Gochugaru, also known as Korean red pepper flakes, is a common ingredient in many Korean recipes. It’s made from ground sun-dried Korean chili pepper and imparts a distinct depth of flavor and just enough spice to your dishes. However, getting your hands on this popular Korean spice is not always easy.
So, if you run out of gochugaru or just want to try something new, there are lots of substitutions that will give your Korean dishes the same robust flavor. Let’s take a look at some of the finest gochugaru substitutes that’ll add some heat to your meals!
1. Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo pepper, commonly referred to as Halaby pepper, is a well-liked substitute for the iconic gochugaru. In contrast to its Korean equivalent, this Middle Eastern spice has a distinctive flavor profile with mild-to-high heat levels and a fruity aroma and is a common ingredient in many cuisines.
Aleppo pepper has smoky flavors with a Scoville unit of almost 10,000. It may give a comparable amount of heat with a distinct flavor in foods that call for gochugaru, such as kimchi and Korean-style stews. You may even use it in other recipes, including in marinades, sauces, and rubs to add a touch of heat and complexity. However, given its spiciness, it is advisable to use roughly half as much Aleppo pepper as gochugaru when substituting.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper.
Paprika is a spice prepared from dried and crushed red peppers. It typically has a smoky and sweet flavor that’s comparable to gochujang. The best part is that you can find paprika in varying levels of heat, such as mild, hot, and smoky. So, depending on how much heat you want in your dish and what kind of flavor you want to add to it, you can choose your spice accordingly.
Any recipe that asks for a little heat will benefit from using hot paprika, whereas mild paprika will add a hint of sweetness. Paprika also adds a great smoky flavor to various dishes, including stews, sauces, marinades, and chili recipes. With its vivid red color, you may also use it to give your dishes color.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 2 tsp. Paprika.
3. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is a well-known substitute for gochugaru. It packs a serious punch in terms of heat but also has a bright, slightly fruity taste that can add complexity to any dish. The major difference between gochugaru and cayenne pepper is their heat level — while gochugaru is mild and has a slightly sweeter taste, cayenne pepper can be quite hot (30,000-50,000 SHU) and have a more straightforward spicy flavor.
Similar to gochugaru, cayenne pepper may be used in sauces, marinades, and stir-fries. Bear in mind that cayenne pepper is a lot hotter than gochugaru, so start with a lower quantity and increase it as necessary. To mimic some of the sweetness of gochugaru, you can mix cayenne pepper with paprika or a milder, sweeter chili powder. It’s also a fantastic addition to spice mixtures like chili or spices with a Mexican flair.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper.
4. Chipotle Powder
Chipotle powder is made by smoking and drying jalapeño peppers, which gives it its distinct smoky heat. It is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it a nutritious alternative to gochugaru. Chipotle powder is also easily available and is a versatile spice to have on hand.
When it comes to mimicking the smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet flavor profile of gochugaru, chipotle powder is a wonderful match. However, it’s worth noting that chipotle is hotter than gochugaru and can pack a real punch. So, use it with caution.
Many different recipes may be made with chipotle powder, including soups, sauces, marinades, and meat and vegetable rubs. Start with a little quantity of chipotle powder and work your way up because it may easily overshadow other flavors in a meal.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 1 tsp. Chipotle Powder.
5. Red Pepper Flakes
This little jar of heat is a great option when gochugaru just isn’t available. They both have a robust level of heat, but red pepper flakes lack the sweet smokiness of gochugaru. In spite of this, red pepper flakes work incredibly well as a gochugaru alternative in a pinch.
When using red pepper flakes as a gochugaru substitute, it’s best to start with a smaller amount and adjust to taste. A good rule of thumb is to use about half the amount of red pepper flakes as you would for gochugaru. These fiery flakes work great in soups, stews, sauces, and of course, sprinkled over pizza.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes.
If you run out of gochugaru, harissa can be the perfect substitute to add some fire to your food. Harissa is a hot North African sauce made with a blend of hot chili peppers, spices, and oil, along with a few other herbs, making it a flavorful substitute for gochugaru.
Although harissa has a somewhat different flavor profile from gochugaru, it packs a significant amount of heat, as the chili pepper blend used in harissa is typically hotter than the chili pepper flakes used in gochugaru. To substitute, simply swap out gochugaru in your recipe with an equal amount of harissa.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 1 tsp. Harissa.
7. Ancho Chile Powder
Despite not having the same popularity as gochugaru, ancho chile powder is unquestionably a strong contender when it comes to spice substitutes. Made from dried poblano peppers, ancho chile powder is prized for its sweet, smokey taste and mild heat, offering a great alternative for those who can’t handle a lot of heat.
Ancho chile powder can be used in place of gochugaru in many recipes. You can substitute it in equal amounts to recreate a similar flavor to gochugaru. Try a dash of ancho chile powder in your next bowl of chili, or use it to give sauces, stews, and marinades a smokey taste.
Suggested ratio: 1 tsp. Gochugaru = 1 tsp. Ancho Chile Powder.