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Gochugaru (Korean Chili Powder and Korean Chili Flakes)

Last Updated on March 19, 2024

Gochugaru (고추가루), also known as Korean red pepper powder or Korean red chili flakes, is an essential ingredient in Korean kitchen. It is made from sun-dried red peppers and has a slightly smoky and fruity flavor.

korean gochugaru

Gochugaru has recently become more popular due to the growing popularity of Korean cuisine, but what makes it so special?In this post, we’re going to uncover the veil of gochugaru for you.

Gochugaru (고추가루) – Korean Chili Powder and Hot Pepper Flakes

Gochugaru is a type of crushed red pepper that is commonly used in Korean cuisine as a seasoning and a condiment. The red peppers are typically sun-dried and then ground into flakes or powder.

It is a key ingredient in Korean cooking, including kimchi, bulgogi, and tteokbokki. It has a medium spicy taste and a slightly sweet and smoky flavor that adds depth to Korean dishes without overwhelming them.

When cooking with Korean chili powder or flakes, it is important to use the correct amount to avoid making the dish too spicy. A general rule of thumb is to start with a small amount and add more as needed.

How Gochugaru is Made?

Gochugaru has its origin in Korea, where it has been used for centuries as an essential ingredient in Korean foods such as daikon kimchichili noodlesOi Muchim (cucumber salad), and bibimbap.

gochugaru powder

It is made by drying chili peppers in the sun, grounding, removing the seeds, and then crushing them into flakes.

This versatile spice is not only fiery and flavorful but also has numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that it can boost metabolism and improve digestion.

An indispensable commodity in Korea and has found its way to many national dishes worldwide. It adds a fiery and rich flavor to any dish it touches.

Types of Gochugaru in Korean Cooking

The flavor of gochugaru can vary by region and brand, there are two types of gochugaru: flakes and powder.

korean chili flakes
korean pepper powder
  • Powder: Fine and smooth texture, with a brighter color, used in soups and side dishes.
  • Flakes: coarse and versatile. A must-have for kimchi, side dishes, soups, and stews.

How to Make Your Own Korean Hot Pepper Flakes 

Making your own is easy, and cost-effective, here’s how to sun-dry and make it at home:

korean hot pepper
  1. Harvest fresh red chili peppers and wash them thoroughly.
  2. Remove the stems from the peppers and slice them in half.
  3. Spread out the halved peppers evenly on a baking sheet or mesh tray.
  4. Set the tray in direct sunlight for several days until the peppers are completely dried.
  5. Once the peppers are sun-dried, use a food processor or blender to grind them into a fine powder. Store it in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

Ways of Using Korean Chili Flakes

Let’s look at using gochugaru in cooking.

korean banchan

Korean Recipes

Kimchi: The most famous Korean dish is Kimchi, a spicy fermented vegetable condiment made with gochugaru.

Tteokbokki: it is a crucial ingredient for making tteokbokki, a popular Korean street food made with stir-fried rice cakes and vegetables.

Banchan: add heat and flavor to various Korean side dishes.

Gochujang: It is a spicy, sweet, and savory sauce made from gochugaru, fermented soybean paste (doenjang), and rice or barley malt.

Gochugaru can also be sprinkled over cooked dishes to add heat and fruity notes to soups, rice dishes, and noodle bowls. 

Non-Korean Recipes

You can also use it in non-Korean recipes or international dishes to add a unique flavor and kick to your dishes.

Here are a few ideas on how to use it in your cooking:

  • Mix it with other spices and herbs to create a dry rub
  • Add it to soups, tofu stews, or chili for a spicy twist
  • Sprinkle it on popcorn or roasted nuts for a flavorful snack
  • Use it to make spicy marinades or sauces for grilling or stir-frying
spicy rice cakes

Gochugaru Substitutions

If gochugaru is not available, you can make a substitution using other chili peppers such as cayenne pepper, chipotle powder, chili paste, or red pepper flakes.

It is important to keep in mind that the spiciness levels may vary between different types of chili peppers, so it’s best to start with a small amount and gradually add more until the desired spiciness is achieved.

