Learn about Korean gochugaru (Korean chili powder / Korean chili flakes / red pepper flakes) and how it can be used in Korean cooking.
What is Gochugaru?
Gochugaru (고추가루) has a few different English names under its belt. Namely, Korean chili powder, Korean chili flakes, Hot pepper flakes, red pepper flakes etc.
Gochugaru is one of the most important Korean ingredients. It is used in gochujang (Korean chili paste), kimchi, spicy Korean soups and stews (e.g. sundubu jjigae) and spicy Korean side dishes (e.g. Korean cucumber salad).
Gochugaru is often vibrantly red in color and it has mild to moderate spicy taste with a hint of sweetness.
However, gochugaru tastes quite different to other non-Korean standard chili powder and chili flakes varieties (e.g. cayenne pepper powder). It is much milder in taste in comparison, so it is best not to substitute with them.
The quality and level of spiciness in gochugaru will vary depending on its origin and its specific farming conditions.
Types of Gochugaru
There are mainly two different kinds of gochugaru and they are used for different cooking needs.
– Korean Chili Powder
– Korean Chili Flakes
This is a more coarse version of gochugaru and it has more versatile usage in Korean cooking. It is used when making kimchi, and most Korean side dishes and Korean soups and stews.
How Gochugaru is Made
Many Korean households make their own chili powder. They try to source good quality dried Korean red chilies at a farmer’s market and once they bring them home they do the following.
- Cut the stems off the red chilies with a pair of scissors and open one side of the chili and shake off the seeds. (According to my mum, it is best to leave some seeds in still as it makes more tasty chili powder.) It is also possible to buy dried red chilies that are already trimmed and cleaned. If so, move on to the next step.
- Wipe clean the chilies with a dry cloth thoroughly and take it to local rice mill (Bangatgan, 방앗간) and ask them to be grounded according to their preferred particle size.
How to Store Gochugaru
Once you open the package, it needs to be kept in a cool shaded place. It can get moldy if you don’t store it well. I keep mine in an air tight container and in the fridge.
If you want to store it for a longer period, you can store in your freezer as well. Just seal it really well.
When gochugaru becomes hardened, you can use a food processor to separate it again. Just a few seconds pulse will fix it.
Other Popular Recipes Using Korean Chili Powder or Korean Chili Flakes
Where to Buy Gochugaru
You can find gochugaru in the condiment isle at a Korean grocer. Some large Asian grocers might also sell it as well.
If you’re looking for an online buying option, try Amazon or eBay. Don’t forget that there are mainly two different types of gochugaru (fine vs coarse), so read the label and descriptions well before purchasing.