I love Korean cooking, but it can be really hard to source original ingredients such as gochujang paste. The red fermented soybean paste with its complex flavor of chili, malt powder, and even rice powder has a sweetness to it that’s an ideal base for sauces and other Korean dishes that my family loves.
But when there are no shops nearby selling authentic gochujang paste, I have a momentary panic. Happily, it’s very easy to substitute gochujang paste for other ingredients that are more readily available. With a bit of ingenuity and correct substitution, you can enjoy homemade Korean cuisine without having to look all over town.
Gochujang can be replaced or substituted with harissa paste, red pepper flakes, ssamjang, miso paste, chili powder, and finally, sriracha paste. Which substitution you use depends on what’s available and whether you want a spicy, sweet, or fiery as the base of your dish.
Curious? I created a list of great substitutes for gochujang paste to help you substitute like a pro and keep flops to a minimum. Enjoy.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang, or gochujang, is a thick Korean fermented chili paste that’s dark red in color.
The paste has that funky flavor that is reminiscent of Korean cuisine, but overall, expects an intensely sweet, spicy, savory, and smoky taste.
Gochujang is traditionally made from:
- Gochugaru (or Korean red chili flakes or red chili powder)
- Yeotgireum (barley malt powder)
- Meju (powdered fermented soybeans)
- Glutinous rice powder
In commercial gochujang, various other ingredients may also be included:
- Wheat flour
- Corn syrup
- Defatted soybean powder
- Alcohol (as a preservative)
- Sweeteners, like honey, sugar, or syrup
Good to know: Most types of gochujang that you buy in your local grocers aren’t gluten-free.
You can’t use this condiment as is; it’s the base for many Korean sauces and dishes.
Use gochujang to flavor stews, marinate meat, or add a spicy kick to Korean BBQ, dubu Jorim, Tteokbokki, bibimbap, or naengmyeon.
5 Best Gochujang Substitutes
You may be able to find gochujang if you have an Asian market nearby.
Otherwise, you may need to rely on these best gochujang substitutes to add that slightly sweet, umami, and savory flavor that’s so uniquely Korean.
1. Harissa Paste
The Moroccan equivalent of gochujang is harissa paste. It is also a building block ingredient you add to couscous dishes, sauces, and stews.
Harissa paste sure adds a flavorful punch to your meal with the heat and mild smoky flavor it offers. It’s quite spicy compared to gochujang, so add ½ or ¼ of a tablespoon of Harissa for every tablespoon of gochujang in your recipe.
2. Red Pepper Flakes (or Red Pepper Flake Paste)
A good alternative for gochujang is red pepper flakes or a red pepper flake paste. This substitute will help you replicate the sweet and spicy flavor of gochujang.
To make your own red pepper flake paste, mix 2 teaspoons of regular soy sauce or dark soy sauce (for a sweeter and saltier flavor) and one teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
You also need to add a pinch of sugar to the mix (rather than add too little sugar, and taste, and then add more since you don’t want the paste to be excessively sweet).
Then mix the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and sugar until it forms a paste.
Pro Tip: If the paste is too dry, add a dash more of the soy sauce.
When substituting red pepper flakes for gochujang, use a 1:1 ratio, so one tablespoon of gochujang is equivalent to one tablespoon of red pepper flake paste.
Another Korean ingredient you can use is ssamjang. This condiment is popularly used as a sauce or dip with veggies and meat.
Ssamjang is a thick paste made from gochujang, soybean paste (also called doenjang), green onion, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil. In terms of the paste’s flavor profile, it is spicy, sweet, and pungent, so the umami flavor is there.
This is a great gochujang substitute if you don’t like your food too spicy, but you can add cayenne pepper powder to up the heat.
You can also add a dash of maple syrup to make it even yummier before adding it to your favorite sauce or dish.
So use a tablespoon of ssamjang for a tablespoon of gochujang if you don’t have gochujang in your pantry.
4. Sriracha Sauce
Using Sriracha sauce to replace gochujang sauce is a great idea, though you may need to thicken up your dish somewhat as sriracha isn’t as thick or pasty as gochujang.
