If you want to get into Korean cooking, there are two ingredients that every pantry should have: gochujang and gochugaru. They might sound like they are different names for the same ingredient, each ingredient has its own flavor and its own purpose in the kitchen. Gochujang is a chili paste that is good for building a base in stews, marinades, and more while gochugaru is Korea’s answer to chili powder. To learn more about gochujang and how to use it, read Ingredient Spotlight: Gochujang, the Backbone of Korean Cooking. Now, let’s learn more about gochugaru!
What is Gochugaru?
Goghugaru is a vibrant red Korean spice made from a blend of hot red pepper flakes. Its texture is somewhere between red pepper flakes and chili powder. Traditionally, gochugaru is made from sun-dried gochu (red chili peppers), but some modern brands may dry their peppers by machine. Taeyangcho, or peppers that have been sun-dried, are considered to be the best ingredient for gochugaru. Compared to the types of chili powders that we are familiar with in the United States, such as cayenne and red pepper flakes, gochugaru has a much more complex flavor that has been described as spicy, sweet, and slightly smoky.
There are a couple of different types of gochugaru. Maewoon gochugaru is the hottest kind you can buy while deolmaewoon gochugaru is milder. When looking for gochugaru in an Asian supermarket, keep an eye out for anything labeled 태양초, which means that the peppers were sun-dried. It can also be tricky to know that you are buying gochugaru, as many English labels on Korean products can be as misleading. You don’t want to buy anything labeled “red pepper powder,” as this is an entirely different ingredient that is used to make gochujang. Gochugaru should have a bright, red color and coarse texture. Once you open a bag of gochugaru, be sure to store it in an airtight container in the freezer in order to maintain freshness.
Gochugaru is a key ingredient in many Korean dishes, such as tukbokki (spicy rice cakes), meat and seafood stews, kimchi chigae (kimchi stew), and all kinds of kimchi. It can also be added to dipping sauces, dressings, marinades, and other sauces.
Gochugaru adds spicy flavor to this classic cabbage Kimchi and this Cucumber Kimchi, but you can also use it to make kimchi from other veggies. To learn more, read How to Make Kimchi at Home. Once you’ve made your own kimchi, you can even use the spicy, sweet, and smoky liquid from the jar to make this Kimchi Vinaigrette or this Kimchi Hummus.
You can also use it in meaty dishes. In this Korean Braised Tofu, tofu is braised in a spicy, umami sauce with onions and cooked until tender and the flavor has been absorbed. In these Spicy Korean BBQ Jackfruit Tacos, jackfruit is cooked in a Korean barbecue sauce that uses chili flakes, but you can easily replace this with gochugaru for a more authentic flavor. The same applies to this spicy Vegetable Protein Bulgogi and these Korean Tempeh Steaks.
For vegetable and noodle dishes, replace the chili flakes in this Veggies, Chickpeas, and Quinoa in a Korean Red Sauce with gochugaru or try adding a pinch to this Korean-Style Spicy Tofu and Sesame Cucumbers. These Miso Zoodle Soup With Fava Beans and Greens are topped with a sprinkle of gochugaru — you can try the same idea with these Korean Peanut Noodles With Vegetables and Tofu.
Gochugaru is still relatively unknown in the United States, but you might find it at grocery stores that carry specialty items, such as Whole Foods. You can, however, find gochugaru at any well-stocked Asian supermarket or you can buy it online.
This Organic Gochugaru by Crazy Korean Cooking is made from chili peppers that were grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. The peppers are sun-dried, which results in a bolder flavor than machine-dried peppers. You can pick up one 10.6-ounce box for about $23. Or, try this Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi Gochugaru, made from high-quality peppers with fruity, complex, and earthy spice notes. This 8-ounce bag costs $14. If you like things hot, this Tae-kyung Gochugaru is spicier than the other two options. One 1-pound bag costs $10.29.
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