Imagine this: It’s your first time buying a gochujang, so you have no idea how to store it.
With its high sodium content and fermentation process, it’s shelf-stable enough to be stored at room temperature, right?
Or wait, does Gochujang need to be refrigerated?
But this storage tip applies only to one type of Gochujang.
Which type is this?
Continue reading to know more!
Does Gochujang Need to be Refrigerated?
Yes, Gochujang needs to be refrigerated—the commercial one that is. Traditionally made Korean paste, on the other hand, can last for a long time without having to be refrigerated.
Why Do You Need to Refrigerate Commercial Gochujang?
Both pastes have a long shelf life due to a lot of reasons.
For one, it contains malt, soy sauce, and a lot of salt. All these ingredients are natural preservatives and can allow any dish to retain its freshness for a long period.
But wait, there’s more.
There’s also the fermentation process. Gochujang is fermented for a minimum of 6 months and up to 5 years. The process gives it a deeper flavor but at the same time, extends its shelf life.
But here are the two things where they differ:
Changes in Fermentation Practices
Traditional Gochujang is made following the best fermentation practices. This means that the barrels where the paste is stored are kept under surveillance to ensure that quality and safety protocols are being followed.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for commercial paste which are made with slightly different ingredients and made with varying storage times.
To counter this, they would often add more salt which is good at inhibiting bacterial growth but not the destroy the bacteria that has already grown in the barrels.
Before, the traditional paste is often fermented during the cooler months of the year. To prevent the gochujang from fermenting too quickly, they avoid doing it during the hot summer months. (*)
Unfortunately, the commercial version is made all year long—even during the warmer season.
This exposes the paste to higher temperatures, causing it to spoil a lot quicker. That’s because the extreme temperatures will cause the paste to separate and its texture, flavor, and aroma to change.
How Long Is Gochujang Good For After Opening?
Its shelf life varies depending on two factors: the storage method and whether it has been opened or unopened.
With that said, here are the shelf life guidelines of the store-bought Korean paste:
- Unopened: 12 to 18 months in the pantry
– 1 month in the pantry
– 2 years in the refrigerator
Does Gochujang Go Bad In The Fridge? How to Know if Gochujang Has Gone Bad?
The truth is, the shelf life guidelines we’ve shared with you are just estimates. The rule of thumb is you can still safely consume Gochujang as long it doesn’t show any signs of spoilage.
With that said, how can you know if the paste has gone bad? Here are the spoilage signs that you should watch out for:
Changes in Appearance
The paste has a dark crimson shade. Over time, its color will get darker and that’s perfectly okay.
However, you should watch out for any colors that are out of the ordinary such as yellow, green, gray, or whiteish specks all over the paste. These discolorations indicate mold growth.
If that’s the case, then you should throw it out right away.
Gochujang is known for its thick and sticky consistency. When it goes bad, it will become less viscous, thinner, and a whole lot runnier.
If upon opening the tub, you noticed a strong foul odor, then you’d have to get rid of the paste as soon as possible.
This should be your last resort. But if the paste is way past its expiration date and it’s not showing any signs of spoilage, then you may want to take a small bite of it.
Lose it if it already has a sour or chemical-like taste.
How to Store Gochujang After Opening?
To ensure that the gochujang will last as long as possible, you need to store it properly after opening. Here are the ways you can do that:
Keep The Tub Tightly Sealed.
You need to protect the paste not just from high temperatures but from light and air too. The best way to do that is to keep the paste’s tub sealed as tightly as possible.
For extra protection, you can even put the tub inside an airtight plastic bag.
Leave The Plastic On.
Do you see that plastic layer underneath the tub’s lid? Most Koreans advise that you leave it on. That’s because it’s an added protection from the refrigerator’s drying cool air. This extra layer can help keep the paste moist and wet and prevent it from drying.
Freeze The Paste.
If you want to extend its shelf life, the next best option that you have is to freeze it. The best way to do this is to place the paste in an ice cube tray before freezing them.
Make sure to cover the tray with plastic sheets before putting the paste so you can easily remove them once frozen.
Heads up, though, freezing the paste can change texture and appearance.
Does Gochujang need to be refrigerated? Yes, commercial gochujang must be refrigerated.
Even though it contains high amounts of salt and has been fermented, refrigeration is needed to protect it from heat and prevent it from spoiling a lot quicker.
Make sure to follow our storage tips so you can preserve the paste’s freshness for longer.
Learn more: Does Gochujang Expire?