Gochugaru Substitute – 5 Flavorful Options

When you’re venturing into Korean cooking, Gochugaru is one of the key ingredients that you cannot miss out on.  It’s a traditional Korean spice made from sun-dried peppers that are de-seeded and ground into fine powder or coarse chili flakes. It’s similar to red chili flakes or chili powder processed from any type of red chilies like cayenne, jalapeno, or others.

Outside Korea, gochugaru may be available at any specialty market selling Asian spices or buying from online sellers; otherwise, you have to be innovative to come up with an alternative. Fortunately, there are other types of ground or crushed chili peppers that can be a viable gochugaru substitute. In this article, you’ll find the best options to manage your recipe without gochugaru.

Best Gochugaru Substitute

A replacement chili pepper for gochugaru should closely match in texture and flavor. The vibrant red color, mild to medium heat, and fruity-sweet flavor with subtle undertones of smokiness are the key features to focus on. We’ve found a few good substitutes for gochugaru with similar features and here they are:

1. Chipotle Powder

Chipotle peppers are made from dried and smoked mature red jalapeno peppers. Undoubtedly, they’re smokier than gochugaru, but the overall heat level and flavor remain nearly the same for both these peppers. You can easily mellow down the intense smokiness of chipotle by mixing the chipotle powder and crushed red pepper in equal portions. To make things simple, chipotle is an easy substitute for gochugaru because it’s conveniently available in most supermarkets in the spice section.

In most recipes that call for either of these peppers, you can use Chipotle and gochugaru interchangeably. Use either of these peppers in equal measure. If you don’t have Chipotle, one of the substitutes for Chipotle may be a good option to consider.

2.  Crushed Red Pepper

Crushed red pepper is the best sub for Korean chili flakes despite the noticeable difference in flavor. Generally, the crushed red pepper flakes are made from cayenne pepper which comes within the heat range of 30,000-50,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. By using crushed red pepper in place of gochugaru, you’ll feel a lot more heat for it contains seeds and inner membranes of the pepper. Also, you’ll miss a good bit of the sweet, smoky flavor of gochugaru in cayenne pepper. They are quite different, yet they have similar textures, and even the color is almost the same except for the scattered white pecks in the crushed red pepper. Still, in terms of availability, red pepper flakes are the easiest replacement for Korean pepper flakes. Balance the heat level by using crushed red pepper in less than half the portion of gochugaru actually required for your recipe. Also, have a look at red pepper flake substitutes that might be suitable for your recipe.

3. Chile Pasilla

Chile Pasilla, a Mexican pepper, has a similar flavor to Gochugaru but is milder in heat (around 1,000 to 2,500 SHU). Also, Pasilla peppers have a dark hue in comparison to the bright red color of gochugaru. The color differences between them will have an impact on the final output. Even so, Pasilla chile is a good alternative for gochugaru, especially for those who love to have a less spicy option with a similar flavor. Use Pasilla pepper in the same or a little more quantity than gochugaru required in your recipe.

4. Paprika

Paprika is a ground chili pepper made from milder and sweeter varieties of red pepper. You get to buy paprika in different flavor profiles like sweet, hot, or smoked.

The bright red color of paprika makes them look identical to gochugaru. Among the different types of paprika, the smoked ones with sweet flavor are the best ones to use as a sub for gochugaru. According to the flavor profile of the recipe, you can also use hot or sweet paprika. Also, some of the alternatives for paprika may work for your recipe.

5. Gochujang

Gochujang, also known as Korean red chili paste, is a savory, sweet, and hot fermented condiment. It’s made from gochugaru, meju powder, glutinous rice, yeotgireum, and salt. This condiment has a complex flavor including all other flavor features of gochugaru.

Despite the difference in texture, heat (less than 1000 SHU), and taste, Gochujang can be used as a substitute for Gochugaru in some recipes like stews, sauces, kimchi, and noodles. You can sub ½ a teaspoon of Gochujang for every 1 teaspoon of gochugaru.

Other Convenient Alternatives

Here are a few more convenient gochugaru substitutions to use, especially when you are left with none of the options listed above.

Chile De Arbol is a small, thin Mexican pepper that has a smoky grassy characteristic with an acidic heat and is about 4-6 times hotter than gochugaru. Chile de Arbol in powder, flakes, or paste form is a decent substitute for gochugaru, especially for those who are interested in a hotter option.

Aleppo pepper powder is another manageable replacement for gochugaru. The red color of Aleppo pepper will make your dishes look vibrant and delectable like gochugaru does. While using Aleppo pepper, be ready to experience a spicier feel if you have a very sensitive tongue. Use one teaspoon of Aleppo pepper powder for every 1 teaspoon of gochugaru.

Korean Chili Powder

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you substitute for gochugaru?

Chipotle powder is the closest substitute for gochugaru. Other substitutes include Chile Pasilla, cayenne powder/flakes, paprika, Gochujang, Chile de Arbol, and Aleppo pepper powder.

Can I use chili flakes instead of gochugaru?

Generally, chili flakes are the same as crushed red pepper or cayenne pepper flakes. It has texture and color similar to the Korean chili flakes, but red chili flakes are 4-6 times hotter than gochugaru, and also lack its sweet, smoky flavor. You can use chili flakes instead of gochugaru for the sake of heat and color.

Can I use Kashmiri chili powder instead of gochugaru?

Kashmiri chili is a mild to low-medium hot (around 2,000 SHU) bright red pepper from Kashmir, India. Dried Kashmiri chili peppers are nearly the same as paprika. It turns your dishes into bright red or crimson colors and can be used as a replacement for gochugaru.

What can I use instead of gochugaru for kimchi?

Kimchi is marked by the brilliant red color, mild heat, and sweet, smoky flavors of gochugaru. Kimchi can have the same color and nearly the same flavor by using other peppers like paprika or chipotle instead of gochugaru.

Can I make kimchi without gochugaru?

Gochugaru is not required for making non-spicy Baek-kimchi (white kimchi. It’ll not have the reddish color of regular kimchi that includes gochugaru as a key ingredient. Alternatively, you can make spicy red kimchi with red pepper flakes, paprika, or any other specific variety of red chili powder.

Is gochugaru the same as red pepper powder?

Gochugaru is the Korean red pepper powder or flakes which often used in Korean cuisines like kimchi. On the other hand, red chili powder or ground red pepper is a generic spice name that at times refers to cayenne, but can also include other red chilies.