Gochugaru Substitute: 7 Obvious Alternatives That You Overlooked
Are you a fan of Korean cuisine? If yes, then welcome to the club! I have to admit that I’ve been raving about this unique style of cooking since the first time I’ve tried kimchi.
As I became more acquainted with how things work in the Korean kitchen, I learned about a great variety of interesting spices, pastes, and ingredients that I hadn’t known previously. One of them was gochugaru (or kokchukaru), an essential part of any good kimchi.
What I soon realized was that it wasn’t so easy to find this spice outside of Korea, and unless there is a specialty shop in your area, the chances are that you’ll have to look for a gochugaru substitute.
Through the magic of the internet, I discovered that there are indeed certain spices which can be used instead of gochugaru, and the difference in the final dish is barely noticeable.
What a relief!
So, to all the lovers of far-eastern cooking, I present the list of the best gochugaru substitutes available in most well-equipped supermarkets. Have a read! 🙂
What is gochugaru?
To English speakers, gochugaru is known by several different names, for example - Korean chili powder, Hot pepper flakes, Korean chili flakes, and so on.
In essence, this spice is coarsely ground chili pepper that has a texture between powder and flakes. It is traditionally made from sun dried chilis, and many Korean households make their own by hand. It’s most famous use is, as I’ve previously mentioned, in the making of almighty kimchi but it is also put it various stews, side dishes, and in the famous gochujang paste.
Now, when most people read the word chili, they think about palate scorching, taste numbing little peppers. This can but doesn’t have to be the case with gochugaru, as there are two different varieties.
Deolmaewoon gochugaru is the milder type, while maewoon is the extra spicy one. What they both share though, is the smoky and irresistible aroma that other hot spices such as cayenne simply don’t have.
If you want to get scientific, gochugaru can have anywhere between 4000 to 8000 Scoville Units (used for measuring spiciness).
Gochugaru health benefits
1. Blood sugar regulation
- Eating gochugaru might decrease one’s risk of getting diabetes as it helps to control blood sugar levels with the help of the nutritious substances it contains.
2. Prostate cancer benefits
- A chemical called capsaicin is what gives all the hot peppers their spiciness. According to some scientists, capsaicin can prevent prostate cancer growth as it causes cancer cells to start killing themselves.
3. Rich in vitamins
- Vitamin E, to be more precise, and one tablespoon of gochugaru contains around 15% of your daily recommended intake of this vitamin.
4. Packed with minerals
- Like other dried chilis, gochugaru is a good source of iron, a mineral that your body uses to make red blood cells. Besides iron, this spice also contains copper which has proved itself beneficial in preventing certain diseases, such as Lou Gehrig’s.
Top 7 Gochugaru Substitutes
1. Aleppo pepper flakes
- You might have heard of Aleppo, a Syrian town in Turkey, so yes, this spice comes from this area. With around 10.000 Scoville Units, this pepper is a bit spicier than the spiciest kind of gochugaru, which means that you’ll definitely want to put a little bit less of it in your dishes.
- Another thing that this substitute shares with the real thing is the slightly sweet note. However, Aleppo’s sweetness is somewhat fruity, and this might not sit well with those who aren’t used to it.
- The last argument to convince you to try these pepper flakes is the texture which bears a striking resemblance to that of gochugaru.
2. New Mexico Chilli
- New Mexico chili powder one of the milder options that I put on this list. It’s Scoville Unit count goes from 500-2500, so this is a “safe” spice for those who can’t handle a lot of heat. Now, the main thing that you have to know is that there are two types of New Mexico chili powder: green and red.
- The green one’s taste is more similar to gochugaru, but apparently, the color is different. The red kind will give your dish the nice reddish tint, but its flavor is earthier than gochugaru’s, so it might not be as good a match as the green one.
3. Kashmiri pepper
- Kashmiri pepper powder used to be easy to find, but now, due to increased demand, it’s becoming more and more elusive. However, there is a good chance that you’ll be able to come across this one more often than gochugaru, and if you do, buy it!
- As for the spiciness, there is no precise information on how hot this pepper actually is, so you’ll have to find out for yourself. The good thing about it is that it has a deep red color so it will appeal to gochugaru enthusiasts.
4. Cayenne pepper
- Those who are closely familiar with Korean food surely know that cayenne is used widely in this cuisine. The color of gochugaru is there, but do be careful with the amount since cayenne is WAY spicier (30000 - 50000 Scoville Units, to be precise).
- When it comes to form, you can choose between flakes and powder. The flakes might be a bit troublesome for certain people as they come with seeds, and you know that those are super hot. On the bright side, the texture is similar to gochugaru.
- The powder is a milder option since there are no seeds in it, so you won’t have to worry about getting your taste buds scorched, unless you use too much, of course.
5. Chile de Arbol
- Chile de Arbol is my go-to personal substitute when gochugaru is nowhere to be found. The reasons - cheap, easy to find, and very similar to the “real” thing. Let me elaborate on this a bit more.
- The main thing that got me hooked on Chile de Arbol is the smokiness. Other spices on this list have this feature too, but somehow this one has a specific flavor which suits me. Also, there is a nutty quality to this ingredient that not much spices of this kind have.
- Chile de Arbol can be bought flaked, powdered, and in paste form. The heat is what you have to look out for here, as it is a lot spicier than gochugaru (15000 - 30000 Scoville Units).
6. Gochujang paste
- As I’ve previously mentioned gochujang is made from the same pepper (gochu) as the gochugaru, so the two are very close cousins. But, there is a crucial difference here, gochujang is a paste, and it contains other ingredients including soybeans, rice, and salt.
- So how does this impact the taste? Well, gochujang has some saltiness to it so when using it as a gochugaru substitute make sure to adjust the recipe and use less salt than you usually would. If you do not mind the additional salty flavor and the pasty texture, gochujang is a pretty good replacement.
7. Chipotle peppers
- You’ve heard of Jalapenos, right? By smoking and drying them, we get Chipotle peppers. These are spicy, smoky and sweet, all at the same time!
- They can be bought whole or in powdered form, but the latter tends to be problematic. The issue is that there is hardly any consistency between brands because many manufacturers mix Chipotle with other powdered peppers to reduce the cost. As a result of this, you don’t know how much actual Chipotle is in the package.
- So, if you decide to buy this one, try to find whole, dried peppers. If you can’t get your hands on these, look for a quality, reputable brand that sells it powdered.
I’ve noticed something when writing these “substitute” articles - all my conclusions essentially say the same thing. So, let me repeat myself once again.
All of the items listed today can be great substitutes for gochugaru, but it is impossible to determine which one is the best because this depends on your taste preferences and which dishes you will be preparing.
With this being said, there’s nothing more for me to add but to encourage you to experiment with different spices until you find that one which hits the spot.
Have you used any of these spices before, or is there an ingredient that I unfairly left out? Let me know in the comment section! 🙂