Cheater’s Gochujang

Got gochujang? If not, then you need to drop everything and try this quick cheater’s version from Da-Hae West that makes for an impressive stand-in for traditional homemade Korean chile paste. It’s got a sweet heat as well as some serious umami. Here’s how to make it.

A small white dish of gochujang, a Korean chile past with a spoon, jar, and bowl beside it.

Got gochujang? It’s a salty, savory, and rather unforgettably pungent red chile paste from Korea that’s far more complicated than Sriracha and lends its rather unforgettable accent to anything. Pronounced “gah chu jang,” it has a sweet heat that varies in intensity from brand to brand and recipe to recipe.

This rendition from cookbook author Da-Hae West is a quick riff on the stuff found in rectangular tubs with a flip-top lid at Korean markets using simple ingredients you can find in any ordinary supermarket. Truth be told, some of our testers find it to be a touch more fiery than supermarket brands, but you can easily modify it for more timid palates by using a touch less cayenne or a little more sugar.

Keep in mind, gochujang isn’t the sorta thing you dab on something at the table. It’s instead incorporated into all manner of recipes to lend a magnificent and unparalleled depth.–Renee Schettler

How To Use Gochujang

How to use gochujang is really up to you and your individual palate. Traditionally, it brings a depth and complexity that simply can’t be equaled by other hot sauces to almost everything Korean, including bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi, Korean fried chicken, Korean beef tacos smothered with kimchi, countless pork preparations, stir fry dishes, and noodle creations of all sorts. Call us rebels, but we also quite like to incorporate it into all manner of untraditional things, including…

Incorporated into ground beef for burgers
Mixed into marinades (be careful as the sugar in the gochujang can cause meat to scorch if cooked over crazy high heat)
Stirred into braises and stews (including slow-cooker recipes)
Tossed with chunks of winter squash prior to roasting
Added to deviled eggs
Stirred into soups
Mixed with mayo and slathered on sandwiches

Got a can’t-live-without use for gochujang? Let us know in a comment below!

Cheater's Gochujang

  • Quick Glance
  • (4)
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Makes 16 (1-tbsp) servings
5/5 - 4 reviews
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Ingredients

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Directions

Stir together the miso, corn syrup, cayenne pepper, mirin, sugar, and garlic until well combined.

Decant the gochujang mixture into a clean jar or resealable container, cover, and stash it in the refrigerator for up to several weeks. The gochujang is fine to use immediately but if you wait several days the flavor will be more melded and nuanced. Originally published March 6, 2017.

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    Recipe Testers Reviews

    Gochujang is an incredibly useful Korean condiment that combines fermented soybean funkiness with chile heat and unabashed sweetness. This simple recipe using supermarket ingredients takes only a couple minutes to put together and hits the same notes. I did a side-by-side tasting with a commercial gochujang to compare the flavors. This recipe makes a Korean chile paste that is considerably hotter, less salty, and less sweet than store-bought renditions. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on what you are going for, but you can always add more miso and more sweetener, can't you? Too hot? Reduce the chile or, better yet, use a blend of hot and mild ground chiles.

    This version came out quite a bit thicker than my jar of commercial gochujang, which is also not really a problem. You can always thin it with water, more mirin, or, better yet, bourbon.

    Gochujang is one of my new favorite things to add to sauces and marinades these days. I LOVED making this recipe because it demystifies an otherwise mysterious—and delicious—ingredient that is sometimes hard to come by, so it's great to have the knowledge in one's back pocket to whip it up so easily. Although I can find it at almost any of the stores I frequent, it isn't that way for lots of folks, and I still don't have a huge choice of brands.

    One change I needed to make was actually due to another ingredient I couldn't find to save my life—corn syrup! For whatever reason, it was not in ready supply. So, I improvised and used dark agave nectar, which I actually think was a great swap! (I'm also more likely to have agave nectar on hand at home anyhow, making this recipe even more realistic for me to make). I used some of the gochujang the day after making it, and though it added a great kick to my dish, I felt like the depth of flavor wasn't quite there yet. I'd love to know how long is best to wait until the flavors meld. Other than that, it was fantastic, and I'm thrilled to have this simple sauce in my arsenal.

