‘Gochugaru’ transforms this chicken stir-fry into something truly exciting

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – Like everyone else I know, I’ve been cooking at home much more than usual these past several months. I have enjoyed it and have been eating well, but after awhile I found myself getting bored with my own culinary repertoire.

To get out of my rut, I turned to a new cookbook for inspiration, My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes by Hooni Kim (WW Norton & Company, 2020). I have made several wonderful recipes from it, and each, though not difficult, involved techniques and flavours quite different from those I typically lean on at home.

It was just what I needed to get my mojo back. Part of the thrill came from the discovery of a new-to-me spice, gochugaru, coarsely ground Korean red chilli flakes, which is used in kimchi as well as many other Korean dishes.

The chile has a moderate heat, with a deep, savoury flavour and a hint of sweet smokiness. It captivated me so much I started sprinkling it on everything: eggs, avocado toast, turkey burgers, fish for my fish tacos, potatoes, pizza – you name it.

Here, gochugaru puts an exciting spin on one of my go-to summer skillet suppers. Mixed with granulated garlic, salt and cayenne pepper it makes a deeply flavourful rub for boneless chicken breast.

Cooked in a skillet, the chicken takes on a brick-red hue and has a moderately spicy kick (add or eliminate the cayenne to adjust the heat to your liking). Building on the meaty flavour and dissolving the flavour-packed brown bits in the pan, I added mushrooms to the skillet to yield their liquid, then garlic and ginger, before stirring in fresh late-summer sweet corn and zucchini.

The end result is a boldly flavourful, healthful one-pan meal with just the spark I needed. You can find gochugaru in Asian markets, online and in well-stocked supermarkets, but you can also substitute ancho chilli powder or regular chilli powder for it in this dish for a still delicious, but different taste profile.

Gochugaru chicken with corn, mushrooms and zucchini. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST


Here gochugaru, Korean red chile flakes, imbues this one-skillet chicken and vegetable supper with its deep, savoury flavour, gentle heat and a hint of smokiness. If you can’t find gochugaru, you can substitute ancho chilli powder or regular chilli powder for a delicious but different taste profile. Add more cayenne or eliminate it to adjust the level of heat, which is moderate as written.

Where to Buy: Gochugaru can be found at Asian markets, well stocked supermarkets or online.


One-and-a-half teaspoons gochugaru (may substitute ancho chilli powder or regular chilli powder)
Three-quarter teaspoon kosher salt
Half teaspoon granulated garlic
One-eighth teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
One-and-a-quarter pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
Two tablespoons canola oil or another neutral oil
Eight ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms or a mix of mushrooms such as shiitake, oyster and/or cremini
Two to three tablespoons water, plus more as needed
Quarter cup thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts, plus more for serving
One tablespoon minced or finely grated fresh ginger
One medium zucchini
One-and-a-half cups corn kernels


In a small bowl, combine the gochugaru, quarter teaspoon salt, the granulated garlic and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the spice mixture onto both sides of the chicken, rubbing it in a little with your fingers.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat one tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add the chicken to the pan, reduce the heat to medium and cook until cooked through, four to five minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the remaining one tablespoon oil to the pan, followed by the mushrooms and quarter
teaspoon salt.

Add the water if the pan seems dry, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and begin to brown, about five minutes. Stir in the scallions and ginger and cook until they soften, about one minute. Add the zucchini, corn and the remaining quarter teaspoon salt and cook until the vegetables are tender, three to five minutes. If the pan seems dry, add more water as needed, a couple of tablespoons at a time. Pour any accumulated juices from the chicken into the pan with the vegetables, and then slice the chicken into strips.

Serve the vegetables with the sliced chicken on top or on the side.


Calories: 311; Total Fat: 12g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 91mg; Sodium: 405mg; Carbohydrates: 18g; Dietary Fibre: 4g; Sugars: 5g; Protein: 35g.