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BEST Gochugaru Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of gochugaru substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.

An easy and convenient substitute for gochugaru is a blend of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. Kashmiri red chili powder also works and will bring an intense red color to your dish. If you don’t mind more prominent smoky notes, give chipotle powder a try.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The experiment

I made small batches of spicy cucumber salad to put several gochugaru substitutes to the test. 

Gochugaru is a Korean chili powder traditionally made from sun-dried, seedless peppers. It comes in two varieties based on its texture (coarse or finely ground)

Despite its vibrant red color, it’s not as hot as you’d think. Gochugaru’s spice level generally ranges from 1,500 – 10,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) and it has a fruity, lightly smoky flavor that sets it apart from other chili powders.

Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesSubstitute DirectionsVerdict
Cayenne pepper + smoked paprikaMix 1/2 cayenne pepper and 1/2 paprika9/10
Aleppo pepper flakes or powderReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Kashmiri chili powderReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Hot paprikaReplace in a 1:1 ratio7/10
Guajillo chilesGrind and replace in a 1:1 ratio8/10
Chipotle chile powderReplace in a 1:1 ratio6/10
GochujangReplace with 1/2 the amount5/10

What I was looking for in a substitute

I was looking for another option with a similar bright red color, a sweet but smokey taste, and a moderate heat level.

Cayenne pepper and smoked paprika

A combination of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika is an easy and convenient substitute for gochugaru. You probably already have both on hand if you have a well-stocked spice rack. And if not, both spices are a breeze to find in any grocery store. 

Cayenne pepper has an undertone of fruity sweetness to it, much like gochugaru. But it’s a lot spicier, with a SHU rating of 30,000 – 50,000 units. That’s where smoked paprika steps in, it helps dial down the heat and introduces smoky notes.

I went for equal amounts of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika for my cucumber salad, but you can play around with the ratios.

How to substitute: replace gochugaru in a 1:1 ratio with a blend of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.

Aleppo pepper flakes or powder 

From Latin American cuisine, we go to the Mediterranean for our next substitute – Aleppo pepper. 

It packs a bit more heat than the average gochugaru. But don’t let this deter you!

Like gochugaru, Aleppo pepper has fruity, mildly sweet notes that keep the spice in check.

Plus, this pepper infuses your dish with a gorgeous deep red color, the way gochugaru would.

While Aleppo pepper powder is more readily available in grocery stores, you can also use Aleppo pepper flakes for texture. 

How to substitute: replace gochugaru in a 1:1 ratio with Aleppo pepper flakes or powder.

Kashmiri chili powder

Kashmiri chili powder, also known as Indian red pepper powder, is another gem that works well as a substitute for gochugaru.

It has a similar heat level to gochugaru, and has the same fruity undertones. Although it doesn’t have any smokiness. But what makes Kashmiri chili powder even more perfect is the vibrant red color it will turn your dish.

It’s commonly available in Indian supermarkets, but don’t be surprised to find it at your local Walmart too.

How to substitute: replace gochugaru in a 1:1 ratio with Kashmiri chili powder.

Hot paprika

Find gochugaru’s spice too intense? A trick I picked up from Foodie Baker is to use hot paprika instead (which is paprika that’s been pre-mixed with chili powder).

It boasts a modest SHU rating of around 590, so added a touch of heat to my cucumber salad but nothing that my spice-hating friends couldn’t handle. Think of it as a gentler cousin to the cayenne pepper + smoked paprika blend.

Psst… while most brands are pretty mild, some will be hotter. Always do a taste test before adding too much to your dish to avoid any surprises.

How to substitute: replace gochugaru in a 1:1 ratio with hot paprika.

Guajillo chiles

Despite these chiles’ Mexican origins, they’re a solid alternative for gochugaru (which has Korean roots).

Their heat level is around the same ballpark. And the best part? They carry the same fruity sweetness and a light smoky touch like gochugaru!  Ready-to-use guajillo chile powder is sometimes available in grocery stores, but the chilis are more commonly sold whole.

This isn’t an issue though, because with a little elbow grease you can grind the chilis into a powder. Remove the seeds first if you don’t want too much spice.

How to substitute: replace gochugaru in a 1:1 ratio with guajillo chile powder.

Chipotle powder

Chipotle powder is another decent substitute for gochugaru that hails from Mexico.

Chipotle chiles are actually made from jalapenos which have been left to ripen until fully mature, dried, and then smoked.

They have a subtle sweet note like gochugaru, but a much more distinct smoky flavor with earthy notes instead of fruity ones. This extra smokiness was the perfect way to jazz up my spicy cucumber salad! It was delicious (albeit not authentic).

How to substitute: replace gochugaru in a 1:1 ratio with chipotle chile powder.


Gochugaru one of the main ingredients in gochujang, but that doesn’t mean it’s got a similar flavor.

Gochugaru is a relatively simple chili powder, while gochujang is a complex fermented paste with lots of other ingredients. Gochujang is super salty, packed with umami, and also has a prominent sweetness running through it. It’s also not dry like gochugaru.

You can use a small amount as a substitute as long as you’re aware of the flavor differences. You will want to cut back on the salt in your recipe, as well as any umami-heavy ingredients like fish sauce (a common ingredient in kimchi).

How to substitute: replace gochugaru with 1/2 the amount of gochujang and adjust other ingredients to taste.

Substitutes to avoid 

I encountered loads of suggestions for gochugaru substitutes across the web, but not all of them were good suggestions.

Some websites were recommending a number of fresh peppers like sandia, jalapeno and fish peppers. But they won’t add color to your dishes and they won’t blend in seamlessly unless you turn them into a paste. 

Tajin is also a substitute I’d avoid because it has a prominent tangy flavor from the addition of dehydrated lime powder that you won’t get with gochugaru. 

Best Gochugaru Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I tested several different gochugaru substitutes to find the best one. I was looking for a substitute with the similar fruity, smoky flavor profile and moderate heat level.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: Korean
Keyword: gochugaru substitutes, substitutes for gochugaru
Prep Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 8kcal


  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper + smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 1 tsp guajillo chiles
  • 1 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1 tsp aleppo pepper flakes/powder
  • 1 tsp arbol chiles


  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chose gochugaru substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.


other options: gochujang, sichuan chili flakes, mulato, ancho, and chile pasilla peppers, ichimi togarashi


Serving: 1tsp | Calories: 8kcal

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