Gochujang Substitute – Top 8 Alternatives (+ 2 MORE)

Published Categorized as Journal, Ingredients

A popular and delicious Korean paste, gochujang is a sweet and spicy addition that can make meals come alive in a very special way! But what about when you’re out of Gochujang? Is there a Gochujang substitute? Actually, there are, and quite a few of them at that! Join us as we break down your various options for substituting gochujang when cooking.

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Gochujang Substitute – Top 8 Alternatives (+ 2 More)

Table of Contents

What is Gochujang?

What is Gochujang, first of all? Well, thankfully this handy video clip can help explain this wonderful ingredient!

What Can I Substitute For Gochujang?

Gochujang has plenty of things you could substitute it with. Although gochujang offers its own unique blend of sweet, savory, and fermented flavors, you can still mimic this flavor in a variety of dishes.

Check out the following ingredients you can use to substitute for gochujang in your favorite Korean dishes.

SubstituteComparison
Tomato PasteGreat consistency, more sweet, less savory
HarissaSimilar sweetness and heat, altogether different flavor character
Sambal OelekAltogether different flavors & texture
GochugaruFar spicier and less paste-like
SsamjangSimilar consistency but a slightly different flavor
SrirachaSpicier and bearing a different consistency

1. Can I Use Tomato Paste Instead of Gochujang?

Because tomato paste is a paste, it can be used to substitute for gochujang when you don’t have any gochujang on hand. However, it won’t have quite the same flavor, even if the consistency is pretty similar.

Tomato paste is made from tomatoes and is virtually void of any additional flavor that gochujang would typically add. This means you’ll be missing out on the fermented savory flavor of gochujang and also, the sweet flavor that it adds. To make up for missing flavor, you may wish to add a dash of chili powder, a bit of honey or sugar, and some red pepper flakes to help spice up your tomato paste a bit.

Another option? Simply combine your tomato paste with sriracha sauce for a very similar flavor and texture to that of gochujang. Otherwise, simply use your tomato paste at a 1:1 ratio to gochujang.

Pros

  • As a rich, concentrated tomato product, tomato paste delivers a nice burst of savory umami flavor reminiscent of gochujang.
  • The thick, spreadable consistency makes it easy to incorporate into stir fries, marinades, etc.
  • Tomato paste is likely already in most home pantries given its use in many cuisines like Italian.
  • Adds a tasty tomato flavor twist to dishes instead of strict authenticity.

Cons

  • Lacks the fermented chili kick and doesn’t provide much heat or chili flavor.
  • The color skews more orange-red than gochujang’s deep crimson-red hue.
  • Can taste overly tomato-forward if used in large quantities without flavor balance.

To make tomato paste more reminiscent of gochujang, add a dash of chili powder or cayenne pepper to introduce some heat. Mixing in a little soy sauce, brown sugar, or honey also helps round out the flavors. Start with small amounts of each and adjust until you achieve the desired sweet/savory balance mimicking the Korean chili paste.

2. Can You Substitute Harissa For Gochujang?

Yes, though there are a few important things to consider.

Harissa is an African spice blend. As such, the flavoring of harissa won’t exactly match that of gochujang. What Harissa does bring, however, is sweetness and heat. Because of that, harissa can be a good substitute for gochujang, but only if you’re in a pinch.

When substituting harissa for gochujang, feel free to do so at a 1:1 ratio. Spices included in harissa include mint, caraway, and other spices that aren’t similar to gochujang, so be prepared for a change in the overall flavor profile of the dish when using this substitution.

Pros

  • As a chili pepper-based paste, harissa can mimic gochujang’s spicy kick reasonably well.
  • The addition of warm spices like cumin gives harissa a complexity reminiscent of gochujang’s blend of flavors.
  • The paste format makes it easy to incorporate into recipes like stir fries, marinades, etc.
  • The increasing popularity of North African dishes has made harissa more readily available.

Cons

  • Harissa lacks the fermented flavor that gochujang gets from ingredients like soybeans and rice.
  • The brightness from spices like coriander creates a different taste profile than gochujang’s deeper umami flavors.
  • The red-orange hue varies slightly from gochujang’s darker red color.

While it doesn’t fully replicate the taste and texture, spicy harissa paste can fill in when you need that hit of heat and rich flavor in a dish but lack the gochujang to create it authentically. Adding a dash of soy sauce can help round out the flavors closer to the Korean chili paste.

3. Can You Substitute Sambal for Gochujang?

The main difference between Sambal Oelek and Gochujang includes a difference in texture and in heat and flavor – so in every single way!

Sambal Oelek is made mostly of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. The texture is similar to stewed tomatoes. On the other hand, gochujang consists of sticky rice, fermented soybeans, chili flakes, and more. Therefore the flavors are a bit different.

