The best gochujang


Diane and I recently started farming out recipes to friends and family, so that we could see if what made sense to us made sense to them.  One of the most surprising (and “duh!”) moments for me was realizing how difficult it is to shop for Korean ingredients when you don’t read Korean.  Living in New York City, they were able to find their way to HMart or Flushing easily enough.  The problem was when they got there and faced a wall of ingredients with very little English on them.

Classic example of a perplexing ingredient: gochujang or 고추장, frequently translated as “hot pepper paste” or “red pepper paste.”

What is Gochujang?

This is a staple of the Korean pantry, right up there with soy sauce and doenjang, or Korean fermented soybean paste.  The paste, which usually has the consistency of a thick jam, is both spicy and sweet.  It goes into ssamjang, i.e., sauce for barbecued beef and lettuce wraps; it goes into soups; it goes into stir-fries; it coats the rice and noodles in bibimbap and bibimnaengmyeon.  Koreans cannot live without gochujang.  In fact, when my mother travels outside of Korea, she carries a little tube of it in her purse.

Traditionally, every family made its own gochujang, along with its own doenjang and ganjang, or soy sauce.  Gochujang is made from fermented soybeans, similar to what’s found in doenjang, which gives both condiments that inimitable, addictive, umami flavor.  (The doenjang process is long and stinky, a post in itself.)  The fermented soybeans are combined with red chile peppers and a grain, either rice, sweet rice, or barley.  The whole paste is then put in a clay pot and aged in the sun for about a month.  You have to know your seasons and your weather — if you hit a rainy patch, it won’t work.  If you’re out of town and you can’t carefully cover and uncover for optimal sun exposure, it won’t work.  A woman I met told me that growing up in Florida, her mother was careful to rotate the pots from the sunny front of the house to the back.  You have to tend the gochujang as tenderly as you would age a cheese or a prosciutto.  Which makes it even more amazing that it’s something every family, every Korean mother, knew how to do.

That’s no longer true.  Most Koreans now live in high-rise apartments, which doesn’t really foster clay-pot fermentation.  When my sister and I lived at home, my mom made her own gochujang, but now that we’re gone, even she’s given up on making her own.

My mother now has mysterious sources “in the country” from which the gochujang comes back so strong it kicks like a mule.  Even outside Korea, in places like New Jersey, I hear rumors there are grandmothers making a little extra money selling homemade gochujang.  But for those without sources, the only option left is the Korean grocery store.

Which brings me to the main point of this post: what is the best commercially made gochujang?

And equally importantly, how can you identify it?

Identifying Gochujang

First, in this post, I am talking about gochujang, and not ssamjang or chojang, both of which are sauces made in part with gochujang.  The packaging is normally red, and if there is no English on the front label, the white import label on the back should say in English “hot pepper paste” or “red pepper paste.”

Second, learn to read Korean.  Just kidding.  (It is really easy, though.)  What I do mean to say, though, is try to learn what the major brands and labels look like, even if they only use Korean letters.  Wang is always written in the Roman alphabet as “Wang.” Chung Jung Won’s logo is a small multi-colored abstract landscape in a white square:

While Haechandle is a red rectangle with the name of the company and a jaunty slash.

The Taste-Test

Diane and I decided to test six types of gochujang, all bought in standard Korean grocery stores in New York.  We sat down with all six tubs and a plate of cucumber sticks to dip in them.

I cannot say that we tested them blind, or that we were careful to thoroughly cleanse our palate after each one.  Nor can we claim special expertise in gochujang flavor.  There is no science to our methods.

But we do have our impressions and some useful explanations, I think, of what some of these tubs of paste proclaim.  We had a hard time saying, “This is definitely the best!” but we did agree on which ones we liked better and which ones we liked least.

They ranged in price from $4.99 to $7.99, with some containers larger than others.  We didn’t factor the price heavily into the taste test because the paste lasts forever, and a couple extra bucks for a better-tasting gochujang is money very well spent.

So here they are, more or less in order of least liked to most liked:

6.  Brand: 쳥정원 (Chung Jung Won) O’Food, Organic

Special Claims: 순창 (Sunchang), meaning from the city of Sunchang, which is famous for its gochujang. Organic.

Despite the romantic lighting and the allure of “organic,” this was emphatically our least favorite.  It was pastier and grittier than the other ones, and it tasted primarily salty, neither sweet nor hot.

5.  Brand: Wang

Special Claims: 찹쌀고추장 (chapssal-gochujang), meaning made with sweet rice.  It normally has a deeper, sweeter flavor, and was more expensive for having been made with expensive sweet rice.  Now, it’s a signifier for extra special and delicious.

한국산 (hanguksan), meaning made in Korea, which is very important to Koreans for reasons that include nationalism, a belief in terroir or the flavor that comes from place, and fear of low-quality Chinese food, i.e., plastic.

This one was very smooth, but it was a little too sugary and sweet, to the point of being almost mild.  Maybe “boring” is more accurate.  We were not surprised to find out afterward that this one contained MSG.

4.  Brand: Wang

Special Claims: 태양초 (taeyangcho), meaning the peppers were sun-dried, which makes for better flavor but is also more expensive.  Also 찰고추장 (chalgochujang), which is the same thing as chapssal-gochujang.  Made in Korea.

