This is how Korean moms make Gochujang at home every year in spring. This is a very authentic and traditional way to make Korean chili paste! If you have the ingredients and some time, this somewhat long process is totally worth it!
What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a Fermented chili paste and NOT a sauce.
Yes, Gochujang is NOT a sauce ladies and gentlemen. The one you add on Bibimbap IS a gochujang sauce because the Gochujang paste is mixed with vinegar, sugar, water and any additional seasoning to make a sweet gochujang sauce.
Gochujang is a fermented red chili paste that Koreans love to add to sauces, marinades, stews, soups.. just about on everything.
If you asked me 5 years ago, whether I make my own Gochujang, my response would have been something like – “No…..I don’t do that…that’s too much work.. oh, only our mothers did that.”
But here we are, in my 6th year of blogging; I have already attended two Gochujang making classes (in Korea last February) so that I could make it at home this year. During my recent stay in Korea, I got to taste some great homemade gochujang and deonjang and I realized store bought gochujang and homemade gochujang is just not the same. In addition, I have also discovered that not all gochujang sold at stores are the same.
KNOW what’s in your Gochujang!
Did you know that often a not-so-good gochujang has corn syrup, starch syrup and even hydrolyzed vegetable protein as part of their ingredients??? A respectable gochujang should only have chili pepper powder (gochukaru), fermented soy bean powder (mejukaru), sweet rice/rice/brown rice/barley/wheat flour, rice syrup, malt barley syrup or powder and salt.
And even if it has corn syrup, at least don’t buy one that has corn syrup as it’s first ingredient. I mean..imagine.. how much corn syrup that is!! Sometimes some alcohol is added to stop the fermentation process but that’s it. So please select your gochujang carefully.
In Korea, there are many great quality gochujang in the market but sadly almost none of them are sold in the US… or outside of Korea.
You can make Gochujang only at certain times of the year!
Gochujang is typically made in the colder winter months between the end of November to February in Korea. It is because the 4~6 month fermentation needs to occur in FULL SUN but BEFORE the very hot and rainy summer starts in Korea. For California, I thought February would be a great time since by then hopefully rain is getting lighter and there are more sunny days. So when I was getting ready to move back to the US in 2014, I bought and shipped Korean gochukaru (고추가루 red chili powder), mejukaru (메주가루 fermented soybean powder) and cheonilyeom (천일염 solar sea salt) via sea with our moving stuff so I could make it in CA. And most importantly, I also purchased a Korean hangari/onggi vessel where I could ferment the gochujang in. This particular vessel was made by one of the few remaining Korean artisans who is deemed by the government to be part of Korean’s national heritage.
I had hoped to make it last Spring but because our shipment got stuck at sea for 3 months – due to some labor strike at the LA ports – when we got everything it was already too warm.
BTW, My husband just shook his head when I told him I had shipped these things last year so I could make gochujang this year, he said “you are just a little crazy.. ;)” HAHA…AM I?? Maybe.. I mean, I guess I have to be a little crazy about Korean food and about blogging to be doing this for over 5 years!?! Right??? 🙂 😉
Invite a friend to your Gochujang making party!!
Whenever you are planning to cook something that takes many hours, I always say – Invite a friend! That way you have company during the wait times and you have another set of hands which is especially handy for a blogger who sometimes wishes she had 3 hands!! And in my particular case, I also had another brain with great wisdom and tips when I needed it!!
For my gochujang making day, I invited my friend Judith. Since the very beginning of my blog, Judith has been my #1 follower with always the most wonderful comments and questions. Over the years we started conversing through emails and when we found out that we both live in the SF Bay area, we had to meet. And we have become total foodie friends since then. BTW, I will write more on another post about our first meetings.
But going back to gochujang, I am so happy that she joined me for the day – I mean I never thought I would meet someone who was as excited as me about making the very uniquely aromatic but amazing gochujang at home.
Difference between fine and coarse gochugaru (Korean red chili powder):
I meant to write about this long ago but well, better late than never!
- Coarse Korean red chili powder (Gulkeun Gochugaru 굵은 고추가루) is what is used the most in Korean cooking these days and over 90% of Gochugaru sold at markets are probably coarse. Traditionally coarse red chili powder was used in making all kinds of Kimchi except for water Kimchi (mul kimchi 물김치). Coarse gochugaru gives you brighter red color, gives you a more clean flavor with even a bit of a zing. It is also used to make jjigae, guk and namul.
- Fine Korean red chili powder (Goun Gochugaru 고운 고추가루) is definitely needed in making gochujang and then for mul kimchi. Also used to make refined sauces and sometimes used for moosaengche when you don’t want to see the little chili flakes. Fine gochugaru produces less clean almost kind of a muddy taste and thus not usually used for fresh vegetables. But for stews and soups that is what you may want.
