Substitutes for Gochugaru

Gochugaru is a popular Korean red pepper powder that adds unique flavor and heat to your dishes. Used extensively in Korean cuisine, its distinct taste comes from sun-dried red chili peppers that are crushed into fine flakes or powder. However, sometimes you might find yourself needing a substitute for gochugaru, whether it’s for dietary considerations or simply because you don’t have any on hand.

In these cases, there are several alternative options that can mimic the flavor and heat of gochugaru without compromising the essence of your dish. From fiery alternatives for the spice lovers to milder options for those seeking balance, there’s an ample selection of substitutes. Knowing which option to choose can significantly enhance the taste of your dish, while also understanding the potential differences in spice levels and flavor profiles.

Key Takeaways

  • Gochugaru is a widely-used Korean red pepper powder with a distinctive taste
  • Several substitutes are available, mimicking its flavor and heat for different preferences
  • Choice of replacement depends on the required spice levels and flavor profile for your dish

What is Gochugaru

Gochugaru, commonly known as Korean chili powder, is a vibrant red, coarse and flaky seasoning made from taeyang-cho chilies. These chilies provide a distinct color, taste, and flavor to various Korean dishes. As you explore the world of Gochugaru, you’ll find that it has a unique combination of heat, smokiness, and a slight sweetness.

The heat level of Gochugaru can range from mild to moderately hot. Typically, it falls between 4,000 and 8,000 Scoville heat units, which is comparable to jalapeño peppers. This heat level is enough to give a pleasant spiciness to your dishes, without being overpowering.

Gochugaru’s flavor profile is more than just heat. The taeyang-cho chilies also lend a smoky, fruity taste to the powder, adding depth and complexity to your dishes. It is particularly essential in traditional Korean recipes, such as kimchi, as well as various sauces and marinades.

When using Gochugaru, remember that its deep red color can stain surfaces and clothing, so be cautious when handling it. The striking hue it imparts to dishes not only adds visual appeal, but it is also a strong indicator of its flavor and intensity.

Now that you have a better understanding of Gochugaru and its characteristics, you can confidently explore its many uses and potential substitutes when needed. Remember to consider the heat, smokiness, and color of your chosen substitute to ensure the best possible outcome for your dish.

Common Uses of Gochugaru

Gochugaru, a flavorful Korean red chili pepper powder, is a staple ingredient in many Korean dishes. It adds a characteristic spicy kick to your favorite meals and contributes to the vibrant red color often seen in Korean cuisine.

One of the most popular dishes that use gochugaru is kimchi, a traditional Korean fermented side dish made with vegetables, including Napa cabbage and Korean radish. Gochugaru imparts a deep, spicy flavor to kimchi, which is often enjoyed as a banchan (side dish) or incorporated into other dishes like stews and soups.

Speaking of soups and stews, gochugaru is widely used in jjigae, a Korean dish that can be made with various ingredients such as seafood, meat, tofu, and vegetables. The addition of gochugaru not only intensifies the dish but also balances the flavors of other ingredients. Similarly, gochugaru can be used in a variety of other stews and soups, adding heat and depth to the overall flavor profile.

In meat dishes, gochugaru stands out as an essential ingredient in Korean BBQ marinades, where it adds an unmistakable spice that plays well with other flavors, such as soy sauce, garlic, and sugar. Seafood dishes also benefit from including gochugaru, from spicy fish stews to grilled shrimp.

Bibimbap, a classic Korean dish consisting of rice, mixed vegetables, and protein, is another perfect canvas for gochugaru. Gochujang, a spicy Korean condiment, often accompanies bibimbap, and gochugaru is an integral part of this bold sauce.

While gochugaru primarily functions as a staple in traditional Korean recipes, it’s versatility and unique flavor profile have allowed it to cross culinary boundaries. You can experiment with adding gochugaru to non-Korean dishes such as pizza or other condiments, enhancing your original recipes with its heat and deliciousness.

In summary, gochugaru is a potent and versatile ingredient that can elevate the taste of various dishes, from traditional Korean cuisine to international fare. Don’t hesitate to try it in your next culinary adventure.