The sun-dried option from Wang didn’t impress us any more than the none sun-dried one.  It was also on the sweet side and although it was smooth, it also tasted a bit flat.  It was spicy yet without real heat, and again, we were not surprised to find out it contained MSG.

The last three, Diane and I disagreed about which ones we liked best, but we agreed they were all quite nice.

3. for Grace, 1. for Diane  Brand: 해찬들 (Haechandle)

Special Claims: “All Korean Hot Pepper.” The back label is even more emphatic, breaking down the different ingredients and proclaiming each to be from Korea.

This one was really spicy, with a graininess that felt homey rather than off-putting.  Diane felt the flavor of hot peppers really came through and we both agreed there was a cleanness that was very appealing.  For me, though, that cleanness meant it lacked depth.  Still, a very good, proper gochujang.

2. for both of us.  Brand: Haechandle

Special Claims: 청양초 (cheongyangcho) refers to the use of a particular, very hot pepper similar to jalapeno.  In case you were wondering, this pepper makes the paste 재대로 매운 or “Appropriately Hot.”

We both wondered if we were unduly influenced by the vibrant picture of the ripening chile pepper on the label, but we liked the fresh spiciness of this one very much.  It was a bit sweeter and saltier, as well as hotter, than the other Haechandle gochujang we tried.

1. for Grace, 3. for Diane.  Brand: 청정원 (Chung Jung Won)

Special Claims: THE WORKS. Made in the city of Sunchang, sun-dried, made with sweet rice, which you must not forget is “our rice,” a.k.a. one hundred percent Korean, baby!

I liked this very much.  I thought the flavor was lovely, dark and deep (though I have no promises to keep, heh).  It was also less sweet, which I prefer, because I can then add sugar to taste.  Diane agreed it was not too sweet and quite good.  I may have been unduly influenced by the prominent promise that it was made in Sunchang.  Diane and I stopped there on our last trip to Korea, and it was so exciting, I am going to have to write a separate post about it.

So what does all this add up to?

Your local Korean grocery store may not have these exact types and brands.  We had two from Wang, two from Haechandle, and two from Chung Jung Won.  Each brand makes more types, and there are at least one or two other major brands out there as well.  We can’t say we tested the most “typical” ones as the selection can really vary from store to store.  These are some that are available online.

But we do think there are some lessons to take away from this somewhat unprofessional taste-test.

  1. Haechandle and Chung Jung Won are good, decent brands.
  2. The words Sunchang (the city), taeyangcho (sun-dried), and chalgochujang (sweet rice gochujang) imply quality, but they don’t guarantee it.
  3. To some extent, “the best gochujang” is a matter of personal preference.  For me, less sweet is very important.  For you, the sweetness might be a plus.
  4. Yet in the end, no gochujang will fail you.  The quality of the gochujang can turn a stew from a good stew to a great one.  But none of these would have made a bad stew.  They were all pungent, salty, spicy, and sweet, adjectives that all add up to tasty in my book.
  5. So don’t be paralyzed by the choices!  Take a chance, take one home, and try it.

And if you ever do get a chance to taste some homemade gochujang, go for it.  It may not be exactly what you like best, but there will be a character to it that you will never find in one of these plastic tubs.


125 Responses to “The best gochujang”

  1. Don Cuevas Says:

    Years ago, I would buy this stuff in Kansas City, MO, and had no clear idea how to use it. I remember using some straight as a marinade for some pork which we barbecued. It was overwhelmingly intense.

    Later, it was avilable at Sam’s Oriental Foods, on Asher Avenue, Little Rock, AR. That store and the nearby Van Lang VIetnamese Cuisine restaurant are two of a few things I greatly miss of Little Rock.

    I’m a big fan of fermented products, and I’d try it again, if I could find it in Mexico. I’d also have to find space on the already jammed condiment shelf of our fridge.

    Don Cuevas

  2. Madeline Says:

    Awesome post! Now I know which one to hot peper paste to get 🙂 I never recognize the brands – the logo pictures help!

  3. Tamar Says:

    You missed one….Sempio’s Taeyangcho Gochujang. I have a 3 kg bucket in my fridge right now. It has quite a bit of sugar as well as wheat flour and sweet rice flour, so it’s on the sweet side.

    I also look at the carb grams, some gochujangs have 8-9 grams of carbs per serving but some are only 3-4 grams of carbs per serving. If you like it sweeter, get the higher carb. If you like it hotter and less sweet, look for lower carbs. : )

  4. East Asia Blog Round-Up : 15/7/2010 « Eye on East Asia Says:

    […] One Fork, One Spoon – Grace tries out several different brands of gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) to find out which one is her favourite. […]

  5. Grace Says:

    Don Cuevas, I know the Zona Rosa part of Mexico City has a Korean population and you might be able to find some there. Thanks, Madeline! And Tamar, I know I’ve missed SO MANY. Do you like the Sempio kind? The carb tip is a good one!

  6. Tamar Says:

    The sempio stuff is alright. it’s as you said, “no gochujang will fail you. The quality of the gochujang can turn a stew from a good stew to a great one. But none of these would have made a bad stew.”

    Also, many of us are limited by whatever kinds your particular grocery store has to offer.

  7. annamatic Says:

    wow, THANKS! And I just so happen to have the 청정원 one in my fridge but I shall have to try the 해찬들 one too.

