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8 December 2020

Gochugaru is a coarsely ground Korean chili powder similar to crushed red pepper flakes in texture, traditionally made from sun-dried peppers without the seeds.

Gochugaru is an essential ingredient to Korean cooks everywhere for fiery flavor, a textured chili powder ranging from mild to hot, with a range of flavors depending on the peppers and preparation method. If offers a wonderful level of heat and spicy with touches of sweet and it is an important element in your arsenal for making authentic Korean cuisine.

Learn more about it below.

What is Gochugaru? Gochugaru is a coarsely ground Korean chili powder similar to crushed red pepper flakes in texture, traditionally made from sun-dried peppers without the seeds.

Common names for Gochugaru include Korean chili flakes, Korean hot pepper flakes, and Korean chili powder. In the Korean regions, Gochugaru is a must-have spice in the kitchen as it is an essential element for making Gochujang, soups and stews, Kimchi, and the famous cucumber salad. The chili flakes might look like other flakes and powders on the market but the texture and taste are very different. 

It is noticeably vibrant red in color, and is essential to Korean food and cooking and used in many Korean dishes.

How Spicy is Gochugaru?

The spice and heat level of Gochugaru varies from mild to hot, depending on how it was made. The flavor is slightly smoky, sweet, and spicy at the same time.

How Is Gochugaru Made?

There are many Korean households who prefer making their own Gochugaru rather than buying from the market. To make their own, they buy dried korean red chili pepper from the market and follow these steps to make it at home.

How to Make Gochugaru:

  1. First, cut the stems and the upper part of the dried chilies and remove the seeds and innards. (If you prefer extra spice and heat, skip the coring and keep the innards)
  2. Next, clean the dried chilies with a cloth and grind them in the blender to make the chili flakes. For a fine powder, use a rice mill.

Korean cuisine awaits your cooking!

Substitutes For Gochugaru

If you are unable to source Gochugaru or if you do not have access to it, you can opt for some substitutes that provide similar flavor. Here are some acceptable substitutes for Gochugaru.

  • Gochujang – It is made with Gochugaru but has some ingredients such as sticky rice, salt, and soybeans to make a paste. The texture will be different but you will surely get the taste of Gochugaru. However, make sure you add less salt to the dish, as Gochujang is already somewhat salty.
  • Red Pepper Powder – This is same old Indian red chili powder and the spice level is pretty high. If you choose to add red chili powder to your dish, get ready for amazing color and a bit of wonderful heat.
  • Chipotle Powder – This is the substitute to go for the smoky taste. Chipotle powder is made by grounding the smoked dried jalapeno peppers.
  • Cayenne Pepper Flakes – The texture of this spice is similar to Gochugaru and is already used in many Korean dishes, so you’ll obtain a similar flavor. If you opt for the flakes, they are spicier as compared to the powder.

Is Gochugaru the Same as Gochujang?

Gochugaru and Gochujang differ in texture, taste, and consistency. Many people think that they are same but it is not true. Gochugaru is present in flake or powder form whereas Gochujang is in paste form. In terms of taste, Gochujang has soybeans, rice, and salt mixed in it which means that the taste will be different as well.

What is Gochujang? And Why You Need It Now
What is Gochujang? And Why You Need It Now

Can You Use Gochugaru in Place of Gochujang?

As mentioned, the texture and the taste of Gochugaru and Gochujang differ from each other. If there is something urgent, you can use one in place of the other for most recipes, but do not expect the exact same flavor. You can make your own Gochujang from Gochugaru but it will take time and effort.

Where Can I Buy Gochugaru?

You can find gochugaru in specialty stores, though the chili powder or chili flakes may be difficult to source locally. It is best to source the product online as your favorite specialty spice shop, as you can choose from different brands and quality. Here is a recommend link to purchase online:

Learn More About These Other Interesting Spice Blends

Questions? Feel free to contact me anytime. I’m happy to help. — Mike H.

NOTE: This post was updated on 12/8/20 to include new information. It was originally published on 3/1/19.

8 comments

  1. Hello!
    I’ve been trying to make an authentic Szechuan chili oil but have a hard time finding out exactly what chilis are used. I just watched a YouTube that suggests I use Gochugaru. Most recipes say use chili flakes or chilies without being specific. Occasionally I read that I should use Szechuan chili peppers but I don’t find these in my local chinese grocery stores. (I did find chilis called “Tian Jin Red Chili”) What chili should I use that has some heat but wont reduce me to a puddle of tears? 🙂

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Clark, you’ll probably find most recipes just calling for either generic hot peppers or Chinese peppers, but of course, yes, those can vary by type and availability, depending on where you live. Realistically, Szechuan chili oil can be made with different peppers interchangeably. You can try to order some Chinese peppers online (get dried), but if you can’t, you can make the same recipe with New Mexican peppers, Mexican pods, or others to achieve the same results. Try making it with chiles de arbol. I think you’ll love the results.

  2. Are the flakes or powder milder? I purchased some gochugaru on 2 separate occasions and one was hotter than the other but I don’t know why.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Christie, yes, the heat levels will vary based on the peppers being used.

  3. Hi, can I use fine Gochugaru to make kimchi Instead of the course Gochugaru? Thanks.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Anna, yes, you should be able to. Let me know how it turns out for you.

  4. Helen Finnigan

    Hi Mike
    Do Gochujang chilli pastes vary or are the differences simply the brand names?
    I wondered if there were varying heats??
    Thank you
    Kind chilli regards
    Helen fellow chilli lover.

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