Also, gochujang is thicker in texture and will resemble a paste (hence its name) more than sambal oelek.

Pros

  • As a chili-based paste, sambal oelek mirrors the spiciness and heat intensity of gochujang well.
  • It has a mix of flavors like lemon and vinegar to balance out the heat. This aligns more closely to gochujang’s blend than a straight hot sauce.
  • The paste-like consistency makes it easy to incorporate into sauces, stir fries, etc.
  • With Indonesian cuisine popularity rising, sambal oelek is easier to find in major grocery store international aisles.

Cons

  • Lacks the fermented bean flavor that defines gochujang’s savory umami taste.
  • The orange-red color is lighter than gochujang’s deep red hue.
  • Can run thicker than gochujang so diluting with a touch of water or oil helps match textures.

To sum up, sambal oelek makes for a handy replacement in recipes calling for that signature Korean spicy kick. While it doesn’t fully mimic the complex flavor profile, its chili-based heat and paste format help it substitute reasonably well in a pinch.

4. Can I Use Gochugaru Instead of Gochujang?

Substituting gochugaru for gochujang will be difficult.

As mentioned previously, gochujang is a thick paste that resembles tomato paste, though it is much smokier, more savory, and sweeter than tomato sauce.

Gochujang is also quite spicy.

Gochugaru, on the other hand, is also spicy but is completely different in terms of taste and texture. Gocchugaru is a fine powder and is usually used as a spice much in the same way that we use red pepper flakes to spice food. In the U.S. and U.K. As such, adding gochugaru to a dish in place of gochujang isn’t going to work because it won’t add the flavor or consistency to the dish that is needed to make it a worthy gochujang substitute.

Pros

  • As a key ingredient in gochujang, gochugaru lends a similar heat level and vibrant red color to dishes.
  • The sharp, aromatic flavor of these pepper flakes helps approximate the complex blend of tastes in gochujang.
  • Gochugaru is easier to find than gochujang in average American grocery stores. Check the Asian food aisle.
  • Adds authentic Korean flair to recipes when used in place of gochujang.

Cons

  • Lacks the sweetness that balances out gochujang’s spice level. Consider adding a touch of sugar or honey.
  • Misses the deep umami punch from gochujang’s fermented soybean base. Adding a dash of soy sauce can help.
  • The texture differs from the thick paste consistency of gochujang. Blend with oil or sauce to better match.

Let these Korean red pepper flakes infuse your dish with heat and aromatics reminiscent of the popular fermented chili paste. Add sweetener and savoriness to round out the profile closer to gochujang.

5. Can I Use Ssamjang Instead of Gochujang?

Yes, you can certainly swap gochujang for ssamjang, although these sauces are, as with others listed above, not quite the same.

Ssamjang, like gochujang, is a paste, but it is often thought of as tasting a bit more umami than gochujang. Still, ssamjang contains gochujang as one of its main ingredients, making ssamjang a wonderful substitution for gochujang when you have none on hand!

Pros

  • As a Korean dipping sauce, ssamjang aligns more closely to gochujang’s flavor profile than other substitutes.
  • Includes key ingredients like gochujang along with extras like sesame and soybean paste to offer a complex blend of sweet and savory.
  • It pairs well as a dip for popular Korean barbecue dishes, allowing you to still get some of that authentic flavor.
  • It’s easier to find than gochujang in average grocery stores since it’s a key component of Korean BBQ meal kits.

Cons

  • Ssamjang runs thicker, spicier, and saltier, overpowering some recipes if too much is used. Adjust ratios when substituting.
  • The addition of sesame and soybean pastes creates a nuttier, more umami-forward flavor that masks gochujang’s distinctive fermented essence.
  • Dollar for dollar more expensive than buying just a tub of gochujang paste.

Its Korean origins make it optimize better for Korean dishes compared to other substitutions. Just be cognizant that its bolder flavor profile may overwhelm more delicate recipes.

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6. Is Gochujang the Same as Sriracha?

Although the two may look similar given their spicy red hue, sriracha and gochujang are not the same things. Sriracha has red chilies, garlic, salt, sugar, and vinegar. And though this sriracha is not the same thing as gochujang which contains sticky rice and soybeans, the two do resemble each other in terms of flavor.

With that said, sriracha can make a decent substitute for gochujang when you don’t have any on hand, especially since sriracha is more commercial and widely available in most supermarkets.

Note: Sriracha is quite a bit hotter than Gochujang. Make sure to keep this in mind if you choose to substitute sriracha for gochujang in recipes.

Pros

  • Sriracha has a pure chili pepper taste that aligns with gochujang’s spiciness from red pepper flakes. It offers a comparable level of heat for recipes needing that extra kick.
  • The consistency of Sriracha works well as it can be easily incorporated into sauces, marinades, etc.
  • As a popular hot sauce, Sriracha is very easy to find at any major grocery store without needing to shop at a specialty market.