Traditional Korean chefs use a combination of both fine and coarse in jjigae and soups but if you are not a serious cook or if you are not making gochujang or mul kimchi, chances are you probably won’t need the fine gochukaru. Buy fine gochukaru ONLY if you are going to make gochujang or if you want to make pretty sauces.
GLUTEN-FREE GOCHUJANG without Malt Barley powder
If you need to be gluten-free and don’t want to use the malt barley (Yeotgireum Garu) or if you can’t buy malt barley powder, you may want to use my Easy Homemade Gochujang Recipe which doesn’t use malt barley but just rice syrup (Jocheong 조청).
Where can I buy ingredients online?
Traditional Homemade Gochujang Recipe
Makes: 4 quarts Prep Time: 6 hrs Cook Time: 6 hrs Difficulty: Medium
See Recipe Card below for scalable ingredients —
Will also need
- 1 Korean gochujang hangari (항아리)/onggi (옹기) = glazed clay vessel or pot that can hold liquid but is porous for it to breathe
- 2 large bowls (5 quart or bigger)
- fine sieve or medium grade (#50) cheese cloth
- 1 large pot (5 quart or larger)
- 1 fine mosquito net or fine mesh fabric to cover top of gochujang pot
- 1 string to tie mesh fabric
- coals, sesame seeds, metal bowl (optional)
Step-by-Step Instructions on How to make Gochujang at home
- 1-2 DAYS BEFORE: Sterilize your ghochujang hangari or onggi (Korean glazed clay vessels aka earthenware for fermentation) by pouring hot boiling water inside and out and drying them. OR you can use coals that have turned into white embers by putting them in a metal bowl and turning over the hangari on top so that the hangari gets filled with HOT smoke which will also sterilize the pot. I used both methods just to be sure. Here is a picture of how it was done:
The hangari will smell very smoky at first, but it will go away as you air it for a day or two. It is also the intention to have a little bit of sesame seed smoky flavor. If you don’t want this, just use hot water.
Malt barley (yeotkireum) in cheesecloth
Malt Barley liquid strained using cheesecloth
It made me happy just looking at them, smelling the beautiful and familiar smells – the spicy gochukaru tickling my nose and then the very endearingly stinky deonjang smell from the mejukaru taking me back to my childhood..to the days when moms made everything at home.
And I hope to share with you how my gochujang turns out under the California sun in the next 6 months.
The salt crystals are like little diamonds~~ love love love..♥♥♥
Well, I know this is probably not something you can make easily and you need various special ingredients and vessels but I thought I would share it with you so that at least you get to experience and know what is involved in making the amazing gochujang the traditional and authentic way.
- You can also buy Korean Traditional Earthenware for fermentation on Amazon.com. The size is not very big so you may need more than one but it should work. I have selected a few below.
- If you REALLY want to buy the Korean Hangari/Onggi in the US, try visiting a larger Korean grocery market or I do have one online HERE in my Amazon shop.
Have a great weekend and Happy Valentine’s!!
Here’s my new Video on how to make Gochujang at home!
How to make Gochujang at home
- 1.5 kg Fine Red Chili powder (Goun Gochukaru 고운 고추가루) (1.5kg = 3.3 lb)
- 500 g Fermented Soy Bean powder (Meju Karu 메주가루) (500g = 1.1 lb)
- 1 kg Sweet Rice powder (Chapsal Karu 찹쌀가루) (1 kg = 2.2 lb)
- 750 g Milled Malt Barley (Yeotkireum Karu 엿기름가루) (750g = 1.65 lb)
- 750 g Sea Salt with bittern removed (Cheonilyeom 천일염) (750g = 1.65 lb)
- 1 kg Rice Syrup (Jocheong 조청) (1 kg = 2.2 lb)
- 5 L water (5 litre = 5.2 quart)
- THE NIGHT BEFORE: Soak malt barley (all 750 g of it!) in 5 litre of cold water for 5 hrs or more.
- THE NIGHT BEFORE: Soak sweet rice in water for 3-4 hrs or more.
- NEXT MORNING: Strain soaked sweet rice through a colander and remove all excess water.
- Grind sweet rice with a blender or chopper as fine as you can make it. Set aside.
- Strain malt barley through a fine sieve or medium grade cheese cloth to just get the liquid and some fine white sediments. Discard the malt barley.
- Add sweet rice powder to strained liquid from above.
- Leave mixture in the oven with a temperature of about 60°C (140°F) for 5 hrs.
- Remove malt barley + sweet rice mixture from oven and cook on stove top.
- Start at medium high -> medium heat until liquid has reduced by about 20%. Let it cool.
- Once liquid is cooled, add fine gochukaru, meju karu and sea salt.
- Add rice syrup (jocheong 조청) – add more or less to your taste.
- Mix everything well.
- Transfer gochujang into the prepared, sanitized clay pot (hangari 항아리).
- Sprinkle top with handful of sea salt.
- Leave in full sun for 6 months.
Tips & Notes:
Please check out my blog post for more details on how to sterilize the pot 1-2 days before.