This Gochujang Salmon is exactly what you need for a hot and healthy kick! The gochujang marinade has only 6 ingredients and the salmon takes all of 10 minutes to cook so it's super fast and fit from frig to fork (or chopsticks)! Shall we?
- What is Gochujang Salmon
- Ok, So What is Gochujang?
- Is Gochujang Salmon Healthy?
- What Ingredients You Need for Spicy Gochujang Salmon
- Instructions for How to Make Gochujang Salmon
- What is the Best Brand of Gochujang to Use
- What Kind of Salmon Should I Use for this Recipe
- Tools and Equipment
- Leftovers and Storage
- What to Serve with Gochujang Salmon
- Wine Pairing for Gochujang Salmon
- Gochujang Salmon Recipe
What is Gochujang Salmon
Gochujang Salmon is salmon, usually in fillet form, that marinates in a spicy, barely sweet, umami-rich gochujang mixture for a short period of time, then bakes in the oven or in an air-fryer. Gochujang itself has natural sweetness, so the salmon caramelizes around the edges giving the fish a perfect balance of sweet, savory and spicy.
Ok, So What is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a Korean hot pepper paste made by fermenting chili peppers with rice and/soybeans. It has a deep-toned, savory umami flavor with a subtle background sweetness. Though sometimes literally called a "sauce," gochujang is actually more a starter ingredient used to make and flavor marinades, sauces, soups and more, and not something you would use directly out of the container at the table to season a final dish.
Gochujang, like any condiment, varies in style, flavor, texture, and heat level across brands and recipes. Yes recipes! Because you can actually make your own gochujang. The base ingredients are Korean red pepper powder—called "gochugaru"—and soybeans. From there, ingredients vary, including any kind of sweetener from brown rice syrup (preferred) to high fructose corn syrup (avoid if possible!), seasonings like garlic and/or onion, sometimes grains like barley, rice or wheat, and possibly alcohol or other form of preservative. Read the labels to look out for any ingredients to which you are sensitive.
Is Gochujang Salmon Healthy?
We all know salmon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. But did you know gochujang can contribute to a healthy diet and lifestyle too? Let's get into the details:
Highest Omega-3s in Salmon. When we talk about the health benefits of salmon, we are almost always talking about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, the all-star anti-inflammatory compound associated with supporting gut health and reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other inflammation-induced diseases. Salmon is one of the highest concentration, highest quality sources of omega-3 fatty acids, containing 2,150 mg per 3-ounce serving.
TONS of Nutrients in Salmon. Salmon is also one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. In addition to the high levels of above-mentioned omega-3s, salmon is an excellent source of vitamin B12 for cellular energy, vitamin D which our bodies cannot make on our own, and the essential mineral selenium that has antioxidant properties that protect the heart, reduce cognitive decline, and boost immunity. (source: NIH)
Depending on the type—King, sockeye, coho, Atlantic—salmon has 20-22 grams of protein per 100-gram/3.5-ounce serving.
Gochujang Has Probiotic-like Qualities. Gochujang is made by fermenting chili peppers with rice and/or soybeans. As a fermented food, gochujang provides gut-health promoting probiotic bacteria. That fermentation gives gochujang its umami flavor, that salty, savory deliciousness that's hard to pinpoint in foods.
This recipe for Gochujang Salmon is:
- gluten-free if you use tamari instead of soy sauce
**note** some gochujang brands use wheat as the fermentation starter, so read the labels if you are avoiding gluten
- refined sugar-free if you use gochujang made without refined sugars
- low carb, though not keto, paleo, or Whole30 because the marinade contains both soy and alcohol)
What Ingredients You Need for Spicy Gochujang Salmon
For Gochujang Salmon, you will need only a few ingredients:
- Tamari (or soy sauce)
- Sesame oil
- Maple syrup - optional, as there is already some natural sweetness in the gochujang
Instructions for How to Make Gochujang Salmon
Pull any small pin bones from salmon fillets. Remove scales with the edge of a small knife if you are using skin-on salmon. Rinse salmon and pat very dry with paper towels.
