If you are planning to gain expertise in Korean delicacies, then you should know about the flavors that Koreans prefer the most. When it comes to their food, Koreans want it to be spicy. So spicy, in fact, that it could rip your tongue and your senses to pieces. That's how these guys roll.
Among the spices they use, gochugaru is the most prevalent. If you have been to Korea, you are no stranger to this ingredient. It is just chili that has been crushed (with some special preparations included). Just by knowing this fact, will give you a myriad of options for a gochugaru substitute.
However, not all of the alternatives can recreate the same effect that gochugaru has on your tastebuds. You will have to consider the various flavors they have and their overall effect on the food. Swapping ingredients is fine as long as the elements are compatible or can give the same appeal to the recipe.
If you want to learn all of the plausible substitutes for gochugaru, check out the next section.
This is the most obvious choice and the most practical one, as you can easily acquire it in your local market. Changing gochugaru with crushed red pepper is both acceptable and logical. However, their flavor might differ as their means of preparation are dissimilar.
The crushed red peppers that you can see in the local market today are made from cayenne pepper. On the Scoville scale, cayenne pepper has a mark of 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, which is extremely hot. Meanwhile, gochugaru is only 5,000 to 8,000 SHU, which is pretty similar to jalapeño. So it is pretty apparent that you cannot use the same amount of crushed red pepper in a dish as you would gochugaru. It should be reduced or you will get blasted by the heat.
Furthermore, crushed red peppers are not usually pure as they still contain the seeds that pack the bomb, whereas gochugaru is typically prepared seedless.
Cayenne has a neutral flavor, whereas gochugaru tends to be sweet and reminds you of the flavor produced by your local smokehouse. Therefore, even if you pour in too many crushed peppers, you can't still achieve the unique taste of gochugaru. But when it comes convenience and practicality, crushed red pepper is pretty unbeatable.
The chipotle pepper is not actually a variant of pepper. Instead, it is a type of matured red jalapeño that has been dried and smoked. Because of this characteristic, it can provide an authentic smoky flavor to any delicacy. As far as I know, its smokiness is way better than gochugaru (as the latter is typically neutral).
However, when it comes to their heat levels, these two ingredients are quite similar. Jalapeños have an SHU of 3,000 to 8,000, so the spiciness that the two provide is similar. But think twice before using chipotle powder as its naturally smoky flavor might overwhelm the recipe.
To balance it out, you might want to mix chipotle powder with a little bit of crushed red pepper to increase the overall spiciness of the food. Doing this will enable you to get the light flavor that a gochugaru produces. If you are okay with the extra punch, it should not be a problem.
Just like crushed red pepper, chipotle powder is pretty common, especially in Western markets, so you should not encounter any problems finding this ingredient, which is another reason why it is a good substitute for gochugaru.
Also, take note that the chipotle powder’s power is pretty similar to curry powder.
The closest possible alternative that you can get to gochugaru is the gochu. The keyword is there already. Both gochugaru and gochujang are derived from gochu peppers. However, their texture and taste are slightly different. But unlike the first two alternatives that I have listed, you can interchange these two spices freely.
Here is a caveat though: gochujang is in the form of a paste. It is not a solid ingredient, so it can make the texture of your food sticky and thick. Furthermore, there are other ingredients included in the paste, such as soybeans, salt, and rice.
If you don't like the innate sweetness of gochugaru, then gochujang is the perfect alternative. Because of its salt content, it tends to be salty. Therefore, it is a great to include it in recipes for kimchi and stews. If you are going to use gochujang, make sure that you reduce the food’s original salt requirement. In this way, you can attain the perfect balance and taste.
Another plausible substitute for gochugaru is guajillo. And no, this is not a Korean spice. Instead, it is an endemic spice from Mexico. You can usually see this ingredient being mixed with various Mexican cuisines and delicacies, especially the chili. The translation of guajillo is "little gourd". Guajillo possesses a tangent and bright taste. It is also has a moderate heat, which is comparable to gochugaru.
The Aleppo pepper is the counterpart to guajillo. They are a match made in heaven because of their shared nuances. However, Aleppo pepper is only common in the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, where it is an essential component of their native cuisine, such as lamb and steak dishes.
The primary difference between Aleppo pepper and guajillo is their color. Aleppo can enliven any dish by enhancing the vibrancy of its texture and color. Moreover, it is has a strong flavor, which means that it is slightly hotter than guajillo. But either way, you can use them both as a substitute for gochugaru.
Chile de Arbol has a spicy and smoky flavor that can potentially make your recipe lethal if you don't like spicy foods. (I am just exaggerating. My point here is that this ingredient can give your dish the kick it needs). The bright red color of the Chile De Arbol is aesthetically appealing. It allures you with the magnificent aftertaste that it provides. It is also available in powder, paste, or flake form, which proves its versatility.
This is an excellent substitute for gochugaru if you like the extreme kick it gives to the food you are preparing. It is not a surprise that Chile de Arbol is slightly hotter than gochugaru. After all, its heat level range from 16,000 to 31,000 SHU, so no liquid will be able to save your tongue from its sting.
But on the lighter side, this ingredient is widely available in many markets. It is extremely affordable too. If you are on a tight budget and you need a quick substitute in the kitchen, then this pepper will come to your rescue.
You can find a lot of gochugaru substitutes if you know the texture and taste that it imparts to the food. By understanding the nature of your ingredients, you can make ingenious substitutions for them, so you don't have to leave your house or cancel the recipe you planned. All you have to do is explore the repositories of your kitchen.
Do you know some other alternatives for gochugaru? If the answer’s yes, then please share them with me in the comments section below! I will be waiting!