Turn your garden peppers into Smoked Gochugaru, a Korean Chili Powder
This summer I grew a few Korean Chili plants so I could make Smoked Gochugaru. I love peppers, and always grow some hot chilis every summer. When I saw some Chili plants for sale at the local Korean market, I knew I had to plant some. Now that my Korean Chili’s have come to harvest, I’ve started smoking them and grinding them into Gochugaru, aka Korean Chili Powder.
What is Gochugaru?
Gochugaru literally means chili (gochu) powder (garu). With such a broad term you can actually find a number of variants of Gochugaru on the market that vary by color, heat, grind style, and general preparation. By following through this recipe you’ll see different ways to make your Gochugaru, but I’ll primarily focus on the smoked spicy variant I made here.
Why smoke peppers?
I smoke peppers for a few reasons. Foremost though, smoking is a preservation technique. Smoking dries the peppers out such that they won’t grow mold or otherwise go bad if stored in a sealed dark environment. Grinding the smoked peppers makes them more compact and easy to use as a spice for all manner of cooking.
Smoking is also a great source of flavor. I smoked my Korean Chili peppers with their seeds left in, which means the peppers were very spicy. Smoking adds a depth of sweetness to the peppers so you’re not left with just raw pepper heat.
Smoking also adds color and smell. Gochugaru is often bright red, but smoked gochugaru is a darker red with a hint of purple mixed in. Smoking makes the Gochugaru a more exotic sensory experience. The pepper powder has a distinct smoky sweet flavor that truly sets it apart from other pepper powders.
How to control the heat in Gochugaru
Gochugaru can be made more or less spicy by limiting the inclusion of the chili pepper seeds. I left the seeds inside my peppers before smoking, which made them a lot quicker to prepare but also far more spicy. If you want to scale back some of the heat, cut each pepper open and scoop out the seeds.
Use gloves when working with chili peppers
I learned this tip the hard way: wear rubber gloves when working with hot peppers. If you’re cutting and gutting a large batch of garden peppers, the capsaicin will get all over your hands and cause burns. Even with a small number of peppers, the capsaicin will get under your nails, and you’ll end up with eye irritation or other annoyance hours after you thought you were finished with hot peppers.
A cheap pair of rubber gloves will protect you from the peppers.
How to grind Smoked Gochugaru
Gochugaru is often coarsely ground, such that it can be called Korean chili pepper flakes as often as its called Korean chili pepper powder. This coarse flakey grind makes Gochugaru excellent as a topping.
Gochugaru is also often finely ground, which makes it easier to cook with as an ingredient. Finely ground chili powder is used to make Gochujang, Korean chili paste.
Use an electric coffee grinder to grind peppers.
To grind my smoked peppers, I use a small electric coffee grinder dedicated to spice making. They’re fairly inexpensive on amazon, and coffee snobs like myself will tell you that a blade style coffee grinder is no good for grinding coffee. They are however great for grinding dried herbs. The blades are designed to grind coffee into small particles, and have no trouble grinding dried peppers.
If you don’t have a coffee grinder, you can use a mortar and pestle. The peppers grind fairly easily once smoked dry, and a determined person could easily grind them in their hands.
Can I dehydrate Korean chilis instead of smoking?
Gochugaru is traditionally made by sun drying chili peppers. I chose to smoke them for the added flavor and color notes that get added to the peppers.
In lieu of sun drying or smoking, you can easily process peppers in a food dehydrator. Simply prepare the peppers as per this recipe, but instead of smoking them process them in your food dehydrator at around 190F. When using my dehydrator, I typically let the peppers go overnight and check on them in the morning. If the peppers are not fully dry, restart the dehydrator and let it run until they’re done. The peppers can be ground by normal means.
How to use smoked Gochugaru chili powder.
Smoked Gochugaru is used all over in Korean cooking. You can sprinkle it on top of rice, mix it with kimchi, or use it in other asian meals like a topic for sushi.
I personally like using smoked chili powder as a secret ingredient for spice rubs. Gochugaru can add a sweet heat to your smoked meats, and would particularly work well on
How to store smoked Gochugaru
Peppers that have been smoked dry and ground up can be safely stored for a long time. I have dried pepper powder multiple years old at this point that is still flavorful and useful. I recommend storing the powder in an airtight container, like a small Tupperware. Keep the powder in a dark space like a cupboard, and it will hold as long as you need it.
What kind of peppers should I use for smoked chili powder?
Gochugaru should be made with Korean Chili Peppers. That said, you can make delicious smoked chili powder from any type of pepper plant. You can use more mild peppers like Italian Roaster peppers or Hungarian Wax peppers to make pepper powder without heat.
I also really love to smoke and powder Cayenne peppers. They create a vibrant red color and have an excellent heat to flavor ratio.
Tips for smoking peppers
Here are some of my top tips for smoking peppers:
- Use a smoke tube to create lots of smoke. In addition to dehydrating the peppers, we are trying to impart a smoky flavor. If you haven’t cut your peppers open lengthwise, it can be hard for the smoke to permeate the waxy exterior of the pepper. Smoke tubes are an easy way to create a lot of extra smoke to help permeate your peppers.
- Smoke the peppers between 220 and 250F. The goal is to dry the peppers out, so the smoker needs to be hot enough to encourage water to evaporate, but doesn’t need to be hot enough to really cook the peppers.
- If drying peppers by themselves, skip the water tray. Most smoking recipes encourage adding a tray of water to the smoker to help keep your meat from drying out. In this case, we want to encourage your peppers to dry out as fast as possible, so there’s no need to add a water tray to the smoker.
How to make Gochugaru
Smoked Gochugaru (Chili Powder)
- 1 Smoker
- 1 lb Korean Chili Peppers
- 1 pair rubber gloves
- Rinse and dry your Korean chili peppers, then slice the green heads off each of them.
- Lay the peppers out on a metal tray and preheat your smoker to 250F. If you’re already smoking something, you can start these peppers at almost any temperature. Use a smoke tube to create additional smoke.
- Smoke the peppers at least 4 hours, and check on them every hour or two. Smoke the peppers until they’re dry to the touch and crunch when squeezed. Depending on the temperature and relative humidity of your smoker, the length of time it takes for the peppers to become crunchy can be quite variable.
- When done smoking the peppers, add them to a coffee grinder and pulse them until a fine powder is formed. Store the powder in an airtight container in a dark place. Enjoy 🙂