I’ve personally tried and tested a range of different gochujang substitutes to find the best one.
Whatever your reason for avoiding gochujang is and whatever dish you’re cooking.
Here’s the quick answer.
The best substitutes for gochujang are a mixture of ground gochugaru and white miso paste or a mix of ground chili powder, dried mushrooms, and Sriracha. You can also consider going with ssamjang, tomato paste and red pepper flakes, sambal oelek, or doubanjiang. 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 a salty, spicy flavor with a subtle sweetness.
I was looking for a substitute that could match its depth of flavor and spice.
Here’s what I tested and the verdicts:
|Ground gochugaru + white miso paste||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Ground chili powder + dried mushroom powder + Sriracha||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Ssamjang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Tomato paste + red pepper flakes||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Sambal oelek||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Doubanjiang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Doenjang||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
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Common dishes uses for gochujang and their best substitutes
Here are some popular ways to use gochujang and the best substitutes for those situations:
- For dipping sauces and marinades – ground gochugaru + white miso paste, ground chili powder + dried mushroom powder + Sriracha, sambal oelek
- For stews and soups – ground gochugaru + white miso paste, ssamjang, tomato paste _ red pepper flakes
- For stir-fries and vinagirettes – ground gochugaru + white miso paste, ground chili powder + dried mushroom powder +Sriracha, sambal oelek
Ground chili powder + miso paste
You can replace gochujang with your own makeshift fermented chili paste. The best chili powder to use is ground gochugaru, this will provide heat.
The miso paste will give your substitute a similar consistency to gochujang, and it will add the “fermented flavor”.
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.
Can’t find ground gochugaru?
Swap it for another mildly spicy, sweet-tasting chili powder like ground cayenne, paprika, ancho, or Kashmiri chili powder.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the gochugaru and miso paste mixture.
Ground chili powder + mushroom powder + Sriracha
For those steering clear of soy, I’ve got you covered with this combo.
The mushroom powder delivers a comparable funky, umami taste to gochujang, while the sriracha and ground chili powder provide the heat. You can use sugar or honey if you want more 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.
But any chili powder will work.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the ground chili powder, mushroom powder, and sriracha mixture.
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.
Doenjang is gouchjangs 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.
Pssst… 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 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.
Sambal oelek + miso paste + honey
Sambal oelek’s flavor profile is a bit different from gochujang, but it’s just a few tweaks away from being a good substitute.
It already has the delectable spicy-tangy flavors down to a tee. All you need to do is mix it with fermented bean paste (like miso) and a bit of honey.
These additions bring a slightly sweet, fermented flavor to complete this substitute.
And the best part? Sambal oelek is a breeze to find nowadays – look for the Huy Fong brand, it’s my favorite!
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with the sambal oelek, miso paste, and sweetener mixture.
Doubanjiang Chinese fermented bean paste that 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.
You dish will be different, but delicious!
Psst… some varitiets of Doubanjiang are spicy while some aren’t, go for the spicy variety in place of gouchjang.
How to substitute: replace gochujang in your recipe in a 1:1 ratio with doubanjiang.
Other options to consider
The substitutes above were my top options, but here are others you can try if you have the time or you have them on hand:
- Chili garlic sauce + miso paste – the condiment is spicy and garlicky, and adding miso paste will give your mixture an added “fermented” flavor. This substitute is similar to the sambal oelek option.
- Gochujang sauce – this isn’t easy to find, but you can definitely use it as a substitute if you find a bottle. It’s made with gochujang paste, so it tastes just like it! The only catch is it has a thinner consistency.
- 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 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 pepper’s 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
- 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.