Why Substitute Gochugaru?

Sometimes, you may need to replace gochugaru in your recipes due to various reasons. One of the primary factors is the unavailability of gochugaru in your local grocery stores or even online sources. Some people also prefer to try other alternatives to alter the heat levels, flavor or texture in their dishes.

In terms of heat levels, gochugaru could be either too spicy or too mild for your taste buds. Finding an appropriate substitute enables you to adjust the spice level according to your preferences. Luckily, several alternatives can provide varied heat intensities without compromising the taste.

Another factor to consider is the flavor profile. Gochugaru has a distinct sweet, smoky, and slightly fruity taste that may not suit everyone’s palate or a specific dish. Using a substitute allows you to experiment with a range of flavors that can bring a fresh twist to traditional recipes.

Lastly, the texture of gochugaru may not be suitable for certain dishes, as it is often found as coarse, flaky powder. Substituting with other ingredients gives you the freedom to customize the texture of your dish, be it in the form of a paste, powder, or minced ingredient.

By exploring and trying out different gochugaru substitutes, you can adapt your recipes to cater to your specific preferences or circumstances. It is essential to remember that each substitute has distinct characteristics; thus, you may need to adjust the quantity or measurements based on the substitute you choose.

Gochugaru vs. Gochujang

When it comes to Korean cuisine, gochugaru and gochujang are two popular ingredients that play an essential role in enhancing the flavors of various dishes. It’s important to understand the differences between these two ingredients to fully appreciate their unique characteristics and applications.

Gochugaru, also known as Korean red pepper powder, is a coarsely ground red pepper used in a variety of Korean dishes such as kimchi, stews, and soups. It’s produced by drying and crushing red pepper, resulting in a vibrant red color and a mildly sweet and smoky flavor.

On the other hand, gochujang is a red pepper paste that contains fermented soybeans, glutinous rice, and a variety of other ingredients like sugar and vinegar. The fermentation process provides gochujang with an unmistakable umami depth, while the glutinous rice gives it a thick, sticky texture. Additionally, the combination of sugar and vinegar infuses the paste with a balanced sweetness and tanginess.

When considering which ingredient to use, it’s crucial to remember their distinct flavor profiles and applications. Gochugaru, being a dry spice, works best in recipes that call for sprinkling or mixing into a dry rub. Its mild spiciness can add a bit of heat without overpowering or altering the overall taste of your dish.

Conversely, gochujang’s thick, paste-like texture is perfect for marinades, dips, and sauces. Its fermented soybean content adds a savory umami dimension that can enhance the taste of your dish. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that gochujang also contains sugar, which may not be suitable for dishes that require a strictly savory flavor.

In summary, the key to choosing between gochugaru and gochujang lies in understanding their unique characteristics and the desired flavor profiles of your dishes. By knowing their differences and appropriate uses, you can confidently decide which ingredient best suits your culinary creations.

Hot and Spicy Substitutes

When you need to replace gochugaru in your recipe, there are several hot and spicy substitutes that can be used. These alternatives provide similar flavors and heat levels, making them suitable replacements in most dishes.

Cayenne pepper is a popular option for mimicking gochugaru’s heat. It has a comparable level of spiciness and can be easily found in many grocery stores. You can use half the amount of cayenne pepper as a starting point and adjust to your taste preference.

Red pepper flakes or crushed red pepper are another suitable choice. These are made from a mix of crushed chili peppers, often including cayenne. They add heat and a touch of color to your recipes, similar to gochugaru. To use red pepper flakes, you can start with an equal amount as the gochugaru in the recipe and adjust according to your desired spiciness.

For a smoky flavor, chipotle powder is a great option. Made from dried, smoked jalapeño peppers, chipotle powder provides a unique taste that pairs well with gochugaru’s heat. Start with half the amount of gochugaru and increase as needed for desired heat and taste.