Sriracha offers a sweet and spicy taste profile similar to gochujang as it’s made from garlic, chili, sugar, spices, and vinegar.
To match the texture of gochujang better, you can add some extra hot sriracha to the miso paste, producing a more paste-like sauce.
Use sriracha as a direct substitute. For every tablespoon of gochujang, use one tablespoon of sriracha sauce in your recipe.
5. Miso Paste and Chili
With both miso paste and gochujang having fermented soy as a base ingredient, these sauces have a similar flavor profile and texture.
Add in some Korean chili powder for the bite that sets gochujang apart from other soybean paste sauces.
If you do run out of Korean chili powder, you can always make your own with cayenne powder and some toasted paprika.
To substitute miso paste and chili, work on a 1:½ +½ ratio, which is one tablespoon of gochujang equals half a tablespoon of miso paste and half a tablespoon of Korean chili powder (or a quarter spoon of cayenne and a quarter spoon of paprika).
Miso’s slightly salty umami taste profile works especially well, and all you need is the fiery bite of some chili.
The rust-orange color of miso paste is similar to gochujang’s rusty hue, and both have a thicker paste consistency. Just add a little less salt to a miso paste substituted dish.
Very thick miso paste can be diluted slightly with a little water, but add a teaspoon at a time. Sweeten things up with a little sugar or maple syrup.
Is Sriracha the Same as Gochujang?
Sriracha isn’t the same as gochujang; however, in terms of flavor, it’s a great match, especially for that umami taste.
Sriracha is a Thai chili or hot sauce that’s made from chili pepper paste, garlic, sugar, salt, and distilled vinegar. It has a sweet, tangy, moderately spicy, and pungent garlicky flavor profile.
On the other hand, gochujang is a Korean fermented soybean paste that’s sweet, spicy, and smoky.
Gochujang needs to be used in dishes or sauces, as it forms a base for a dish, but you can enjoy sriracha on its own as a dip or over your burger.
Can I Substitute Sriracha for Gochujang?
Sriracha is a great substitute for gochujang paste, but you will have to thicken your dish.
For an authentic taste, add a spoonful of miso pastes to achieve the same soybean paste consistency.
Keep in mind the miso will add a more salty profile that you may need to counter with some sugar or maple syrup.
Is Gochujang the Same as Chili Paste?
Gochujang isn’t the same as chili paste. The main ingredient in chili paste is chili peppers, while gochujang’s main ingredient is fermented soybean.
Both chili paste and gochujang have a spicy kick, and depending on the brand, some ingredients these two condiments have in common may be garlic and some type of sweetener.
Gochujang is also a paste, just like chili paste so it has a thick consistency.
Most often, pastes are a building block in recipes to add a spicy flavor to the dish – they aren’t typically the main ingredient and aren’t enjoyed without being cooked with other ingredients like veggies and protein.
Can I Use Chili Sauce Instead of Gochujang?
While chili sauce on its own is a good flavor match for the bite that gochujang has, it’s better to mix miso paste with the chili sauce as this creates a similar taste profile – that umami flavor or savoriness.
Miso and gochujang are both made from fermented soybeans, and when you add a little Korean chili powder to miso, you will have a great base for your flavor explosion dish.
How Do I Sweeten a Gochujang Substitute to Better Match the Authentic Flavor Profile?
When you substitute gochujang paste with miso paste, it tends to develop a more subtle but umami taste.
Adding a teaspoon of sugar or golden syrup at a time can help sweeten the paste and enrich the flavor profile.
My Last Foodie Thoughts
Gochujang is a staple in Korean dishes, but the Korean chili condiment isn’t easily found if you live in non-Asian countries.
That’s why it’s essential to know what the best gochujang substitutes are so you can still enjoy your favorite Korean dishes at home, or even experiment with this chili paste in other Asian cuisines.
Overall, the best alternatives to gochujang are:
- Harissa paste
- Red pepper flake paste
- Miso paste and chili
You can also use tomato paste and chili paste or Sambal Oelek if you can’t find gochujang at your grocery store.
Have fun cooking, and remember to keep tasting your dish when you use substitutes to closely match the flavor profile you are looking for.