    Actually, my favorite gochujang is the the one that my friend’s mom makes (she uses raspberries to sweeten hers; i thought that was so novel! is it typical?); but it’s great to know where to turn when I no longer have access to the homemade kind….

    Could you guys do the same thing for doenjang 된장 ?? I can’t for the life of me seem to find a storebought variety that is 1) stinky enough 2) not too salty….

  8. Grace Says:

    Yes, we did taste six different doenjang, too, I just need to write it all up! It was actually even harder to distinguish the store-bought stuff.

    When I was in Sunchang, I tasted gochujang that had maesil (ume) plum flavor–it was awesome, kind of tart and sweet at the same time.

  9. Dave Says:

    My aunt makes her own because MSG gives her pretty bad heartburn. I’ve only seen a limited variety on offer in the local shop and most of them have MSG. I’ll check but I think it’s chung jung won’s. Usually I don’t eat it neat, only when I lick the spoon!

  10. Grace Says:

    I don’t know how good the U.S. is about enforcing accurate ingredient lists for imported foods, but the Chung Jung Won label on my gochujang doesn’t list MSG.

    By the way, Dave, I don’t think I ever told you I tried the red wine in galbi thing! I think it was you that suggested it. It tasted really meaty, in a good way, but the Americans preferred the Coke marinade 🙂

  11. angela Says:

    wow grace! this gochujang experiment is AWESOME! something you’ve always wondered about but never really think to try!!!!

  12. Grace Says:

    Angela, I am dying to know–what brand do YOU use?

  13. keletam Says:

    thanks for the great informations,,, am found of korean food but because am muslim there are lots of things i can’t eat and i find your Vegetarian section so helpful……..i found days ago that some gochujang brands have alchol is that true ????!!! and could you plz tell me which of the gochujang you have doen’t have alchol….. thank you very much ^^

  14. Nicole Says:

    Thank you for sharing the information. I am a fan of Korean food. Gochujang was the first Korean seasoning I learned from my Korean friend when I was in the US, and I fell in love with it right away.

    I also care about MSG used in gochujang. I bought one Haechandle from the Korean grocery store in Singapore. The taste is good and very fragrant in cooking, kind of spicy though. The label was all in Korean, I didn’t know it contains MSG until I bought a second one from a local grocery store where food sold all have English labels. And I found other products of the same brand also contain MSG.

    Please share more with us Korean food brands which only use natural, healthy ingredients. Thank you!

  15. Grace Says:

    Hi Keletam, of the brands I have in my fridge now, the Wang brands do not contain any alcohol. The others do indicate the use of rice wine. If you are buying in the U.S., the labels should state in English what the ingredients are. Nicole, Haechandle makes a couple of different types. The two that I have in my fridge now, which are the ones I describe above, don’t seem to have any MSG in them.

    I will definitely keep track and continue to share information as I find out!

  16. keletam Says:

    thank you very much !!!

  17. Rae Says:

    This was a very interesting article! I am trying to find a good gochujang without MSG. I saw on one online store’s website that this Chung Jung Won brand does contain MSG. Is this true? If so, which would you recommend as the best without MSG?

  18. May Says:

    whoo! I just happened to have 고추장 from 청정원! lucky me! haha
    Good thing I bought that brand. I seem to like it for the same reasons you do. It’s not as sweet

  19. Gochujang | Aziatische-ingredië Says:

    […] van One Fork One Spoon deed vergelijkend warenonderzoek en vond het potje dat ik ook in mijn ijskast heb staan (zie foto […]

  20. Irene Says:

    I am estatic that someone finally post a blog on these Gochujang labels.
    Thank you.
    Imma to keep a note in my purse so I can refer to when I’m at the Korean’s market. Used to spend hours figuring out the Korean words but still ended up buying the wrong pepper paste. They were more like miso….

  21. Hilary Says:

    Great post. Can you please tell me where in Manhattan and/or Brooklyn I can buy gochujang? Thanks!

  22. Greg Says:

    Bravo ladies, excellent reporting! It’s amazing what one can find on the internet. Ever since I tried my oldest Auntie’s home made gochujang (she actually had meat in hers!) I’ve come to realize there is a big difference in taste. But alas, my mother passed when I was young, and I never had any sisters ~ thus, I don’t know how to make my own….so I will try and find one of your suggestions as the one in my fridge is running low. I’m a west coaster and the one I have is a taeyangcho as well as chapssal-gochujang (thanks for the translations…I’m a 3rd generation Korean and even tho’ I took a quarter of korean in college, I can barely read). I’m not sure of the brand but it’s distributed by a company called Migave in Torrance, CA.

  23. Bibimbap: In Search of the Perfect Gochujang | Multiculturiosity Says:

    […] have to be good enough. If you buy from a store, or want to learn more about gochujang, check out One Fork, One Spoon for a taste […]

  24. Minimally Invasive » Spicy Mushroom Soup Says:

    […] secret ingredient in this bowl of bliss is gochujang, a fermented condiment heavy on the red pepper. Looking for an expiration date on the jar […]

  25. vietfoodrecipes Says:

    Great post with pictures and brand names. It really helped

  26. Rob 禪狼 Says:

    This was a treat to read even though I was not looking for gochujang. I found this sort of accidentally while searching for the missing ingredient in my (quick) kimchi which I have made a half-dozen times or so. I love the detail that you have gone into in preparing this report. I was actually looking for Gochugaru 고춧가루 and 紅辣椒粉- and looking up both the Korean and Chinese chracters so I could copy and take them to the market. I read a little Chinese and no Korean but that is no help if I don’t know what I need in the first place. Most of the shops here have items with no english at all so it helps to be prepared.

