In our “Emily Recommends” series, we introduce cooking techniques, tricks, writers, bloggers, YouTubers, ingredients, and more every Thursday! Recently, we began to introduce Korean food and culture further through this “Emily Recommends” series. Some of our Korean recommendations include our favorite Korean food bloggers, some easy/quick banchan recipes, and our favorite gluten-free gochujang brands. Today, we wanted to list our favorite gluten-free doenjang brands!
In our previous blog post, Our Favorite Gluten-Free Gochujang Brands, we discussed the difficulties caused by trying to safely eat gluten-free when traveling to foreign countries. When trying to explain an allergy or celiac disease, the language barrier and lack of a “gluten-free eating culture” can often get in the way.
Thankfully, at least in the United States and certain countries in Europe, learning how to cook different ethnic foods AND access to gluten-free ingredients is becoming easier and easier. We have an abundance of options for gluten-free Korean cooking right at our fingertips!
What Is Doenjang?
Doenjang is a paste made using soybeans. In Korea, they make different soups, stews, ssamjang (Korean barbecue sauce) and more out of this extremely salty and earthy paste.
Traditionally, Koreans make doenjang and soy sauce together at one time. Depending on how you look at it, doenjang is the byproduct of soy sauce or vice versa. During the brewing process, as the soybeans separate, the liquid naturally comes to the top while sediments drift to the bottom. The liquid becomes soy sauce and the sediments become doenjang.
Now that you know all about doenjang, look below for the list of our favorite gluten-free doenjang brands.
Gluten-Free Doenjang Brands
Because of the use of wheat in the manufacturing process, finding gluten-free doenjang can be difficult. At this time, I only have two brands I recommend for those who need to be gluten-free. There are others on the internet but confusion in the translation of ingredients and understanding of what exactly is safe for those with celiac makes me wary of recommending them.
The Koko brand’s entire mission is to provide kosher Korean food. The first “Ko” stands for kosher, and the second “Ko” stands for Korean. Though kosher is their mission, they have gone above and beyond by making their products:
- Gluten-Free; and
Their understanding of safety and cross-contamination as a kosher brand makes me 100% confident in their gluten-free label.
They do sometimes get bad reviews. Having looked over many of these reviews, I believe there is a lack of understanding of doenjang vs. miso. Miso is a much milder Japanese paste made out of soybeans. The flavor of miso tastes slightly alcoholic and is mildly sweet and salty. Doenjang is the much, much stronger Korean sibling of miso. Also made out of soybeans, Doenjang has a strong, rich, and earthy flavoring. The saltiness punches you in the face. As a result, if you plan on making miso soup with Doenjang, it will not taste the same or correct. They are two completely different products.
Ingredients: Dried Fermented Soybeans, Salt. Allergens: Soy.
Q-Rapha Foods is a small company created in 1999 in Arlington, VA. They work to provide Korean doenjang, gochujang, and soy sauce made with premium ingredients.
Their unpasteurized doenjang is free of chemical additives and preservatives! The process for fermentation for doenjang takes a long time when done properly and traditionally. This company prides itself on its 3-year aging process.
Ingredients: Soybean, Water, Salt. Allergens: Soy.
Do You Like Korean Food?
Doenjang can be used to make dipping sauces for Korean barbecue–ssamjang is the most popular when eating samgyeopsal.
You can also make doenjang jjigae, a Korean stew often containing ingredients like tofu, pork belly, zucchini, onions, and more. We have a recipe on our blog as well as a recommendation page for those interested in different styles of doenjang jjigae.
We Would Love to Hear From You!
On our blog, we often make posts containing helpful guides for those who are gluten-free. As someone with celiac disease, I hope I can help answer questions for those needing help finding gluten-free products, ideas, and recipes. Below, you can find some of our other helpful gluten-free guides.
- Is Sake Gluten-Free? How to Find Gluten-Free Sake.
- The Best Gluten-Free Flour Blend.
- Our Favorite Gluten-Free Gochujang.
In the end, do you have any allergy-friendly doenjang brands you love? Do you have any questions about particular brands? If you do, let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We would love to hear from you!
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