What is Gochugaru?

This Korean specialty is here to spice up your pantry.

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Bright in color and flavor, gochugaru (go-CHOO-ka-roo) is the perfect introductory chili powder for those wary of excessive heat. This staple of Korean cooking is used in a wide range of traditional dishes for both its taste and vibrant appearance. Read on to learn why your spice pantry should always include gochugaru.

How is Gochugaru Made?

Gochugaru is made from bright red Korean chile peppers with the seeds and membranes removed. They're always dried, but look out for the words "taekyung" or "taeyangcho" on your packages of Korean gochugaru, this denotes the product being specifically sun-dried, which lends itself to being higher-quality and having a better taste. The dried peppers are then blended up, often into large flakes, but they're sometimes finely ground into a powder too.

What Does Gochugaru Taste Like?

Despite its intensely red appearance, gochugaru isn't nearly as spicy as one would expect. It has a subtle heat, but that kick of capsaicin is offset with fruity and sweet notes. Sun-dried varieties of gochugaru feature a mild smokiness, creating an extra depth of flavor.

Kimchi and gochugaru in bowls
woyzzeck / Getty Images

How to Cook With Gochugaru

Gochugaru is the backbone of many Korean staples like kimchi, to which it lends a hint of heat and the beloved bright red color, along with gochujang, where it acts as the base for the traditional pepper paste. It's also commonly sprinkled into dishes like soups and stews, such as this dakdoritang or kimchi stew.

Gochugaru isn't just reserved to Korean cooking, though. Its unique flavor makes it ideal for sprinkling into marinades for grilled meats, brines for pickled veggies, or even amping up salad dressings. Use it as a milder alternative in recipes that call for red pepper flakes, or as a one-to-one swap in for Aleppo pepper.

Where to Buy Gochugaru

Gochugaru can be found at any Korean market, with most stores featuring several shelves of different brands, sizes, and heat levels of the pepper powder. This can be overwhelming for most gochugaru newcomers, so we recommend trying a few brands online, then finding your preferred variety. Once you've picked your favorite, you'll be able to easily walk into your local Korean store and shop with confidence. For basic starters, we recommend the Tae-kyung Gochugaru Flakes, or you can opt for the more finely ground Tae-kyung Gochugaru Powder, which is best if you want the flakes to disappear into whatever you're cooking.

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