Here are 7 best gochujang substitutes for your recipes. As Korean food becomes increasingly popular, so has the use of its coveted chili paste: gochujang. However, it might not be so easy to get your hands on it depending on where you live.
If there's no Asian grocer near your house or you just can't bother ordering it online, there are the perfect substitutes for it. Keep in mind your recipes won't taste the same BUT they do the trick when you're in a pickle. Why are we telling you this?
Gochujang is a fermented chili product and, no matter how many ingredients you add to try to get close to its taste, it will never taste quite the same because you are lacking the most important ingredient: fermentation.
Gochujang is a sweet, savory and spicy fermented chili paste that comes from Korea. Can't imagine it? Think of it as Korean spicy miso paste and you can add it to pretty much every savory dish to enhance its depth and flavor. Koreans especially love adding a bit of gochujang to their bibimbap, stews, and noodles for a nice kick of heat.
Gochujang can be made in a variety of different ways but the main ingredients always include chili peppers, salt, fermented soybeans, and rice flour. Not just any kind of chili though, it needs to be Korean in order to get that signature sweet and tangy taste.
What are the best gochujang substitutes? If you can't find gochujang anywhere, don't worry. These are the only substitutes you'll ever need to know about.
1. Red Pepper Flakes
Add a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and mix it with 2 teaspoons of soy sauce. Add a pinch of sugar and mix well until you form a paste. If it's too dry, add a little bit more soy sauce at a time. Be careful not to add too much sugar or the sweetness will kill your dish.
2. Closest flavor option: Miso and Chili
Since miso also uses fermented soybeans as one of its primary ingredients, it's the closest thing you're going to find in terms of umami. All you need to do is add some chili and you're set!
We recommend mixing it with Korean chili powder but no worries if you can't find any. Mix in equal parts cayenne pepper and paprika until you get a homogeneous paste.
3. Thai Chili Paste
Its strong garlic taste will yield a different taste to gochujang but it's the closest thing to something sweet and spicy in the supermarket. Sriracha is also a decent option but we recommend staying away from it in general if your recipe is authentic Korean because Sriracha can easily overpower a dish.
4. Harissa Paste
This would be the Moroccan-equivalent of gochujang for sure! Although it's smokey-tasting and definitely more spicy than sweet, it always packs a bunch of flavor.
5. Best for visual appearance: Sambal Oelek
This is the Southeast Asian sibling of gochujang. They taste different but, visually speaking, you can tell they're related. We think it works best in bibimbap or soups– somewhere where its color can be appreciated. Just because you had to swap an ingredient, it doesn't mean the world has to know about it…
6. Allergen free alternative: Dates and Spices
When your guests have special dietary needs like gluten or soy-intolerance, or even being vegan, this is the way to go. All you have to do is blend six pitted dates with four tablespoons of water, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, ½ teaspoon of garlic powder and three teaspoons of cayenne pepper. It's ready once you form a smooth paste!
7. Tomato Paste
Save this as a final option… it's not ideal but in terms of color we could say it's very similar… With a bit of chili powder and some salt it may just save your dish but… Don't turn to this tomato paste option unless you absolutely have to.
Due to an increasing interest in Asian food, which also happens to be quite healthy, the demand for gochujang around the world has skyrocketed in recent years. However, it's not that common in supermarkets. Thus, unless you've got an Asian grocery nearby or are willing to order it online, your days of homemade Korean cooking may never begin. Here is where these substitutes come in.
Although they won't taste exactly like gochujang, they're the closest thing you'll find to the real deal in terms of color, flavor, texture, etc. Don't be afraid to have fun with them and keep an open mind about the dish you're making. Even though it won't taste exactly the same as it should, new flavors are always welcome in our kitchen!
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