Lynda Balslev: The Korean sauce you didn’t know you needed |

Lynda Balslev: The Korean sauce you didn’t know you needed


Move over, Sriracha — there’s another must-have Asian sauce in town. It’s called gochujang, and until I tasted this brick-red paste, I didn’t know I needed it. Now I do, and I suggest that you do too.

Gochujang is a Korean condiment, and it’s a flavor bomb. It’s a sludgy, sticky, spicy paste made from chile peppers, glutinous (sticky) rice and fermented soybeans. It’s sweet, smoky, salty and a tad funky, thanks to the fermented soybeans. A little dab goes a long way, adding umami-rich flavor and fireworks to sauces, marinades, soups and stews.

The first time I tasted gochujang, it was in a thick sauce drizzled over shredded pork in lettuce wraps. Since then, I’ve spooned gochujang into marinades and sauces for chicken, meat, tofu and roasted vegetables. Like other spicy chile condiments, gochujang is potent. It’s meant to provide a boost of flavor, not to be served straight up (but if you want to go ahead and lick a fiery spoonful, have at it). Mix gochujang with other ingredients that amplify its flavors and smooth its heat, such as soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and citrus juice, for a balance of salt, sweet, acid and heat.

Gochujang is available in Asian markets, the international section of well-stocked supermarkets and online. Depending on the brand, the heat level will vary, so be sure to taste a tiny bit before adding it to your food. Once opened, gochujang can be stored in your refrigerator for up to one year.

Gochujang Chicken Thighs

Active time: 10 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes, plus marinating time

Yield: Serves 4


1/4 cup gochujang

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger

8 bone-in chicken thighs, with skin

Kosher salt


Chopped fresh cilantro

Chopped scallions

Lime wedges

Whisk the marinade ingredients in a small bowl.

Season the chicken thighs with salt. Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl or plastic container. Pour in the marinade. Turn the chicken to thoroughly coat, rubbing some of the marinade between the skin and flesh. Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Arrange the chicken on a grill pan, skin side up. Roast in the oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh, without touching bone, reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Serve garnished with cilantro, chopped scallions and lime wedges.


For a complete meal, roast the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet with assorted vegetables, such as carrots, butternut squash wedges, pearl onions or halved baby potatoes.

To prepare, toss the vegetables with 1 tablespoon oil and season with salt and black pepper. Spread the vegetables on the baking sheet. Nestle the chicken thighs among the vegetables and transfer to the oven. When the chicken and vegetables are cooked, transfer the chicken to a serving plate. Stir the vegetables in the pan juices to coat and serve with the chicken.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area

Gochujang is a Korean condiment, and it's a flavor bomb. It's a sludgy, sticky, spicy paste made from chile peppers, glutinous (sticky) rice and fermented soybeans.
Photo by Lynda Balslev


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