Substitutes for Gochugaru

Did you know, a few clever swaps mean you can achieve a similar flavour to gochugaru? Even when you don't have the Korean red pepper to hand.

In Korean cuisine, these clever alternatives can still give dishes that signature heat and flavour.

Whether it's a matter of preference for milder or hotter options, these substitutes are a great way to adapt your recipes - without gochugaru.

Looking for more Korean inspiration? Check out our Korean recipes, or browse our Korean food and ingredients collection.

What does gochugaru taste like?

Korean Red Pepper Powder - Gochugaru

Gochugaru chilli powder is smoky, fruity, and very slightly sweet. With a hot kick. It's not ferociously spicy. But has a definite chilli warmth. Gochugaru is famously used to make kimchi.

To re-create the flavour, we're looking for an ingredient with heat, sharp-fruity flavour, earthiness and a slight tang.

Of course, you can also buy gochugaru today from Sous Chef, and be using it tomorrow. So you may not need to use an alternative after all!

Top substitutes for gochugaru

When gochugaru is nowhere in sight, several substitutes come to the rescue, ensuring your Korean dishes don't lack that essential kick. Embrace the versatility of:

Greenfields Chilli Powder, 500g

1. Chilli powder

A common pantry staple, it adds heat and colour to dishes. This is a simple swap-out for gochugaru. And you might risk losing a little of the complexity of flavour. Consider adding a squeeze of lemon juice to your recipe (if appropriate) for the sweet-sharp flavour of gochugaru. And perhaps even a small spoon of miso, to create the earthy flavour you will otherwise lack. 

Terre Exotique Smoked Paprika, 60g

2. Paprika

A milder option, it contributes a smoky flavour and vibrant red hue. You will achieve the earthy smokiness by using paprika instead of gochugaru. But you might not achieve the spice. Consider adding a very tiny amount of fresh chilli to your recipe to up the heat levels.

Crushed Chilli Flakes, 100g

3. Crushed chilli flakes

Offering heat and texture, classic chilli flakes are an accessible alternative. You might want to bring out added smokiness and sharp-fruit flavour, but adding a squeeze of citrus to your recipe, and a small amount of miso paste - if that's appropriate in your dish.

Greenfields Cayenne Pepper

4. Cayenne pepper

For those who crave intense spiciness, a pinch of cayenne does the trick. You will get the sharp flavour that's associated with gochugaru. But perhaps add a dash of paprika for added smokiness and earthy flavour.

Experiment with these substitutes based on your heat preference and what's available in your kitchen, making Korean cooking flexible and enjoyable.

How to create the gochugaru taste, using substitutes

Making the most of gochugaru substitutes involves a bit of creativity and understanding of their individual characteristics. Here's how you can seamlessly incorporate them into your recipes:

Adjusting quantities

Given that substitutes like chilli powder, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper may vary in terms of heat, it's advisable to start with a smaller quantity. You can always add more later to reach your preferred spice level.

This approach allows you to maintain control over the overall flavour profile of your dish without overwhelming the taste buds.

Adapting to your recipe

Different gochugaru substitutes have distinct flavour profiles, so it's essential to consider the specific recipe you're making.

For instance, chilli powder works well in spice rubs and to season noodle broths, while paprika adds a rich smoky sweetness suitable for stews.

Understanding these nuances enables you to choose the substitute that best complements the overall taste of your recipe.

Perfect blend

Ultimately, the best way to substitute gochugaru is to carefully blend the ingredients above, depending on how you are using them. And consider adding other ingredients to introduce the distinctive fruity, earthy spice of gochugaru.

5 Recipes using gochugaru

Don't be afraid to get creative in the kitchen, and remember that cooking is as much about personal expression as it is about following recipes.

If you're looking for a diverse selection of spices, including Gochugaru substitutes, Sous Chef provides a range of high-quality options of spices. Happy cooking!


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