I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different gochujang substitutes to find the best one.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for gochujang is a mixture of chili powder and a fermented ingredient like miso paste. You can also add honey for sweetness, and a splash of vinegar. In a pinch, a mix of ketchup, soy sauce, and chili will work. For a non-spicy alternative, try doenjang.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) to put all the gochujang substitutes I could find to the test.
Gochujang is a chili paste made specifically from Korean red peppers (also called gochugaru).
It’s loaded with umami goodness and boasts an intense flavor with salty, spicy, sweet, and smoky notes. It’s got a deep red color, and you can get it in varying spice levels from relatively mild to extra hot.
It’s used a lot in soups, sauces, marinades, and stews.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Chili powder + miso paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Chili powder + mushroom powder||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Ketchup + chili + soy sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||6/10|
|Hot sauce||Start with 1/5 the amount||6/10|
|Ssamjang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Tomato paste + red pepper flakes||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||5/10|
|Paprika + honey + miso||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
|Doubanjiang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Doenjang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Making an exact substitute for gojuchang is pretty impossible given its unique flavor. And a lot of the options here are mixture of different ingredients.
When you’re making the substitute, taste as you go until you get something you think is delicious!
As long as you like the flavor, you can’t go wrong.
Common uses for gochujang
Here are some popular ways to use gochujang and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For marinades and sauces – Try mixing miso paste with chili powder, or use doenjang for a mild version.
- For stews and soups – Try ssamjang, tomato paste and red pepper flakes, or chili powder and miso paste.
- For stir-fries and vinaigrettes – Try chili powder and miso paste, hot sauce (in a pinch), or paprika, honey, and miso.
Chili powder + a fermented paste
A great replacement for gochujang is to make your own makeshift fermented chili paste.
For the chili powder, use gochugaru if you have it. If not, use another option like ground cayenne, generic chili powder, hot paprika, or Kashmiri chili powder.
For the fermented paste, miso paste is the easiest option. But you can also use thai soy bean paste, hoisin sauce, or even tahini.
Throw in your favorite sweetener (mine’s honey) and a splash of rice vinegar, and you’ve got a spicy, sweet-tangy combo that’s just like gochujang!
Quick tip: soy-sensitive? Look for chickpea miso.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of cayenne and miso paste (for example)
Chili powder + mushroom powder
For those steering clear of soy (and who can’t find chickpea miso), I’ve got you covered with this combo.
The mushroom powder delivers a comparable funky, umami taste to gochujang, while the chili powder provides the heat.
You’ll also need something to bind the powders and give the mixture a ‘paste-like’ consistency.
I went with a mixture of sriracha and honey. I got a bit more spice, and also a background sweetness.
It’s not a perfect substitute, but it definitely packs a flavorful punch.
Again, I highly recommend using ground gochugaru as your chili powder for a more authentic “gochujang” flavor.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the ground chili powder, mushroom powder, and sriracha mixture.
Ketchup + chili + soy sauce
Hear me out on this one.
A mix of ketchup, chili, and soy sauce can mimic gochujang’s trinity of flavors – spicy, sweet, and savory.
And the best part? You most likely have these ingredients in your kitchen already so it can save the day at the last minute.
This trio won’t give you the complexity of fermented gochujang, but it’s a clever workaround.
And if you don’t have ketchup, no problem! You can even substitute it with sugar for that touch of sweetness.
How to substitute: mix equal parts of ketchup, chili, and soy sauce to replace gochujang in your recipe. Substitute ketchup with sugar if not available.
Hot sauce is another last minute substitute option you can use in a pinch.
Choose a hot sauce with a degree of umami for best results, like chili garlic sauce or sambal.
Sriracha is okay too. It has a similar sweetness to gochujang, albeit a thinner consistency and more garlicky flavor.
For those who only have Tabasco or similar vinegary hot sauces, don’t worry! You can still use them as a spicy alternative.
But to achieve a closer match to gochujang, add a sweetener to counteract the vinegar. And perhaps even a splash of fish sauce for that ‘funk’ (or miso paste).
Psst… if gochujang is adding thickness to your dish, hot sauce alone won’t be able to replicate this.
How to substitute: use 1/4 the amount and add more as needed. Adjust with sweetener or fish sauce as needed.
