What is Gochujang?
Let’s start with an introduction. Gochujang is a spicy chile bean paste. Sometimes it’s thinned out and resembles more of a hot sauce, but most commonly it’s sold similarly to how miso is sold—as a thick paste in a big tub. Traditional gochujang paste is made from chili powder, glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder and salt. It originates from Korea, so you’ve likely seen it pop up in Korean dishes like bibimbap, bulgogi, stews and sauces.
Why We Love It
There are a few reasons we’re obsessed with gochujang. First is its complexity: it’s richly flavored, not just a one-note hot sauce. Vinegar-based Sriracha is bright and provides a quick, simple heat. Gochujang, however, is hot and fermented, with deep, complex flavors that add not just heat but texture and umami. We also love it because it’s thick. Unlike hot sauces, gochujang is a thick paste, which adds texture and body to vinaigrettes, sauces and soups.
Where to Buy Gochujang
To get your hands on this spicy paste, you’ll need to venture farther than you normally might during your weekend grocery shopping. A trip to your local Asian grocery store is your best bet, but you can likely find it at your local co-op or natural food store, too. There you’ll find it in the international aisle.
What to Look For
Here’s what to look for when you’re buying gochujang for the first time. First, you’ll want a product that’s thick. Some brands of gochujang are thin, saucy liquids. This thinned-out version of the more versatile paste is still okay to use in a pinch, but personally we prefer the thick, traditional-style paste instead of the sauce. You also want to look for a gochujang paste that will deliver on heat. Some brands of gochujang are not super spicy. Look for a balanced paste that offers deep, fermented flavor as well as a fairly high level of heat. If you taste the paste by itself, it should pack a wallop.
How to Use Gochujang
So, what can gochujang be used for? The better question is, what can’t gochujang be used for? Essentially, any dish that you feel could use a little “oomph” in the spicy department is a great excuse to pull out your tub of gochujang. However, if you’re looking for a jumping off point, look no further—we have a few delicious ideas:
- One-Skillet Bibimbap
- Loaded Kimchi Fries
- Yummy Rice Bowl with Kimchi Vinaigrette
- Kimchi Mini Quesadilla Bowls with Hot Pepper Crema
- Slow-Cooker Korean Chicken Tacos
- One-Pot Stir-Fry Rice Noodles with Chicken
How to Use Gochujang in Daily Cooking
Looking to incorporate gochu-heat in your everyday life? Stir into soups, stews and sauces to add a slow-building heat that is similar to the effect of chipotles en adobo. It makes an excellent marinade for grilled or roasted meats and seafood. Mix with toasted sesame oil and drizzle over roasted veggies. It’s delightful added to creamy bases such as mayonnaise, sour cream or whipped butter for quick and easy toppings.
Speaking of quick and easy toppings, if you’re looking for a no-fail way to quickly introduce yourself to the versatile taste of gochujang, our absolute favorite dressing to make with this fermented paste is gochujang mayonnaise. It’s an easy hot pepper crema and it can go on pretty much anything. Here’s how to make this universal dressing: in small bowl, combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon gochujang paste and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Whisk it all together and you’ve just made your new favorite spicy mayo.
A tub of gochujang should last you quite a while. Kept in the refrigerator, this condiment should keep for up to 3 months. For condiments you plan to keep for a long time, use a permanent marker to label the date you opened them.