Top Gochugaru Substitutes

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Struggling to find Gochugaru for your next recipe or seeking a different flavor in your dish? This guide dives into the Best Top Gochugaru Substitutes that bring the heat and flavor you need, whether you have dietary restrictions, crave a milder spice, or simply can’t source the classic Korean chili powder.

Ancho Chili Powder

Key Takeaways

  • Gochugaru is a distinctive Korean chili powder integral to the cuisine with a sweet and smoky flavor, and there’s a range of substitutes to explore when it’s not available.
  • Substitutes such as Aleppo pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, chipotle powder, and paprika vary in flavor and heat, making it possible to tailor dishes to personal preferences with some adjustments.
  • To accurately replicate Gochugaru’s unique heat and flavor in dishes using substitutes, consider making incremental adjustments to spice levels, balancing flavors with complementary ingredients, and even creating your own homemade Gochugaru.

Understanding Gochugaru

Gochugaru, also known as Korean chili pepper powder, is a cornerstone of Korean cuisine. Its origins can be traced back to Central America, and it was likely introduced to Korea through the Columbian exchange. The flavor profile of Gochugaru is distinctively sweet and smoky, providing a complexity that surpasses typical crushed red pepper flakes. It comes in both fine and coarse varieties, boasting a vibrant red color that contributes to the visual appeal of dishes like kimchi.

Understanding Gochugaru

Gochugaru is recognized for its heat, which spans from 1,500 to 10,000 Scoville Heat Units. This variation offers flexibility in adjusting the spiciness of dishes, based on personal preference or specific recipes. But, what happens if you can’t get your hands on this Korean chili powder? Or you simply prefer a substitute for Gochugaru that aligns better with your taste? Well, that’s where the Gochugaru substitutes come into play.

Top 7 Gochugaru Substitutes

Finding the perfect Gochugaru substitute can be a culinary adventure, with a variety of chili powders and flakes offering unique flavors and heat levels. Here are some alternatives to explore:

Top 7 Gochugaru Substitutes
  • Aleppo Pepper Flakes
  • Ancho Chili Powder
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Paprika
  • Korean Red Pepper Flakes (if available)

Each has its unique characteristics that make it a suitable substitute, depending on the dish you’re preparing.

Here’s a more detailed look at these substitutes.

1. Aleppo Pepper Flakes

Aleppo pepper flakes, characterized by a moderate heat level, combine spicy, slightly sweet, and fruity flavors with mild earthy undertones. Due to their fruity taste and moderate spiciness, Aleppo pepper flakes can be used as a direct 1:1 substitute for the spiciness of Gochugaru, introducing additional tangy flavors.

Their unique flavor profile makes Aleppo pepper flakes particularly ideal for creating flavorful marinades or rubs for grilled meats, such as chicken or beef kabobs. Therefore, if a barbecue is on your agenda, Aleppo pepper flakes could be the Gochugaru substitute you’re looking for!

2. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is another excellent Gochugaru substitute. Its intense heat makes it suitable for Korean dishes such as:

While cayenne pepper has a finer texture compared to the coarse grind of Gochugaru, it remains a viable option for adding heat to Korean cuisine.

The fine-grind consistency of cayenne pepper is especially suitable for achieving a well-distributed spiciness in marinades and finely textured dishes. Therefore, if you crave a kick in your Korean dish, cayenne pepper might be the solution!

3. Chipotle Powder

If you’re seeking a smoky twist, chipotle powder is your go-to Gochugaru substitute. This powder, made from dried and smoked green jalapenos, offers a distinct smoky flavor, combined with a sweet and spicy kick. To substitute chipotle powder for Gochugaru, use a conversion ratio of ½ teaspoon chipotle powder to 1 teaspoon Gochugaru.

The fiery red color of chipotle powder, albeit slightly darker compared to Gochugaru, adds a vibrant touch to your dishes. Best suited for:

  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Chili
  • Sauces

Chipotle powder, made from dried and smoked chipotle peppers, can be easily incorporated into various dishes requiring a slightly smoky taste and a spicy note.

4. Paprika (Sweet or Hot)

Paprika, due to its versatility, is an excellent substitute for Gochugaru. It comes in various flavors such as sweet, smoky, and spicy, offering a range of options for the home cook. Depending on your chosen dish, you can decide which type of paprika will best match the flavor profile of your Korean recipe. To replace Gochugaru with paprika, simply use it in equal amounts.

Whether you’re preparing a rub for your grilled meats or a marinade for your veggies, paprika’s vibrant color and flavor can surely add a unique touch to your Korean dishes.

5. Guajillo Powder

Guajillo powder, known for its medium-high levels of spice and earthy notes, can be a fantastic Gochugaru substitute. It works particularly well in sauces, soups, and spicy stir-fried dishes like dakgalbi.

When substituting guajillo powder for Gochugaru, a ratio of 3 teaspoons of guajillo to 1 teaspoon of Gochugaru can be used. This earthy substitute can add a new dimension of flavor to your cooking.

6. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Crushed red pepper flakes, due to their similar texture and neutral spicy flavor, can be a suitable substitute for Gochugaru. The conversion ratio for substituting crushed red pepper for Gochugaru is straightforward – use 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper for every 1 teaspoon of Gochugaru.

Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

This substitute is especially handy because most of us have a jar of crushed red pepper flakes sitting in our spice rack. Next time you’re in a pinch, reach for these Korean hot pepper flakes to add that spicy kick to your dish.

7. Ancho Chili Powder

Ancho chili powder, made from dried poblano chiles, is known for its mild heat and earthy flavor. It is especially good for:

  • Dry rubs
  • Chili
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Sauces

In comparison, regular chili powder offers a more generic taste and heat level, making it a versatile option for various recipes.

chili powder peppers

This spice blend complements a variety of dishes with its intense smoky flavor.

While it may not be the spiciest substitute on the list, ancho chili powder can provide a depth of flavor to your dish that goes beyond mere heat. If you’re looking for a subtle spiciness coupled with a rich, earthy taste, give ancho chili powder a try!

Adjusting Heat Levels

While identifying the perfect Gochugaru substitute is the initial step, fine-tuning the heat level to match your taste preferences is of equal significance. Gochugaru is known for its mild to moderate spiciness, so when using substitutes, you’ll need to make careful adjustments to achieve the same heat in your recipes.

For a less spicy profile, start with a smaller amount than the recipe calls for and gradually increase to taste, or create a blend with milder spices like sweet paprika. Remember, you can always add more heat, but it’s tough to take it away, so proceed with caution!

Creating Homemade Gochugaru

For those feeling adventurous and with some time to spare, consider crafting your own Gochugaru. It all begins by sourcing quality dried Korean red chili peppers. Once you have your peppers, you’ll need to remove the stems and, for a milder flavor, the seeds and innards.

Creating Homemade Gochugaru

After cleaning the peppers, it’s time for the drying process. You can sun dry the peppers or use a dehydrator. Once they’re fully dried, crush the peppers to a coarse state before finely grinding them to your preferred flake consistency. Adjust the spiciness of your homemade Gochugaru by removing more seeds and innards or experiment with other chili varieties for a different kind of heat. You can also use gochugaru to create Gochujang recipes!

Pairing Gochugaru Substitutes With Other Ingredients

After selecting your Gochugaru substitute, the subsequent move is to match it with other ingredients, thereby balancing the heat and enriching the overall flavor. Adding honey, sugar, or acidic components such as vinegar or citrus juice can help balance the heat of Gochugaru substitutes in Korean dishes.

Complementary spices like cumin or coriander seed pair well with chili peppers and can heighten the flavor profile of dishes using Gochugaru substitutes. Using soy sauce and rice vinegar provides a balance of umami and acidity, while a small amount of sesame oil imparts a rich, nutty taste, balancing moderate heat.

Tips for Cooking With Gochugaru Substitutes

Armed with your Gochugaru substitute, you can now commence cooking! But before you do, here are some tips to keep in mind. To emulate Gochugaru’s heat without sacrificing flavor, take into account both the heat level and the dish’s flavor profile to maintain authenticity.

For spicier substitutes like cayenne pepper, temper the heat with dairy products or sweeteners such as honey or sugar, neutralizing capsaicin and creating a more rounded flavor. Ginger can complement the heat of cayenne pepper in Korean dishes, adding a warm, slightly sweet note. And don’t forget that cayenne pepper can be added to Korean dishes with meats and vegetables without overpowering their original flavors.

Try these Korean dishes: Instant Pot Korean BBQ Noodles and Air Fryer Korean Beef!


In conclusion, while Gochugaru holds a special place in Korean cuisine, there are several substitutes available that can replicate its unique flavor and heat. From Aleppo pepper flakes to Ancho chili powder, each substitute provides its unique characteristics, making them suitable for different Korean dishes. Just like our Best Substitution for Sweet Chili Sauce, where you can find your own Sweet Chili Sauce alternatives. By adjusting heat levels, experimenting with homemade Gochugaru, and pairing these substitutes with other ingredients, you can create delectable Korean dishes right in your kitchen!


What Can I Use if I Don’t Have Gochugaru?

If you don’t have Gochugaru, gochujang or crushed red pepper powder are good substitutes, especially if you want to keep the recipe authentic.

Is Gochugaru the Same as Chili Powder?

No, they are not the same. Chili powder is ground chili peppers, while Gochugaru is limited to a small range of chili peppers common in Korean cuisine.

Do You Need Gochugaru?

Yes, you need Gochugaru for authentic Korean dishes like gochujang, kimchi, and spicy soups and stews. It’s a key ingredient in many Korean recipes.

What Does Gochugaru Taste Like?

Gochugaru has a smoky flavor with a mild sweetness, and is moderately spicy without overpowering its unique flavor profile. It also features fruity and sweet notes, with a subtle heat offset by a mild smokiness.

Can I Use Cayenne Pepper as a Gochugaru Substitute in All Korean Dishes?

Yes, you can use cayenne pepper as a substitute for Gochugaru in Korean dishes, but remember to adjust the quantity to match the heat level of Gochugaru.

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