Gochujang, a savory and slightly spicy Korean fermented chili paste, is the surprise ingredient that takes these cookies from classic to innovative. The rich, earthy sweetness of gochujang pairs beautifully with butter and brown sugar to make a caramel ripple that cuts through the sweetness with gentle heat.
This unique cookie has taken the internet by storm lately thanks to its genius blend of comforting and complex flavors. Once you try it, you'll understand why it's one of the most talked-about cookie recipes right now! Keep reading to learn all about gochujang, how to make this recipe, and why you need to add these spicy caramel cookies to your baking repertoire.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a thick, sticky condiment used in Korean cuisine that lends spice, sweetness, and serious umami flavor. Made from fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, salt, and chili powder, it has a distinct reddish-brown color.
While gochujang offers moderate heat, it's not knock-your-socks-off spicy. The fermentation process gives it an inherent sweetness that balances the chili pepper kick. You'll often see it used in bibimbap, bulgogi, stews, and as a condiment for grilled meats.
The complexity of gochujang makes it an ideal addition to sauces, dressings, glazes, and even baked goods. A little bit goes a long way to add intrigue without overpowering other ingredients. The slightly fermented tang pairs especially well with rich, fatty, and sweet flavors to balance them out.
You can find gochujang in the Asian section of many major grocery stores, in Asian specialty markets, or order it online. When purchasing, look for varieties labeled "slightly spicy" or "medium spicy" to suit most palates. Also, check for kosher certification if needed.
Making Gochujang Caramel Cookie Dough
The first step for these showstopping cookies is to make a quick gochujang "caramel." In a small bowl, mix together softened butter, brown sugar, and gochujang until fully blended. The butter and sugar temper the chili paste's heat while amplifying its rich, caramel-like sweetness. Set this spicy caramel aside at room temperature.
For the cookie dough, cream together softened butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Next, whisk in an egg, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda until fully incorporated. The cinnamon adds warmth that complements the gochujang.
Finally, gently stir in the flour just until combined. Be careful not to overmix. For optimal texture, use a flexible spatula to fold in the flour. The dough will seem quite sticky at this point.
Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes before the next step. This allows the flour to absorb moisture from the butter, sugar, and egg. The chilled dough will be much easier to work with.
Swirling in the Spicy Caramel
Once the dough has chilled, it's time to marble in the gochujang caramel. Dollop the caramel mixture over the surface of the dough in several spots, then use a spatula or knife to swirl it in.
Make long, swooping motions to create dramatic streaks of caramel throughout the dough. Resist overmixing, as you don't want the caramel blend to become homogeneous. Distinct ripples make for prettier, more flavorful cookies.
If the caramel seems too thick, briefly microwave it to soften before swirling. The ripples will expand a bit when you scoop and bake the cookies, so start with wide ribbons.
Scooping and Baking Spicy Caramel Cookies
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a 1⁄4 cup cookie scoop to portion the dough.
These cookies spread significantly, so leave 3 inches between each mound on the baking sheet. You'll fit about 4 or 5 large cookies per standard sheet. For thinner, chewier cookies, press down on each mound with your palm to flatten slightly before baking.
Bake the gochujang cookies until lightly golden at the edges, about 12 to 14 minutes. The centers will still look underbaked. Let the cookies cool completely right on the baking sheet - they'll firm up as they cool. Enjoy these spicy-sweet cookies within 2 days for maximum freshness.
Once you master the original gochujang caramel cookie, get creative with the recipe:
- For bolder heat, use a spicier variety of gochujang labeled "hot" instead of "medium."
- Swap the cinnamon for ginger, cardamom, or allspice for a change of pace.
- Add 1/2 cup chopped nuts into the dough for crunch. Pecans or walnuts work nicely.
- For double chocolate decadence, fold 1/2 cup chocolate chips into the dough before baking.
- Make smaller, thinner cookies that spread less by reducing the baking time to 8-10 minutes.
- For festive cookies, use a fork to make criss-crossed fork marks on top before baking.
More Uses for Gochujang Caramel
This brilliant gochujang caramel doesn't stop at cookies! Consider these mouthwatering ways to enjoy that spicy-sweet goodness:
- Swirl it into fluffy buttercream frosting for cakes and cupcakes.
- Use it as a glaze for donuts or yeast rolls before baking.
- Mix it into peanut, almond, or cashew butter for a next-level sandwich spread.
- Stir it into your favorite pancake or waffle batter.
- Add it to popped popcorn with nuts for homemade Cracker Jack.
- Add a spoonful of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes for a flavor punch.
- Use it to rim a margarita glass or add interest to a Bloody Mary.
If you love snickerdoodles or other cinnamon-spiced cookies, you need to try this recipe. The richness of the gochujang caramel plays off the buttery cookie base for a perfect sweet-spicy balance with serious gourmet flair.
Making your own gochujang caramel only takes a few minutes, and it keeps well in the fridge for future recipes. Take your holiday cookie platter from classic to cutting-edge with these crisp-edged, chewy-centered spicy caramel delights. Your family and friends won't believe the burst of sweet heat in every bite!
Gochujang Caramel Cookies Recipe
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon gochujang paste
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- Make the gochujang caramel: In a small bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of the softened butter, the brown sugar, and the gochujang until fully blended. Set aside at room temperature.
- Make the dough: In a large bowl, cream together the remaining 7 tablespoons butter and the granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla until incorporated.
- Stir the baking soda into the dough, followed by the flour. Fold gently until just combined.
- Chill the dough for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Swirl the gochujang caramel into the chilled dough using a spatula or knife in long swooping motions.
- Scoop 1/4 cup portions of dough onto the baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.
- Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly golden at the edges. Cool completely before serving.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Enjoy!