What Is Gochujang & How Do You Cook With It?
As one of the backbone ingredients in Korean cuisine, gochujang offers a kick and depth of flavor that adds to everything we stir it into.
But, many of us don’t really know what gochujang is, let alone how we can begin to incorporate it into our own dishes. This means that many of us are missing out on an incredible ingredient that has the potential to take our dishes to new heights.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a deep red chile paste that contains glutinous rice, fermented soybeans, salt, and sweeteners. It has a warm spiciness combined with savory umami flavor and light tanginess.
Due to its unique flavor profile, gochujang can be used in various dishes such as stews and stir fry, but this flavorful paste has so much more to offer.
Gochujang is full of nutrients and other health benefits. The fermentation process has a variety of natural bacteria that help support gut health and enhance nutritional value.
It’s a thick, sticky condiment that’s spicy and very concentrated in flavor. Heat levels may vary between brands, so be sure to check the packaging and label with any spice-level indicator.
Popular Dishes with Gochujang?
Because of its popularity, gochujang has worked its way into a variety of Korean dishes, both as a subtle layer of flavor and as the star of the show.
For the most part, because gochujang has such a powerful flavor, you only need a small amount of it to complete the flavors in your dish. Often, gochujang is used similarly to miso paste in this way.
Bibimbap, for example, is a common Korean dish that translates to “mixed rice.” Gochujang is an essential ingredient, as its umami flavor and spice tie together the meat, rice, and vegetables to make for one cohesive dish.
Dakgangjeong is another popular gochujang dish.
Bite-sized chunks of chicken are deep fried and tossed in a sauce blend of gochujang, soy sauce, rice wine, honey, sugar, garlic, and ginger. The result is a sweet and spicy chicken dish that goes great with rice or noodles.
But gochujang is also commonly used in marinades for meat as well. Combined with other ingredients, it can add a touch of spiciness and a hit of umami to your marinade for bulgogi beef, your chicken wings, or even tofu for a delicious result.
You can also use this fantastic bean paste to add a little extra heat to your kimchi fried rice. If you love spicy food and just can’t seem to get your food spicy enough, putting gochujang in your food is the best way to raise the temperature.
You can even use gochujang to make a tangy, spicy dressing that goes great with chilled noodles, or even a Korean-style salad. The possibilities with gochujang are seemingly limitless!
How Spicy Can Gochujang Be?
Gochujang can be fairly spicy. Most brands have different levels of spiciness, with levels ranging from moderately mild to incredibly spicy.
The important thing to remember is that gochujang combines more flavors than spiciness. It has all sorts of different flavors that work together to tame the spiciness while at the same time enhancing its flavors.
Gochujang also has rich umami, pleasant saltiness, and comforting sweetness. The depth of flavor makes it a great ingredient, even if you are sensitive to spicy foods.
Do Different Types of Gochujang Vary In Spiciness?
Try a few different types to find the right levels of spice you’d prefer. If you enjoy a hot kick, try the Chung Jung Extra Spicy Gochujang. But if you like a more moderate spiciness that isn’t going to make you sweat, try the O’Food Gochujang.
What Is Gochujang Made of?
Gochujang is made of a few important ingredients. All of these ingredients have vastly different flavors, but they all work together to make something even more delicious than each of them could be on their own.
Although you could find a homemade gochujang recipe, making it in your home in jars can be a difficult process, and it is very time-consuming. Instead, you can find all your gochujang needs here at Umamicart.
The first and most crucial ingredient in gochujang is the red pepper. The brilliant red of the chili gives the gochujang its distinct color, and its lovely, rich spiciness helps to serve as the main flavor on display in gochujang.
Red chili peppers are used commonly throughout Asian cuisine and food throughout the world to bring a rich, flavorful spiciness to your dishes. Gochujang is a condiment that takes the red chili pepper to its full potential of flavor and deliciousness.
Specifically, gochujang is made with gochugaru, a Korean variety of red chili pepper.
Another important ingredient in gochujang is glutinous rice. This specific variety of rice is important for the unique flavor that it brings to the table.
Glutinous rice is a sweet variety of rice, and it adds a small layer of sweetness that works to round off the whole of the gochujang. It also serves to help create that thick paste that is quintessential of gochujang.
