Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
What is Gochujang and how do you use it? You might have noticed it in a few of our Twisted recipes, but how much do you actually know about the Korean super-ingredient?
From how to use Gochujang to details on where to store it, if it’s vegan and whether it goes bad, we’ve done a deep dive into the punchy ingredient in order to answer all your questions.
Here’s the full lowdown…
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a red chilli paste which is popular in Korean cookery, but has also started to rear its head in the West in recent years – lucky us!
With a lusciously thick, sticky consistency, the paste is made from gochu-garu (chilli powder), yeotgireum (barley malt powder), glutinous rice, meju powder (dried fermented soy beans) and salt.
Gochujang is fermented, traditionally over many years, and this is what gives it such a strong, impactful flavour.
In fact, let’s break that flavour down a little more…
What does Gochujang taste like and how hot is it?
Gochujang has a sweetness to it thanks to the fermentation process, where the starchiness in the glutinous rice has converted to sugar over time.
There’s also a smack of umami from the fermented soy beans, giving a punch that isn’t dissimilar to miso, and you can expect a saltiness and a sourness from it, too.
There’s also a spiciness from the Korean gochu-garu chilli. But if you’re wondering how hot Gochujang is, the answer is that can vary from product to product.
The chilli peppers themselves aren’t super spicy, but the heat varies depending how they are balanced against the other ingredients.
Look out for an indication of the spiciness on your tub of Gochujang – most of the time, it’s ranked, with the number three signifying moderate heat and the number four meaning it’s not for the faint hearted.
How to use Gochujang
There are loads of ways to use Gochujang, whether you fancy slathering it on some meat, mixing it into a dipping sauce or stirring it into a starchy stew.
The main thing to remember is you probably don’t want to use it to finish a dish in the same way you would a sauce like Sriracha or Tabasco, as it’s a lot more thick and pungent, and would likely overwhelm.
As a result, the best way to use Gochujang is to compliment richer flavours, or combined with other complimentary tastes.
You should start small, adding a small amount at a time and tasting as you go until you achieve the perfect balance you’re after.
It packs a punch in a lot of popular Korean dishes, including Jeyuk Bokkeum (a marinated pork dish), Tteokboki (a steamed rice cake) and jjigae (a Korean stew) – but there are a bunch more possibilities, too.
To whet your appetite, we asked Hugh and Spencer, from the Twisted food team, their favourite way to use the fermented Korean paste.
Spencer (Twisted Food Producer)
“Gochujang is a truly magical thing. It’s sweet and spicy, thick and sticky, and adds an incredible depth of flavour to any dish.
An obvious use for it is in a sauce for Korean fried chicken, but I also like to use it in marinades, especially for salmon or pork.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you know how to balance the flavours there are loads of ways to get creative. I’ve even seen recipes for Gochujang cookies!”
Hugh (Creative Culinary Lead)
Is Gochujang vegetarian?
Most Gochujang pastes are not only vegetarian but vegan – although, this can vary depending on the specific product.
All Plants states: “If you are buying the paste, check the ingredient list to make sure, but generally speaking the paste is vegan-friendly.”
Just keep an eye out for the sneaky addition of extra ingredients, like fish sauce or shrimp paste for added umami, and honey for extra sweetness.
Does Gochujang go bad and does it need to be refrigerated?
Got a tub of Gochujang lying around and wondering whether it’s still useable?
Well, the good news is that Gochujang doesn’t go bad easily, because it’s fermented and has quite a high amount of salt in it.
Gochujang is fine in the cupboard until it has been opened, and then it needs to be tightly sealed and stored in the fridge so it keeps for as long as possible.
How long does Gochujang last?
There’s conflicting information abut how long Gochjang lasts, but the official advice would usually be to use your paste by the expiry date on the pack (usually a few months after opening).
Despite this, Korean blog, My Korean Addiction advises: “Many Korean locals actually use their tubs even if it’s years past the expiry date.
“As long as there’s nothing funky going on with the paste, it should still be safe to use it.”
Whichever tip you choose to heed… if you’ve got a tub of Gochujang in the fridge for several years, we think you should be cooking with it more!
Where to buy Gochujang
You’ve probably seen Gochujang in your local Asian supermarket, and they’re always a cracking place to find really good quality varieties of the chilli paste.
However, nowadays, you can also pick it up in the world food aisle of some supermarkets, and (of course) online.
Here are some of our favourite Gochujang brands and where you can buy them from.
1. Ajumma Republic Gochujang
You’ll find this in Asian supermarkets, but also on specialist food websites and in world food aisles at Morrisons.
It’s one of the most popular Gochujang pastes here in the UK, offering a sour, salty heat to whatever you slather it on.
2. CJ Taeyangcho Gochujang
You’ll find this funky and sweet Gochujang paste on Ocado, as well as in Asian supermarkets and other food websites.
This brand is the Number 1 best-selling Gochujang in Korea, so you know it means business. It’s got a lovely balance of savouriness, sweetness and heat.
