The Best Gochujang Substitute & Why It Works

Last Updated on March 7, 2024 by Lindsay Delk, RDN

Gochujang is an essential ingredient in many Korean dishes, but finding an appropriate substitute can be difficult. Fortunately, the combination of miso paste and red pepper flakes is a great gochujang substitute due to its similar flavor profile and texture.

This post was written by Lindsay Delk, RDN. It is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice or instructions given by your healthcare provider. 

A picture of gochujang in a small dish with stalks of a green leafy veggie next to it

What Is Gochujang?

Gochujang is a traditional Korean condiment made from chili peppers, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans (meju), and salt. It has a complex flavor due to the fermentation process that’s both sweet and spicy with a hint of smokiness.

You can add gochujang to many dishes for extra flavor and heat. Mix it into marinades and sauces, add it to soups and stews for a spicy kick, spread it on sandwiches and burgers for more depth of flavor, or even make your own version of bibimbap with it.

Experiment with different amounts and combinations to find the perfect balance for you – remember that a little goes a long way.

Gochujang is a psychobiotic and fermented food. If it hasn’t been pasteurized, it contains live probiotics, beneficial bacteria that can help improve your gut health. And better gut health leads to better mental health.

You can find gochujang in most Asian grocery stores or online. But you might have a hard time finding gochujang locally. And you might need an alternative for gochujang for a recipe.

Miso paste in a dish surrounded by soybeans to represent part of the best gochujang substitute

The Best Gochujang Substitute

The best substitute for gochujang is miso paste plus red pepper flakes. This two-ingredient combo replicates the savory and spicy flavor of gochujang with moderate heat that won’t overwhelm your taste buds.

Miso paste is a fermented soybean paste that adds the salty and umami flavors while red pepper flakes offer an extra kick of spice and heat. Together, this combination creates a complex flavor profile similar to gochujang.

Combine equal parts of miso paste and red pepper flakes for the gochujang substitute. You can use this mixture in recipes as a direct replacement.

Why Miso Paste Plus Red Pepper Flakes Is the Best Gochujang Substitute

  • Similar taste and texture

The combination of miso paste and red pepper flakes has a similar taste and texture to gochujang. Gochujang and miso paste are both made from fermented soybeans. Both have a deep savory flavor, and the heat level will vary depending on how many red pepper flakes you add.

  • Easier ingredient availability

Miso paste and red pepper flakes are both inexpensive and easier to find than gochujang. This substitution makes it easier for home cooks to recreate Korean flavors without having to search for harder-to-find ingredients like gochujang.

  • Versatile flavor profile that can be adjusted to taste

Miso paste and red pepper flakes are versatile, so you can use these ingredients in other recipes. And if you want a milder or spicier version of gochujang, you can adjust the amount of miso paste or red pepper flakes accordingly.

  • Same probiotics

Because miso paste is also a fermented food, it has the probiotic benefits that you get from gochujang.

Close up of red pepper flakes coming out of a jar

Bottom Line

The combination of miso paste and red pepper flakes is a great gochujang substitute that can help you recreate the flavor of classic Korean dishes.

You might also be interested in:

5 Fermented Pickle Brands for Gut and Mental Health

The Best Soil-Based Probiotics

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