Cons

  • Sriracha lacks the sweetness and savory umami flavor that gochujang delivers from ingredients like fermented soybeans. The taste profile doesn’t fully align.
  • The flavor is focused heavily on heat from chili peppers rather than having a balanced blend of tastes.
  • The bright reddish-orange color varies greatly from gochujang’s deep crimson-red appearance.

To make Sriracha mirror gochujang more closely, add a touch of brown sugar or honey to balance out the heat. Start with 1 teaspoon per 1 tablespoon of Sriracha and adjust sweetness to taste preference. Adding a dash of rice vinegar can also introduce some tanginess reminiscent of the fermented flavor.

7. Can You Use Thai Chili Paste Instead of Gochujang?

Thai chili paste makes for a readily available and flavorful gochujang swap. With a similar balance of sweet and heat, it can mimic the general taste profile well in recipes.

Pros

  • Like gochujang, Thai chili paste has a nice blend of sweet and spicy flavors from ingredients like garlic, sugar, and chilies. The overall flavor intensity aligns more closely than other substitutes.
  • The ingredient list has similarities as both are soybean-based spicy pastes popular in Asian cuisine.
  • Thai chili paste is easy to find in major grocery stores, even more so than gochujang which can require a trip to an Asian specialty market.
  • Adds authentic Thai cuisine flair when used in place of gochujang.

Cons

  • The fermentation process differs so the tangy umami taste of gochujang is difficult to truly replicate.
  • Some Thai chili pastes lean heavily on just heat from chilies rather than a balance of flavors. Read labels to find one with added sweetener.
  • The color is more of an orange-red versus the deep crimson-red of gochujang.

9. Tahini Paste +Soy Sauce

While not an exact flavor match, this fusion mixture of Middle Eastern and Asian ingredients can mimic some elements of the Korean chili paste’s profile.

Pros:

  • Tahini paste lends a nutty sesame taste reminiscent of gochujang’s sesame oil ingredient. This introduces some of that signature toasted sesame essence missing from other substitutes.
  • The umami flavor of soy sauce aligns with the savory taste of gochujang from its fermented soybean element.
  • Both tahini and soy sauce feature heavily in their respective cuisines. Using them together adds an exotic fusion flair to recipes.
  • The smooth texture of tahini makes it easy to incorporate into sauces, marinades and more as a gochujang swap-in.

Cons:

  • The mixture lacks the sweetness that balances out gochujang’s spice and umami flavors. Consider adding a touch of honey or brown sugar to better mimic the flavor profile.
  • Chili paste would still need to be added to replicate gochujang’s heat from red pepper flakes. Start with a tablespoon per 1/4 cup of the tahini-soy blend.
  • The flavor is not as deep and complex as fermented gochujang. But it offers an intriguing new taste for fusion recipes.

10. Chimichurri Sauce + Honey

This Argentine herby sauce fused with sweet honey can replicate some of the Korean chili paste’s flavor essence.

Pros

  • Chimichurri delivers a herby flavor from ingredients like parsley, oregano, garlic, and olive oil. This green freshness mimics gochujang’s veggies’ tastes from components like fermented cabbage.
  • Adding honey introduces the sweet element that balances gochujang’s savory umami essence. 
  • As an oil-based sauce, chimichurri marries well with the glossy texture of gochujang. Its smooth liquid format makes it very simple to incorporate into recipes.
  • Blending South American and Asian flavors creates an intriguing fusion flair. It offers something new compared to traditional gochujang swaps.

Cons

  • The mixture lacks the fermented flavor that gives gochujang its distinct meaty, roasted taste. Chimichurri has a brighter, fresher taste profile.
  • Spiciness would still need to be added from a chili paste or hot sauce to mimic gochujang’s heat from red pepper flakes. Start with a teaspoon per 1/4 cup of sauce and adjust upwards to preference.
  • The green color is quite different visually from gochujang’s dark reddish hue.
Gochujang Substitute – Top 8 Alternatives (+ 2 More)

What Meals Can I Substitute Gochujang For?

Well, what can you make with Gochujang?

  • Bibimbap
  • Gochugaru
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

1. Gochujang Substitute for Bibimbap

When making bibimbap, a popular Korean dish featuring meat and rice, and chili paste, you can use gochujang and mix it with a little garlic, oil, sugar, water, and sesame oil to make your own bibimbap sauce. If you don’t have gochujang, however, feel free to use Thai chili paste or even tomato paste mixed with sriracha to substitute for gochujang in a bibimbap sauce recipe.