  27. Grace Says:

    Thanks! I don’t read Chinese at all, but I’ve done that as well–written down the characters and tried to match them to labels in the grocery store. Good luck!

  28. Andy Says:

    This is a great write up. I was looking this up to make the sauce for Samgyeopsal and this has helped a lot. Thanks!

  29. Roasted Korean pork belly with topping of asparagus and radish recipe Says:

    […] My mom suggested pairing the pork belly with a dressing she likes to use – a mixture of gochujang (a Korean spicy red pepper paste) and vinegar. As easy as it is to prepare, the flavors are intense […]

  30. Sissi Says:

    Wow! I am impressed by the information you give about gochujang. Thank you very much! I am very happy to discover your interesting blog. Even though I have been addicted to gochujang for at least two years, I put it in many non-Korean dishes and products and frankly am an almost beginner in cooking Korean, so I will be happy to learn from you!

  31. Grace Says:

    Thanks, Sissi!

  32. Michelle Krell Kydd Says:

    Awesome post that is equally charming and informative! I’ve been researching condiments for people w/o a sense of smell (anosmia) since most can taste hot, sour, salty, sweet, bitter and umami. Gochujang hits all the right notes w/o the bitterness; very important for anosmics.

  33. Jennifer Says:

    Thank you! I’m an American living in Korea and have been trying to learn the details of this paste. Been thinking about going to Sunchang, just to see it made 🙂 I bought some paste that just wasn’t right, and wondered if it was actually a different type of Gochujang. Ever since, I was hesitant to buy another until I knew a little more. Great info!

  34. Grace Says:

    So glad it was helpful! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about any other foods.

  35. jonathan Says:

    hi. can someone please tell me where i could buy some tonight or tomorrow morning in downtown manhattan? thanks!!

  36. Grace Says:

    Your best bet is hmart on 32nd btw 5th and 6th Ave.

    (sent by phone)

  37. In Search of Perfect Gochujang – Endgame | Multiculturiosity Says:

    […] brand of red pepper powder without the MSG is called “Haechandle” (it’s got a red top on the plastic container and a green jalapeno on the front) and […]

  38. bonita Says:

    I recently attempted to make a spicy noodle dish I saw in a drama by using regular chili sauce and honey and soy sauce, but I wondered how much better the dish would taste if I used gochujang. I didn’t want to just choose one at the shop so thank you for your post.

  39. Grace Says:

    You’re very welcome! I’m so glad this post has been so helpful.

  40. Dianne Says:

    Thank you for this. I’m making Korean short ribs from an recipe, and wasn’t sure what I would be looking for at the market (confused it with ssamjang), so I clipped your post to Evernote and took the whole thing with me. There were several options there, so I got the one you liked best.

  41. Grace Says:

    So glad it was helpful!

  42. David Sternlight Says:

    Annie Chun is now importing gochujang from Korea in small squeeze bottles available in many mainstream Los Angeles supermarkets. It’s the only brand I’ve tried, so I don’t know how it compares with the above brands but I find it quite tasty, At a guess this wide distribution should increase its popularity, especially if enough curious non-Koreans try it and/or Chun mounts a publicity campaign. I haven’t yet decided if it should replace my preservative-free Thai sriracha sauce, which I have become addicted to, or instead to supplement that sauce as another condiment.

    With the popularity of bulgoki food trucks here, and increasing awareness of different Kimchi versions, some home-made by food trucks, and some commercial, I expect to see a big increase in interest in Korean food. I’ve recently become fond of bibimbap as well, having been introduced to it by foodie posts on the web (Yelp, etc.).

    I think you’re right about learning Hanggul. I once flew coast to coast sitting next to a Korean professor who explained to me the three parts of Korean characters. I hadn’t realized before that how distinct in structure Hanggul was from Kanji and Chinese,

    You’re also correct about the stinky process of making some condiments. When my younger brother was in Korea during the war, he reported that you could tell you were coming near a village from the smell of the fermenting pots. There are also other cultures that prize stinky foods; Durian comes to mind. De gustibus, etc,

  43. Grace Says:

    I don’t know much about Annie Chun, but I think that company is genius for repackaging the toasted, salted strips of seaweed as a healthy snack. I see people (albeit in Brooklyn) snacking on them all the time! Thanks for the comments and the follow!

  44. David Sternlight Says:

    My wife is addicted to the toasted seaweed from Korea. We recently had a conversation in which she worried about possible radiation until I told her they came from Korea, not Japan

  45. David Sternlight Says:

    By the way, I’m fascinated by the widespread interest, in Korea, in the Jewish Talmud as training for logical thinking, Take that, Euclid!

  46. David Sternlight Says:

    And while I’ve got your attention, great piece on Korean cookware. Here in LA, you can often find free rice cookers if you buy 5 pounds or so of Persian rice in a Persian or Kosher market (lots of Iranian Jews here). Dunno how they would be for Korean-style rice cooking, but they make great Persian rice with “Tadig”–the crusty bottom, considered a delicacy by Persians and eaten with vegetable stew (Ghaimeh or Gormeh Sabzi)

    Best piece on Roman pizza I’ve seen in a while.