Chili powder is another substitute to consider, as it usually contains a blend of spices, including cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and garlic powder. This mixture adds depth and complexity to your dishes. However, be aware that different chili powders can vary in taste and heat, so begin with a smaller quantity and adjust to your desired intensity.

If you prefer a different texture or consistency, chili paste can be used in place of gochugaru. This thick, pureed mixture of chili peppers provides a similar heat intensity. You can choose from a wide variety of chili pastes, such as those made from jalapeños or chile de arbol. Start with an equal amount of chili paste as the gochugaru and adjust as needed for taste and heat.

Remember, the concentration of capsaicin in each substitute can affect its spiciness, so it’s important to taste and adjust as you go. By experimenting with these alternatives, you can find the right match for your recipe while maintaining a balanced level of heat and flavor.

Milder Substitutes

If you’re looking for a milder substitute for gochugaru, you have several options that can still provide great flavor to your dishes. Here are some of the most popular choices:

Paprika: Paprika is a versatile spice made from ground red peppers. While it doesn’t have the same level of heat as gochugaru, it can add a nice smoky flavor and vibrant red color to your dish. You can find paprika easily at most grocery stores, making it a convenient option.

Aleppo pepper: This pepper originates from the region surrounding the city of Aleppo in Syria. It has a moderate heat level, making it a suitable replacement for gochugaru in recipes where you want to tone down the spiciness. Along with the heat, Aleppo pepper also offers a fruity, slightly tangy flavor.

Smoked paprika: For a more unique flavor profile, consider using smoked paprika as a substitute. It provides a smoky, mild heat that can complement various dishes. Smoked paprika is commonly used in Spanish and Hungarian cuisine, so it’s easy to find in most grocery stores.

Hungarian paprika: Hungarian paprika is another mild option that can be used to replace gochugaru. It comes in several different heat levels, so you can choose the one that best fits your preferences. Hungarian paprika is known for its deep red color and rich flavor, giving your dish a boost without overpowering it with heat.

Ancho chile powder: Made from dried and ground poblano peppers, ancho chile powder is milder than gochugaru but still packs a flavorful punch. It has a rich, smoky flavor, with hints of sweetness and a moderate heat level. Ancho chile powder can be found in specialty spice shops or online.

When substituting any of these options for gochugaru, it’s important to start with a smaller amount and adjust according to your taste, as each of these spices has its unique flavor profile and heat level. By experimenting with these milder substitutes, you can create dishes that suit your preferences while still enjoying the delicious flavors of your favorite recipes.

Substitutes for Specific Dishes

When you want to prepare a traditional Korean dish but don’t have gochugaru on hand, don’t worry. There are several substitutes you can use, depending on the dish you’re making.

For kimchi: You can use red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper as an alternative to gochugaru in kimchi. Both of these options will provide a similar spicy heat without altering the dish’s flavor too much. Measure the flakes using the same amount of gochugaru called for in the recipe.

For soups and stews: If you’re making a Korean soup or stew, try using a combination of paprika and cayenne pepper. Paprika provides a mild, sweet flavor while cayenne enhances the spiciness. A ratio of 4:1 paprika to cayenne can offer a comparable depth of flavor to gochugaru.

For bulgogi: Considering that bulgogi requires a marinade, substituting gochugaru can be more flexible. One option is to use a blend of sweet and hot smoked Spanish paprika. Alternatively, you can opt for a mix of ancho chili powder and cayenne pepper. Both of these combinations will deliver a level of heat close to gochugaru while imparting a unique taste to your dish.

Marinades: For a substitute in other marinades, try using red pepper flakes or chipotle powder. Since the consistencies may differ, ensure that you adjust the quantities accordingly. Generally, you can begin with using half the amount of the alternative and adjust to taste.

Remember that every substitute may slightly modify the dish’s flavor, but experimenting with different combinations can lead you to discover exciting new tastes in your culinary journey.

Other Substitutes

When you don’t have gochugaru at hand, several other substitutes can be effectively used in your Korean recipes. These alternatives will bring different flavors and heat levels to your dishes, so be prepared to adjust your ingredients to balance the flavors.