Whisk together gochujang, tamari, sake, sesame oil, garlic, and optional maple syrup in small bowl. The marinade will be the consistency of thin BBQ sauce.
Place salmon in glass or ceramic bowl and pour marinade over. Turn salmon pieces over in marinade to make sure all surfaces are coated. Cover and marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 day. If cooking within 30 minutes, leave salmon on counter while you prep the rest of your meal. If marinating overnight, place in refrigerator and remove marinated salmon from refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking and let it sit on the countertop to get the "chill" off.
Lift salmon out of marinade and wipe off excess miso marinade. You can use a spatula or spoon to do this, or just use your hands. Do not rinse the salmon.
Place salmon fillet on parchment-lined baking sheet OR in basket of air-fryer skin side down. Bake in oven or air fry at 350° oven for 15 minutes.
Check for doneness. Salmon is cooked and ready when an instant read thermometer registers 145°F per USDA recommendations. You can also flake off a piece of salmon from the thickest part of the fillet and check for your preferred level of doneness. I like my salmon cooked all the way through.
Pro-tip: Ratio up the batch! The gochujang marinade is an amazing all-purpose spicy marinade, glaze, or even finishing sauce for bibimbap, so mix together a triple or even quadruple batch, reserve the extra in an air-tight container in the refrigerator to use for up to two weeks!
What is the Best Brand of Gochujang to Use
For a full breakdown on gochujang, check out this post, Gochujang 101. In the mean time...
There aren't necessarily different types of gochujang, though like any condiment, there are a range of spice levels, flavors, and textures based on different brands' exact ingredients.
The base ingredients of gochujang are Korean red pepper powder and soybeans. From there, ingredients can include any kind of sweetener from brown rice syrup to high fructose corn syrup, seasonings like garlic and/or onion, sometimes grains like barley, rice or wheat, and possibly alcohol or other form of preservative. Read the labels to look out for any ingredients to which you are sensitive.
** Pro-tip: Make sure the product is "gochujang" and not "gochujang sauce," which is a pre-made sauce with gochujang as an ingredient.
Use any kind of gochujang that suits your taste and preferred heat-level. These are brands of gochujang I actually use and recommend, mostly because I look for products with no corn syrup and no wheat:
- O'Food Gochujang (pictured in all the photos on this post) is sweetened with tapioca syrup rather than corn syrup, and does not contain wheat in the ingredients, though the label indicates that it's made in a facility that also processes wheat
- O'Food Gluten Free Gochujang, same brand and ingredients as above, but specifically labeled gluten-free because it's made in a dedicated gluten-free facility
- Trader Joe's, surprisingly, has a good gochujang made in Korea and if you're new to gochujang, the container is small enough that you won't feel overwhelmed
- Mother in Law's Gochujang deserves a mention because I have tried it several times, it tastes great and most importantly it is available at many Whole Foods markets, which might be more accessible than a Korean grocery store. However, the ingredients do include wheat flour as well as malt syrup, which is made form barley (gluten).
What Kind of Salmon Should I Use for this Recipe
My recommendation for any cooked preparation of salmon is always for fresh, wild-caught King salmon, which is the largest of the different types of salmon, and has the richest, most luxurious taste and texture. From a nutrition standpoint, King salmon has the highest amount of health-supporting omega3s per serving of all the different salmon types.
However, wild King salmon has a fairly short season, May-June and it's the most expensive of all the salmon types.
Because the gochujang marinade is extremely flavorful, you can get away with using just about any kind of salmon for Gochujang Salmon, from sustainably farmed Atlantic Salmon, Coho or Sockeye.
Check out this What is the Best Type of Salmon - Coho, King, Sockeye post for a deep dive (pardon the pun heh heh) into salmon!
Additional Ingredients Resources and Notes
- Tamari or Soy Sauce. Tamari is a Japanese-style soy sauce that is brewed without wheat so it is gluten-free. This is the brand I use, which is also organic. You can use regular soy sauce. If soy is not part of your diet, you can use any of the usual soy sauce substitutes like coconut aminos (vegan) or fish sauce without a huge change in taste because the amount is fairly small in proportion to the other very flavor-forward ingredients.