2. Gochujang Substitute Gochugaru

Remember that Gochujang isn’t a great swap for gochugaru and the same goes the other way around. In other words, neither gochujang nor gochugaru is interchangeable due to the taste, texture, and consistency differences between the two. Still, if you’ve got no other choice, you can try using twice the amount of gochugaru in a recipe that you would use of gochujang.

3. Gochujang Substitute For Kimchi

Interestingly, not all Kimchi recipes call for gochujang. Instead, many call for gochugaru. For this reason, it is best that you use gochugaru rather than gochujang for Kimchi. If, however, you have a recipe that calls for gochujang and you have none, you may consider the aforementioned substitutes or you may make your own gochujang using the recipe published at the end of the post!

4. Gochujang Substitute Miso

When making miso soup, you may really benefit from adding gochujang to the pot. Gochujang lends the miso soup a savory and spicy kick that is flavorful and unique. If you have no gochujang for your miso soup, try adding a little Thai chili paste or sriracha to spice things up a bit. The taste won’t be exactly the same as gochujang, but it will provide your miso with a little kick that’d be missing if you left the miso soup without it.

D.I.Y. Gochujang – Making Your Own at Home!

Now that you know what types of substitutes work well for gochujang, we thought we’d offer you a recipe to make your own gochujang yourself! While you may not have everything to make this in your cupboard, we promise that buying the ingredients necessary for this delicious gochujang D.I.Y. is well worth the investment.

I got this recipe from Pickled Plum. Check out the details on how to make your own gochujang paste below:

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Gochugaru
  • ⅔ cup Water
  • 4 Tablespoons Honey
  • 6 Tablespoons Red Miso Paste
  • 3 Tablespoons Sake
  • 1 Teaspoon Rice Vinegar
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper

How to Make Gochujang at Home

  1. Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles. 
  2. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the sake, vinegar, and salt.

That’s it! Store the mixture in the fridge for up to one month.

If you’re a visual learner, you can follow this authentic Korean gochujang recipe from Korean chef, Maangchi!

Gochujang Substitutes Are Plenty!

If you run out of gochujang, don’t worry… There are plenty of substitutes you can use instead to substitute this delicious Korean chili paste. Be wary of using gochugaru as a substitution for gochujang as the two aren’t quite the same, although they have similar names.

Also, feel free to whip up a batch of your own gochugaru at home or use any of the aforementioned substitutions to make up for the flavor and texture lacking from a dish that’s missing gochujang.

More flavor substitutes here:

FAQs

What Is Gochujang Sauce Made Of?

Gochujang sauce is primarily made of short-grain Japanese glutinous rice (or sticky rice), salt, fermented soybeans, and red pepper flakes. The result is a deep red sweet and spicy paste that is added to recipes while cooking to provide them with heat, sweetness, and umami flavor that is both unique and appetizing. 

Is Gochujang the Same as Chili Paste?

Gochujang is, in essence, the same thing as Korean chili paste, but shouldn’t be confused with Americanized or otherwise non-Korean chili pastes. In other words, some chili pastes will taste differently than others, and depending on the part of the world from which they originated, chili pastes can’t always be swapped. 

What can we use instead of gochujang?

You can use a combination of chili powder or chili flakes, miso paste, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, brown sugar, and salt as a good substitute for gochujang. Mix these ingredients together to approximate the spicy-sweet taste.

Is gochujang similar to sriracha?

No, gochujang and sriracha have very different flavors. Gochujang is a fermented Korean chili paste with a sweet, umami taste. Sriracha is made of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt, with a hot and tangy flavor profile.

Can you substitute hoisin for gochujang?

No, hoisin and gochujang have very different taste profiles. Hoisin is sweet and thick, without significant heat. Gochujang is spicy, pungent, sweet and salty. For the best flavor, use gochujang or a blend of chili powder, miso, vinegar, garlic, sesame and sugar.

Print

Gochujang Recipe

Buying the ingredients necessary for this delicious gochujang D.I.Y. is well worth the investment. Check out the details on how to make your own gochujang paste below:

  • Author: Anna
  • Cuisine: Korean

Ingredients

Scale
  • ½ cup Gochugaru
  • ⅔ cup Water
  • 4 Tablespoons Honey
  • 6 Tablespoons Red Miso Paste
  • 3 Tablespoons Sake
  • 1 Teaspoon Rice Vinegar
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper

Instructions

  1. Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce bubbles. 
  2. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  3. Add the sake, vinegar, and salt.

Notes

  • Store the mixture in the fridge for up to one month.

Keywords: gochujang recipe

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By Anna

Anna Brooks, the voice behind CooksDream.com, is a seasoned writer and editor with an insatiable love for food. While not a professional chef, her culinary adventures and unique insights have captivated readers for years. Anna believes in the transformative power of food, stating it "feeds the soul." Dive into her writings for a mix of inspiration, entertainment, and culinary wisdom. Author Pinterest Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Tumblr Reddit Quora

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