I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different doenjang substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding doenjang is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for doenjang are miso paste (red miso paste is best) and ssamjang. You can also try gochujang or doubanjiang if you don’t mind some spice. Korean soy sauce or fermented black beans are okay in a pinch. I don’t recommend using hoisin sauce, sweet bean sauce, or chee hou sauce.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made doenjangjjigae to put as many doenjang substitutes to the test as I could find.
Doenjang is a thick brown paste made from fermented soybeans and brine. It’s a staple in Korean cuisine, but it’s not always easy to find!
I was looking for a substitute with a similar salty, umami flavor that’ll make your dishes pop.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Miso paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Ssamjang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Gochujang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Doubanjiang||Use half the amount called foe||7/10|
|Korean soy sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Fermented black beans||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
Common uses for doenjang and the substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use doenjang and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For soups, stews, and braises – miso paste, ssamjang, gochujang
- For marinades and sauces – miso paste, korean soy sauce, hoisin sauce
- For stir-fries and noodles – miso paste, ssamjang, gochujang
Miso paste is an excellent alternative for doenjang – both are made from fermented soybeans, giving them a similar salty, umami flavor profile.
The only caveat is that miso is cleaner and more straightforward than doenjang, so I recommend mixing it with a splash of soy sauce, mushroom powder, or fish sauce.
Red miso paste is the closest substitute for doenjang, but you can also try the white and yellow varieties if you prefer a milder addition.
Got a soybean allergy? Use a chickpea-based miso paste – it’s becoming more common nowadays!
How to substitute: replace doenjang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with miso paste.
Ssamjang is a Korean condiment that already includes doenjang in its ingredients list, making it a natural stand-in with similar flavor notes.
It’s quite a bit saltier than doenjang, so you’ll want to use less of other salty ingredients for a more balanced dish.
Ssamjang also has a hint of heat (thanks to the gochujang), but it won’t set your mouth on fire.
How to substitute: replace doenjang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with ssamjang.
Gochujang is another Korean fermented soybean-based paste, but it packs a fiery punch with the addition of gochugaru (Korean red pepper) powder.
The heat this substitute bought to my jjigae wasn’t too intense, but I would avoid it if you have a low spice tolerance.
Gochujang is also a tad sweeter than doenjang, so I added in a splash of lime juice to add counteract this.
Psst… gochujang has a vibrant red color that will alter your dish’s appearance.
How to substitute: replace doenjang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with gochujang.
Doubanjiang and Doenjang are both fermented bean pastes (with confusingly similar names!), but they’re made with different beans.
Doubanjiang is a Chinese bean paste made from broad (fava) beans. It’s spicy, savory, and umami-rich.
Doenjang is Korean, made from soybeans, and isn’t spicy!
They’re not perfect substitutes, but you can use doubanjiang in place of doenjang in sauces and marinades if you don’t mind straying from the traditional Korean flavors.
How to substitute: doubanjiang is stronger than doenjang, so use 1/2 the amount of doubanjiang and add more to taste.
Korean soy sauce
Korean soy sauce can work as a substitue for doenjang in a pinch.
It’s the liquid extracted during the doenjang-making process, meaning it shares that same salty, umami-packed flavor profile.
The only downside is its thinner consistency, but you can work around that by adding less liquid. Or using a cornstarch slurry to thicken your dish.
How to substitute: replace doenjang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with Korean soy sauce.
Fermented black beans
Fermented black beans have a strong, salty, and slightly bitter taste. Remind you of anything?
Oh yeah… doenjang!
You’ll need to rinse and mash the beans before using them to turn them into a paste. Rinsing them will also remove any excess salt from the storage liquid.
Psst… these are black soy beans, not the Mexican black beana!
How to substitute: replace doenjang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with you fermented black bean paste.
Other substitutes to consider
The options listed above are my top picks, but here are other options you can consider using if you have them on hand:
- Ground bean sauce – this has a milder and sweeter flavor than doenjang but still packs an umami punch. This may sound like a hard-to-find condiment, but Lee Kum Kee is a popular brand.
- Thai fermented soybean paste – also known as tao jew, this paste has an identical salty, umami flavor to doenjang. But it can be challenging to find which is why it didn’t include it on my main list. If you have some, lucky you!
Substitute to avoid
The three substitutes below are all pretty similar and way too sweet to be used as substitutes for Doenjang.
I saw them suggested on several websites, so tried them out in my experiments.
They do all have a slight salty funk to them, but the sweet notes were overwhelming so I can’t recommend them to you! If you do use them, make sure to add something sour or bitter alongside them (like lime juice or spices) to counteract the sweetness.
- Chee hou sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Sweet bean paste or sauce
Best Doenjang Substitutes [Tried And Tested]
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tbsp ssamjang
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1/2 tbsp Doubanjiang
- 1 tbsp Korean soy sauce
- 1 tbsp Fermented black beans rinsed and mashed
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen doenjang substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.