Gochugaru and Gochujang are two staples of Korean cuisine. They each play a unique role in enriching the complexity of flavors within traditional Korean dishes. Some confuse these ingredients as they are both made from chili peppers (gochu in Korean), but they're quite different in taste and texture. We share the secrets of these two essential Korean ingredients, their differences, and how to use them to elevate your Asian-style dishes.
What is Gochugaru?
Gochugaru aka Korean red pepper flakes, is a staple in Korean kitchens and for many people that enjoy Asian flavors. It's made from sun-dried Korean chili peppers called taeyang-cho that are ground into a coarse or fine powder. The name "gochugaru" comes from "gochu" which means chili pepper and "garu" which means powder.
At home, we started buying Gochugaru not that long ago. We always had chili powder, but normally, we used Chinese or Indian chili powder. When we discovered Gochugaru, we realized that it was a condiment that we needed to have on hand for our stir-fries, and chili oils, and to enhance the flavor of our favorite Asian-style dishes.
Common uses of Gochugaru
This essential ingredient is used in many Korean dishes, adding a smoky touch. It's used as a seasoning to add spice and brilliant red color to dishes like kimchi, stews, and soups. It provides significant heat but also has a mild smoky, fruity taste. We find Gochugaru especially great to add to our infused homemade Chili Oil. If you like spicy food, you should definitely consider getting Gochugaru in your pantry.
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a popular Korean condiment made from chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. The name "gochujang" comes from "gochu," the Korean word for chili peppers, combined with "jang" meaning fermented paste. This spicy, umami paste has been used for centuries in Korean cooking but has recently exploded in popularity worldwide.
With its rich red color and unique sweet yet spicy flavor, gochujang adds warmth, tang, and vibrancy to dishes. We discovered this sauce at a Korean restaurant when we ordered a veggie Bibimbap, and we thought it was somehow addictive!
Common uses of Gochujang
It provides a savory umami flavor along with a spicy kick and hint of sweetness.
Traditionally, Gochujang is used in recipes like bibimbap, marinades, dipping sauces, stews, and as a condiment for grilled meats.
These recent years, you can see many different recipes that have this Korean fermented paste as the centerpiece such as gochujang mayonnaise or gochujang cauliflower wings. We love adding it to our Japchae noodles, or bibimbap, but our favorite way to use it is to make one of our favorite pasta sauces.
Main Differences between Gochugaru vs Gochujang
They both contain chili peppers and bring spicy heat to dishes, but they are quite different in form and flavor.
- Gochugaru is very spicy with intense heat levels. The spiciness of this Korean chili flakes or Korean chili powder, can range from mild to very hot depending on the blend, but all varieties pack a punch. It has a bright, aromatic flavor with subtle sweetness. Some varieties of Gochugaru, add a mild smoky flavor to your dishes is they are made with sun-dried peppers.
- Gochujang has a much richer, deeper, and unique flavor profile. It provides spiciness but also has a sweet flavor and savory elements. The fermentation process gives this chili paste an umami taste and complex flavor. The sweetness comes from the glutinous rice, while the savoriness comes from fermented soybeans. The overall flavor is a lovely balance of spicy, sweet, and umami.
Texture and color
- Gochugaru is made from dried and crushed Korean red chili peppers. It has a coarse, flaky texture resembling crushed red pepper flakes or powder, depending on your choice. The color can range from bright red to deep reddish brown depending on the peppers used and how finely it is ground.
- Gochujang is a sticky and thick paste, having a texture similar to a miso paste, or thick barbecue sauce. It has a deep red color that can appear almost brown. The thick chili paste texture comes from glutinous rice powder combined with fermented soybeans and chili peppers. When store-bought, the consistency of the paste is smooth.
Gochugaru, ground red pepper powder, is commonly used in:
- Kimchi. This fermented cabbage dish is served at nearly every Korean meal.
- As a seasoning for grilling. Gochugaru is rubbed directly onto protein and vegetables before grilling.
- Stews. Gochugaru is added to the broth for stews such as this yummy Soft Tofu Stew.
Gochujang, the fermented red chili paste, is commonly used in:
- Bibimbap. This famous Korean dish is served with gochujang as the spicy sauce component.
