Fact: Korean food is funky, spicy, sweet, and most of all—highly addictive! (*)
But where does it get such big bold flavors?
Browse through their most popular recipes and you’ll likely find the culprit. It’s either Gochugaru or Gochujang.
Or the Gochu-gang as we like to call it.
Because of this, a lot of people are wondering– is Gochugaru the same as Gochujang?
In fact, they differ in almost a lot of things.
Read on to find out what these differences are!
- How They Look Like
- What They Are Made of
- How They Taste
- How Spicy They Are
- How They Are Made
- How They are Used
- How They Are Stored
Is Gochugaru the Same as Gochujang?
No, Gochugaru is not the same as Gochujang.
It’s true that these two condiments have a lot of similarities. For one, these are both a staple in Korean cuisine. Not only that, they both feature a bright red color. And last but definitely not least, they give dishes a spicy kick.
Despite these semblances, the two ingredients have a wide array of dissimilarities that make them highly different from one another. Continue reading to know what these are!
Learn more: Is Korean Food Spicy?
Gochujang Vs. Gochugaru: How Do These Spices Differ?
With just one look, you’ll already know that these are two different spices. That’s because Gochujang is actually a red chili paste while Gochugaru is ground chili pepper.
But that’s not the only difference that they have. Here are some other points of differences you need to know if you want to dig into these spices a little bit deeper:
How They Look Like
When it comes to how they look, the only similarity that these two have is their bright red color. Aside from that, they basically differ in almost all aspects of their appearance.
Since it’s the spices’ most obvious difference, let’s start this list with their texture and appearance.
Since it’s a ground and dried chili pepper condiment, Gochugaru comes in a bright red fine powder or coarse flake form.
On the other hand, Gochujang is a thick, sticky, and smooth paste with a darker red shade (crimson).
What They Are Made of
Another glaring difference is the condiments’ ingredients.
Gochugaru contains only sun-dried Korean chili peppers without the seed, so it’s formulation is pretty simple.
On the other hand, Gochujang contains a long list of ingredients including Gochugaru, fermented soybean powder, glutinous rice, barley malt powder, and salt.
To boost its sweetness, some manufacturers even add a sweetener. It contains either sugar, honey, or simple syrup. That’s not all. They even incorporate pumpkin or sweet potato to give the condiment a distinct flavor.
How They Taste
Since they come in distinct forms and contain different ingredients, they vary in terms of flavor as well.
Because its formulation and ingredient list are pretty simple, the powder’s flavor profile is a whole lot simpler. Gochugaru tastes spicy with a hint of smokiness.
The Korean red chili peppers combined with the drying process give the powder its smoky flavor.
On the other hand, the flavor profile of the paste is quite complex because of the fermentation process and the wide range of ingredients that it contains. With that said, Gochujang tastes spicy, smoky, funky, and slightly sweet all at the same time.
It has the spicy and smoky flavor of the dried chili powder and the slight sweetness from the glutinous rice. Additionally, the fermentation process gives the paste a complex funky umami flavor you can’t get from the powder.
How Spicy They Are
And of course, we need to talk about the condiment’s spice levels! If you’re itching to know which of these ingredients is spicier, here’s the short answer: Gochugaru is typically spicier than Gochujang.
This is because Gochugaru is made of pure red chili peppers while Gochujang contains other ingredients and flavors that affect its spice level.
When it comes to spiciness, it’s important to know that both ingredients come in a varying range of spiciness.
For example, Gochugaru is available in different variations with a spectrum of spice levels that ranges from 1500 SHU to 10000 SHU.
Pro Tip: If you want your dish to be extra spicy, go for the hottest variation which is Maewoon Gochugaru while the Deolmaewoon Gochugaru.
On the other hand, Gochujang is available in five spice levels: extreme hot, very hot, medium hot, slightly hot, and mild. The paste is said to have less than 1000 SHU.
Pro Tip: If you want to determine how spicy the paste you’re buying is, make sure to check the Gochujang Hot Taste Unit (GHU). (*)
How They Are Made
These condiments are not the same as how they look like and taste because they are made differently.
Between the two, Gochugaru has a simpler and less complicated method of preparation. The process starts with deseeding, drying, and then crushing Korean chili peppers.
The peppers are dried in two ways—natural drying process (via sunlight) and mechanical drying. Between these two, the natural drying process is preferred by most people. Gochugaru dried this way is referred to as dried taeyangcho.
Afterward, the dried chilies are collected and processed in a blender to create a coarse texture or in a rice mill to develop fine powder.
On the other hand, Gochujang’s process is a lot more complicated as it contains more ingredients and involves the process of fermentation which takes a lot of time. The process involves mixing all the ingredients to form a paste and then stored in an earthenware or any type of container and placed under the sun for 3 to 6 months.
During this time, the enzymes from the fermented soybean powder break down the starches in the glutinous rice into sugars which give the condiment a slightly sweet taste.
How They are Used
Both condiments can be used in making marinades, sauces, and seasoning blends. However, they are used in different ways.
- As a marinade, you’d have to mix the powder with either sesame oil or soy sauce first while you need to thin out the paste with water or sesame oil.
- In making sauces, you can use gochujang as it is, but you’d have to mix Gochugaru in a liquid vehicle to incorporate it in your noodle and Tteokbokki dishes.
These two condiments are used as seasonings in different dishes as well.
For one, the powder is popularly used in making kimchi, Tteokbokki, vegetable side dishes, and Gochujang.
One unique application that the powder has is it can be used as a substitute for red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper powder in making Western dishes.
Conversely, the paste is a core ingredient in most Korean dishes like Budae Jjigae, spicy Korean wings, Bibimbap and Soondubu.
Not only that, Gochugang is also used as a dipping sauce for grilled meats and fish—one application that Gochugaru doesn’t have.
How They Are Stored
Since it’s a dry ingredient and is considered to be shelf-stable, Gochugaru is best stored in a cool, dry, and dark place like your pantry and kitchen cabinet.
On the contrary, Gochujang should be refrigerated after opening to prevent the glutinous rice from going bad.
Can You Use Gochujang Instead Of Gochugaru(and Vice Versa)?
Yes, you can use them interchangeably. But with all their differences, you’d need to make a few adjustments before you do so.
Since Gochugaru comes in dry powder form, you’d have to mix it with wet ingredients to create a consistency that’s close to the paste.
And because it has a simpler flavor profile, it should only be used as a substitute if your goal is to only add heat to your dish.
On the other hand, you can use Gochujang in place of Gochugaru in making soups, marinades, and other meaty dishes.
However, it won’t work on dishes like kimchi and vegetable side dishes because of its unique flavor profile and different consistency.
Another important thing to take note of when using the paste in place of powder is the sugar content which increases the risk of burning. Because of this, you shouldn’t use it on dishes that require high heat.
Is Gochugaru the same as Gochujang?
No, Gochugaru isn’t the same as gochujang.
Gochugaru is a spicy and smoky powder that’s best used to add flavor directly to dishes while Gochujang is a sweeter, richer, and funkier paste that’s best used as a marinade, rub, sauce, and dip.
The good news is you can substitute them with one another. But to do that properly, you have to pay attention to two things—the differences in texture and flavor profile.
Keep in mind the tips we’ve mentioned to successfully address these two issues.
Up Next: Is gochujang the same as sriracha?