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What Is Gochujang?

Korean red peppers tied with a string next to a small bowl of gochujang.
Thanthima Lim/Shutterstock

Gochujang is a sweet, sticky Korean condiment that’s showing up more often in Western restaurants and homes. But what is it? Does this pungent red sauce deserve a spot in your pantry or fridge?

Gochujang has long been a staple of Korean cooking. If you’ve ever been to a Korean BBQ joint, you’ve probably had it without even realizing it. This bright red sauce looks like sriracha and is often served on the side in a tiny bowl.

So, what exactly is gochujang? It’s a mix of spicy Korean chili flakes, fermented soy, glutinous rice, salt, and some sort of sweetener. Its level of sweet to spicy can vary greatly by brand. In general, though, it’s less spicy than standard chili oil, and more potent when it comes to umami flavors.

It’s used as a condiment and an ingredient in many Korean dishes. The thick red paste is a staple in bulgogi marinades, but you’ll also find it in a number of soups and stews. Like miso paste, it has a long shelf life if you keep it in the fridge. It’s also highly concentrated, so a little goes a long way.

All of that makes it a condiment you can easily keep on hand to accentuate any dish with an Asian flavor profile. It’s the sweetness of honey, the spice of red chiles, and the umami of miso all in one little red sauce.

So, pick up a bottle and give it a try. If you like Korean flavors, you’ll absolutely love gochujang.

Lauren Sakiyama Lauren Sakiyama
Lauren Sakiyama is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry. She has managed restaurants, country clubs, and large-scale event operations, but her passion has always been about the food. Read Full Bio »

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