    How about a review of widely available brands of Kimchi? There’s a little old lady in LA’s Koreatown who sells home-made, but it’s not always available.


  47. Grace Says:

    Thanks, David!

    That’s so fascinating about Persian food. Koreans love that crusty bottom also, but I’ve heard in Japan, that’s a sign of being a bad cook!

    I wonder how many brands of kimchi are actually sold nationally. There are those vacuum-packed foil bags that I think are imported, but I’m pretty sure my local stores sell kimchi that’s locally made. I’ll have to investigate!

  48. David Sternlight Says:

    By the way the reason the “little old lady’s” Kimchi isn’t always available is that she was written up in the LA Times a few years ago, and demand jumped.

  49. With a Glass Says:

    […] with highly addictive umami taste.(Click here to find a more than complete gochujang guide on One Fork, One Spoon blog). They can make a good lunch, if served with a green salad, but they are most of all good and […]

  50. John Mangino Says:

    I love this stuff! I put it on almost everything! We had a short lived Korean restaurant here (Shenandoah Valley, Virginia) For some reason we have a ton of Chinese and Thai restaurants but the Korean one didn’t last. Broke our hearts because it was the real deal. Run by a family from Korea. I had discovered kimchi many years ago but can never find good kimchi and the Mom would make something called kimchi pajong (SP?) It was like a pancake with kimchi in it. HEAVEN! She also introduced us to these noodle type stuff that was made of fish cake. I miss them.
    Ha! Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble. The post just made me very hungry.

  51. David Sternlight Says:

    After an initial flirtation I’ve given up on GCJ except for Annie Chun’s “sauce”. All the brands I could find in Korean markets are heavily loaded with that deadly, fat-producing corn syrup or equivalent. Chun’s is really a thinner product without that as its main ingredient, Oh, well, back to Sriracha (the real thing not that chemical abomination, Huy Fong).

    Pity, because I’m sure before big Agribusiness, Koreans made GCJ from more healthy ingredients.

  52. Koreana Kitchen in Walnut Creek – Foodhoe's Foraging Says:

    […] good drizzled over almost everything.  If you are unfamiliar with it, here is a very informative post on the fabulous One Fork One Spoon blog written by Grace […]

  53. The Drunken Sandwich {Avocado Sandwich with a Bangarang} Brazen Kitchen Says:

    […] I used to hoard everytime I board Asiana Airlines. It is available in Asian grocery stores and this blog has a good primer on it. However, if you really can’t get your hands on it — Sriracha will […]

  54. Wine and Love v04 | Poo Corner: Adventures of Hungry Monster Says:

    […] Although I guess I’m sad I didn’t check the label first. MSG man.. Check this out!! The best Gochujang. I have the Wang brand.. […]

  55. Spicy Korean Chicken Stew (Dak Bokkumtang) Says:

    […] tablespoons Korean fermented hot pepper paste called Gochujang* (you can find this at any Asian or Korean grocery store in the spice/sauce […]

  56. Spicy Korean Chicken Stew (Dak Bokkumtang) | Easiest Way To Learn Korean Says:

    […] tablespoons Korean fermented hot pepper paste called Gochujang* (you can find this at any Asian or Korean grocery store in the spice/sauce […]

  57. Kimchi Fried Rice | coolcookstyle Says:

    […] that it can be a little overwhelming as to which one to pick. This is why I love this post from One Fork, One Spoon. As Diane and Grace point out, it’s hard to shop for Korean ingredients if you don’t […]

  58. gochujang taste test - - Network Panda – cPanel Web hosting, PHP, MySQL, unlimited disk space and bandwidth Says:

    […] View more posts in: […]

  59. presa1200 Says:

    Hi there, i’m from malaysia and i love korean kimchi very much. i wish to ask does the Chung Jung Won gochujang contain any ethyl alcohol as preservative? just wondering about this because i’m going to give this to my friend as gift. thank you!

  60. Chae-ri Song Says:

    Originally from the USA, I live in the UK, where Korean food/ ingredients are difficult to find. It took me 12 years just to find an oriental shop that sold kimchi. 😦 I also recently was able to buy some red pepper paste and some miso paste at an online shop. However, after purchasing, I had to throw the miso paste away, because it contained MSG, which I am highly allergic to. I do not see MSG on the red pepper paste, but I also know that the UK is not always precise when listing ingredients. And, they some times use other names for MSG. I am worried that I will have to throw this one away as well. Can you please help? The ingredients are listed in English. They are, (rice, red pepper powder, corn syrup, water, mixed seasoning, salt, Isomaltooligosaccharide,, fermented soybean, spirits, glutinous rice, yeast powder, seed malt.) I do not see MSG, but I just want to make certain. It is Chung Jung Won Sunchang, with the gold lid. Also, is there a miso paste that does not contain MSG. Thank you.

  61. Says:

    This is awesome. I’m in korea now, scoping out the best gochujang to stock up on. Thanks for this!! Is there any advice you can lend about awesome gochujangs that you can only get in Korea?

  62. Grace Says:

    Hi Steven, Lucky you, in Korea! I’d go to a big market, either a street market or a fancy depart more store basement (pricier) and them taste different kinds. They’re very happy to give samples, and you can find ones made with some interesting ingredients, like plums. I’m doing this by phone so can’t find the link now, but if you search gochujang on this blog, you’ll also find a post about our visit to a famous gochujang village a couple hours south of Seoul. Good luck and have fun!

