Gochujang is a popular Korean condiment that adds a delicious spicy and savory flavor to many dishes. This thick, pungent red chili paste is made from fermented soybeans, glutinous rice powder, red chili powder, and sometimes sweeteners like sugar or rice syrup.
Gochujang is a staple ingredient in Korean cuisine, used in everything from stews to stir-fries. However, many people wonder - does gochujang have gluten?
What Is Gochujang Made Of?
Traditionally, gochujang contains the following main ingredients:
- Fermented soybean powder
- Glutinous rice powder
- Red chili pepper powder
- Sweetener (like sugar or rice syrup)
Some versions also contain:
- Barley malt powder - Contains gluten
- Rice wine
So while the core ingredients of gochujang are gluten-free, many brands add barley malt powder which contains gluten. This is why you have to check the label carefully if you are avoiding gluten.
Is Traditional Gochujang Gluten-Free?
No, traditional gochujang made in Korea is not gluten-free. Most recipes call for barley malt powder, which contains gluten.
Barley malt powder helps provide sweetness and that characteristic gochujang flavor. However, it means the condiment is not safe for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
So if you see a gochujang made with "traditional" ingredients, it likely contains gluten from the barley malt. Always check the label to be sure.
Gluten-Free Gochujang Brands
Luckily, as interest in gluten-free diets grows, more brands now offer gluten-free gochujang options. Here are some of the most popular gluten-free gochujang brands to look for:
Chung Jung One Gochujang
Chung Jung One makes an authentic gochujang that is labeled gluten-free. It contains:
- Red pepper powder
- Rice syrup
- Cane sugar
- Sea salt
- Natural vinegar
It has that signature gochujang flavor without any gluten ingredients. Look for it online or in Asian grocery stores.
Koko Gochujang is another good gluten-free brand. It is vegan, non-GMO, and uses all Korean-made ingredients.
The paste contains red pepper powder, fermented soybean powder, rice syrup, and salt. It has a naturally sweeter flavor without barley malt.
Annie Chun's Gochujang Sauce
Annie Chun's makes a ready-to-use gochujang "sauce" that is gluten-free. The sauce contains:
- Apple fiber
- Pear fiber
- Red pepper
- Rice syrup
- Sweet potato
It has added fiber from fruits and vegetables. The sauce is milder in flavor but offers a delicious gochujang taste.
San-J Organic Gochujang
San-J is a widely available organic brand that makes gluten-free gochujang. Their paste has:
- Organic soybeans
- Organic rice
- Organic chili pepper
- Sea salt
With just a few core ingredients, it captures that traditional gochujang essence without barley malt or gluten.
Tips for Finding Gluten-Free Gochujang
When shopping for gochujang, keep these tips in mind:
- Check the label carefully - Look at the ingredients list and allergen statements
- Look for gluten-free symbols - Trusted marks like the GFCO certification
- Asian grocery stores - Many carry specialty gluten-free brands
- Buy online - Large online retailers will have GF options
- Call the manufacturer - If unsure, you can call and ask about gluten ingredients
As long as you verify it is gluten-free, you can enjoy gochujang and its delicious flavor without the gluten.
What to Use Gochujang For
Once you have a gluten-free gochujang, what are the best uses for it? Here are some ideas:
Marinades and Sauces
Mix gochujang into marinades for meat, seafood, or tofu. It makes a flavorful base for Korean-style barbecue. You can also swirl it into dipping sauces and dressings.
Soups and Stews
Add a spoonful of gochujang to enrich the flavor of soups and stews. It pairs especially well with bean, mushroom, and vegetable-based broths.
Stir a dollop of gochujang into any veggie stir-fry recipe. It adds a complexity you can't achieve with plain chili sauce.
Drizzle or mix some gochujang into rice bowls, bibimbap, and fried rice. It amps up the flavor considerably.
Roast vegetables and potatoes get taken to the next level with a brush or sprinkle of gochujang.
With its unique sweet, savory, and spicy taste, gochujang can spice up all kinds of gluten-free recipes.
Gluten-Free Substitutes for Gochujang
If you can't find a gluten-free gochujang you like, here are some flavorful substitutes:
- Sriracha - Adds spice and garlic flavor
- Harissa paste - For a North African kick
- Chili garlic sauce - Brings heat and garlic
- Miso paste + sriracha - Recreates the savory umami flavor
- Tomato paste + chili powder + sugar - Provides sweet and heat
While these alternatives won't mimic gochujang exactly, you can still use them in similar dishes to add a dose of flavor. With a few tweaks and added ingredients, they make suitable stand-ins.
Is Gochujang Healthy?
Gochujang offers some nutritional benefits, as long as you enjoy it in moderation. Some of the positives include:
- Antioxidants - From the red chili peppers
- Vitamin A - Also found in the chilies
- Iron - Provided by the fermented soybeans
- Probiotics - From the fermentation process
However, it can also be high in sodium, so those limiting salt intake should be mindful. Overall, when used as a flavor-boosting condiment, gochujang can add spice and nutrition to your diet!
What are some gluten-free gochujang recipe ideas?
Here are some delicious ways to use gluten-free gochujang:
- Make gochujang chicken wings or drums for a Korean-style appetizer
- Stir into fried rice or bibimbap rice bowls
- Mix into meat marinades for Korean-style grilled meats
- Add to soups and stews for extra flavor
- Use as a spicy dipping sauce for dumplings or spring rolls
- Brush on fish or shrimp before broiling or baking
- Swirl into dressings, dips, and veggie dipping sauces
What's the difference between gochujang and sriracha?
While both are spicy chili-based sauces, gochujang and sriracha have some key differences:
- Gochujang uses fermented soybeans, lending an umami, savory taste
- It contains rice powder, giving it a thicker, sticky texture
- Traditional gochujang is mildly sweet from rice syrup or barley malt
- Sriracha gets its sweetness from added sugar
- Gochujang is more paste-like, while sriracha is a smooth liquid sauce
- Sriracha has a bright, vinegar taste compared to gochujang
So while sriracha makes a tasty gluten-free substitute, it won't replicate the exact sweet and savory taste of gochujang.
Can you make homemade gochujang sauce?
Yes, you can make DIY gluten-free gochujang at home! Simply mix together:
- GF miso paste or soybean paste
- Rice syrup or brown rice malt
- Red pepper powder (gochugaru)
- Rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil
- A sweetener like honey or maple syrup
While traditional gochujang often contains gluten, more gluten-free options are now available. By carefully reading labels and knowing what to look for, you can find a tasty gochujang to add authentic flavor to your recipes.
Substitutes like sriracha and miso also allow you to mimic that signature gochujang taste. With some diligent label reading, people avoiding gluten don't have to miss out on this classic Korean ingredient.