- Sake. Sake, aka Japanese rice wine, is a type of alcohol made by fermenting rice. Just like regular wine made from grapes, sake comprises a wide variety of styles, brands, quality, and price points. As with any wine in cooking, use sake that you would be happy to drink. Sake is now fairly widely available in grocery stores in the wine section or in liquor stores. The organic sake pictured above is available here.
- Sesame Oil. Look for toasted sesame oil, which has a darker color and a much deeper umami flavor. Sesame oil is a finishing oil, added to dishes in small amounts just before serving for its flavor, rather than a cooking oil. This is a reliable Japanese brand that I've been using since I was a kid. There are now many brands of toasted sesame seed oil available, even organic version, at regular grocery stores.
- Maple Syrup. Most gochujang already contains some form of sweetness—anything from brown rice syrup and tapioca syrup to high fructose corn syrup. Read the label of your gochujang, then add sweetener to the marinade recipe based on your taste. I prefer the sweetness of natural maple syrup to refined sugars, and use a very little amount. I use an organic maple syrup like this.
Can You Make this Salmon in the Air Fryer vs Oven
This recipe for Gochujang Salmon includes directions for cooking the salmon in both the conventional oven as well as an air-fryer. I have made it both ways multiple times and really, the key deciding factor for me is always which is more convenient at the time.
When to Cook Salmon the Oven. Make Gochujang Salmon in the oven if obviously, you only have an oven. The broiler in the oven also creates the most caramelized char. The oven is also best for larger portions and/or multiple servings.
When to Cook Salmon in the Air-Fryer. Make Gochujang Salmon in the air-fryer if you are only making one or two servings. The biggest advantage of the air-fryer over the oven is that the air-fryer turns off automatically when it's done cooking—one less thing to keep track of. For an absent-minded, multi-tasking chicken in the kitchen with her head cut off like me, this is crucial.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe. However, that's not to say there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make it a LOT easier to get Spicy Gochujang Salmon from your fridge to fork (or chopsticks).
- All-purpose 7-inch chef's knife to cut salmon fillets and remove scales if necessary.
- Extra large size cutting board is stable, sturdy, and has enough surface area to prep
- Glass mixing bowls for making marinade
- Mini whisk
- Glass storage container with airtight lids, perfect size for marinating salmon and chicken, and stackable!
- Parchment paper sheets to line baking sheet
- Parchment liners for air fryers!
- Metal baking sheets
- Instant-read digital thermometer to check for salmon doneness
- Stainless steel chopsticks
- Rice cooker. Rice cookers run the full gambit of types, features, and prices. I have two, this standard Japanese brand, and this fancy Korean brand, which the NYTimes loves. This is a smaller, affordable version of the Korean one.
Substitutions and Variations
With so few ingredients in this recipe, there aren't a lot of substitutions. That being said, you can make small adjustments to suit certain diets or lifestyles:
- Other Fish for Gochujang Marinade. You can absolutely substitute other fish for salmon in this recipe. Some great substitutions for the salmon are: black cod aka sablefish which has even more omega-3s per serving than salmon, regular cod, and sea bass. Because these fish have a much milder natural flavor than salmon, marinate the fish for longer (up to 3 days!) to really amp the flavor.
- Different Hot Sauce for Gochujang. If you don't have or cannot easily find gochujang (though my favorite brand of gochujang is available online), you can kiiiiind of fake-it-'til-you-make-it by combining equal parts miso and sriracha as a substitute. However, the final dish is actually a completely different dish. Gochujang has a very distinctive flavor that comes from the type of chili peppers that are used and how it's fermented. A one-for-one substitution of sriracha for gochujang will absolutely taste totally different. Still delicious, but different!
Leftovers and Storage
Marinated raw Gochujang Salmon should be cooked within one day of marinating.
Refrigerator. Cooked Gochujang Salmon can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Refer to the USDA for safe storage information for fish.
Freezer. Freeze and store cooked Gochujang Salmon in an airtight container, preferably with the air removed like in a zipper plastic bag, in the freezer for up to 3 months. Refer to the USDA for safe storage of fish and shellfish.
