Gochu: the Magic Ingredient Koreans Use in Everything

Gochu or Korean chili pepper or Korean hot pepper, is THE quintessential ingredient in Korean cuisine.

Here are 5 types of gochu and the best uses for them!

Lingua Asia Gochu the Miracle Ingredient that Koreans Use in Everything

1. Cheongyang Chili Pepper (청양고추)

Cheongyang Chili Pepper, created in Korea, has an intense spicy flavor.

It may not be the spiciest by global standards (especially if you’re a fan of habanero or Thai chili), but it’s still hot for someone who can’t eat spicy food (maepjjiri or 맵찔이) like me.

It’s named after the counties of Cheongsong and Yeongyang in North Gyeongsang Province.

Cheongyang Chili Pepper is perfect for creating a fresh, sharp spicy flavor.

Most Koreans use it for cooking clear broths like Mussel Soup (홍합탕) that soothe your throat and may make you thirsty for soju.

2. Green Chili Pepper (풋고추)

Green Chili Pepper means “fresh chili” in Korean.

When they’re left out long enough, they’ll ripen and become red chili peppers (홍고추).

Green Chili Pepper is pretty versatile in terms of cooking.

You can use it to make a lot of banchan or to add spiciness.

Insider Tip!

Green Chili Pepper varies in spiciness. One may be mild while another will make you cry. When it’s served raw with ssamjang or doenjang at a Korean restaurant, one trick I use is tearing the tip off and sniffing. If it smells spicy, I give it to someone who enjoys spicy food.

3. Cucumber Chili Pepper (오이고추)

Cucumber Chili Pepper is relatively new. It’s made by hybridizing green chili and bell pepper.

It’s also known as ‘Crunchy Chili Pepper (아삭이고추)‘ because of its crisp texture.

Cucumber Chili Pepper is large and not spicy, so most Koreans eat them straight up, dipping them in doenjang or ssamjang like green peppers.

My favorite is seasoned cucumber chili pepper with soybean paste as shown in the recipe above.


4. Kkwari Gochu (꽈리고추)

Kkwari Gochu has a wrinkly surface and is used for stewing, stir-frying, and other dishes.

It’s a variant of Shishito Pepper that was brought from Japan in the late 1960s.

With a mild and slightly smoky flavor, Kkwari Gochu makes perfect stir-fried baby anchovies or braised beef in soy sauce (jangjorim).

5. Dried Red Pepper (건고추)

Sun-dried Red Pepper is used to make chili powder (고춧가루) which can turn into gochujang (고추장 or Red Chili Paste) in Korea.

Growing up in a small town, it was common to see ajummas sun-drying their red peppers by the side of the road or on gazebos. Then, they’d take them to a local mill to grind them into chili powder to use for the year, and of course to make kimchi.

Dried Red Pepper is especially important in Korean cuisine as chili powder and gochujang are used in pretty much every dish.

What is the Korean word for pepper?

Red pepper is called gochu (고추) in Korean. FYI, black pepper is hoochu (후추).

How many calories do Korean peppers have?

19 kcal per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Rumor has it that eating red pepper will burn more calories in Korea, but no one knows if it’s true.

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