This is not an everyday food for everyone, so at times, it is best to know what other ingredients to use.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a red chili paste made with chili powder, rice, meju powder, soybeans, and salt. Traditionally, this paste is fermented for many years in pots kept outdoors, which allows for the rice to become sweet. The flavor is sweet, spicy, and slightly tart, so it goes well in many dishes.
You can sometimes find gochujang in some grocery stores by the Asian foods’ aisle, but Korean food markets will certainly have it. Some brands are more or less spicy, so be careful when you find it.
Because gochujang is a paste, it is not meant to be used as a topping, but rather as part of the cooking.
Some dishes that contain gochujang include stews, beef bulgogi, kimchi, tteokbokki, and more. Because it is fermented, the flavor is potent, so you will always want to use it a little at a time. If you can, buy it and store it in the fridge for a long time.
Why Replace Gochujang, Anyway?
There are many reasons why someone would need to avoid gochujang. Here are some of the most common:
- Soy Allergy: Since this paste contains fermented soybeans, it is not safe for those that have a soy allergy. Eating even a little bit of gochujang can result in a severe allergic reaction, so it is best to avoid soy products entirely.
- Cost: Because it takes so long to make, gochujang is expensive as compared with other ingredients. Some may find this ingredient to be too pricey for their budget.
- Flavor: Not everyone likes fermented products, and while Korean food has a lot of those, gochujang has a strong flavor that some may dislike.
- Heat: Even though it isn’t as hot as some of the other Asian sauces or condiments, it is still a bit spicy for some people.
What Can I Replace Gochujang With?
If you can’t find this paste, or it is too expensive, these gochujang substitutes are just what you were looking for:
For Kimchi, Miso, and Bibimbap
#1. Red Pepper Flakes
Red pepper flakes are exactly what they sound like, so you can imagine this choice adds sweet and spicy flavors at the same time. However, this paste doesn’t have the tartness or the smokiness of gochujang, so you may want to mix in some soy sauce or miso paste.
To create a more similar choice, mix a tablespoon of red pepper flakes, a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce, and some honey.
Use this homemade paste when you prepare kimchi, bibimbap, and in miso or other soups. If you don’t want to use soy sauce, mix a dash of hoisin sauce, and a dash of vinegar instead, but consider that this choice is much sweeter.
#2. Thai Chili Paste
In terms of flavor and appearance, Thai chili paste is a great replacement for gochujang. This paste consists of dried chilies, garlic, shallots, dry shrimp paste, sugar, and fish sauce. It is sweet and sour and slightly hot, but it also has a bit of pungency thanks to the garlic.
Use Thai chili paste when you prepare kimchi, sauces, marinades, and bibimbap. You can find Thai chili paste in almost every grocery store these days, but you can also make it at home if you have all the right ingredients.
Making gochujang is no easy task, but there is always a “quick” way to use it when you need it. Since you probably don’t have time to wait for things to ferment, using miso paste will give you all the flavors that you would be missing.
You will need one cup of miso, one cup of water, one cup of sugar, ½ cup of chili powder, one tablespoon salt, one teaspoon sake (or cooking wine), and one tablespoon rice vinegar.
First, mix the water and sugar over medium heat, then add the miso until it thickens. Then you can add the chili powder, which should make the mixture bubble. Let the mix cool down to 100 °F and add the remaining ingredients, and that’s it!
For Eggs, Soy-Free, and Chicken
Sriracha is one of those condiments someone either loves or hates, but it is a good alternative for gochujang. This sauce comes from the paste of red chilies, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. Sriracha is much hotter than gochujang but the flavor and color truly resemble it.
Use this sauce when you are making kimchi, bibimbap, chicken, and eggs. You can find sriracha anywhere these days, but if you find it to be too strong, consider adding a little bit of soy sauce and sugar.
See More: Sriracha Substitutes
#5. Tomato Paste + Sriracha
If you need a little more texture and thickness, then mixing tomato paste with about ¼ teaspoon of sriracha is the perfect way to replace gochujang. This choice is very affordable, but it is also safe for anyone with a soy allergy.
You can use tomato paste and sriracha when you prepare eggs, chicken, meat, marinades, and stews.
When you need a little more crunch and heat, you can replace the sriracha with red pepper flakes. If the tomato flavor is too strong, consider mixing it with some water and a touch of vinegar, which can also add extra tartness.
See More: Tomato Paste Alternatives
#6. Sambal Oelek
Sambal oelek is an Indonesian chili paste or sauce that contains various chili peppers, garlic, ginger, shallots, scallion, sugar, and lime juice. This paste is closer to Thai chili paste, but it definitely can be spicier depending on the brand.
Sambal oelek goes great in fish and meat dishes, marinades, eggs, and chicken.
This choice doesn’t have soy, so it is safe for those with allergies. Sometimes this sauce can be more of a marinade, so you can add a bit of tomato paste to thicken it out, but keep in mind you will also add sweetness and reduce the heat.
Many people confuse both, and while they are similar in taste, they are very different. Gochujang contains more umami and tartness, thanks to the fermentation. Sriracha is more pungent because of the garlic and sometimes spicier too.
Yes, you can use sambal oelek instead of gochujang and vice versa. Some think sambal oelek is spicier, so you could add a dash of chili powder or sriracha to the gochujang. If you want to use sambal oelek instead of gochujang, consider adding some cornstarch or rice flour to thicken it and reduce the heat.
You can usually find gochujang in international food markets or Asian stores. Some Korean restaurants may also sell it. If you have time, order it online with some time, but it will last for a while in your kitchen.
Gochujang is an essential ingredient when you like Korean foods, but it can be hard to find regularly. If you need a similar flavor and texture, these six options are fantastic and easy to get. Try any of these or mix them for a tasty final product.
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