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Gochugaru: Korean Power Spice

Gochugaru is Korean cuisine’s secret weapon. This dried hot pepper powder provides both heat and flavor to Korean dishes.

Low angle shot of a bowl of finely ground gochugaru red chili pepper powder.

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What Is Korean Chili Powder?

Korean chili powder, Korean chili flakes, or Korean hot pepper flakes are all names for gochugaru (gochu = chile pepper, garu = powder). This bright red Korean red chili powder, whatever you name it, is prepared by crushing sun-dried chili peppers.

To make gochugaru, you would start by sun drying chile peppers (like taeyang-cho or cheongyang peppers) and then crushing or grinding them, either to a fine powder or to a coarsely ground powder with some larger flakes in it.

Gochugaru comes in both finely and coarsely ground forms, with slightly varied use in Korean cuisine. The bright crimson, finely powdered red chili pepper is used to make gochujang and in dishes when you don’t want to add texture. Roughly crushed flakes are used in dishes such as kimchi.

Overhead shot of a bowl of gochugaru.

Gochugaru is a fundamental element in Korean cookery, whether coarsely crushed into flakes or finely ground to a powder. Many Korean dishes, like Cucumber Kimchi, bibimbap, and jjigae, benefit from its peppery kick.  

But don’t be fooled by its conventional applications; this fiery chili powder is flexible and may be used to add depth and spice to a number of dishes.

What is the difference between Gochugaru and Gochujang?

Both gochujang and gochugaru are common ingredients in authentic Korean cooking, but they are not the same. Gochugaru is made of crushed or ground dried chili peppers, whereas gochujang is a fermented paste made with chiles and other ingredients.

Ground chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, and salt are combined to make gochujang. It is then fermented for many weeks, giving it a rich, savory flavor.

Gochujang is a thick, sticky paste that is frequently used as the foundation for sauces, marinades, and dips. It’s also used to season and spice up foods like Gochujang Chicken or Beef Bulgogi, or to make a sauce for Korean Fried Chicken.

Gochugaru, on the other hand, is produced from coarsely crushed sun-dried chili peppers. It’s a dark crimson powder with a smokey, spicy taste. It is frequently used to season Cucumber Kimchi, soups, and stews.

While gochujang and gochugaru both provide fire and flavor to korean food, they are utilized differently and have unique characteristics. Gochujang has a savory, umami flavor and is frequently used as a foundation for sauces and dips. Gochugaru is a spice with a smoky, spicy taste and is used for seasoning and adding a spicy kick.

In a recipe, you may use gochujang as a basis and then add gochugaru to alter the spiciness and taste. Furthermore, gochujang is the way to go if you want a more complex and savory flavor and a thicker texture, whereas gochugaru is the way to go if you want a more smokey and spicy flavor.

Overhead shot of a bowl of gochugaru with kimchi, rice, cabbage, and cilantro on the side.

Where Can I Buy It?

Gochugaru is available in most Asian stores and online. Look for one that has no extra additives such as sugar or MSG. There are also different types of gochugaru—hotter or milder and flakes or powder.

What is a good gochugaru substitute?

If you can’t locate gochugaru, here are some alternatives:

  • Combine cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.
  • Combine chili powder and crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Combine ground Aleppo pepper with Kashmiri or cayenne pepper.
  • Simply replace the chili powder with another chili powder, such as Kashmiri chile powder or ground cayenne pepper.

How to use it in your cooking

Here are some suggestions for using gochugaru in your cooking:

Overhead shot of a bowl of gochugaru with a spoonful of gochugaru on the side.
Organic Red Spicy Korean Gochugaru Spice in a Bowl

Tips for Success

  • Some gochugaru will be spicier and some milder and it’s hard to tell from looking at it. To be safe, it’s best to start with a small amount and add more to taste.
  • Because the color might fluctuate, you can’t evaluate the heat degree only by its appearance. Some gochugaru will be spicier than others, so you’ll just have to try them all until you find one that suits you.
  • Store your gochugaru in an airtight jar in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

Gochugaru is a versatile and delicious red pepper powder that provides depth and flavor to a wide range of foods. So go ahead and add some heat to your life with gochugaru!

Related Posts

Want to try cooking some Korean dishes at home? Here are a few of my favorites.

Beef Bulgogi Bowls: This Korean beef bowl is a classic. The Korean BBQ beef recipe calls for marinating the beef in a soy sauce marinade that packs a flavorful punch combining grated pear, fresh garlic, green onions, rice wine, rice vinegar, and honey.

Air Fryer Korean Fried Chicken: This is one of my favorite air fryer recipes. It starts with a basic Air Fryer Fried Chicken and adds a gingery marinade and a spicy-sweet gochujang sauce. 

Gochujang Chicken: This delicious Korean recipe features the fermented red chile paste that is spicy and full of umami. This spicy Korean chicken recipe is easy to make either on the barbecue grill or in a grill pan on the stovetop.

By on January 27th, 2022

ABOUT ROBIN DONOVAN

Hi, I’m Robin! I am a full-time food blogger, recipe developer, and cookbook author. I spend my days cooking, writing about, and photographing food.

I’m the author of more than 50 cookbooks, including Ramen for Beginners5 Ingredient Cooking for TwoSushi at HomeThe Baking Cookbook for Teens, and the bestselling Campfire Cuisine.

My food writing has also been featured in major print and online pubications including Cooking Light, Fitness, San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. → More about Robin

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