Hot pepper flakes

Gochugaru 고추가루

Korean hot pepper flakes are an essential ingredient in Korean cooking, used in many side dishes, soups, and stews, and in the most important Korean side dish of all, kimchi. They come in mild (deol-maewoon gochu-garu 덜매운 고춧가루) and hot (maewoon gochu-garu 매운 고춧가루) versions. For dishes like kimchi, I use the milder flakes so that I can add a lot for color without making the dish too spicy. My favorite is Bitggalchan brand from YeongYang, Korea.

My readers often ask me if they can use chili powder or other crushed chili flakes as a substitute, but they won’t work with Korean dishes because they have a different flavor and are too spicy. Sometimes Korean hot pepper flakes may be mislabeled on the package as “powder,” but all packages will be at least partially transparent, so look inside and make sure they are coarse flakes. Beautiful bright red is best; avoid any that are purplish or brownish. When the flakes go bad, they become a yellowish-red and the flavor goes off.

After opening, store the pepper flakes in a zipper-lock plastic bag in the freezer for up to 6 months, and keep a small amount in a jar in the refrigerator for everyday use.

Deolmaewoon gochugaru

Buying hot pepper flakes can be difficult if you don’t read Korean because many Korean manufacturers will mislabel the product in English so it’s hard to know if you’re getting hot pepper flakes at all.

Take a look at the product in the package if at all possible. Hot pepper flakes are always coarse and chunky.

Korean hot pepper flakes

This one is tricky because in English it says “Red Pepper Powder,”and underneath that it says “Piment” which is French for “red pepper” or “spice,” and then there’s another label that reads “Coarse.” But this is really a bag of hot pepper flakes. You can tell by looking at the big flakes through the transparent part of package.

Red pepper powder is actually something very different. They’re a lot finer and mainly used for making gochujang, so you need to be careful of what you’re buying.

Assi brand hot pepper flakes

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Recipes that use hot pepper flakes (gochugaru):

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143 Comments:

  1. Victoriaa Canada joined 8/11 & has 1 comment

    Hello! I just have a quick question, I had bought red pepper powder earlier this year and the expiry date hasn’t come yet, but the powder is beginning to form big soft clumps. Is it still usable or is it bad?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,818 comments

      Without seeing it, I don’t think I can tell you the answer but as long as it doesn’t have mold or the color hasn’t gone orange, I think it will be ok to use it. Keep it in the freezer.

  2. nrebz Philippines joined 8/11 & has 2 comments

    hi… can i ask where i can buy hot pepper flakes.. i’m from Philippines. Even in online shopping does not have :(.. hope you can help me.. thanks

  3. seraph74 Sydney, Australia joined 5/11 & has 7 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    I was sooooo excited to finally find some of these hot pepper flakes in a local Asian grocery store. They had the ones that are picured in your second picture, the ones that are labelled “red pepper powder – coarse”. My question to you is whether or not these are the hot spicy red pepper powder, or the less spicy pepper powder. Can you clarify, please? I’m hoping for hot spicy, as I’m particularly fond of hot/spicy food, but if these are the less spicy, then I’ll know to use more of them to satisfy my desire for spice!

    Thanks,
    seraph74

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,818 comments

      The second photo doesn’t say spicy or less spicy.
      You may find Korean words on the package like this, but not always.
      매운 고추가루: spicy hot pepper flakes
      덜매운 고추가루: less spicy hot pepper flakes

      매운means spicy and it is pronounced “Mae Woon”
      덜매운means less spicy and it is pronounced “Deol Mae Woon”

      Hope this helps! Buy coarse hot pepper flakes.

  4. cookkimchi joined 5/11 & has 1 comment

    What about your last picture? Is that hot or less hot? I keep finding packages that have the four characters on the right, but not the two or three on the left — they have altogether different characters on the left

  5. San Germany joined 6/10 & has 1 comment

    Hi, if you can’t get the korean version at the asia store in Germany, because they don’t have it or the last bag is expired (which happened to me yesterday *sigh*) you can use “Chillies Flocken” from Fuchs. They work fine combined with normal Paprika edelsüß. But since one 60g package of the Flocken costs 2,79€ it’s just advisable if you are in a pinch.
    AND you only need half the amount of what Maangchi’s recipe calls for. I used the “mixture” for Emergency Kimchi with half a 1/3 cup of Flocken/Paprika and it was spicy.

