Korean chili flakes and chili powder are staples in Korea cuisine.

Korean red chili flakes (gochugaru, 고춧가루) are sun-dried red chilies that have been crushed into either flakes or powdered form.

As a staple in Korean cooking, gochugaru are used in everything from kimchi, meat and seafood dishes, soups and stews, and stir-fried dishes.

Korean chili flakes have a fruity and smoky flavor with a medium heat that adds zest without being overpowering. Since there is no similar substitution that matches the flavor and the heat level of Koran chili flakes, you should not replace it with other common chilies, such as western red chili flakes or chili powder.

Types of Gochugaru

three types of Korean chili flakes

There are three types of gochugaru, each with its own cuisine purpose in Korean cooking.

  1. Chili Flakes (gochugaru): This type is perhaps the most widely used and well known to Korean cuisine. This all-purpose gochugaru is used making variety of kimchi recipes, and other Korean dishes that require a spicy heat.
  2. Chili Powder (go-un gochugaru): This is a powder form of Korean dried chilies that has been finely grounded. This chili powder is mainly used for making homemade gochujang (Korean chili paste). However, some Korean dishes, like spicy Korean rice cakes, use this particular fine chili powder for added spiciness and color without clouding with speckles of chili flakes.
  3. Shredded Chili (shil-gochu): This particular chili is used as a garnish. You will often find steamed fish or chicken dishes garnished with shredded dried chili to add a hint of red color.

How do I find good gochugaru?

If you can find gochugaru with red chili pepper from Korea, that is your best option. It costs more but it is worth the price. If price or availability is an issue, you can still make fantastic Korean dishes by using chili flakes sourced from other countries.

Look for chili flakes that are bright red or orange-red in color. Some brands have a small translucent window on the package that allows you to see the actual chili flakes in the package. Avoid chili flakes that have a dark brown tint—that is a sign that the flakes are (or soon will be) rancid.

How to store gochugaru

Korean chili flakes and chili powder should always be kept in the freezer once the package is opened. They can last up to 3 years if kept in the freezer. Any dampness or humidity in the warm air can cause mold and spoil them. You should discard chili flakes or powder if you see any white or green mold forming on top.