Where to Buy Gochugaru?

If you’re looking to add authentic Korean flavor to your cooking, it’s important to use the right ingredients like Gochugaru. But, where can you buy it from? Let’s explore some of the best sources to purchase it.

Physical Stores and Markets

Here are some physical stores and markets where you can find  Korean chili flakes and powder:

Korean grocery stores: These stores usually have a wide variety of Korean ingredients. If you live near a Korean community, chances are there will be a store nearby.

Asian grocery stores: Many Asian grocery stores carry Korean ingredients as part of their selection. These stores are more widely distributed than Korean grocery stores.

Farmers markets: Some farmers’ markets may have vendors selling many Korean ingredients, especially those that specialize in growing Korean peppers.

Online Retailers

Amazon: You can find a wide variety of gochugaru brands and types on Amazon.

Kimchi Everyday: This online retailer specializes in Korean ingredients, and you can find high-quality gochugaru on their website.

Etsy: Etsy is a popular online marketplace where small businesses and independent sellers offer unique and artisanal products. You can find homemade gochugaru blends from small-scale producers on Etsy.

Along with online retailers, check your local Asian or Korean food stores, where you might find gochugaru or a substitute for it.

Korean Red Chili Pepper Quality Indicators

The quality indicators of gochugara are as follows:

  • Color: High-quality gochugaru has a bright red color, while low-quality options can be brown or a mixture of brown and red.
  • Texture: The texture should be slightly coarse, and the flakes should have a moderate thickness.
  • Aroma: Quality Korean chili pepper flakes have a sweet, fruity, and slightly smoky aroma.
  • Heat level: there are different level of spiciness, but high-quality gochugaru is mild to moderate hot with a hint of sweetness.
  • Origin: Gochugaru from Korea is considered to be the best due to its optimal climate, soil, and red pepper species. It’s essential to research the origin of the chili pepper powder before purchasing.

When looking to buy gochugaru, it’s best to choose a reputable brand that sells high-quality products to ensure you get the best taste and flavor in your dishes.

How To Store and Shelf-Life

Here are some best practices for storing and extending the shelf-life of gochugaru:

  • Store it in an airtight container: Gochugaru should be kept in an airtight container away from direct sunlight to prevent moisture and humidity from affecting its flavor and texture.
  • Keep it in a cool, dry place: To preserve the spicy and smoky flavor of gochugaru, store it in a cool and dry place, such as a pantry or cupboard.
  • Freeze the unused portion: If you have an excess amount of gochugaru that you won’t be using anytime soon, you can extend its shelf-life by storing it in the freezer in an airtight freezer bag. Remember to take it out of the freezer and let it thaw before using it in recipes.

By following these best practices, you can make sure that your gochugaru stays fresh and delicious for a long time.

Freezing Gochugaru For Long-Term

To preserve the spice for long-term use, freezing is an effective technique to maintain its freshness and flavor. Here’s how to freeze Gochugaru:

  1. Spread the Gochugaru in a thin layer on a baking sheet.
  2. Place the baking sheet in the freezer and let it freeze for about half an hour.
  3. Once done, transfer the frozen Gochugaru into an airtight container or a zip-lock bag. Make sure there is no air in the storage container.
  4. Label the container with the date of freezing, and store it in the freezer.

This method can preserve the flavor and integrity of Gochugaru for up to 2 years.

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How To Freeze Gochugaru

If you have a lot of gochugaru, you may be wondering how to freeze it. Here are some tips on how to do it so that the gochugaru will keep its flavor.
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Author: SHU-CHUN

Ingredients

  • 1 bag gochugaru

Instructions

  • Spread the Gochugaru in a thin layer on a baking sheet.
  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer and let it freeze for about half an hour.
  • Once done, transfer the frozen Gochugaru into an airtight container or a zip-lock bag. Make sure there is no air in the storage container.
  • Label the container with the date of freezing, and store it in the freezer. This method can preserve the flavor and integrity of Gochugaru for up to 2 years.

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