Ever tasted Ssamjang? This flavorful Korean condiment is a true star of Korean barbeque – giving the perfect combination of spice, sweetness and umami.
However, if you’d rather not have Ssamjang or can’t find it easily in your area, you might be wondering what alternatives are available.
From sauces that give the same heat as Ssamjang to substitutes with completely different tastes, there’s certainly no shortage of delicious options.
Keep reading to discover some of the best substitutes for Ssamjang and how they can be used in recipes.
What is Ssamjang?
Ssamjang is a traditional Korean spicy dipping sauce that is much loved by Koreans.
It is usually used for wrapping dishes like lettuce or other vegetables, or as a dip or condiment for a variety of foods.
It is made of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste), doenjang (fermented soybean paste), garlic, scallions, sesame oil/olive oil, sugar and other ingredients.
Ssamjang has a unique combination of sweet, salty and spicy flavors that complements the freshness found in many veggies and also gives depth to grilled meats.
It’s easy to make at home from scratch and you can use this savory paste as a dip or spread for all kinds of meats, seafoods and vegetables.
Its thick texture provides an addictive chewiness which adds a contrast in texture when dipping.
Ssamjang can be used in various ways depending on the dish you are preparing – as an ingredient to add bold flavor to cooked dishes such as steamed rice or kimchi-jjigae (kimchi stew), as a dipping sauce for meat and seafoods such as grilled pork ribs or steamed crab claws; it can also be added directly into dishes such as stir-fries, salads, marinades and more.
When using ssamjang in wraps such lettuce wraps (ssam) simply smear some around your favorite type of greens along with some kimchi for extra flavor kick.
Try experimenting with different types of vegetables such as mushrooms, spinach or bell peppers for even more complex flavor profiles.
Finally for grilled foods it’s best served alongside freshly made garlic paste to create the perfect Korean haemul pajeon (seafood pancake).
The 5 Best Substitutes for Ssamjang
If you find yourself needing a substitute for ssamjang, there are plenty of non-Korean ingredients which will otherwise provide a similar flavor and texture profile.
Here is a list of the 5 best substitutes for ssamjang:
1 – Gochujang
For those who may not be familiar with the traditional Korean condiment ssamjang, it is a savory hot paste made from a combination of chili pepper paste and doenjang (fermented soybean paste).
It is often used to flavor Korean dishes like lettuce wraps (ssam), vegetables, and soups.
Ssamjang has a spicy bite with a strong umami flavor, making it an important flavoring agent in many Korean recipes.
Gochujang makes an excellent substitute for ssamjang.
Often referred to as “hot pepper paste” or “Korean red chili paste,” gochujang is also made from fermented soybeans but uses red chili peppers as the main ingredient instead of doenjang.
Because this substitution uses the same base ingredient, switching out one for the other won’t adversely affect flavor or texture much – if at all.
In fact, some experts suggest that gochujang can provide even more complexity to dishes that call for ssamjang.
Gochujango usually has added glutinous rice powder which adds sweetness and provides an excellent balance of heat and sweetness to any dish.
2 – Doenjang
Doenjang is a fermented and aged soybean paste that hails from Korea.
It is made by soaking soybeans in water and then mixing them with salt and rice paste, which forms the fermentation culture.
The mixture is then left to ferment for weeks or months, depending on the desired flavor.
It has a thick, rich texture with a salty flavor that is great for marinating or as an ingredient in sauces.
Although it is slightly different from Ssamjang, it will offer similar flavors in your dishes.
3 – Sambal Oelek
Sambal Oelek is made from chili peppers, salt and vinegar.
While sambal oelek does contain some chili’s, the pepper flavor tends to be more mild than ssamjang.
To make a good substitution for ssamjang, try combining sambal oelek with other ingredients such as soy sauce and sugar.
This will help add sweetness and richness to the dish giving it a more similar taste to ssamjang.
Additionally, if you’re looking for added heat in your dish, adding some gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) to your mixture will do the trick.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to adjust measurements according to taste when making a substitution with this ingredient – start small then increase as desired.
4 – Chili Garlic Paste with Sesame Oil
Chili garlic paste with sesame oil is a great substitute for ssamjang made from a combination of chili, garlic, and sesame oil.
This paste has a spicy, robust flavor that brings out the best in any dish.
The combination of chili and oil makes this a great alternative to ssamjang when you need an extra punch of umami and heat.
When using this paste as an alternative to ssamjang be careful when adding additional oils as they can overpower the flavor of the paste.
Use sparingly as too much can overpower your meal.
5 – Miso Paste with Sesame Oil
Miso paste mixed with sesame oil makes a great substitute in some recipes requiring ssamjang.
Generally, the ratio can be 2:1 or 1:1 according to taste.
Miso paste is usually made from fermented soybeans, salt, koji and sometimes other ingredients like barley or wheat.
It is widely used in East Asia, especially Japan where it is used as an all-purpose seasoning for many dishes such as soups, stews and noodle dishes.
When mixed with sesame oil and a splash of rice vinegar it can be used as a replacement for ssamjang.
The resulting soft and savory flavor will tickle your taste buds while adding some unique umami goodness to your dish.
Miso can be found easily in many supermarkets and health food stores, so you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.
In conclusion, ssamjang is a unique condiment for Korean cooking.
It has the flavor profiles of both doenjang and gochujang, creating a unique taste that can’t be found in other sauces.
While it can be difficult to find in stores outside of Korea, there are several good substitutes that have some similarities in flavor and texture.
Whichever substitute you choose, you can rest assured that it will bring an extra layer of flavor to your culinary creations.