A jar of pre-roasted Korean black bean paste is placed.

Korean black bean paste, known as chunjang (춘장), is a Korean style black bean paste. It’s made of fermented soybean, wheat flour, and caramel coloring is added during the aging process. Chunjang is the key ingredient for making Korean style black bean noodles dish called “Jjajangmyeon (짜장면)”.

Origin of Korean black bean paste

Korean chunjang is originated from the Chinese Tianmian sauce. However, Tianmian sauce is more of dark brown color while Korean chunjang is nearly black and offers slightly different taste. It is known fact that a Korean-Chinese cook has transformed the Chinese Tianmian sauce to fit more of Korean style, he added caramel into black bean paste and fermented together. Commecially branded chunjang is introduced in 1948. The lion brand chunjang is most well known for Korean style black bean paste.

Chinese style black bean paste (Tianmian is not a suitable substituting Korean recipes that requires fermented black beans. Chunjang has sweeter taste and it should not be replaced by Chinese black bean sauce or paste.

Pre-roasted black bean paste

Uncooked black bean paste (chunjang) has a slightly bitter taste with very salty notes. To remove this bitterness, chunjang paste is first fried in a small layer of oil. However, you can find the jarred pre-roasted chunjang paste at most Korean grocery stores these days, so that you can use it right into the recipe without pre-roasting it.

Some Korean black bean sauce comes in a powder form which you have to mix in water to use. I personally don’t recommend it since it lacks the rich flavor of fermented chunjang taste.

How to store Chunjang

After opening, store chunjang in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. If your chunjang comes in a plastic bag, transfer the paste to an airtight container and refrigerate it.