Chipotle peppers are an excellent gochugaru substitute, as they create a smoky and moderately spicy flavor. You can find them in various forms, including dried, powdered, or canned in adobo sauce. To use them as a substitute, start with a small amount and adjust the heat to your taste.

Guajillo chiles are another option to consider. These mild, fruity chiles have a sweet tanginess that works well in place of gochugaru. To use them, you can grind dried guajillo chiles into a fine powder, or rehydrate them by soaking in hot water, then blending to create a paste.

Fish pepper is an heirloom pepper variety originating from Africa, which carries a bright, fruity taste along with medium heat. Fish peppers make a unique alternative to gochugaru. To use, grind the dried fish peppers into flakes or powder.

Korean red pepper flakes, also known as gochugaru, have their distinct flavor and spice level. If you cannot find gochugaru at your store, search for similar pepper flakes such as Aleppo pepper flakes or regular red pepper flakes. Adjust the quantity accordingly to achieve the desired heat.

Sandia chiles are another viable replacement for gochugaru, thanks to their moderately spicy and slightly fruity flavor. To use sandia chiles, grind them into a powder or crush the dried chiles into flakes before adding to your recipe.

Chile pasilla is a good substitute for those who prefer a milder heat. These dried Mexican chiles possess a unique flavor profile: sweet, earthy, and a little bit smoky. Grind the dried chile pasilla into a powder or flakes and use them as a substitute for gochugaru.

In conclusion, when you’re out of gochugaru, options like chipotle peppers, guajillo chiles, fish peppers, sandia chiles, and chile pasilla can effectively replace it in your dishes. Just be mindful of the unique characteristics of each substitute, and adjust the heat and flavors as needed.

Considerations for Substituting Gochugaru

When looking for a substitute for Gochugaru, it is important to consider the various aspects of this spice that make it unique. These include its spiciness, color, texture, taste, and versatility in a wide range of dishes. By understanding these factors, you can make a well-informed decision to choose the best alternative for your cooking needs.

The spice level of Gochugaru varies depending on the type used; however, it generally has a moderate heat level suitable for a wide range of palates. In your quest for a substitute, consider your tolerance for spiciness and the preferences of those who will be enjoying your dish. Some replacements, like cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper, may be spicier than Gochugaru, while others, like paprika, may be milder.

The vibrant red color of Gochugaru is a hallmark of Korean cuisine, particularly in dishes like kimchi and stews. When selecting a substitute, it’s important to keep the appearance in mind, as it will affect the final presentation of your dish. Some alternatives, such as paprika, chili powder, or Aleppo pepper, offer a similar red hue, while others may not perfectly match the color.

Texture is another consideration when substituting Gochugaru. Its unique coarse flakes provide a pleasant mouthfeel in a variety of dishes, from salsas to rubs for meat and vegetables. When looking for a replacement, consider the texture of the alternative and how it may impact the final dish. Some options, like crushed red pepper or Aleppo pepper, have a similar flaky texture, while powders like cayenne may be finer.

Gochugaru typically has a unique smoky flavor that adds depth to dishes. When selecting a substitute, consider the overall taste and how it will blend with other ingredients. Some options, like chipotle powder or smoked paprika, can mimic this smoky quality, while others may provide different flavor profiles. It’s also important to note that Gochugaru has a hint of saltiness. If your chosen substitute is not salty, you may need to adjust the salt content in the dish accordingly.

Overall, finding the right substitute for Gochugaru depends on the specific qualities you wish to preserve in your dish. By keeping these factors in mind, you’ll be able to find the most suitable alternative and ensure that your culinary creations retain their delicious flavor and appearance.

Health Benefits

Gochugaru, made from capsicum annuum, offers various health benefits due to its rich content of vitamins and minerals. As a major ingredient in Korean cuisine, it is commonly used as a spice in dishes like kimchi and doenjang.

When you incorporate Gochugaru into your diet, you can benefit from its high levels of Vitamin A and C. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy vision and supports the immune system, while Vitamin C is essential for collagen production and aids in iron absorption. Both vitamins promote overall health and well-being.

