Everything You Need to Know About Gochugaru, the Korean Chili Flakes

April 26, 2023
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Gochugaru, or Korean chilli flakes, are used to impart colour and heat to many Korean dishes, and are likely familiar to fans of the cuisine. For creating kimchi, the fermented cabbage dish that is a national staple in Korea, gochugaru is an essential component. But what is gochugaru, how is it prepared, and how may it be used in one’s own cooking? This page provides comprehensive coverage of these and related issues. If you are unable to track down authentic gochugaru, we will also provide guidance on where to obtain a suitable alternative.

What is gochugaru?

The Korean name for “chilli powder” is gochugaru. It’s not the same as the chilli powder used in other cuisines, however. Gochugaru is a Korean condiment created from a special kind of red chilli pepper. Gochu peppers have a fruity, sweet flavour and a mild to moderate heat level.

To prepare gochugaru, first the gochu peppers are dried, then the seeds and membranes are removed. After being dried, the peppers are pulverised into flakes or powder. The flakes are more accessible; their gritty texture gives foods a satisfying crunch. The powder is less coarse and easier to incorporate into marinades and other wet ingredients.

The natural pigment of the peppers gives gochugaru its brilliant red colour. Its flavour is multifaceted, with hints of sweetness, smoke, and spice. The quality and degree of spiciness of gochugaru varies based on its preparation and storage conditions. Sun-dried peppers with their original flavour and fragrance make the tastiest gochugaru.

How to use gochugaru?

Gochugaru is an adaptable spice with several applications. Examples of how gochugaru is often used in traditional Korean dishes are shown below.:

  • Kimchi: Using cabbage or other vegetables, salt, garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and gochugaru are fermented to create kimchi, the most well-known Korean cuisine. The crimson colour and spicy flavour of kimchi come from gochugaru. Kimchi is a versatile condiment that may be eaten on its own or added to other dishes including soups, stews, pancakes, fried rice, and more.
  • Gochujang: You may make gochujang by fermenting gochugaru (a kind of chilli pepper), sticky rice, soybeans, salt, and sugar. Gochujang is a spicy Korean condiment that is both sweet and savoury in flavour. It’s a common addition to dishes or the foundation of marinades and sauces. Gochujang is a versatile condiment that enhances the flavour of many Korean foods. It is often used in bibimbap (vegetable and meat mixed rice), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), and bulgogi (grilled marinated beef).
  • Soups and stews: Soups and stews, such the hearty and comforting jjigae, prepared in clay pots, may also benefit from the addition of gochugaru. Kimchi jjigae, sundubu jjigae, doenjang jjigae, and budae jjigae are only a few of the most well-known types of jjigae.
  • Salads and pickles: Refreshing and tasty salads and pickles may be made using gochugaru as well. Cucumber salad (oi muchim), fresh cabbage salad (baechu geotjeori), radish kimchi (kkakdugi), chonggak kimchi (ponytail radish kimchi), and water kimchi (nabak kimchi) are only a few of the most well-liked pickled dishes.

Gochugaru is versatile enough to serve as a spice on its own or as a garnish when combined with salt or sugar. Gochugaru is a great way to spice up traditional foods or try out new recipes with a Korean twist.

How to find the best gochugaru substitute?

Don’t stress if you can’t track down any gochugaru in your neighbourhood market or on the web. You may use these alternatives to gochugaru in its place. Keep in mind that some alternatives may not taste or feel exactly like gochugaru, so you might need to play with with the proportions and seasonings. Here are some of the best gochugaru substitutes that you can try:

  • Red pepper chili powder: This is the most accessible and often used alternative to gochugaru. Cayenne, paprika, or ancho chilli powder (or any other red pepper chilli powder) will do. You may find that you need more or less red pepper chilli powder than you would gochugaru, depending on your own taste. Red pepper chilli powder may be sweetened by adding sugar to reduce the spice.
  • Chipotle powder: Similar to gochugaru in its smokey and fruity flavour, this is a suitable alternative. Chipotle powder is a smoked and dried form of jalapeo that packs a modest punch. Use the same quantity of chipotle powder as gochugaru, or modify to taste. Honey or brown sugar mixed with chipotle powder is another option for adding sweetness.
  • Gochujang: Although it cannot be used interchangeably with gochugaru, this may be utilised if the consistency of your dish is flexible. Glutinous rice, soybeans, salt, sugar, and the chilli pepper known as gochugaru are fermented to create gochujang, a fermented chilli paste. It tastes both sweet and savoury, and its consistency is thick and sticky. If you dilute gochujang with water or vinegar to make it thinner and less salty, you may use it in lieu of gochugaru. To prevent the meal tasting bland, minimise the quantity of additional ingredients you use.
  • Aleppo pepper: Originally from Syria and Turkey, this chilli pepper is quite mild and fruity. It may be utilised in either flake or powder form and looks and feels very much like gochugaru. Aleppo pepper has a moderate amount of spice and a somewhat sour taste. If you like less heat, use half as much Aleppo pepper as gochugaru. Aleppo pepper may also be used with acidic and sweet ingredients like lemon juice or pomegranate molasses.
  • Indian chili powder: This chilli powder is used extensively in Indian cooking because of its fiery and delicious profile. The many chilli peppers and spices used in its preparation include cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic, and salt. Indian chilli powder is fine and dark red in colour. Both the heat and the taste are intense. You may use Indian chilli powder instead of gochugaru, but you may want to use less or add more to suit your personal preference. Creaminess and reduced heat may be achieved by combining Indian chilli powder with either coconut milk or yoghurt.

Conclusion

The Korean chilli flakes known as gochugaru are often used to add colour and heat to a variety of meals. The fruity, sweet flavour comes from dried and crushed gochu peppers, which pack a mild to moderate heat. Gochugaru is a staple in Korean cuisine, used in a wide variety of dishes including kimchi, gochujang, soups, stews, salads, and pickles.

Some gochugaru replacements are available that have a comparable spicy and smokey flavour if you can’t locate the real thing in stores or online. Chilli powder made from red peppers, chipotle powder, gochujang, Aleppo pepper, and Indian chilli powder are all good stand-ins for gochugaru. It’s possible that these alternatives won’t taste or feel quite like gochugaru, so you may need to play about with the proportions and seasonings.

With any luck, you’ve gained some insight into gochugaru and its culinary applications from this essay. Feel free to ask questions or make comments below. Enjoy your meal!

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