- Chewy rice cakes (Tteokbokki) simmered in a spicy gochujang-based sauce.
- Gochujang stew (Gochujang jjigae). A stew made with gochujang, protein, and vegetables.
- Ssamjang. A thick dipping sauce with gochujang as the base. Used for Korean BBQ wraps.
- As a pasta sauce. Check out this delicious Gochujang creamy pasta, and combine Italian and Korean flavors for a delicious meal.
- Gochugaru is made from sun-dried Korean chili peppers known as taeyangcho. These peppers are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B6. They also contain capsaicin, the compound that gives chilies their spicy heat and offers anti-inflammatory effects. According to Spiceography, regular use of Gochugary can help prevent diabetes, heart disease, and prostate cancer.
- Gochujang contains sun-dried chili peppers along with fermented soybeans, rice, and salt. Gochujang offers protein from the soybeans as well as probiotics from the fermentation. It contains vitamins B1, B2, and B3, which are needed for metabolism and energy production. The peppers provide vitamin C, vitamin A, and capsaicin like Gochugaru. Gochujang also contains amino acids that can promote skin health. According to Doctor Dany Paul Baby, Gochujang has many reported nutritional values.
Substitutes for Gochugaru vs Gochujang
If you can't find Gochugaru, you can substitute:
- Crushed red pepper flakes - These provide similar heat but may be deeper red in color. Use an equal amount as Gochugaru.
- Cayenne pepper - Adds more heat than Gochugaru. Use about half the amount of Gochugaru called for. You can as well, use cayenne powder.
- Paprika - Imparts the red color but not the heat. Mix in a pinch of hot paprika or red pepper flakes for spice. Use the same amount as Gochugaru.
- Aleppo pepper flakes - These Syrian pepper flakes are mild and fruity.
- Gochujang - While different in texture, gochujang can provide the red color and balanced heat of Gochugaru. Use about half the amount of Gochugaru.
If you don't have gochujang, try:
- Miso paste - Combines miso with sriracha or chili garlic sauce to add heat.
- Sambal oelek - This spicy chili paste mimics the texture and kick of gochujang.
- Harissa paste - North African chili paste with similar heat and garlicky flavor.
- Sriracha - Adds heat but not the sweetness. Mix with brown sugar or honey
Buying and Storing Gochugaru vs Gochujang
Both Gochugaru and Gochujang can be found at most Asian grocery stores or larger supermarkets with international food aisles. We are really lucky to have a Korean little shop around the corner from our apartment in Penang, Malaysia.
When shopping, look for Gochugaru powder which is a vibrant red color. Avoid any powder that looks dull or brownish, as this indicates it may be old. Korean chili paste should have a deep red color and a thick, smooth consistency. Check the labels and try to find gochujang made in Korea for authentic flavor.
Both ingredients may also be purchased online if you can't find them locally.
Once opened, store Gochugaru powder in an airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light. It will keep for up to 1 year. Refrigerate Gochujang after opening and use within 6 months. Keeping it cold prevents the oils from separating and the paste from thinning out. Make sure to seal it tightly.
Make Gochugaru and Gochujang from scratch
How do you make Korean Gochugaru from scratch?
To make Gochugaru at home, you'll need sun-dried Korean chili peppers.
- First, cut the stems and the upper part of the dried chilies and remove the seeds and innards. (If you prefer extra spice and heat, skip the coring and keep the innards)
- Next, clean the dried chilies with a cloth and grind them in the blender, or food processor to make the chili flakes. For a fine powder, use a rice mill.
How do you make Korean Gochujang from scratch?
Making Gochujang at home will be a bit harder than making Gochugaru, but still possible! You'll need some equipment such as bowls, pots, sieves, and clay vessels, and ingredients such as red chili powder, sweet rice powder, fermented soybean powder, sea salt, rice syrup, and barley malt powder.
Making this chili paste at home is a process that will take a few days, but if you love Korean flavors, totally worth it. Check out this recipe if you wish to make your own Gochujang paste.
If you were not sure about the similarities and differences between Gochugaru vs Gochujang, we hope that after reading this post, you have a clear idea of how to implement them both into your dishes to get the flavor, texture, and nutritional value you wish for.