Gochujang is a staple ingredient in many popular Korean dishes, particularly the spicy one. It is through the gochujang that these dishes get their distinct reddish color and spicy flavor, and without it, you wouldn’t even be able to call them authentic Korean dishes. Although gochujang can be found anywhere in Korea, the same can’t be said in other parts of the world, as people living there that are craving for Korean food would usually need to order the chili paste online or buy it in specialty shops that sell Korean ingredients.
Luckily, if you aren’t able to find or order gochujang, there are several alternative ingredients that you can use to complete your recipe, but most of these alternatives won’t really replicate the distinct flavor of the Korean spice, so you should only use one of them if you have no other choice. But fear not, as these ingredients taste good once they are combined with the other dishes needed to cook or serve the dish, so you would still be able to get the spicy kick regardless if it has the same flavor as gochujang. To know more about these alternative ingredients, here are some of the best substitutes for gochujang.
Red Pepper Flakes
The most commonly used alternative to gochujang is a tablespoon of red pepper flakes, which can easily be bought in many grocery stores in the United States and other countries. It wouldn’t be able to replicate the hints of sourness and tanginess of the gochujang alone, so it would need to be mix with a little bit of soy sauce and a dash of sugar to make it have a pasty texture similar to gochujang. By mixing those ingredients together, you will able to provide the dish with its much-needed kick of spiciness from the red pepper flakes, a touch of sweetness from the sugar, and the hints of a tangy flavor from the soy sauce.
A miso-based sauce is considered to have the same flavor as gochujang, but you would need to mix plenty of Korean chili powder on it in order to taste similar to the spicy Korean ingredient. The one key ingredient that it has that makes it have the same taste as gochujang is fermented soy, which is also used to make the latter. However, you may also have a hard time finding miso paste online or in grocery stores, and it is also quite difficult to buy Korean chili powder in the US, so the miso-based sauce may not be a good alternative if you are living in the United States. If you are already trying to find miso paste online or in groceries, there is a high chance that you may already find a pack of gochujang there, so there is no need to buy miso paste.
Thai Chili Paste
Thai chili paste has a similar texture to gochujang, although its garlic flavor may be too intense for spicy Korean dishes. However, if you are actually quite fond of garlic, you may want to add this ingredient to your recipe. Besides the garlicky taste, Thai chili paste has the subtle sweetness found in gochujang, as well as its signature tangy hints. However, this alternative is also hard to find in several areas, so using this as a substitute is not an option if there are no local stores that sell this or if you can’t buy one online.
Sriracha is arguably one of the most popular hot sauces in the US, so this gochujang replacement is relatively easier to find than most of the ingredients mentioned on this list. But, since Sriracha is inspired by another Thai hot sauce, this substitute also has a garlicky flavor similar to Thai chili paste, although the flavor is much more subtle. In addition, the spiciness level of Sriracha is lower than gochujang, so adding Sriracha as an alternative ingredient to Korean dishes may not satisfy your taste buds. But, if you don’t want the hassle of ordering gochujang online and you already have a bottle of Sriracha in your pantry, why don’t you give it a go and see if you like its garlic flavor and subtle spiciness?
Harissa is an Algerian hot chili pepper paste that also has a similar texture to gochujang like Thai chili paste, but they have a distinct smoky flavor that makes dishes taste a little bit like barbecue. Moreover, Harissa also has the same spiciness level as gochujang, making it a perfect substitute for the Korean ingredient but with a subtle smoky taste. Much like Sriracha, you can easily find Harissa in a lot of grocery stores around the country, and it is also easy to order a bottle of Harissa online. However, do keep in mind that its smokiness may be overpowering if you put too much Harissa on your dish.
These are just five of the best substitutes for gochujang for cooking or serving spicy Korean food. As much as possible, you should order a pack of gochujang if you want to have Korean dishes for lunch or dinner to get their authentic flavor, but for those of us who may find it difficult to buy gochujang, these alternatives are enough to satisfy our Korean food cravings.