    HUNGRY FOR MORE?

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    Comments

    1. I keep a 3 lb. tub of gochugau in my fridge and a one lb. bag of gochugaru in my pantry. We cook a lot of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese in our house. I would never try making homemade gochujang because of the effort involved. Fortunately I have access to many Korean markets so I find it easy enough to make. But from talking to my Korean friend who is one heck of cook this is what I’ve learned:

      For one, there is no miso in gochujang. It’s make with a powered fermented soybeans. The ground red pepper used in everything Korean (including baby food I think) is called gochugaru, and it is sweeter and with a little bit of smokiness. It doesn’t taste like cayenne and different varieties of the chili vary in heat. Maybe it’s the terroir. Gochujang also contains rice syrup, barley malt, and sweet rice flour. Gochujang also requires a few months of fermentation.

      I can see where you went with using miso but it’s really not the same flavor.

      1. Bkhuna, you are correct, we did make some substitutions according to what most home cooks, even those with relatively adventurous palates and undaunted approaches to their cooking, tend to have on hand. Miso gives depth but not the same depth as the original, it’s true. By way of explanation, not excuse, we ultimately decided to share this recipe after testing it based on what our recipe testers, who are home cooks of varying abilities and experiences, who are very familiar with the taste of gochujang reported, which was that it worked quite well and did indeed work more than adequately in its place. But yes, you are correct, it is not traditional gochujang.

    2. Not trying to be rude or anything, but this recipe doesn’t make any close to gochujang. It doesn’t even have the same ingredients as gochujang.

      It’s akin to making chocolate brownies with frosting and no nuts.

    3. Thank you thank you thank you. I always buy three large tubs of this when I go to the Asian market. I won’t be going there soon, it seems. I use this many ways but my favorite is in a glaze for the North African Meatballs recipe in the NY Times, (I omit the tomato sauce). Don’t ask me for the amounts because I don’t measure anything but it is gochujang, sesame oil, black vinegar, dijon and pomegranate molasses. I made 240 of these for a party of 40 and they were gone is 60 seconds. I’ll be making this today.

    4. Delicious! I couldn’t get to my Asian market due to Covid-19 and really wanted some bibimbap. I used this in my sauce and it was perfect. Thank you!!

    5. Thank you so much for this recipe! I want to make kimchi and so many other recipes that require Gochujang but can’t seem to find it. One question, does the type of miso paste we use matter?

      1. Huda, actually, the miso does matter. A white miso will lend a slightly less intense, almost sweeter lilt to the resulting gochujang. A red miso will bring a more robust and earthy and much saltier taste. Since we didn’t test it with red, I’m very hesitant to recommend it…

      1. Thanks Tamala! It really is amazing. Looking forward to hearing your favorite uses for it.

    6. Made this recipe and it was awesome! Added gochugaru (Korean red chili powder) in substitute of cayenne. It was milder, and so I had to add more, but it was easier to adjust to my spice preference. I wanted to make my own cause my boyfriend has a rice allergy, And store-bought has rice in it. So some of my products might not taste the exact same, but it was very good.

      1. Hi thank you for this recipe. I ran out & am needing it but the korean store is quite far away. I have doenjang and miso. Would doenjang be better to use than miso? Maybe closer to the authentic flavours?

        1. Mo, I think either would work here. The doenjang is going to give it a stronger, sharper flavor than the miso will, so you may need to adjust the amount of sugar you add if you decide to use doenjang.

    7. I really liked this recipe more than the brand I was buying. I also loved that I could make a hot blend with ground got Korean peppers and a mild blend with 3 tablespoons paprika and 1 tablespoon hot ground peppers. I used a dark local honey and it really made the flavor pop.

    8. Just one question: If I don’t have mirin, is there anything I can substitute? Sherry + more sweetener, maybe? TIA!

      1. Absolutely, Suzanne. Sherry or sake or white wine with a touch of sugar would work perfectly fine. I’ve seen a lot of variance in the suggested ratios of wine to sugar for this substitution. This recipe calls for such a small amount of mirin it’s not going to be hugely noticeable. I would use 2 tablespoons liquid and up to 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Would love to know what you think of the gochujang!

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