If you are not much into Korean cooking, you may not have gochugaru in your kitchen. But what to do if you have decided to cook something that calls for this spice? Luckily, there is a range of options.
What are the best gochugaru substitutes? Here is what you can use instead of gochugaru:
- Cayenne pepper flakes
- Chipotle powder
- Smoked paprika
- Chile pasilla
- Aleppo pepper powder
- Gochujang paste
- Chile de Arbol
- Crushed red pepper
- Guajillo powder
While some of these options are not very popular, there are some spices that you most likely have in your spice drawer all the time.
Continue reading to learn more about gochugaru and its uses and the spices and pastes you can use to replace it.
Table of Contents
What Is Gochugaru?
Gochugaru is one of the most used spices in Korean cuisine. It is made of dried chili peppers. For gochugaru, the seeds of chili peppers are removed.
The best gochugaru is made with peppers that have been dried in the sun. This is the traditional way of making this spice. However, less expensive versions of this spice are made with machine-dried peppers.
Once the peppers are unseeded and dried, they are crushed to a texture specific to gochugaru. Gochugaru flakes are not as big as that of crushed red pepper but it is not a powder either.
The flavor of gochugaru is not as plain as that of crushed red pepper. The latter adds a spicy kick to the dish but doesn’t add much depth. Unlike red crushed pepper, gochugaru has fruity notes and is also smoky. This flavor profile makes gochugaru a unique spice worth having in your kitchen.
Gochugaru is quite spicy. There are a few varieties of gochugaru with different heat levels.
If you are new to using this spice, start slow to see how you like it. Also, buy milder varieties. Deolmaewoon gochugaru, for instance, is not as severely hot.
When following Korean recipes, keep in mind that they may call for liberal amounts of gochugaru as it is a common spice in Korean cooking. Don’t use too much of this spice if you are not sure that you can handle the heat.
Gochugaru is widely used in Korean cuisine. Kimchi, the most popular Korean side dish, is made with gochugaru. It is responsible for not only the spicy kick but also the reddish color of kimchi.
Gochugaru is also a common component in soups and stews for added heat. You can also use it in sauces and marinades.
You will be surprised to learn that gochugaru has a range of health benefits. Here is why you should consider using gochugaru in your dishes.
- It regulates blood sugar levels.
- Gochugaru is rich in vitamin E.
- Capsaicin, the active component in hot peppers, supposedly prevents cancer.
- Gochugaru contains iron which is beneficial for blood health. It also contains copper, another essential nutrient for the body.
9 Substitutes for Gochugaru
As gochugaru’s primary function is to add heat to the dish, there are multiple substitutes that can perform the same function.
Here are the best substitutes for gochugaru. Some of them are quite easy to find and you are likely to have them in your pantry. Some other options, on the other hand, are not as widespread. But they work perfectly as a gochugaru substitute in dishes where you need some heat.
1. Cayenne Pepper Flakes
Cayenne pepper is another popular spice used in Korean cooking.
These flakes are similar to gochugaru texture-wise. You can also use cayenne pepper powder if you don’t have the flakes at hand. However, keep in mind that the powder is generally spicier than the flakes.
Unlike gochugaru that contains unseeded peppers, cayenne pepper flakes do contain seeds. If you mind them, then it is best for you to go with the powder.
2. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle peppers, i.e. ripened jalapeños, are dried and ground to make chipotle powder.
The flavor profile of chipotle powder can be characterized as moderately spicy, smoky, sweet, and fruity all the same time. As far as the smokiness is concerned, the chipotle powder is smokier than gochugaru. Thus, if this is something you prefer, then chipotle powder may be your best bet.
However, if you consider the smokiness of chipotle powder overwhelming, add a pinch of crushed red pepper to it to make it more similar to gochugaru.
3. Smoked Paprika
As we have mentioned in the beginning, what makes gochugaru unique is its smoky aroma. If this is what your dish needs, then your best bet is substituting it with smoked paprika. It is in almost every kitchen.
The heat level of this spice depends on the brand. If you have a favorite smoked paprika, you will know how much of it to use in dishes so that they don’t turn out too spicy.
4. Chile Pasilla
Chile pasilla is one of the best substitutes for gochugaru in terms of the heat level. It should be noted, however, that chile pasilla is slightly less spicy. Thus, you may need to use a little more of it if you after intense heat in your dish.
Chile pasilla doesn’t have the red color characteristic to gochugaru. It is much darker and won’t give a red tint to your dish. Thus, if that is something you need your gochugaru substitute to do, consider other options on the list.
5. Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo pepper is not as commonly used as some of the other options on this list. However, it works great as a gochugaru substitute as it has a moderate heat level.
Aleppo pepper is a common spice in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. This powder has a very bright red color and will color your dish just like gochugaru does. It also has sweet notes characteristic to gochugaru.
Aleppo pepper comes in two forms – powder and flakes.
6. Gochujang Paste
Gochujang chili paste is a paste of Korean origin. It is sweet and salty at the same time and has earthy undertones.
As gochujang is a paste and gochugaru isn’t, you can’t use the two interchangeably in all recipes. Gochujang is suitable for soup and stews.
If you use this paste, try it first and adjust the overall saltiness of your dish.
7. Chile de Arbol
Chile de Arbol is another great alternative to gochugaru. It comes in three forms. You can buy Chile de Arbol paste, flakes, or powder. In any form, this pepper will add a spicy kick to your dish, perhaps a pinch more than gochugaru. It also has a smoky aroma which makes it similar to gochugaru.
When using Chile de Arbol, we recommend you start with a small amount. Taste the dish to see how spicy it is and if the heat level doesn’t satisfy you, add a pinch more.
8. Crushed Red Pepper
A gochugaru substitute that you most likely have at home at all times. Crushed red pepper can be a good substitute for gochugaru especially for those who don’t mind a little bit of extra heat.
Crushed red pepper is generally made from dried cayenne pepper mixed with other red chili pepper varieties.
9. Guajillo Powder
Guajillo powder is popular in Mexican-style cooking. This powder is moderately spicy and its flavor profile is similar to the flavor profile of gochugaru in terms of the brightness and slight tanginess.
You can use guajillo powder in sauces, stews, and soups. You can also put it in marinades or rubs for meat. It pairs well with chicken and fish too.
Taking into account that this powder is not too hot and has a wide range of uses, it is certainly worth having in your spice drawer.