Fermented soybeans are another vital part of the flavor profile of gochujang. Fermented soybeans have a delicious umami taste that also has a unique acidity.
This is also the main ingredient of another common Asian ingredient: miso paste. This savory flavor is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why gochujang has become so popular. The umami flavor enhances every dish that uses it.
Finally, salt is used. It has important chemical effects in the fermentation process, but it also ties everything together with a great, salty flavor. Salt will enhance the flavor of anything you put it in, and gochujang is no exception to that rule.
What Goes Well With Gochujang?
Gochujang is one of those ingredients that go well with just about any dish. It tastes great with vegetables, does very well with seafood like shrimp, is a great marinade for many types of meat, and can bring its flavor level up to 100.
It’s so delicious, in fact, that many people are starting to call gochujang “the new sriracha!” And for a good reason! Gochujang is jam-packed full of flavor in ways that no other hot sauce could be.
So try adding gochujang into various recipes. If you need a little bit of extra spice and rich flavor in your meal, gochujang could be the ingredient you need to keep stocked at all times.
How Do You Cook With Gochujang?
There are various ways you can work this delicious, fermented paste into your cooking. Let’s go through some of the common methods so that you can start to experiment and see how gochujang fairs with your favorite dishes.
Add Flavor To Soups
Gochujang is an easy way to add delicious flavor into your soup. Soup allows for the gochujang to really cook into each ingredient while simmering to make for incredible flavor, so this is a great way to use it.
Start by sauteing some garlic with oil until fragrant. Then, add your other ingredients to the pan.
As you saute the ingredients, add a spoonful of gochujang to the mix and stir. This will work the paste throughout all the ingredients and begin to cook it, activating the flavors. Once your veggies are soft, add the broth and simmer the soup until it’s cooked. Now you’ve brought your soup to a new level with gochujang.
Use as a Base for Stews
While it can be a flavor enhancer in a soup, gochujang can also be the main attraction in a stew. Add several tablespoons of gochujang to a pan and cook with oil. Once it’s cooked and the flavors and aromas have activated, add some stock to the mix, whether chicken, beef, or vegetable.
This will make a rich, flavorful stock to which you can add your potatoes, meats, and other stew ingredients to cook for several hours on simmer. This simple stew is actually quite delicious – thanks to gochujang.
Use in Sauces
Gochujang can also enhance various sauces you might be making. We’ve already mentioned dakgangjeong, a dish that has a sauce made from gochujang, maple syrup, sugar, soy sauce, and rice wine.
This is a delicious sauce and combination of flavors, but it doesn’t have to be limited to fried chicken. With gochujang, sesame oil, and a sweetener of your choice, you can have an excellent dipping sauce for anything – from spring rolls to ramen.
Use as a Marinade
The fantastic fermented flavors of gochujang bring the right acidity to the marinade, alongside the spice, sweetness, and umami flavor.
This acidity can help to really work the flavor of the marinade into whatever you’re marinating. Marinate some chicken for a lovely spicy chicken. Marinate your tofu too. It absorbs marinade incredibly well, so you’ll have massive flavor with each bite!
Dress Veggies With It
Gochujang can also make a great dressing for some cooked vegetables. Make a simple sauce with your gochujang paste, some rice vinegar for brightness, and some soy sauce for umami flavor, and you’ve got a great sauce for your cooked veggies.
But you can also use it as an ingredient in a salad dressing. You can have a brilliant, spicy salad that knocks your socks off in the best way. Combine gochujang with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and some citrus to make a bright dressing for a fantastic salad you won’t soon forget.
Does Gochujang Need To Be Refrigerated?
You should absolutely refrigerate your gochujang, especially after opening it. Like most foods, the open air and room temperatures can make it go bad if left out for too long. So it’s best to keep your gochujang in its container where it can be air sealed and kept in the refrigerator.
You don’t want all of that incredible flavor to go to waste, so make sure you store your gochujang properly!
If you enjoy Korean food as much as we do, gochujang is simply a must-have for your kitchen. Learning to cook with it can take your recipes to new places. So grab some gochujang today and make a delicious Korean dish like tteokbokki, bibimbap, or dakgangjeong to enjoy!
And if you need a place to get your gochujang or any other Asian ingredients for your next home-cooked meal, head on over to Umamicart. We deliver high-quality Asian groceries right to your doorstep so you can cook delicious meals with ease!