If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying out some delicious gochugaru, you’re missing out on a hidden gem when it comes to chili powder.
This spicy ingredient is most often used to spice up a soup or stew, however it can just as easily be used to add some flavor to a meat or even seafood-based meal.
While this popular chili powder (see also ‘4 Substitutes For Guajillo Chili Powder You Can Try‘) will add an extremely unique savory taste to any dish you mix it with, for some people the heat can be a little too much in some cases, while for others they may not be able to incorporate this ingredient at all.
Luckily, there are a few substitutes to gochugaru that taste just as, if not more delicious that you should consider so that you can still incorporate that delicious spicy sensation into your recipes.
What Is Gochugaru?
A lot of Korean chili powders are known for ramping the heat factor up tremendously, however, when it comes to gochugaru, while it is a little spicier than other flakes like cayenne.
It is still considered to have a fairly mild and gentle heat that doesn’t leave a nasty aftertaste in the mouth while still massively enhancing the flavor of any food you mix it with.
The hot peppers used in gochugaru are dried and grounded to create a coarse texture which is much more fine compared to crushed red chili flakes, giving it the bright red appearance it’s so well known for.
With a fruity, smoky, and sweet flavor and smell, gochugaru is an easy way to add a tremendous amount of flavor to a dish.
While also being pretty healthy containing probiotics and enzymes which help promote a healthy gut, along with being incredibly rich in Vitamin E to help us maintain healthy and clear skin while also boosting our immune system.
While gochugaru can spice up any recipe, it can be quite difficult to find in most grocery stores and for those not accustomed to the spice, the overall flavor can be just a little too overpowering.
However, so that you can still test out that incredible smoky and spicy sensation, here are a few delicious substitutes that are very similar to gochugaru.
Substitutes For Gochugaru
1. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is the closest a chili powder can get to gochugaru, having an extremely similar texture along with that incredibly potent and slightly smoky taste that gochugaru is known for.
When using cayenne pepper, you’re still going to get that mild to high heat that adds a tremendous amount of kick to any food you sprinkle it over.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that cayenne is a little spicier than your regular gochugaru, so while it can bolster the flavor of any meat or veggies you mix it with, be prepared for a much more potent element of spice to be added too.
If you like the idea of adding a little more spiciness to your favorite afternoon or evening meal while still retaining a good amount of heat that isn’t too overbearing and that won’t overpower the food itself when it comes to flavor.
Cayenne is an excellent substitute that can be found easily in most grocery stores.
2. Chipotle Powder
While the overall heat level of chipotle powder is more or less the same as gochugaru, the real difference comes in the taste.
Specifically in the smokiness which is a little more potent in chipotle powder and can be recognized as soon as you layer it on top of some food and get a scent of that deep and rich aroma.
When choosing chipotle powder over gochugaru, it really comes down to how you want the meal to taste, and specifically how much you adore the smokiness of gochugaru.
While this flavor will be far more noticeable with chipotle, it can sometimes override the actually natural flavors of your food, so it really depends how much you want the taste of the chilli powder to stand out.
However, if you find that the smoky texture of the chipotle powder is a little more noticeable than you would like, an easy fix is to mix it with a few crushed red peppers.
While this will ramp the heat up a little bit, it will also help even out the flavor so that it’s more comparable to the slightly milder taste of gochugaru.
Gochujang puts a bit more of a unique spin on the regular gochugaru chilli powder as while it may retain a lot of the heat and even the rich smoky flavor that gochugaru is known for.
It is also a paste rather than a powder, meaning if you’re looking for a way to spicen up specific types of dishes such as soups, or if you just want to make a hot sauce, gochujang will be the must better option to choose.
Gochujang is also a little saltier and sweet than gochugaru so while it does still contain enough heat for it to be recognizable once you take a bite.
The more earthy flavors do help to even this out making for the perfect substitute if you want to cut down on the spiciness a little and are specifically looking for a way to incorporate the flavor of gochugaru more easily into soups and hot sauces.
While paprika is a very common chilli powder nowadays and can be found easily in essentially any local food store.
When it comes to heat levels it actually rivals gochugaru powder, being just a little milder but not enough to where it’s noticeable once you start tucking in.
In terms of taste, paprika is incredibly similar to gochugaru however it is a little lighter and sweeter which goes elegenalty over some meat to really bring out as much of the natural flavors as possible.
If however you aren’t satisfied with the moderate levels of spice provided with most ordinary types of paprika.
You can also try out Hungarian paprika which ramps the heat up by a significant amount to give each and every meal a prominent spicy flavor that is too good not to at least try out.
5. Aleppo Pepper
Aleppo pepper (see also ‘5 Substitutes For Sports Peppers You Should Try Today‘) can often be a little harder than cayenne or paprika to find in most food stores.
However if you do manage to spot it, then it’s well worth picking up as a delicious substitute to gochugaru which still retains a good amount of spiciness while having a much sweeter flavor.
While it can be spread over exactly the same types of food as gochugaru, aleppo pepper is most often used in salads where it can add a decent amount of spiciness to some crunchy veggies.
When compared to gochugaru, aleppo pepper also has a noticeable tanginess to it along with hints of raisin, citrus and tomato in the mixture to make for a very vibrant and more recognisable flavor that is still guaranteed to spicen up a meal just the way you want it to.
6. Chile De Arbol
Chile de arbol has a little more spiciness than gochugaru, however, it also has a much drier nutty texture compared to its counterpart.
With that being said, if you’ve tasted gochugaru before, you will immediately recognise the smoky sensation that comes from using chile de arbol.
The main reason most people would exchange gochugaru for chile de arbol is when they really want as much heat as possible to enhance the flavor of the food.
To put this into perspective, chile de arbol is about 5 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper, and while for some this can understandably be a huge turn off.
For those who love the smoky flavor of gochugaru but wishes they could dial the heat factor up just a little bit, look no further than chile de arbol peppers (see also ‘The 8 Best Substitutes For Ancho Chile Peppers’).
7. Chile Pasilla
In contrast to the incredibly spicy chile de arbol, if you were hoping to cut down on the spiciness of gochugaru just a little bit, but you still want to enjoy that familiar savory and smokey sensation that it’s so well known for, chile pasilla is the perfect substitute.
Originating from Mexico, chile pasilla still has a moderate amount of spice, however it is just a tad milder than gochugaru which makes it perfect if you ever find that the spiciness of gochugaru is overpowering the flavor of your actual meal.
Because of this milder spice level, it allows you to have much more control over how hot the final product will turn out to be.
Which also makes chile pasilla a much safer option when you’re serving multiple people who may or may not enjoy extremely spicy foods.
Gochugaru is incredibly popular, and it’s not hard to see why considering it’s incredibly deep and rich smoky flavor mixed with the spiciness.
However if you aren’t a fan of the tremendous heat, or just want something a little easier to find, there is luckily a whole range of similarly delicious substitues.