Gochujang, a thick, pungent Korean chili paste, is sparking excitement in backyards and kitchens across America. This spicy condiment infuses barbecue sauces, marinades, dips, and more with an irresistible dose of sweet, spicy, and savory umami.
If you're looking for new ways to spice up your BBQ, gochujang BBQ sauce delivers bold, complex flavors that will have you tossing out the bottled sauces for good.
Get to Know Gochujang
So what exactly gives gochujang its one-of-a-kind zing? This thick, sticky paste originates from Korea, where it stars as a foundational seasoning and condiment. Gochujang marries red chili pepper flakes, fermented soybeans, sweeteners like honey or rice syrup, and salt into a palate-awakening blend.
The fermentation process imbues gochujang with unique savory, almost meaty undertones. Alongside a pleasant tingle of heat, you'll detect sweet, sour, and salty notes. The complexity of gochujang sets it miles apart from typical chili pastes and hot sauces.
You can find gochujang sold in tubs at Asian specialty markets or well-stocked supermarkets. When browsing, look for varieties marked as "naturally fermented" for the most authentic, nuanced flavor.
Craft Your Own Gochujang BBQ Sauce
Making homemade gochujang BBQ sauce allows you to control the flavor to your liking. You can amplify the heat, add extra sweetness, or complement the gochujang with other ingredient twists.
With a few handy tips, whipping up a batch is simple.
- Gochujang - The star of the show. Look for a naturally fermented variety.
- Liquid base - BBQ sauces need a flavorful liquid ingredient to build body and texture. Options like ketchup, fruit juice, Dr. Pepper, and chicken stock all work beautifully.
- Acid - A splash of vinegar or citrus brightens flavors. Rice wine, apple cider, or plain white vinegar provide tang.
- Sweetener - Balance spicy gochujang with honey, brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, or jam.
- Soy sauce - Enhances savoriness. For gluten-free, use tamari.
- Aromatics - Garlic, ginger, onion, and chilies provide flavor accents.
- Thickener - Cornstarch or potato starch helps create the ideal clingy texture.
With a simple stovetop method, you'll stir up a sauce bursting with sweet-spicy Korean soul in under 15 minutes. The aromas as your concoction simmers away will have your mouth watering in anticipation of the first succulent bite.
Surprise Your Tastebuds with Gochujang BBQ
Smoky, tender proteins marinated in gochujang's sweet spiciness are a match made in barbecue heaven.
This sauce is great when added onto favorites like:
- Pork ribs - Slather onto baby back or St. Louis ribs during the last 10-15 minutes on the grill.
- Chicken - Baste wings, drumsticks, or bone-in thighs for finger-lickin' Korean fried chicken.
- Beef - Mix into ground beef for killer gochujang burgers. Use as a marinade or glaze for steaks or short ribs.
- Fish - Brighten up the flavor of salmon, tilapia, shrimp, and more.
- Tofu - Add sizzle to tofu steaks or cubes on the grill.
For an extra layer of flavor, first coat foods in a dry seasoning blend before saucing. Toasted sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, scallions, and soy sauce create a quick DIY dry rub.
Don't limit gochujang barbecue sauce to meats - it also pairs fantastically with charred veggies. Brush on sliced sweet potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and so much more while grill-roasting.
Take Your Gochujang BBQ Sauce Beyond Grilling
The fun doesn't stop once you shut off the grill or smoker. Transform leftover Gochujang BBQ sauce into crave-able dipping sauces and more with a few easy hacks:
- Mix with mayo, Greek yogurt, or sour cream for a creamy dip or sandwich spread
- Toss with rice or fried rice for a quick weeknight meal
- Swirl into soups, stews, or noodle bowls just before serving
- Use as a spicy salad dressing on grains and veggies
- Stir into bloody Mary cocktails for a brunch upgrade
- Smear onto burgers, subs, or pizza for extra flavor
With its complex layers of taste, gochujang BBQ sauce also shines when used in marinades. Letting foods soak up the sauce imparts vibrant character.
Marinate firm tofu, chicken breasts, steak tips, pork chops, and more for a few hours overnight before cooking. Be sure to reserve some sauce to brush over foods once they hit the grill for a double dose of heat and sweetness.
Store and Use Gochujang BBQ Sauce
Part of the beauty of homemade gochujang barbecue sauce lies in enjoying it on demand. Make up a batch on the weekend to keep in the refrigerator all week long.
The sauce is kept fresh for 5-7 days and stored in an airtight container. For longer storage, transfer into freezer bags or jars and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
If the sauce thickens over time, simply stir in a tablespoon or two of water or stock to thin it out again.
What's the difference between gochujang and sriracha?
While both are spicy chili pastes, gochujang and sriracha have distinct flavor profiles. Gochujang contains fermented soybean and rice, lending an umami depth and sweetness. The complexity of gochujang sets it apart from the straightforward heat of vinegary sriracha. That said, you can substitute sriracha in a pinch!
Can I use gochujang BBQ sauce on a smoker?
Absolutely! The sweet spiciness of gochujang BBQ sauce pairs fantastically with low and slow-smoked meat. Use it to baste brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, and more for the last 30-60 minutes when the temperature increases to set the glaze.
What's the best way to thicken gochujang BBQ sauce?
For thick, clingy gochujang BBQ sauce, whisk together a slurry of 2 teaspoons cornstarch + 2 tablespoons water. Once your sauce comes to a simmer, slowly drizzle in the slurry while whisking. Let bubble for 1-2 minutes until nicely thickened.
Can I freeze leftover gochujang barbecue sauce?
You sure can! Allow the sauce to cool completely, then transfer to freezer bags or airtight containers. Frozen gochujang barbecue sauce keeps for 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before using. Add water if too thick.
What proteins pair best with gochujang BBQ sauce?
This sauce shines on pork like ribs, shoulder, and chops. It also tastes fantastic with chicken legs, wings, thighs, and breasts. Beef short ribs, steak tips, and ground meat love gochujang BBQ sauce too. For seafood, it's great on shrimp, scallops, salmon and tilapia.
As you've discovered, gochujang BBQ sauce packs some serious flavor potency. With just a few humble ingredients, you can create a sauce brimming with the irresistible sweet, salty, and spicy soul of Korean cuisine.
Brush gochujang BBQ sauce over proteins and veggies while they grill, or use it as a marinade, dip, drizzle, and more.
This sauce truly shines when made at home, allowing you to customize it to your taste and dietary needs.
Gochujang BBQ Sauce
- Combine all ingredients except cornstarch and water in a small saucepan. Whisk well to blend.
- Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once bubbling, reduce heat to low.
- In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water. Slowly drizzle into simmering sauce while stirring constantly.
- Allow sauce to bubble 1 minute more until thickened.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.