Doenjang is gochujang’s non-spicy cousin. It’s made from fermented soy beans, but doesn’t contain any chili – making it a good substitute if you can’t handle spice.
Of course, you can mix in some chili powder if you do want some heat!
It’s pretty comparable to miso in terms of flavor, and it’s a lot saltier than gochujang so I didn’t use as much in my tteokbokki.
I also added a bit of rice vinegar to balance the flavors.
Psst… if you’re missing gochujang’s subtle sweetness, add a bit of your favorite sweetener.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with doenjang.
Ssamjang is a mixture of doenjang and a small amount of gochujang, along with a few other ingredients like crushed garlic and sesame seeds.
It doesn’t pack the same heat levels as gochujang because it focuses more on the umami side of things, but it’s still a decent substitute.
It’s generally used as a dipping sauce rather than an ingredient. Which means it has a smoother, creamier consistency. But you can still use it in your cooking!
Pro tip: I added a dash of tomato paste along with the Ssamjang in my tteokbokki recipe and it was delicious.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with ssamjang.
Mild ground peppers + honey + miso
For those who love Gochujang’s sweetness and fermented flavor but aren’t fans of its heat, try a mixture of non-spicy ground peppers, honey, and miso.
Non-spicy pepper options include ancho, pasilla, or high-quality paprika.
And you know the drill by now!
Miso for the fermented flavor, and honey for sweetness.
How to substitute: combine your selected ground pepper, honey, and miso in a 1:1:1 ratio and substitute gochujang with this mixture in your recipe.
Doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
Doubanjiang, or chinese fermented bean paste, can be a very effective gochujang substitute.
But be prepared – it’s much more on the salty and earthy side of things than sweet like gochujang. It’s so salty that I would only really use it to replace gochujang in cooked dishes, it wouldn’t work as a condiment.
I would also make sure to reduce the salt in other areas of my recipe.
Your dish will be different, but delicious!
Psst… some varieties of Doubanjiang are spicy while some aren’t, go for the spicy variety in place of gochujang.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with doubanjiang.
Tomato paste + red pepper flakes
This mixture is another imperfect substitute for gochujang, but it’s an option that can save your dish if you can’t make an emergency grocery run.
It won’t replicate that “fermented” flavor, but it’ll give you a surprisingly close consistency along with the spicy, mildly sweet notes of gochujang.
You can also try adding MSG powder, a splash of soy sauce, or some miso to bring those delicious umami notes to your dish.
And a pinch of sugar if you want more sweetness.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the tomato paste + red pepper flakes mixture.
Other options to consider
The substitutes above are my top options, but here are others you can try if you have the time or you have them on hand:
- Gotchu sauce – this is sometimes known as gojuchang sauce because it’s the main ingredient, along with things like soy sauce and sesame oil. It’s not the most common ingredient, but if you can find it, it’s a great substitute.
- Chipotles in adobo sauce – this is a last resort substitute, but it can work. Blitz the peppers into the sauce and you have a tangy, smoky, and spicy sauce.
- Homemade gochujang – if you’re in a DIY mood, you can try making gochujang from scratch. Korean Bapsang has a detailed and authentic recipe you can follow, but you’ll need to let your homemade gochujang ferment for 60-90 days before digging in. Or you can cheat and use a simpler recipe like this one from Pickled Plum.
Gochujang substitutes to avoid
These are some substitutes I encountered during my research, but when I tried them, I wasn’t impressed.
- Red pepper flakes – using these alone won’t add much flavor to your dish and will only give heat.
- Harissa – this chili paste is tasty, but its bold, earthy flavors stray too far from gochujang in my opinion.
- Thai chili paste – Thai chili paste is spicy and sweet but has a prominent briny flavor that you don’t get with gochujang.
- Chipotle paste – chipotle peppers alone (not tempered by the adobo sauce) have a very strong smokiness which I don’t think works in the dishes that you normally uses gochujang in. It’s better in Tex-Mex dishes.
Read next: substitutes for harissa
Best Gochujang Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 tbsp ground gochugaru + white miso paste
- 1 tbsp ground chili powder + dried mushroom powder + Sriracha
- 1 tbsp ssamjang
- 1 tbsp tomato paste + red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp sambal oelek
- 1 tbsp doubanjiang
- 1 tbsp doenjang
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen gochujang substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.