On our “Emily Recommends” series, we introduce our recommended cooking techniques, tricks, writers, bloggers, YouTubers, ingredients, and more every Thursday! Recently, we started introducing Korean food and culture further through this “Emily Recommends” series. Some of our Korean recommendations include our favorite Korean food bloggers and some easy/quick banchan recipes. Today, we wanted to list our favorite gluten-free gochujang brands!
Traveling to a foreign country or learning to cook ethnic foods can be difficult for those with food allergies and/or dietary restrictions. I completely understand having that constant and unwanted stress.
As someone with celiac disease, I often struggle to explain gluten-free needs in my native language to people! It is even harder when mixing another language or culture into the mix. When living in South Korea, I constantly worried about the food ingredients. Did I explain my allergy well in a different language than my own? Did I read the ingredients properly? Do my friends understand the difficulty when eating out? I had all of those questions regularly.
Yes, You Can Make Korean Food Gluten-Free!
Thankfully, as interest in Korean food continues to expand, the variety of available options for individuals with allergies and dietary restrictions continue to expand as well.
Gochujang, a red chili paste made through fermentation, often contains major allergens in the ingredients. Gochujang is used as a starter in stews, a base in stir-fry dishes, and an ingredient in dips/sauces. It is a staple in the Korean diet and unavoidable when eating Korean food. Unfortunately, store-brand gochujang often has barley, wheat, or soy as primary ingredients.
Below is a list of our favorite gluten-free gochujang brands! We will discuss the flavor, ingredients, and pros/cons of each brand!
Notes Before We Check Out The Brands:
- Note One: It is important to note that gochujang can range in flavor even within South Korea. The gochujang you choose will differ depending on your personal spice level, the region in which you are eating, the heat of the peppers used, and more. If you don’t like the flavor of a gochujang, try a different brand! Gochujang can range in sweetness, spiciness, depth of flavor, saltiness, and so on.
- Note Two: Also, Koreans add gochugaru when making EXTREMELY spicy food. You cannot rely solely on gochujang to make a dish really hot. Please don’t be disappointed by “flavorless” gochujang because it did not make the dish as spicy as expected. If you need more spice, try adding gochugaru! This will allow you to increase the spice level without making the dish saltier.
Gluten-Free Gochujang Brands:
Koko Gochujang is a brand making Korean foods and ingredients for a kosher audience. This particular brand prides itself on being:
- Gluten-Free; and
Ingredients: Red Pepper Powder, Dried Fermented Soybean Powder, Rice Syrup, Refined Salt, Water. Allergens: Soy
Koko Gochujang has a very mild and sweet flavor. It does not give a powerful punch of spice. For those who cannot handle spicy ingredients, this brand is a great option for you. I first started cooking Korean food with this brand!
Though Koko Gochujang is “all-natural,” many people are thrown off and surprised by the container. Yes, the container is hard plastic. Hard plastic containers are typical in Korea for their fermented products. It is rare for you to find gochujang in glass at the grocery store.
Below are some of their products:
This brand is rather pricey. Unfortunately, gluten-free and kosher products tend to be more expensive than their alternatives.
Wegmans Gochujang is my current favorite! Made for the American chain grocery store, this gochujang has a spicy kick. While many gluten-free gochujang brands tend to have a very sweet flavor, this brand has a good amount of spice as well. I use this most often when making ssamjang for Korean barbecue. You can learn more about ssamjang via our Korean dipping sauces blog post.
The Wegmans brand is only available at their store locations. You will not be able to buy online via Amazon.
Wegmans gochujang is:
- Gluten-Free; and
Ingredients: Corn Syrup, Water, Red Pepper Seasoning (Red Pepper Powder, Water, Salt, Garlic, Onion), Rice, Rice Powder, Sea Salt, Ethyl Alcohol, Red Pepper Powder, Fermented Soybean Powder, Soybean Powder, Glutinous Rice Flour, Garlic, Koji (Aspergillus Oryzae). Allergens: Soy
While I love the brand, I HATE the container it comes in. Wegmans gochujang comes in a small squeeze bottle. In Korea, gochujang is stored in large, box-shaped, and lidded containers. This way, you can easily spoon out the amount you need. Sometimes, I use half a bottle of the Wegmans gochujang when making a single recipe! I always buy more than one at a time for this reason.
Chung Jung One Gochujang:
Chung Jung One is a Korean company, its American branch brings many of the popular Korean ingredients to the United States. Excitingly, the company has three different types of gochujang!!!
1. Gochujang: Korean Chili Sauce
Ingredients: Water, Rice, Red Pepper Powder, Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, Rice Wine (Water, Rice, Yeast), Garlic, Sea Salt, Vinegar, Onion, Seed Malt (Rice)
NO SOY!!! YAY!
2. Gochujang: Spicy Miso Sauce
Ingredients: Gochujang (Water, Rice, Red Pepper Powder, Sugar, Rice Wine, Rice Syrup, Salt, Garlic, Cane Sugar, Vinegar, Onion), Soybean Paste (Water, Rice, Soybean, Salt), Water, Rice Syrup, Sugar, Rice Wine, Apple Extract, Roasted Soybean Powder, Garlic, Salt, Vinegar, Sesame Oil. Allergens: Soy
3. Gochujang: Spicy Ketchup Sauce
Ingredients: Tomato Paste, Rice Syrup (Rice), Red Pepper Paste (Water, Rice, Red Pepper Powder, Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, Rice Wine, Garlic, Sea Salt, Vinegar, Onion, Rice Seed Malt), Water, Brown Rice Vinegar, Sugar, Ketchup Base [Salt, Sugar, Thickeners (Carrageenan, Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Dextrin), Spices, Soybean Oil], Modified Starch. Allergens: Soy
All three flavors are naturally gluten-free and vegan.
Compared to the Wegmans and Koko gochujang, I believe this brand has the strongest vinegar flavor.
When using the Chung Jung One brand, I recommend the first option for those wanting the most authentic taste of gochujang. I love using this when I make a sweeter, old-fashioned tteokbokki.
The other two options are a play on the traditional Korean gochujang. Both are a bit spicy. The ketchup has a more “American” taste with the tomato flavor in it.
The Miso version tastes similar to ssamjang. Miso is a traditional Japanese fermented soybean paste. Though many compare it to Korean doenjang (soybean) paste, the flavor of Miso is milder. It adds a layer of earthiness to the gochujang.
Once again, the container is a smaller squeeze bottle. While I enjoy the box style containers more, others enjoy the “squeeze-ability” of this bottle. Though the bottle doesn’t meet my preference, I still enjoy the flavor enough to look past it!
What Is Your Favorite Gluten-Free Gochujang Brand?
As we continue to try different types of gluten-free gochujang, we will add to this list. We use all three of these brands regularly.
Do you have any allergy-friendly 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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