The pros: Trader Joe's Gochujang is new to store shelves and adds a completely different hot sauce that some might not be familiar with.
The cons: If you have never worked with this type of ingredient, then you might not appreciate it fully. This hot sauce has some funk to it which might not garner everyone's appreciation. It's best to try this with something and not on its own.
The verdict: I experienced Gochujang for the first time at Trader Joe's with their Gochujang Almonds. I had no idea what I had bought at the time. They were vinegary, funky, spicy, and just awesome for my palate. But they were a mixed decision in my household. There was something funky about them that my husband did not like. More for me.
Actually come to think of it, perhaps I had it in other ways and just did not realize it at the time. I remember trying Trader Joe's Bibimbap Bowl and remember that hot sauce. I only needed a few drops. I'm glad I did not just dump the sauce out.
I polished off the whole bag. Those almonds are still available on Trader Joe's shelves. Now, the funky sauce is on TJ's shelves too. Now, I always like to taste things on their own. This probably wasn't the best idea. You see Gochujang does have a bit of funkiness to it in a way that other hot sauces do not. This was medium heat, but I did not love the flavor on its own.
However, with the right pairing and recipe this can be very good. I used this instead as a base to a marinade to some steak. My husband even commented that it smelled good when I was cooking in the house. I asked if he would try some. He was a good sport about trying some. But he had pretty much the same reaction to this as the almonds. He responded with a quick "no" when I asked if he like this.
As for me, I like it. I didn't love it. But it was different from all the other marinades I had previously made. It added quite a bit of umami to the steak with a bit of heat and a touch of funk. I don't think this is a hot sauce that will have quite the appeal that sriracha has had. The heat also mellowed after cooking to a more mild heat.
For $3.99 this bottle will last quite a while. It's worth a try for the culinarily adventurous. Otherwise, this is best paired with some other flavors. In the case of my steak, the vinegar and onions paired well with this. If you are more experienced with Korean flavors than I am, I'd love to hear what you think. If you aren't experienced with this type of flavors, then check out Bon Appetit's article on 29 Gochujang Recipes to Give Your Food Some Sweet, Sweet Heat
Here is the visual run down of what you get if you buy this product:
The bottle of Trader Joe's Gochujang:
The nutritional information and the ingredients:
Used as a marinade for steak using this recipe from Bon Appetit:
Would I buy this again? I have a feeling Trader Joe's Gochujang is likely to last me a long time. If I need another one, I could easily get this item at Trader Joe's or at my local Asian grocery store.
Want to see more items I've reviewed from Trader Joe's? Click on Thoughts & Reviews of Trader Joe’s for a searchable list.
Did you try it? Let me know what you think in the comments section!