Are you craving for some spicy Korean food? If you want to create Korean recipes in your kitchen, then one of the ingredients that you need to have ready is gochugaru. This is a Korean spice that is made of gochu or red chili peppers. The gochu is usually sun-dried, but other brands use machines to dry this spice. Sometimes, gochugaru is confused with gochujang. While both of these spices are used to give a spicy flavor to dishes, they are different when it comes to their form. Gochujang is a chili paste that is used for marinating, and making a base for stew.
On the other hand, gochugaru is in powder form and has two types. The first kind, maewoon gochugaru has a stronger flavor compared to the second type which is deolmaewoon gochugaru. Even though this is a Korean chili powder, you should be careful when purchasing one in some Asian stores. Keep in mind that red pepper powder is different from gochugaru.
Uses of Gochugaru
One of the most popular uses of Gochugaru is as an ingredient in Kimchi. It gives this dish the perfect spicy flavor. Aside from this, gochugaru can also be used for various kinds of Korean stews such as sundubu jjigae.
This Korean chili paper also goes well with meaty dishes such as Korean BBQ Jackfruit tacos, Bulgogi, and Tempeh Steaks. Gochugaru’s unique hot, spicy, and smoky flavor makes it a really great spice for Korean dishes. If you want to put a new twist in your recipes, then you can experiment by adding some gochugaru.
The Health Benefits
If you are someone who loves adding nutritious spices in your meals, you’ll definitely fall in love with gochugaru’s health benefits. This Korean spice is packed with vitamin E and A. With just two teaspoons, you’ll get the recommended vitamin E intake per day. It’s also a great source of fiber, iron, and copper.
Having regular consumption of gochugaru will allow you to prevent diseases such as prostate cancer, heart diseases, and diabetes. Chili peppers like gochugaru are great in lowering a person’s blood cholesterol, preventing prostate cancer cells from spreading, and controlling the blood sugar.
The Best Gochugaru Substitutes
While gochugaru might be the perfect spice for your recipe, you might not be able to find it in your local grocery store. But there’s no need to worry because there are some good substitutes that you can use in case you can’t find gochugaru. Here are some of them.
1. Chipotle Powder
Spicy dishes are definitely more exciting than non-spicy ones. There’s always an extra kick of flavor that a lot of people enjoy when their food has that extra chili powder. While you can achieve a great level of spiciness using gochugaru, you can also have almost the same flavor using chipotle powder.
Chipotle powder is not really a kind of pepper. It is actually jalapeno peppers that have been dried out and smoked, which gives it a similar smoky flavor as to gochugaru. In fact, these two spices almost have the same level of spiciness. Gochugaru usually falls between 1,500 to 10,000 SHU, while chipotle is around 3,000 to 10,000 SHU.
However, it’s important to take note that chipotle can have a smokier flavor compared to gochugaru. This might not be ideal for your recipe. So to balance the flavors, you can add some crushed red pepper to your chipotle powder. This would increase the spiciness and lower the smokiness. The great thing about chipotle powder is that you can find it easily in a lot of supermarkets and grocery stores. Plus, you can put the leftover chipotle powder aside for when you want to create Mexican-American dishes later on.
2. Cayenne Pepper
The texture of the spice is one of the things that you should consider when you are looking for a good substitute. Cayenne pepper flakes is your best bet if you are not just after the spicy flavor of gochugaru.
Cayenne is also used in various Korean dishes, so if you buy this spice, you can still use it for other kinds of Korean recipes that you want to explore. Cayenne has the same texture but a little bit spicier. You can either buy the powder or flakes form of Cayenne. The flakes are extra spicy, but you might want to take into consideration the seeds that come with this type of cayenne pepper.
And since Cayenne is already a common ingredient in Korean dishes, you can definitely use this when you’re making Kimchi, and you don’t have a gochugaru in hand. However, be careful when adding this to your dish because it has a spicier flavor. You can control the spiciness better by adding the pepper into lukewarm water before putting it into the Kimchi.
In addition to the excellent flavor brought by Cayenne, it’s also a good source of vitamins A, E, and C. It has flavonoids as well which is a great antioxidant that would prevent your cells from getting damaged by free radicals.
3. Chile Pasilla
Not everyone has a strong tolerance when it comes to spicy foods. If you are planning on serving your Korean dishes to those who are not big fans spicy dishes, or even kids, then you can use a gochugaru substitute that may have a milder flavor. Chile Pasilla is the perfect choice for this kind of situation.
Chile Pasilla originated from Mexico and is known for its dark color. It is a popular ingredient for salsas, adobo sauces, and tortilla soups. While its 1,000 to 4,000 SHU is comparable to gochugaru’s spiciness level, it’s still not as strong as the Korean spice. Therefore, you would be able to control the spiciness of your dishes better.