Including Gochugaru in your meals can also aid in digestion and improve gut health. The capsicum annuum is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce inflammation in the digestive system and can alleviate symptoms of indigestion, bloating, and gas.

Additionally, Gochugaru has potent antioxidant properties that contribute to overall good health. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing cellular damage and reducing the risk of various chronic diseases like heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

In summary, incorporating Gochugaru into your diet offers numerous health benefits, such as providing essential vitamins, promoting gut health, and delivering antioxidant properties. These reasons make Gochugaru a valuable substitute to enhance both the flavor and nutritional value of your meals.


In summary, there are several alternatives to Gochugaru that you can consider for your cooking needs. These substitutes offer different levels of heat, taste, and color, so choose what best suits your preferences and the dish you’re preparing. Among the alternatives are:

  • Aleppo pepper: A moderate heat level and fruity flavor make it a popular choice.
  • Paprika: Offers a milder taste and vibrant color but may require adjustment for heat.
  • Cayenne pepper: Provides a high heat level but can be used sparingly for similar effects.
  • Ancho chili powder: Exhibits a mild heat with a smoky and sweet flavor profile.

Ultimately, your choice depends on the flavors and heat intensity you desire for your dish. Experiment with these alternatives to find the perfect balance for your culinary creations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use instead of Gochugaru in Korean recipes?

If you’re unable to find Gochugaru or you’ve run out, there are several alternatives available. Some suitable substitutes include Aleppo pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and Ancho chili powder. These options can still give your dish a kick of spiciness, but the flavor profile may differ slightly.

Is Gochujang a suitable substitute for Gochugaru?

Gochujang is a Korean chili paste rather than a chili powder, so its consistency is different from Gochugaru. However, in some recipes, you can use Gochujang as a substitute for Gochugaru by adjusting the amount and perhaps adding some extra dried chili flakes to maintain the desired texture.

Can I use paprika as a Gochugaru alternative?

Using paprika as a Gochugaru substitute is an option, especially smoked paprika, which adds a similar depth of flavor. However, paprika is typically not as spicy as Gochugaru, so you might need to add a bit of cayenne pepper to achieve the desired heat level.

How does red pepper flakes compare to Gochugaru?

Red pepper flakes can be a suitable substitute for Gochugaru in terms of heat, but their texture is more coarse, and the flavor profile may vary. For a closer match, you can grind red pepper flakes into a finer powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Is Sriracha a good replacement for Gochugaru?

Sriracha is a popular hot sauce that can add spiciness to your dish, but its consistency and flavor profile are quite different from Gochugaru. Using Sriracha as a substitute might change the overall taste of your recipe, but in a pinch, it could provide some heat if you’re out of other options.

Can I use fine red pepper powder in place of Gochugaru?

Fine red pepper powder, such as cayenne or regular chili powder, can be used as a substitute for Gochugaru in terms of heat intensity. However, like other alternatives, it will not provide the exact same flavor profile that Gochugaru offers. In most cases, you’ll need to make some adjustments for taste and seasoning.

Substitutes for Gochugaru

Here's a recipe for a classic Korean dish called kimchi:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Servings 4
Calories 288 kcal


  • 1 head Napa cabbage chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup coarse sea salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup gochugaru Korean red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup minced ginger
  • 1 bunch scallions chopped


  • In a large bowl, combine the chopped cabbage and salt. Mix well and let sit for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, rinse the cabbage thoroughly and drain well.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the water, gochugaru, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger. Mix well to create a paste.
  • Add the drained cabbage and scallions to the paste and mix well.
  • Pack the mixture tightly into a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Let the kimchi sit at room temperature for 1-2 days, until it starts to ferment and become tangy.
  • Once the kimchi has reached your desired level of fermentation, transfer it to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation process.
  • Serve the kimchi as a side dish with rice, noodles, or your favorite Korean dishes.


Calories: 288kcal
Keyword substitute for Gochugaru
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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