3. Centaur Gochujang (Gluten-Free)
Centaur Gochujang paste is gluten-free, but it still packs the same complex, rich flavour punch.
This one’s a little bit garlicky, if you like that sorta thing, and it’s also got an added savoury flavour from tomato puree and onion.
4. O’Food Gochujang
O’Food’s hot pepper paste is deep red and generous on the spice and umami, compared to some of the others, making it perfect for marinading roasted veggies and meat.
5. Sainsbury’s Gochujang
If you’re after a budget option, Sainsbury’s sells a 90g jar of Gochujang for £1.45 (hard to argue with that, isn’t it?)
This one’s less complex in flavour than some of the others, but it’s a great choice if you want to test the waters with Gochujang and see if you like it, before moving on to some of the others we’ve recommended.
What’s a good substitute for Gochujang?
Because Gochujang is such a complex flavour, it’s hard to find an exact substitute for it.
However, if you’ve run out, and you are looking to bring at least some of the same flavour notes to your meal, there are some switches you can make.
Both Japanese Miso paste and Gochujang are made of fermented soybean, so they both bring a salty umami property to a dish.
Of course, you won’t get the same heat from miso, but you could try mixing it with some cayenne pepper
Also expect it to be a little saltier than your standard Gochujang paste, so use it sparingly.
Don’t have Gochujang but have a tub of Ssamjang? You’re in business.
This Korean condiment actually has Gochujang in it, alongside doenjang (soybean paste), garlic, sesame oil, sugar and onion.
It’s got the powerful flavour from Gochujang itself, but is also a little bit tamer thanks to the addition of the extra ingredients.
If you’re looking for a similar spice and umami hit, though, you can’t go wrong here.
As we mentioned already, there are some differences between Gochujang and Sriracha – namely that the latter can be used to garnish and finish a dish.
However, if you’re out of Gochujang, you can get similar flavours from your trusty bottle of Sriracha.
The main difference is Thai Sriracha is sweeter, and doesn’t have the same savoury umami notes. It does offer a spice hit, though, although in the form of a slightly thinner condiment.
Food blog Non Guilty Pleasures suggest mixing Sriracha with miso to get a slightly more fermented flavour and a texture akin to the Korean paste.
DIY Red Pepper Paste
Got red pepper flakes but no Gochujang? Blend them with soy sauce and a little bit of sugar and you’ve got a make-shift red pepper paste.
It’s no Gochujang, but you’ve got sweetness, spice and saltiness from the above ingredients. That’ll do if need be, right?
Bonus points if you have Korean pepper flakes, obvs.
Twisted Gochujang recipes
After all that, we bet you want to get cooking, don’t you? Here are six of our fave Gochujang recipes to get you started.
Keep an eye on the Twisted page as we can promise you there will be more to come, too.
We love the stuff!
Ok, you’re going to want to stop what you’re doing and try Twisted Green Brand Lead Mia’s Gochujang Vodka Pasta.
This vegan pasta recipe is the stuff dreams are made of. Vodka pasta is already deliciously creamy and rich, but this dish brings together flavours from Korea and Italy to jazz up your weeknight dinners.
These Korean Style Short Rib Croquettes feature a cheesy, creamy béchamel. They’re fried until golden and dunked in a spicy Gochujang aioli.
Perfect if you’ve got friends coming over and need to serve snack, these are velvety and cheesy AF, but also pack a spicy, funky punch.
Another banger from Mia, here.
This sticky, sweet, flavour-packed crispy tofu burger complete with zingy guacamole and caramelised kimchi, served in a soft vegan brioche bun will be your go-to recipe for every occasion…
Gochujang adds a delightful flavour profile in this bibimbap.
It’s got veg, a sticky sauce and some meaty Oumph! Korean BBQ Chunk for the perfect meaty texture and flavour (you can sub in meat if you don’t wanna go vegan, too).
This quick, healthy dinner is made in under 20 minutes and is bursting with flavour. It’s sticky. It’s sweet. It’s spicy. Yes, please.
Twisted’s Korean Buffalo Mushroom ‘Wings’ recipe is spicy, crunchy, and moreish – this recipe was made as the perfect pairing for our Brewgooder IPA, but can be eaten whenever you damn want!
Inspired by classic buffalo wings, these fried oyster mushrooms are tossed in a sweet and spicy Gochujang buffalo sauce and served with a herby sesame ranch.
This is a gem from Spencer – thank you Spen!
These Korean Pulled Pork BBQ Style Nachos are packed full of flavour! Spicy, tangy, sweet, slow cooked pork topped with homemade spring onion guacamole and a cheese sauce with a kick!
Pork shoulder is cooked low and slow in a delicious marinade of Gochujang, chipotle, sugar and soy for a sweet and sticky umami kick.
Topped with a classic nacho sauce, expect a Korean spice which is tempered by a super fresh zingy spring onion gauc.
Happy Gochujang cookery, guys. We know you’re gonna be addicted soon enough.