The only downside that you might have to worry about is the color of this spice. Chile Pasilla has a very dark color that is far from the bright red color of gochugaru. This could affect the appearance of your dishes. So if you don’t want to compromise the appearance of your recipe, this is not the best substitute to choose. However, flavor-wise, Chile Pasilla has a more similar taste to gochugaru compared to other spices that could offer you a vibrant red color such as fish pepper, paprika, and chungyang red pepper.
Gochugaru has a bright red color that also gives Korean dishes such as Kimchi its vibrant color. Those who want to give the same appearance to their recipes even without gochugaru can try using Paprika instead.
Paprika is one of the easiest spices that you can find in grocery stores. You might even have it in your own pantry right now. But do you know that Paprika also has various kinds?
Paprika is made by grinding dried peppers. The result of the whole process is a bright, red and almost orange color. It has three types: The Sweet Paprika, Hot Paprika, and Smoked Paprika. It’s important to know the differences between these three so that you can choose the best one that would fit as a gochugaru substitute.
When you go to the grocery store, the easiest kind to find is the basic or sweet paprika. This type has a mild flavor. Meanwhile, Hot Paprika is also called Hungarian Paprika, and it’s known to be the most superior out of the three. This is commonly used in Hungarian cuisines like Goulash. Last but not the least is Smoked Paprika. This one is smoked and dried to give that sweet and smoky flavor. Paprika comes in powder form so that you won’t have any hassle substituting any of these for your gochugaru.
Since gochujang is also a popular Korean ingredient, it’s one of the best substitutes for gochugaru. Both of these spices are from gochu pepper so you’ll have almost the same kind of flavor. However, they differ in their textures. Aside from being in thick paste form, gochujang contains other ingredients such as salt, sticky rice, and soybeans.
If you use gochujang instead gochugaru in your recipe, expect it to have a saltier flavor. It’s a great substitute as well for when you are making sauces, stews, and kimchi. Just remember to adjust the saltiness of your recipe before adding gochujang. It’s also important to know that since gochujang is a chili paste, it can give a wet and sticky texture to your dish.
The heat level of gochujang varies depending on the brand that you will buy. To be safe, reduce the amount that you will put in the recipe. It has a spicy and pungent flavor that is also great for marinating meats. If you prefer a salty over sweet flavors, this one is the best substitute. This chili paste should be stored in the refrigerator so that you can still use it for other kinds of Korean recipes.
6. Chile De Arbol
Another versatile spice that you can use as a substitute for gochugaru is Chile De Arbol. Those who are looking for an extra strong spice for their recipes can achieve the perfect kick with this substitute.
The hot red color of Chile De Arbol will give your dish some serious level of spicy and smoky twist. The heat level of this ingredient ranges from 16,000 to 31,000 SHU. It’s a lot hotter than gochugaru so you might want to put less amount if you don’t want to hurt your tongue.
Chile De Arbol is available in powder, flakes and paste form. Therefore, it can be used in a lot of ways. It’s easy to find this ingredient since it’s widely available in grocery stores around the country. It’s also a lot cheaper than other spices, so if you are looking for a budget substitute for your gochugaru, this one’s your best pick. Aside from gochugaru, this one is also a great substitute for Paprika because it has a nutty flavor.
7. Guajillo Powder
If it’s really difficult for you to find some Korean ingredients like gochugaru, you can borrow this Mexican spice that will complete your recipe. Guajillo is a popular ingredient for Tex-Mex cuisines. While these two spices are from two different cultures, they both have a tangy flavor and moderate level of spiciness. Guajillo also have a bright red color that would go well with Korean recipes. It comes in both powder and flake forms, and you can use either types, but the powdered Guajillo is a better substitute because there are no seeds mixed into the spice.
8. Aleppo Pepper Powder
If you are in the Middle East, but you still want to try out Korean dishes, it might be challenging to find gochugaru in your area. But don’t let this stop you from exploring! Aleppo Pepper Powder is another suitable substitute for your gochugaru. It has similar characteristics to guajillo powder, but more common in Mediterranean countries.
Just like guajillo and gochugaru, Aleppo pepper has a red color that would make your dish look lively. However, be careful when adding this to your recipe since it can be slightly spicier than guajillo. Aleppo also has a stronger aftertaste so try to put only a moderate amount of this spice. You can just add more later on when you think you can handle more of its flavor in your food.
Korean dishes are tasty. If you want something exciting to cook and taste for your taste buds, then dishes like Kimchi and Bulgogi are just some of the food that you can try making in your own kitchen. However, it can be a struggle to find ingredients like gochugaru especially when you’re not in an Asian country.
You might only find it in special Asian stores so try to buy in bulk when you can. But if you really can’t find one and you feel like satisfying your cravings today, then these gochugaru substitutes can still give that spicy and smoky flavor to your dishes. It’s always best to start with small amounts when adding spicy ingredients especially since not everyone can tolerate the heat levels of these spices.