  6. KillDeer Hamilton, Ontario joined 9/10 & has 33 comments

    The hot pepper flakes I got figured out. My problem is what type of fresh hot peppers do I buy? I’ve been getting these ones called “Finger Peppers” because they look similar to the ones used in Korean cooking. They are green at the store and if you wait a few days they turn red. But they are crazy spicy and I cannot handle more than the tiniest piece! Is this the right pepper and I’m just (as the Japanese would say) baka gaijin?

  7. RuthLindo Philippines joined 12/10 & has 2 comments

    Mama Maangchi, i forgot to buy a pack of hot pepper flakes recently.. I traveled 2 hours just to get to the Korean store in the city (i’m living in a town province). Since, i’m already at home (lol!), should i just use/buy a hot pepper powder instead? Well, i’m not really sure as sure if there’s really a hot pepper powder in the market hahaha! Maybe the hot pepper flakes and the hot pepper powder are just the same… I HOPE~! n_n sorry for my horrible english grammar.. XDD

  8. sassygirlsujung joined 7/10 & has 4 comments

    Hi Maangchi,

    I have the one on the last picture… It suppose to be red,right? The one I got was blackish.. Is it still good to use in kimchi? Thanks and more power.

    Bianca

  9. unchienne Georgia, USA joined 10/08 & has 15 comments

    I’ve tried the ones labeled “hot” but find them pretty mild as well. The best I had was a package my grandmother sent us from Korea one year, but I think it was homemade (sent over in ziplocks). Super hot and super tasty. Grandmom’s over a hundred now, so I don’t think she makes it anymore.

  10. laniekay Richmond, Virginia, USA joined 9/09 & has 15 comments

    I have used the brand of hot pepper flakes in the bottom photo, as well as another brand that is not pictured. I use a TON of flakes in my kimchi (the maximum that Maangchi lists in her recipe, plus 1/2 cup!), yet do not find it very hot. I typically add Sriracha sauce before I eat it.

    While I do love spicy food, I do not think I have abnormal tolerance for spiciness. Do you think my hot pepper flakes are expired? Do they lose their heat over time? I have heard that toasting spices in a pan before using them can restore some flavor. Would this help?

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,818 comments

      lol, you seem to love suicidal level of spiciness! Actually there are 2 types of hot pepper flakes sold at a store: mild hot pepper flakes and spicy hot pepper flakes. Mild version? You may be wondering, but ask the sales person to help you.
      You can say, I want to get very very spicy hot pepper flakes!

      Maewoon gochugaru (매운 고추가루): spicy hot pepper flakes
      Deol Maewoon gochugaru(덜매운 고추가루): less spicy hot pepper flakes

      In this page, the first photo of hot pepper flakes says, 덜매운 고추가루 which means less spicy hot pepper flakes.

      • laniekay Richmond, Virginia, USA joined 9/09 & has 15 comments

        Thank you! I have copied down the characters and their meanings on an index card, and I’m going to the Asian grocery tomorrow to see if I can find hot ones.

        If I can’t, I will try asking the owners, who are very nice, but do not speak much English. Sometimes I think I overwhelm them when I ask questions, so I try to figure things out on my own. Thanks so much for your help!

  11. done France joined 8/10 & has 3 comments

    Hi Maangchi!

    Do you know from which hot pepper it is?
    I used the ones I have home… and even if it wasn’t much, my kimchi was really spicy!! I can’t really eat it since it’s too hot! D:

    I asked my mother and it turns to be a pepper from Thailand, known to be very very very hot(named Khi Nu).

    I have medium hot pepper powder too (no flakes) and I was wondering, if I can mix them… What do you think?

  12. Multiexponential Malaysia joined 8/10 & has 3 comments

    Is it possible to get This in any other places? I couldn’t start making my kimchi without this! HELP =(

  13. wernlyn joined 7/10 & has 1 comment

    can i blend my dry chilis and make this?

  14. babykidzli joined 7/10 & has 2 comments

    this hot pepper looks lik the chili powder >.< but is not chili powder?

  15. babykidzli joined 7/10 & has 2 comments

    hi.. can anyone tell me where can i get hot pepper flakes in melaka, malaysia? i try to find even in jusco melaka but onli have chili powder >.< i'm in love with kimchi hope anyone can let me know

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