Gochugaru: Korean Chili Powder & Flakes

gochugaru powder 1
Gochugaru, also known as Korean chili powder, chili flakes, or red pepper flakes, are sun-dried Korean red chili peppers. Theyare prevalent in Korean and Asian food, especially in stews and soups, and it is the main ingredient in the fermented condiment, gochujang paste. Gochugaru flakes are both smoky and fruity, with a distinct medium heat.

What Is Gochugaru?

Gochuharu is coarsely ground Korean chili powder similar to crushed red pepper flakes, made from sun-dried Korean red peppers without seeds.

gochugaru 1

Gochugaru has various flavors and heat levels depending on the type of chili peppers used and the preparation method. It provides an excellent heat level with notes of sweetness or smokiness and is an essential element in authentic Korean dishes.

What Is Gochugaru Used For?

As previously mentioned, gochugaru is one of the most essential ingredients in Korea. It is commonly used in gochujang, the Korean chili paste, spicy Korean stews and soups such as sundubu jjigae, and spicy Koreana side dishes like the Korean cucumber salad.

It is the primary seasoning flavoring in most Korean dishes and recipes. Below are the most common uses for gochugaru pepper flakes:

Cold salads: Korean cuisines contain many spicy foods, where the cold salad helps relieve the string from the heat. Cucumber salad is a typical dish in Korea seasoned with gochugaru, soy sauce, and rice vinegar.

Kimchi: Kimchi is a classic Korean food that contains fermented cabbage using gochugaru in its seasoning along with onion, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, and other additions based on the recipe. Kimchi usually is a popular side dish in Korean barbecue.

kimchi with Gochugaru

Marinades: Gochugaru can be added to marinades for Korean barbecue dishes, like bulgogi. These dried chili flakes lend smokiness, heat, and a balanced chili flavor to the marinade. In most instances, Korean barbecue is not always spicy, but you can regulate the heat level based on how much gochugaru you add.

Stews: Korean stews include vegetables, tofu, sticky rice, meat, and more. Gochugaru is the primary seasoning in the stews, giving them heat and smokiness.

Its uses extend beyond the world of stews, kimchi, veggies, and marinades. You can also use gochugaru to make the garlicky Chile oil used to spoon over your short steak ribs. You can also drizzle it over popcorn and toast or use it as a dipping sauce. In modern dishes, it gives a Korean flair to simple staples like salmon.

What Does Gochugaru Taste Like?

Gochugaru is vibrantly red in color and has a mild to moderate spicy flavor with a hint of sweetness. However, it tastes a bit different from other non-Korean standard chili flakes and chili powder varieties, such as cayenne pepper powder.

The heat and spice level varies from mild to hot, depending on the preparation method. However, despite its deeply red look, gochugaru is not as spicy as you’d expect.

Is Gochugaru The Same As Red Pepper Flakes

In a nutshell, gochugaru is the Korean equivalent of red pepper flakes.

Gochu implies chili pepper, and garu means powder. However, gochugaru is normally not as fine a powder as cayenne powder or paprika, but is usually ground to flake size.

Red pepper flakes have the same consistency, but you can notice the difference by placing them side by side. Most gochugaru is seedless, therefore appearing uniform in appearance.

On the other hand, red pepper flakes contain seeds which gives it a speckled red and white appearance.

gochugaru vs crushed red pepper

So, which is spicier? Red pepper flakes are the spiciest because they contain most of the pepper, while gochugaru usually lacks seeds. Apart from the heat, gochugaru provides a sweet smokiness, unlike red pepper flakes. The traditional crushed red pepper that Americans are familiar with is usually made from cayenne.

Is Gochugaru Very Spicy?

Gochugaru is categorized as a medium-heat spice with 4,000-8,000 SHU. Gochugaru has a gentle heat that is nowhere as hot as an equal amount of crushed red pepper flakes.

So, you can think of its spiciness as that of the jalapeno.

What Is The Difference Between Gochugaru And Gochujang?

Gochugaru is a dried and ground chili pepper, while gochujang is a thick chili paste.

Another difference is that gochujang is richer and sweeter while gochugaru is smoky and sweet. Gochujang is better used as a marinade, rub, or sauce, while gochugaru is a dry spice that flavors dishes directly.

The main difference is moisture. Because gochujang is thick, wet paste, it can affect the consistency of your dish.

Where To Buy Gochugaru

You can purchase gochugaru in the condiment aisle at any Korean grocery store. You might also find it in some large Asian grocers. If you want to purchase it online, you can find it on eBay or Amazon.

Remember that there are two different gochugaru types; fine and course, so ensure you read the descriptions and label well before ordering.

What Can You Substitute Gochugaru With?

You can use any chili powder as a substitute for gochugaru, although some are better. Chipotle powder is the closest substitute as it adds a complex depth of flavor, smokiness and heat.

A blend of smoked paprika and cayenne pepper can provide a similar effect. Gochujang is often used as a gochugaru substitute, but it’s essential to keep in mind that it has a sticky and thick consistency, which can affect your dish.


Tabitha's passion for gardening didn't begin until she was in her twenties. She was always interested in plants, but it wasn't until she moved to a rural setting that she realized how much fun it could be. Peppers are part of her edible landscape, and she is constantly looking for new and interesting varieties to try. When she is not gardening, she spends her time reading and writing.

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