Desperately in need of a last-minute gochujang substitute? These best five backups will get you out of trouble.
While there are so many things I love about Korean food, there is one ingredient in particular that I love: Gochujang.
For the unfamiliar, it’s the incredibly popular chili pepper paste that is often served as both an accompaniment and ingredient in a great number of Korean dishes. It is such a key ingredient that I find that its flavors are what I’m constantly craving when I’m wanting Korean food. It’s fundamental to so many Korean recipes. It is a mix of sweet, spicy, and salty all rolled into one thick, delicious sauce.
And while at its core it is comprised of fairly simple ingredients (red peppers, salt, malt powder), the process in putting it together can make it difficult to obtain.
So what do you do if a recipe calls for it and you don’t have any at hand?
Unfortunately, it is near impossible to replicate gochujang’s unique flavor. The authentic versions of this recipe ferment for months, which gives it its truly unique sharp and sweet taste.
However when in need there are some adequate flavors that, while not quite a like-for-like replacement, they do offer something different that will still contribute greatly to your recipe.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a Korean fermented chili paste that has a savory, sweet flavor and can be used as an ingredient in a number of the country’s favorite dishes. Ingredients sometimes differ but it always contains glutinous rice powder or soybean powder as a thickener. Its flavor is a combination of sweet, spicy, and salty with an underlying savory scent.
Gochujang is one of Korea’s most popular condiments because its rich taste blends well with just about anything! Our homemade Gochujang recipe contains barley malt powder, rice syrup, and red pepper powder. We love making it, and it goes with everything.
DIY Miso-Based Sauce
When you don’t have months to spare to ferment your chili paste, using miso paste can be a great shortcut to replicate some of those flavors.
See, both gochujang and miso use fermented soy. So cutting straight to the miso can help cut out those months of waiting when making your own Korean chili sauce.
The other ingredients for the sauce are actually fairly easy to obtain. Korean chili powder might be slightly more of a challenge to pick up, but a cayenne pepper and paprika mix can also make an ample substitute.
Red Pepper Flake Paste
It should be said that this doesn’t come close to ur miso alternative above, but if in a rut this on the fly mix gives you a sauce with a sweet flavor and a bite of heat.
It’s quick and easy to make, so makes the perfect alternative should you only realize on the spot that you’re out of gochujang.
You will need just a tablespoon of red pepper flakes, mixed with a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce and a dash of sugar. Simply combine all three ingredients together and enjoy.
The soy sauce acts as a tangy and moist binding agent, while the spice comes from the red pepper flakes, and obviously the sugar will guarantee sweetness.
Full disclaimer: I love sriracha. I add it to almost everything (omelets, burgers, fries…) so I am perhaps being a little bit biased here. However, the sweet and spicy flavors of sriracha really do make it a more than adequate replacement for gochujang.
If you’re just looking for something to make the dish a little hotter then sriracha is for you. In fact, gochujang is often a good alternative to sriracha so it stands to reason that the reverse is also true. It is however much thinner and sweeter, so if you’re creating an authentic Korean dish then I’d give this a miss.
Thai Chili Paste
A fairly better alternative than sriracha, Thai chili paste will get you much closer to gochujang in terms of texture.
On the downside is its flavor. It has a fairly strong garlic taste that is simply not present in gochujang.
As an emergency backup though it will fill in fine due to its heat and sweet flavor, and its thick texture will add a lot to your dish.
Tomato paste isn’t a like-for-like replacement, but you can use it to replace gochujang if you’re desperate. However, there isn’t a direct replacement so the taste won’t be exactly the same. It’s a thick, unrefined tomato sauce used for cooking, often used in bolognese sauce recipes.