What to Serve with Gochujang Salmon
A generous serving of omega-3-rich salmon marinated in metabolism-firing gochujang served with brown rice, a green vegetable, and healthy side of kimchi is a perfect meal to me! Here are some suggestions to pair with you Gochujang Salmon:
- Charred Broccoli is a perennial favorite
- Miso Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- Spicy Cucumber and Avocado Salad
- Spicy Sesame Scallion Salad
- Garlic Sesame Spinach
Wine Pairing for Gochujang Salmon
Salmon itself is a versatile fish when it comes to wine pairing because it works well with both white wine because it's fish (duh) and lighter-bodied red wine because of its richness. That leaves the nuance of wine pairing to the most prominent feature of Gochujang Salmon which is the earthy, umami spiciness of the gochujang marinade.
Gochujang Salmon is:
- hot and spicy
- earthy, umami
- slightly sweet
Spicy foods are commonly paired with wines that are served cold, lower in alcohol, and just a touch sweeter than your usual choice, all to balance and temper the heat. The perfect wine pairings for Gochujang Salmon are:
- Dry Riesling wine
- Sauvignon Blanc
Add these Salmon Recipes to Your Repertoire
Yes, we are obsessed with omega-3-rich salmon in this house, why do you ask?
- Best Miso Salmon
- Citrus Baked Salmon
- Salmon Puttanesca
- Salmon Piccata
- Salmon with Olive Salsa Verde
- Grilled Salmon with Cherry Salsa
- Bulgogi-marinated Salmon with Ssam Lettuce Wraps
What Else Can I Make with Extra Gochujang:
Since you only need 2 tablespoons of gochujang for your Gochujang Salmon, you'll have an entire of container of gochujang left to make these recipes!
Gochujang Salmon Recipe
- 2 6-8 ounce fillets salmon any kind, see notes for details
- optional for garnish: sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds
for Gochujang Marinade/Glaze
- 2 tablespoons gochujang
- 1 tablepoon sake, aka Japanese rice wine
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 clove garlic grated
- Rinse salmon, dry off thoroughly with paper towels, and remove scales if necessary. Place in a glass or non-reactive container, preferable if it has a tight-fitting lid.
- Whisk together gochujang, sake, maple syrup, tamari, sesame, and grated garlic in a small bowl until thoroughly combined. The marinade will have the texture and consistency of a thin BBQ sauce.
- Pour the gochujang marinade over the salmon in the container. Turn over the salmon fillets in the gochujang marinade to make sure all sides are coated. Spoon some of the gochujang marinade over the top to make sure there is a layer sitting on the top surface.
- Cover the container. If you are cooking the salmon within 30 minutes, you can leave it on the counter. If you are marinating the salmon for longer than 30 minutes, place in refrigerator and marinate up to one day.
Bake Salmon in Oven
- Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove salmon from gochujang marinade from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to allow salmon to take some of the chill off.
- Lift salmon fillets from marinade, gently wiping off excess marinade from the salmon. ** Do not rinse ** You want to leave a thin layer of marinade on the surfaces of the salmon.
- Bake the salmon for 15 minutes, then check for your preferred level of "donenes.." Because salmon fillet thickness varies so much, the best way to check if the salmon is done is to use an instant-read thermometer. For medium rare which is still raw/fresh in the center, aim for 120°F. The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145°F. You can also just flake off a piece of salmon from the center of the fillet to see if it's cooked through to your preference.
Optional: Broil Salmon for Burnt "Char"
- If you want a little bit of char on the salmon, turn the broiler to high in your oven. Place the cooked Spicy Gochujang Salmon under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the edges have developed a char. ** Do not leave the kitchen during the broil step, do not leave the oven, in fact you should stand right in front of the oven and watch the salmon until you remove it from the oven. Miso marinade burns easily because of the sugar and you definitely don't want to waste a perfect piece of salmon! I share from experience.
Why Trust The Delicious Life?
Sarah is a professional recipe developer, writer, and digital content creator with almost 20 years of experience cooking for health and happiness. She has traveled to and tasted wine in Burgundy, France and throughout the many diverse wine regions of California.