    (sent by phone)

  63. From the Market: This & That Edition | Amy Roth Photo Says:

    […] carrots, asparagus, and shredded spinach and arugula — and thinned out a little of my homemade gochujang with water to make a simple dressing. An over-easy egg would not be a bad idea on top, but this was […]

  64. Angelina Says:

    do you know of a gluten free gochujang or a recipe that is gluten free? i really like gochujang sauce, but i can’t have it because i have celiac disease… any ideas or substitutions that would be similar to the taste of gochujang?

  65. Grace Says:

    Hi Angelina, I think it should be possible to make gochujang gluten-free because at its most basic, it’s made with red chili powder, glutinous rice powder, and fermented soybeans (though most recipes also include malt barley). But to actually make it at home is a pretty arduous and long process. And I just read that it’s pretty hard to find soybeans that aren’t contaminated with wheat and gluten. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.

  66. violet Says:

    Thank you for your comparison!! I bought Grace’s favorite Chung Jung Won (non-organic) and though I have nothing to compare it to, it’s delicious. I cooked Dak Galbi for the first time and it came out yummy. Thanks!!

  67. David Sternlight Says:

    One wonders if there is a healthy food movement in Korea that would result in a gochujang that is low sodium, no MSG, no corn syrup.

  68. Diane Says:

    David, Interesting point. This morning, I looked at the ingredient list of all of the gochujangs in the store and could not find one that did not have corn syrup listed in the top 5. I would love to find one that has no corn syrup in it, and it would be a bigger bonus to find one that was no MSG and low sodium. I am now on the hunt! Best, Diane

  69. Angela Says:

    I bought a gochujang at my local Korean market which didn’t contain MSG or corn syrup. It came in a smaller clear plastic box with a black square top. It cost around $7. I can’t recall the brand 😦 It was very good. I went back to get more, but none could be found. There was only a version with bits of soybeans in it (like crunchy peanut butter) that ended up tasting less like peppers. Now I can’t find any without corn syrup. I threw up my hands and bought Wiselect (distributed by Lotte) because it was the best deal and is MSG free. I got 2 1kg packs for $5. It’s ok, but as it contains wheat it tastes a bit floury.
    There must be a lot of hyper tension in Korea if they eat this stuff as often as you suggest. The sodium content is ridiculous. Thanks for the tips and reviews. This post is definitely getting bookmarked. I’ll look for these brands when I run out.

  70. valerie stella Says:

    Really nice of you all to post this…..great food reporting! Thanx!

  71. jpr54 Says:

    are there any kosher brands of gochujanng?

  72. Grace Says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t know of any, though I imagine if there was enough demand from the market, it wouldn’t be hard to make a version that is certified kosher.

  73. David Sternlight Says:

    With all the Koreans in Korea studying the Jewish Talmud, I would expect some brand would have capitalized on it. I’ve emailed the Chabad Rabbi in Seoul to see if he knows anything. Stay tuned.

  74. David Sternlight Says:

    By the Grace of G-d

    Dear David,

    Thanks for contacting us.

    We found one company and it is most probably kosher. I have to see two more suppliers to make sure it is %100 kosher.

    A Jewish Korean lady will try to bring it to the US.

    With blessings,

    Rabbi Osher Litzman

    Chabad of Korea
    Your Jewish Embassy • 010.7730.3770

  75. Grace Says:

    That’s amazing! Mabel tov!

  76. Just Some Mushrooms | Amy Roth Photo Says:

    […] with bok choy and garlic, drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve over hot rice with some gochujang and kimchi and […]

  77. happydemic Says:

    @Angelina, gochujang is not normally suitable for coeliacs.

    1) Traditional gochujang uses malted barley to sweeten the rice flour. Amylase in the malt turns starch into sugar – but barley malt means discernible quantities of gluten. Sunchang Chung Jung Won is an example.

    2) Some brands use wheat instead of rice (purists frown at this), giving them high levels of gluten. Haechandle is an example.

    These issues are on top of any concerns about cross-contamination of soya etc.

    Those of us who can’t live without Korean food can make our own gluten-free gochujang, but this is not straightforward. See the discussion at starting from Unnati’s comment dated April 30th, 2012.

  78. blogtest – From the Market: This & That Edition Says:

    […] carrots, asparagus, and shredded spinach and arugula — and thinned out a little of my homemade gochujang with water to make a simple dressing. An over-easy egg would not be a bad idea on top, but this was […]

  79. Minimally Invasive Just Some Mushrooms - Minimally Invasive Says:

    […] with bok choy and garlic, drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve over hot rice with some gochujang and kimchi and […]

  80. Simon Ong Says:

    Can anyone tell me where I can buy TAEYANGCHO GOCHUJANANG in Singapore.

  81. Grace Says:

    One of these stores in Singapore would likely have it, since it’s a big brand:

  82. David Sternlight Says:

    Finally found a relatively healthy Gochujang with no corn sweetener, corn syrup or MSG. Found it this evening in my neighborhood Ralphs. Wang brand from Korea. red Box, label evtirely in English. ingredients: Red Pepper Powder, Wheat Flour, grain of Wheat, Fructose, Salt, cooking Rice Wine. Label says no added MSG., All Natural.

