There’s nothing more stressful than hosting your monthly dinner club for a fragrant Korean dinner and realizing that you don’t have (and can’t source) the main ingredient, gochugaru, in time.
So is there a gochugaru substitute, and what can you use?
One of the best substitutes for gochugaru is gochujang. Fortunately, there are numerous other substitutes, such as paprika, cayenne pepper flakes, guajillo chili pepper powder, chipotle powder, Aleppo pepper flakes, and chile pasilla that are just as good.
If you’re looking for some tasty (and not too hot) substitutes for gochugaru, then this guide will provide you with only the best options.
What Is Gochugaru?
Gochugaru (pronounced go-CHOO-ka-roo), also known as Korean chili powder or flakes is a popular bright red chili spice that is used in Korean cuisine.
The spice is coarse in texture (similar to crushed red pepper flakes) and a staple in most Korean kitchens.
Did you know? The word “Gochu” means chili pepper, and the word “Garu” means powder. Gochu-Garu means chili pepper powder.
This flavorful spice ranges from mild to hot and is perfect for those who enjoy the bite without burning their mouths.
Gochaugaru has a rich burnt red color and brightens up any dish. The spice is made from dried red Korean chili peppers.
Once the seeds and membranes have been removed, the peppers go through a blending process and are either made into flakes or ground further in a rice mill to make a fine chili powder.
The coarse ground gochugaru spice is ideal for making kimchi (a traditional Korean dish made from fermented and salted veggies). The fine ground spice gives dishes a smooth texture and vibrant color.
Gochugaru is used in everyday dishes such as:
- Cucumber salads
Although this spice looks fiery hot thanks to its bright red coloring, it’s not as spicy as other chili powders and has a sweet and fruity flavor.
Top Tip: Taste-wise, you should go for the sundried option, as this is a far higher-quality spice with a smoky flavor. Check the packaging for words such as “Taekung” or “Taeyangcho,” which indicates that it has been sundried.
7 Best Gochugaru Substitutes
If you’re struggling to source gochugaru at your local spice shop or grocery store, don’t be disheartened, as you can use several tasty substitutes instead. Let’s take a look at 7 of the best gochugaru substitutes:
Paprika is an excellent substitute for gochugaru as it has the same smoky flavor with sweet undertones. You can choose from different types of paprika, such as hot, smoked, or sweet, depending on how hot you want your dish.
If heat is what you’re after, try the Hungarian paprika, which has quite a bite.
The ratio of paprika is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
2. Cayenne Pepper Flakes
Another tasty substitute is cayenne pepper flakes. These flakes are easy to source and have a similar texture to the coarse gochugaru spice.
It’s important to note that cayenne pepper is slightly warmer than gochugaru.
The ratio of cayenne pepper flakes is ¾ teaspoon for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
3. Guajillo Chili Pepper Powder
Guajillo chili pepper powder is similar to gochugaru in flavor and taste. It has a subtle fruity taste with a mild to moderate heat level.
This spice is popular in Mexican cuisine.
The ratio of guajillo chili pepper powder is 3 teaspoons for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
One of the best substitutes for gochugaru is gochujang. This is also a popular spice in Korea.
Gochujang is made from the gochu pepper and is a thick, flavorful paste. It includes other ingredients such as sticky rice, salt, and soybeans.
This paste will give your dish the same smoky flavor and make very tasty Kimchi.
The ratio of gochujang chili paste is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
5. Chipotle Powder
Another chili powder to try is chipotle powder, as it has the same smoky, sweet flavor of gochugaru and works well in any dish.
Interestingly, the chipotle powder is made from green jalapenos that are dried and smoked.
They are then finely ground into powder (similar to how gochugaru powder is made).
The ratio of chipotle powder is ½ a teaspoon for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
6. Aleppo Pepper Flakes
Aleppo pepper flakes can be ground into a fine powder and have a slightly more tangy and sweet flavor to gochugaru. It has a mild heat profile and tastes much like a sundried tomato.
This powder has a burgundy color and is slightly more oily than other chili powders.
The ratio of Aleppo pepper powder is one teaspoon for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
7. Chile Pasilla
To give your dish a rich and spicy flavor, use chile pasilla as a substitute for gochugaru. This substitute has a mild to hot heat profile and a smoky, earthy flavor. The taste is compared to the taste of dried fruit and chocolate.
Chile pasilla is made from sun-dried or dehydrated chilaca peppers that are ground into a fine powder.
The ratio of chile pasilla is ½ teaspoon for every teaspoon of gochugaru.
Can I Use Chili Powder Instead of Gochugaru?
You can use chili powder instead of gochugaru. However, you’ll need to select the best chili powder based on the flavor and heat profile you want for your dish.
One of the best chili powders to use for a mild flavor and heat profile is Kashmiri chili powder.
The chili powder is made from dried, red Kashmiri chilies. It has the same vibrant coloring and a similar flavor to gochugaru.
Keep in mind that the heat level is very mild. You’ll need to double the amount of Kashmiri powder to gochugaru to achieve a similar flavor and heat profile.
Can I Use Red Pepper Flakes Instead of Gochugaru?
Red pepper flakes instead of gochugaru are among the best substitutes in most dishes. The bold red color of the spice is almost identical to gochugaru and has a spicy and earthy flavor.
Unfortunately, red pepper flakes aren’t a good substitute for gochugaru when making kimchi.
This is because it lacks the sweet and smoky properties of gochugaru.
My Last Foodie Thoughts
Gochugaru is a popular chili spice for a reason. This aromatic spice brings a tasty, smokey, fruity, and mild flavor to any dish.
If you love Korean food and want to stay as true to the recipe as possible, then any of these substitutes will do.
It all depends on your chosen recipe and how you want the dish to taste.
Do you want a very hot dish where the flavors are on the back burner, or are you putting a dish together that hones in on the gorgeous fruity flavors of gochugaru?
The best part about cooking is experimenting with different flavors, and finding substitutes for gochugaru is a tasty (and sometimes spicy) adventure.