What Is Gochujang

Gochujang is a thick, sticky Korean condiment with a unique flavor profile that is savory, a little sweet, and pleasantly spicy. This versatile ingredient can transform dishes and is used in many quintessential Korean recipes. This brick-red pepper paste packs some serious flavor punch, so if you haven't cooked with it before, you're in for a delicious treat.

What Is Gochujang

Once you welcome this vibrant condiment into your kitchen, you'll quickly realize that you won't want to cook without it! Keep reading to learn all about the origins, flavor, and best uses for gochujang.

History and Origins of Gochujang

Gochujang has ancient roots in Korean cuisine and culture. The first written records mentioning a type of spicy pepper condiment date back to the 9th century. The earliest actual recipes for gochujang can be found in Korean documents from the 15th and 18th centuries.

The creation of gochujang involved the collision of different food cultures. Chili peppers are indigenous to South and Central America. They were introduced to Asia in the 1500s by Portuguese traders. When these peppers reached Korea and combined with native fermentation techniques, gochujang was born.

Gochujang production centered around the town of Sunchang. To this day, this region in South Korea remains famous for its quality gochujang. The traditional process involves fermenting the ingredients together in earthenware pots outdoors for months or even years before consumption.

Over time, commercial production replaced most homemade gochujang. But this brilliant condiment remains Korean cooking essential to add flavor and heat to all sorts of recipes.

Gochujang Ingredients

While recipes vary slightly, gochujang fundamentally consists of:

  • Korean red chili peppers - Provide spice and brilliant color
  • Glutinous rice - Adds natural sweetness
  • Fermented soybeans - Contribute an earthy, funky umami flavor
  • Salt - For seasoning

Other possible ingredients are extra sweeteners like rice syrup or honey, garlic, onions, or sesame seeds. The exact blend of components gives each brand of gochujang its distinctive flavor profile.

How Spicy is Gochujang?

The spiciness of gochujang depends on the amount and type of chili peppers used during production. Gochujang ranges from mild to very spicy. Check the packaging for any spice level indicators like "mild" or "extra hot."

When trying a new brand, start with a small amount to test the heat level before adding more. The fermentation process generates subtle sweetness that balances the chilis' punch. Even spicy versions won't be too overwhelming for average palates.

Where to Buy Gochujang

This brilliant red condiment can be found at:

  • Korean grocery stores
  • Large supermarkets with international food aisles
  • Online retailers like Amazon

Gochujang is sold in plastic tubs or glass jars and is always refrigerated. Prices range from $3 to $7 for an average-sized tub. Experiment with a few brands to discover your favorites in terms of flavor and spice level.

How to Store Gochujang

Once opened, keep gochujang sealed in the refrigerator. It will maintain quality for up to 1 year properly stored. The fermented chili paste's high salt content preserves it.

Over time, the paste may harden. Simply add a little warm water to soften it up before use. If mold develops, discard the gochujang. But as long as it looks and smells normal, this condiment lasts a remarkably long time.

How to Use Gochujang

Now, let's get to the best part - using this flavor powerhouse! A little gochujang packs a mighty punch, so you only need a small amount. Here are some ways to use it:

Marinades and Sauces

Whisk a spoonful or two of gochujang into marinades and sauces. It shines with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, vinegar, and a touch of sweeteners like brown sugar or honey. Gochujang marinated meats like beef, pork, or chicken develop incredible depth. Or brush gochujang sauces onto proteins before grilling or roasting.

Stews and Soups

Add some gochujang to meat, vegetables, or seafood stews and soups. It provides a richness and subtle heat that takes the dish to the next level.


Introduce gochujang into your regular stir-fry routine. Just mix in a bit at the end for extra flavor. Or make a quick sauce by combining it with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil.f

Salad Dressings

Swirl some gochujang into vegetable or grain salad dressings. The nutty sweet-spicy taste pairs amazingly well with the sourness of vinaigrettes.

Rice Bowls

No Korean meal is complete without a bowl of steamy white rice. Liven up this staple by mixing a teaspoon or two of gochujang directly into your bowl. Or top rice dishes like bibimbap with a gochujang sauce.


Add gochujang straight into store-bought or homemade mayo. This kicks the condiment up to a new dimension. Use it on sandwiches or as a dip for fries and veggies.

Compound Butter

Blend some gochujang into compound butter. It gives savory qualities that pair wonderfully with seafood like fish, shrimp, or shellfish.

This covers the basics, but don't be afraid to get creative! Gochujang loves making new friends. Try adding it to dips, dressings, glazes, taco fillings, pasta dishes, or anywhere you want a flavor boost.

Popular Gochujang Recipes to Try

Ready to cook with gochujang? Here are some classic recipes to start:


This popular Korean street food features chewy rice cakes bathed in a gochujang -based sweet and spicy sauce. It's seriously addictive comfort food.


Bibimbap is a quintessential Korean rice bowl topped with veggies, meat, and a sunny-side up egg. It's not complete without a drizzle of gochujang sauce for heat and richness.

Korean Fried Chicken

Crispy fried chicken is tossed in a sticky, sweet gochujang glaze for finger-licking goodness. This will become your new favorite game-day snack.


In this classic grilled beef dish, thinly sliced meat marinates in a gochujang marinade before hitting the grill or pan. The result is kimchi-topped perfection.

Budae Jjigae

Also known as Korean army stew, this one-pot wonder features gochujang flavor in a delicious mix of hot dogs, kimchi, and assorted vegetables.

Gochujang Substitutes

Don't have any gochujang on hand? Make a quick substitute by mixing the following:

  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1⁄2 to 1 teaspoon Korean chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white or brown sugar

While not exactly the same, this mixture mimics the savory-sweet-spicy balance of gochujang. Add more chili powder if you like extra heat. For best results, pick up a tub of the real deal on your next grocery run.


What's the difference between gochujang brands?

There can be major differences between various brands and varieties of gochujang. The intensity of spiciness, saltiness, sweetness, and funkiness can vary widely. Some are quite mild while others bring serious heat. Try sampling a few to find your favorite flavor profile. Also, look for ones with shorter ingredient lists and no unnecessary additives.

Does gochujang need to be refrigerated after opening?

Yes, you should store an opened container of gochujang in the refrigerator. Like other fermented condiments such as miso paste, it needs to be refrigerated to prevent spoiling and maintain quality. Be sure to seal it tightly. The paste can last for up to a year properly refrigerated.

What's a quick gochujang marinade recipe?

An easy gochujang marinade can be made by combining 3 tablespoons gochujang, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon honey, and 2 cloves minced garlic. Simply whisk everything together in a bowl, then use it to marinate beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu. Let the meat or seafood soak for 30 minutes up to overnight for maximum flavor.

Can you substitute sriracha or other chili paste for gochujang?

Sriracha and other chili pastes don't provide the same flavor profile as gochujang. They lack the fermented flavor, sweetness, and thickness. In a pinch, you could experiment by combining sriracha with brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a starch-like cornstarch. But it won't replicate the real thing.

What foods pair well with gochujang?

Rich, fatty foods that can handle big flavors pair best with gochujang. Meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, and dairy are natural matches. Rice, noodles, and vegetables also complement it well. Add some sweetness to balance the spice too. Avoid delicate foods that would get overpowered.


Now you know all about the origins, flavors, and best uses for the Korean condiment gochujang.

This incredible ingredient can instantly elevate your cooking with its complex spicy-sweet-umami punch. A little bit stirred into a marinade, sauce, or dressing provides huge returns in terms of big, bold flavor.

Track down a tub of this brick-red paste and prepare for it to become your new secret weapon in the kitchen.

Once you incorporate gochujang into some classic Korean recipes, as well as your own culinary creations, you'll be hooked!

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Unlimited Recipes

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