    Label says No added MSG, All Natural.imported by Wang Globalnet of Vernon, CA and Brooklyn, NY, Serving suggestion is BiBimBap.

  83. Minimally Invasive Field to Feast: Corn - Minimally Invasive Says:

    […] In fact, all of the ingredients are spelled out in the names: Roasted Garlic-Miso Butter and Gochujang Butter. I thought the corn looked unfinished once it was slathered with the butter, so I sprinkled […]

  84. David Sternlight Says:

    Dunno how we got onto GShock, but Costco has started carrying my ideal watch. Citizen, solar eco-drive, radio controlled,, extremely accurate even when no WWV radio signal for several days (unlike Casio). Handsome black color with metal band and unique closure. Pricey, though.

  85. Grace Says:

    I think it’s spam! I don’t want to make everyone type in a “captcha” but appreciate your non-spam tips on watches!

  86. David Sternlight Says:

    Found another relatively healthy Gochujang on Amazon: Maeli.
    Ingredients rice, sticky rice, chilly paste, soy bean, salt
    Dunno if the chilly paste contains MSG.

  87. David Sternlight Says:

    Found some chogochujang in an L.A. Korean market. Though aimed at raw fish-type dishes, it gives a nice sesame-flavorful mild heat to beef dishes, such as rotini and meatballs. Brand–Ottogi. I am starting to get the hang of Hangul labels (pun intended) though the stylized cursive-like characters took a bit longer. Wikipedia is helpful, giving both block Hangul and English nouns for many dishes, sauces, etc.

  88. David Sternlight Says:

    To clarify, Wikipedia gives the Hangul, Latin character version of the Hangul, and English translation. Good job,

  89. David Sternlight Says:

    Once one knows the code ( Hangul symbols are mostly composed of three-element syllabic characters, not ideographs as some Westerners might first suspect,) it becomes rather straightforward. In this respect is is along the lines of Japanese Katakana and Hiragama, rather than Kanji. Of course I am not telling Hangul readers anything they don’t know. I owe my own knowledge to a Korean college professor who was my seatmate on a transcontinental flight, and it took him less than a minute to explain it. Thanks to that nameless traveler.

  90. David Sternlight Says:

    While I’m on the subject of things Korean, for years I passed schools in LA called Han Kook Academy or similar. I wondered who this guy Kook was who was apparently a famous educator or school founder. Then I learned that Hankook was the locational noun for Korea, apparently used as an adjective. I next learned that it was often anglicized to Hangook. That explained the origin of “gooks” for Koreans, used by US soldiers during the Korean War, and put a non-pejorative gloss on the usage. Or am I over-interpreting?

  91. David Sternlight Says:

    Apologies for any unintended offense in the above. Despite its origins, “gook” has become derogatory in many (most?) contexts. It’s a bit like the history of “kike” as a derogatory term for my people. That originated harmlessly enough at Ellis Island, when religious Jews, refusing to make an “x” on forms because of it’s evocation of the cross, made a little circle instead. The Yiddish for that is kikeleh, and was originally used by the English speaking authorities there to mean those who made a circle instead of an x.

  92. Smoke @ ICC : TMBBQ Says:

    […] on the side. The brisket preparation was a simple salt and pepper rub, but with the addition of gochujang – red pepper paste – made by event sponsor Chung Jung One. Dady thought it might have been the […]

  93. faa Says:

    I would like to know if there is non fermented gochujang and no alcohol ingredient included. Please reply to this as I need the answer as soon as possible. Thanks!

  94. Barbara Says:

    I was very happy to read this blog because I was able to go to a Korean market and pick Brand: 청정원 (Chung Jung Won) without knowing anything about the Korean language, red pepper paste or Kim Chi. I looked at the logo as you suggested.
    I made the Kim Chi using it and I’ve just tasted it – it’s been fermenting for about 2 weeks. Delicious. I love it. Just added another cabbage to the mix to tone it down a little but it was still delicious in its hot state. I thank you for all your research. Keep up the good work.

  95. karen eliot Says:

    Jansal Valley makes a good gochujang and it doesn’t have, msg, corn syrup or wheat. Here’s the Amazon link:

  96. FRIED RICE | kimchi, perilla leaves, chili paste | AT BURNING DEGREES Says:

    […] Finally, gochujang. This is a traditionally home-fermented chili paste that’s ubiquitous in Korean cooking. But you’ll find some brands at the grocery store containing a variety of dubious ingredients (and a lot of corn syrup). Ideally you’re not seeing much other than chili peppers, soybeans, rice, salt, and sugar. One Fork One Spoon does a taste test of some common store brands here. […]

  97. Says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that
    I have really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed
    and I hope you write again soon!

  98. Tim Ivers Says:

    I have a lady I work with who’s mother makes it, and it is simply AMAZING! Im trying to have her sell it to me but she’s very secretive about giving it out to anyone outside her family. Fingers crossed!

  99. Eva Says:

    Hi, I have been searching high and low for a recipe on how to make gochujang from scratch, including fermenting. (Not using store-bought meju powder). Can anyone help?

  100. Peggy Says:

    Chung Jung Won makes a gochujang with roasted beef for bibimbap. Does the squeeze bottle need to be stored in the fridge after opening? Do all gochujangs need to be stored in the fridge?
    Also, is it gochujang that is used in ssamjang? Or do you have to mix gochujang with other ingredients to make ssamjang? Thanks!

