What is Gochujang and How Do I Cook With It?

Once you welcome this Korean chile paste into your kitchen, you won't be able to cook without it.

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It's always a good idea to keep your fridge and cabinets stocked with a few flavor-packed condiments that can take any meal from boring to the best dinner ever. Gochujang is one of those condiments. This Korean fermented pepper paste is packed with spice, funk, sweetness, and umami. Fair warning — once you introduce this stuff to your fridge, you won't be able to function without it. And you might be taking it down by the spoonful. Don't say you weren't warned.

What is Gochujang?

This brick red, Korean condiment is made from peppers, glutinous (sticky) rice, fermented soy beans, aromatics (garlic, onions, sesame), sweeteners (syrups or sugar), and salt. It is a product of fermentation (like sauerkraut and kimchi), so it's got that quintessential funky flavor note. Depending on the kind of peppers that the paste is made of and the amount that's used will determine how spicy the gochujang is — if you prefer a less spice, you can opt for a mild gochujang. Because of the fermentation, the paste has a subtle sweetness, which is a nice counterbalance to the spiciness and salty, umami flavor.

Is Gochujang Spicy?

Gochujang varies in its level of heat. Because all versions are a little different, it depends on the amount of red chili flakes that were used to make that particular brand or batch. If you're sensitive to spice, look for a mild gochujang, and don't be afraid to try several brands in order to see which one fits your taste best. You'd be surprised how the sweetness and funkiness of the rest of the condiment can cut through the heat. And hey, for any of the contenders that proved too hot for your palate, gift those containers to a couple of friends — might as well spread the gochujang love.

gochujang paste in a bowl

Where to Buy Gochujang

If you're ready to pull the trigger and try out this magical paste, you can buy some online, at Korean grocery stores, and some well-stocked grocery stores. Look for brands like Mother in Law's, Bibigo, or One Culture. Sometimes it's packaged in jars or bottles, while some brands are packaged in tubs. Regardless, it will always be in the refrigerated section. Remember, not all gochujang pastes are the same, so you should try out a few brands and decide for yourself which one you like best.

Buy It: Gochujang Hot Pepper Paste, 1.1lbs ($17.89, amazon.com)

How to Make Gochujang

If you'd rather take matters into your own hands and make gochujang right at home, you definitely can. Grab a recipe like this five-star Gochujang Sauce — you'll need gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes), sticky rice powder and/or dried soybeans, and some sort of sweetener (like honey, malt syrup, rice syrup or maple syrup). You'll need to heat all of the ingredients before sealing your homemade gochujang up in an airtight container and letting it sit for anywhere from a few days to 6 months. The longer it has to ferment, the more flavorful it will be.

How to Use Gochujang

Once you've got your hands on this stuff, it's time to put it to good use. This absolute flavor bomb of a condiment can take any marinade, braise, soup, or stew up a giant notch. Frying some chicken wings? Whip up a gochujang sauce with sesame oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, and scallions for an easy, game day app. Or, use this same gochujang sauce and toss it in a cucumber salad. Rub gochujang on potatoes, seafood, or pulled pork. Remember, this stuff has extremely concentrated flavor, so a small spoonful can go a long way.

Does Gochujang Need to be Refrigerated?

Like miso, another fermented product, gochujang needs to be sealed and refrigerated after opening the package.

How Long Does Gochujang Last?

The good thing about this condiment is that it's going to last you for a while. It can last up to 2 years when properly sealed in a refrigerator. Though, once you try this stuff, there's no way you'll be able to keep a single tub for that long.

How Do You Pronounce Gochujang?

Hey, you may have mastered cooking with it, but what's the point if you're not sure how to say it? Try it with me: gow-choo-jang.

Are you ready to cook with this stuff or what? Check out some of our favorite Korean recipes that feature Gochujang and you're on your merry way.

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