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Best Substitute For Gochugaru (Korean Chili Powder)

Lisa Price
Last Updated on
by Lisa Price

If you’ve ever tried Korean cuisine, you might have wondered what makes some of the food so deliciously spicy.

Well, I’m here to tell you that’s no regular chili powder or paprika that you’re tasting.

Korean food has a number of specialty ingredients synonymous with their delicacy, one of which is gochugaru.

best substitutes for gochugaru

Here, I will talk a little more about this spice and give you an idea of how you can use chipotle powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and more as a substitute for gochugaru in your Korean home cooking.

What Is Gochugaru?

Gochu means chili pepper, and Garu means powder, so the term Gochugaru translates to chili pepper powder. Many famous Korean cuisines use it as an ingredient, and it’s also a household pantry staple.

The best quality gochugaru is made from seedless sun-dried hot peppers.

While machine-dried peppers are less expensive, the emphasis is on the traditional method of using sun-dried hot peppers for authentic color and heat level.

Hot peppers are deseeded, dried, and ground to a coarse texture, which is fine compared to crushed red chili flakes but not completely powdered.

Due to the use of seedless peppers, the final result turns out to be a vibrant red-colored spice.

The heat and spice level of gochugaru ranges from mild to hot, so you’ll find a few varieties on the market.

On the Scoville Scale, gochugaru falls between 1500 SHU (Scoville heat units) and 10,000 SHU. The hottest within the variety is known as maewoon gochugaru whereas deolmaewoon gochugaru is the least spicy.

In terms of flavor, expect a slightly sweet, smoked, and spicy taste.

Remember to familiarize yourself with different versions of gochugaru, as it is liberally used in Korean dishes, and you might not be used to such spice levels.

But if you’re comfortable with the flavoring of East or West Indian food, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Gochugaru graces some of the most renowned Korean recipes, such as Kimchi, cucumber salad, and spicy soups.

Simply Organic Chipotle Powder
Chipotle Powder Is Our Top Gochugaru Replacement

My Top 5 Best Gochugaru Substitutes

While it may not be easy to find gochugaru in your local grocery stores, it shouldn’t stop you from trying delicious Korean food.

Here are my top five picks you can use in place of gochugaru:

1. Chipotle Powder

Best Substitute For Gochugaru

Spicy food, to an extent, relies on the amount of chili powder used for that extra kick of flavor.

While gochugaru fits the bill with high spice levels, chipotle powder is an equal contender and the closest Korean chili powder substitute.

Chipotle powder is not a type of pepper itself. It is made from jalapeno peppers, dried and smoked, giving it a smoky flavor similar to gochugaru.

The two spices almost share the same level of heat. Gochugaru is around 1500 to 10,000 SHU, whereas chipotle powder falls between 3000 and 30,000 SHU.

A point to remember is that chipotle powder may have a little extra smoky flavor compared to gochugaru, and this might affect the overall taste of your recipe.

But you can balance the flavors by adding crushed red pepper to the chipotle powder.

Doing this will reduce the smoky flavor and increase the spice level.

In terms of color, the chipotle powder is a fiery red but a bit darker than gochugaru.

The best thing about Chipotle powder is that it’s readily available in grocery stores and supermarkets.

Use chipotle powder in equal parts to gochugaru.

Can’t find chipotle powder? See Chipotle Powder Substitute

2. Cayenne Pepper

Best Substitute For Gochugaru

A good substitute does not only have a similar flavor but also resembles the texture.

Cayenne pepper is the ideal choice if you’re looking for a substitute for gochugaru with a blend of similar spice and texture.

As for color, cayenne pepper is a deep red with a brownish-orange hue.

Cayenne pepper is also widely used in many Korean recipes, so if you add it to your pantry, you can use it to create other Korean dishes, such as Kimchi.

Cayenne shares the same texture as gochugaru but is spicier.

You can get cayenne in flakes or powder form.

Remember, though, cayenne flakes are extra spicy because they come with crushed pepper seeds.

The Scoville Scale rating for cayenne pepper powder is 30,000 to 50,000 SHU.

To control the spiciness of cayenne, soak it in lukewarm water for some time, and then add it to your recipe.

Substitute 3/4th teaspoon of cayenne pepper with one teaspoon of gochugaru. Taste and add more if needed.

3. Paprika

Best Substitute For Gochugaru

Many Korean dishes, such as Kimchi, flaunt a brilliant red color.

If you want your recipes to have the same bright red hue, paprika is your substitute for gochugaru.

Paprika is the fourth most commonly used spice worldwide, and it is readily available in grocery stores. You might already have it in your pantry.

Unlike gochugaru, there are different kinds of paprika: sweet, hot, and smoked.

To find the perfect fit as a substitute for gochugaru, it is essential to understand the difference between all three kinds.

Grocery stores usually stock sweet or basic paprika, which has a mild flavor and falls within the 250 to 1000 SHU range on the Scoville Scale within 250 to 1000 SHU.

The hotter version is known as Hungarian paprika, popular with Hungarian cuisine like Goulash, and is known to be of the highest quality among all three types.

The last one is smoked paprika, which adds a sweet and smoky flavor to your dish.

Paprika is available in powder form, and you can use either of the three to substitute gochugaru in equal quantities.

Can’t find Paprika? See Paprika Substitutes

4. Chile de Árbol

Best Substitute For Gochugaru

Chile de Árbol, a fiery spice with a distinct flavor profile, is a noteworthy substitute for gochugaru in Korean cuisine.

This chili boasts a heat level of 15,000 to 30,000 on the Scoville Heat Unit scale, making it considerably hotter than gochugaru.

Chile de Árbol, recognized for its bright red color, imparts a sharp, clean heat with a hint of nuttiness, distinguishing it from gochugaru’s slightly smoky and sweet undertones.

When substituting in recipes, moderation is key due to its intense heat.

Gradually adding Chile de Árbol can help balance flavor and spice, aligning closely with gochugaru’s role in Korean dishes.

This chili is widely accessible in many grocery stores and is often found dried or powdered, making it a convenient alternative for those unable to source gochugaru.

5. Gochujang

Gochujang is another popular Korean spice and an ideal substitute for gochugaru.

These spices are prepared from gochu pepper, so they have almost the same flavor. However, the texture sets both spices apart.

Gochujang comes as a thick paste and contains other components, such as salt, soybeans, and sticky rice.

On the Scoville Scale, gochujang scores less than 1000 SHU.

Using gochujang instead of gochugaru in your recipe will give it a saltier flavor.

It works well as a seasoning for stews, sauces, and kimchi. Just keep a light hand on the salt before adding gochujang to your food.

Remember, gochujang has a paste form. It might give your food a wet and sticky texture.

The spiciness of gochujang will depend on the brand you buy it from. To be on the safe side, start by using a small amount in your recipe.

Gochujang’s pungent and spicy flavor serves as a good marination for meats.

For those who prefer salty flavors over sweet ones, gochujang is the best substitute. Store it in the refrigerator for use in other Korean recipes.

Use ½ teaspoon of gochujang for every teaspoon of gochugaru. Taste and add more if required.

Other Suitable Substitutes For Gochugaru

If you’re looking for more alternatives, here’s a quick list of other suitable substitutes for gochugaru:

  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Aleppo pepper


There are various red-colored spices out there, but only a few can match the distinctive flavor of gochugaru.

If you were holding yourself back from trying out Korean cuisine due to the unavailability of Korean spices, you now have a comprehensive list of replacements.

You can use either or all as a gochugaru substitute to figure out the best flavor that suits your taste.


What does gochugaru taste like?

Gochugaru has a distinctive, slightly smoky taste with a sweet yet spicy flavor.

Is gochugaru the same as chili powder?

No, gochugaru is different from regular chili powder as it has a unique flavor and texture specific to Korean cuisine.

Can I use paprika instead of Korean chili powder?

Yes, paprika can be used as a substitute for gochugaru, but it will impart a different flavor and color to the dish.

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
  1. Please note that you cannot use Gochujang as a substitute for gochugaru when making kimchi, only use chilli powder – either being coarse or fine. Gochujang is good for stew (such as jjigae), marinating meat, or when making bibimbap.

  2. I bought some chipotle chili powder. On the envelope, it says it has 75,000 HU. Might be a bit too hot for kimchi to replace gochugaru

    1. Hi Jocelyne, agree, that’s pretty spicy. It’s a good thing you’re paying attention to the label as chiles are different that are used and it’s going to vary. I’m sure you’ve experienced where you may buy two fresh peppers from the grocery store and when you bite into them you realize that they have significant different amounts of “heat”. Always good to test ingredients in advance to see what they actually are bringing to the table.

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