  101. Joel Says:

    I live right next door to a Chinese market, one of a few in Pittsburgh. I haven’t found any Korean markets yet so I take what I can get. The gochujang that they stocked at this market was terrible, though. More like spicy ketchup. Thin, runny paste with almost no flavor whatsoever. I was really, really disappointed. Looks like it will be online purchasing for me.

  102. reklamy lubin Says:

    Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Many thanks

  103. Get Your Gochujang On | Intrepid Pantry Says:

    […] every Korean grocery store carries no less than 5000 varieties, I recommend that you read this fantastic blog post on the topic, which includes a taste […]

  104. Economist Says:

    Found a great new Gochujang on Amazon. No corn syrup, no MSG. Comes In a beautful red plastic flask. Labeling all in English. Chung Jung One Brand. Vegan, Gluten free.

  105. Economist Says:

    For continuity for those following this thread, “Economist” is my pseudonym.
    David Sternlight.

  106. Economist Says:

    For those who care for authenticity, Chung Jung One comes from Korea by way of Daesang America in Hackensack, NJ.

  107. Economist Says:

    For the correspondent asking about Chung Jung Won, which I assume is the same as Chung Jung One, my bottle says refrigerate after opening.

  108. Economist Says:

    For a picture of the product check out

  109. Dennis Says:

    Gochujang from CJ Foods…definitely worth the try.

  110. benefits of garlic Says:

    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this blog’s articles daily along with a mug of coffee.|

  111. lgbrowne Says:

    I’m very late to the party, but this post helped me out today! I needed gochujang, but the store clerk was not familiar with it. I was able to identify it based on this post. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a choice in brands, but I was so about to buy the wrong stuff. Thanks!

  112. Charlene Says:

    Are these shelf stable or are they found in the frig section? Thanks!

  113. Grace Says:

    They are shelf stable.

    On Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 11:44 AM, One Fork, One Spoon wrote:


  114. M Says:

    What are the Korean characters for MSG? I bought tubes of gochujang from Korean air, with ingredients only listed in Korean. I wonder if msg is why it tastes so good!?

    Ps Thankyou for your post, I just saw the Korean film “weekends” (great film about ‘g-voice’, a homosexual choir. A choir which is also singing it’s part in challenging homophobia in Korea) at the Berlinale film festival in Berlin so I am again inspired with my chilli paste!

  115. Nadim bhari Says:

    I m nadim m from india nice article I like korean food when I was in Malaysia first time I was eat korean food and I like it so much it was best so I wana ask you that I want hot pepper paste but without alcohol because I was see most of paste are with alcohol is compulsory? Can you please help me that wich one is without alcohol?

    Thank you

  116. Hannah Says:

    Hi. I realise that this is an older post but I wanted to let you know how useful it was for me. Before I read your post I bought some gochujang from a Korean food store about 5 minutes from my place (I’m lucky). And I was never sure it was the best brand. Well it seems I close your No 1! I’m not a fan of sweet overtones either. So thank you. Hannah, Canberra, Australia.

  117. Grace Says:

    Thank you! Really appreciate your kind words.

    On Fri, May 20, 2016 at 4:30 PM, One Fork, One Spoon wrote:


  118. Edward J Says:

    Hi Grace and Diane,
    Thank you for your research and recommendations (which I have followed). Which of the brands is unpasturized? I have looked at
    the label on the one I bought (Haechandle), but it doesn’t say. It was in the refrigerated section. However, my friend bought the identical product and it was unrefrigerated. I think you are losing
    much of the health benefits of fermentation by pasturization; but
    of course it has a shorter shelf life.
    Thank you,
    Edward J
    7/31/2016 PM – Bay Area, California

  119. The best gochujang | One Fork, One Spoon | ibakeicookieat Says:

    […] Source: The best gochujang | One Fork, One Spoon […]

  120. BallPtPenTheif Says:

    I went down the gochujang rabbit hole buying tubs of the stuff and putting it on every meal. i found myself tweaking each one differently depending on their use as an ingredient or a condiment. as a condiment, i prefer sweet and tangy.

    so after all of that messing around, i ended coming back to the first gochujang that i ever tried.. Annie Chun’s Gochujang. yeah, that you can by at Walmart.

    it’s probably the least complex choice but it excels as a purely condiment gochujang that’s probably too sweet. i loved the other ones and know they’re better but at some point I have to concede that my taste buds are still anchored in American tendencies no matter how much i love korean food.

    tub gochu for cooking… Annie Chun’s as the best ketchup replacement on any dish i can imagine.

    (late night guilty pleasure: Hawaiian sweet roll, sharp cheddar cheese, and gochujang)

  121. Anna Says:

    Gochujang makes really good sauce for my fried chicken but it smells really strong. I can’t really describe what it smells like, I guess really fermented? Does every gochujang smell like this? How do I get rid of the smell?

  122. Grace Says:

    I don’t think you can — it smells fermented because it IS fermented. I don’t even notice the smell but I grew up with it!

    On Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 11:57 PM, One Fork, One Spoon wrote:


  123. plumber muswell hill Says:

    How can I choose how many posts shown on my blogger homepage?

  124. Virgilsnify Says:

  125. Abigail Says:

    Awesome post, thank you! I love this stuff and I’m eager to try your #1 choice. Thanks for taking the time to taste-test these.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: