This delicious spicy gochujang pasta is incredibly easy to make and comes together in minutes. You can dial the heat up or down, add or take away vegetables, and really make this recipe your own.
Why you’ll love it
- The sauce has tons of bold flavor, with no subtlety here.
- It’s a creamy indulgent dish.
- It’s dairy-free and egg-free and suitable for vegans.
- It’s versatile – you can omit the spinach and walnuts or swap them for your preferred veggies, add less or more gochujang to dial the heat up or down, etc.
Ingredients and substitutions
Check out what you’ll need in the photo below and scroll down beneath to see what you can substitute or omit if you’re lacking an ingredient.
Walnuts: Walnuts are great toasted, chopped, and sprinkled over your gochujang pasta, but if you don’t have them or don’t like them you can omit them or substitute them with toasted pine nuts.
Garlic: I love lots of garlic in this sauce but if you don’t like it you can leave it out. Use fresh raw garlic, not jarred or ground.
Baby spinach: Baby spinach is really easy to use in this recipe, especially if you buy it ready-washed but you can omit it or substitute it with chopped regular spinach, half the amount of arugula, or another cooked or quick-cooking vegetable of your choice.
Gochujang: This tasty Korean fermented condiment has a particular flavor that is difficult to replicate, so I don’t really advise substituting it.
Onions: These are necessary for the sauce so don’t omit them. You can use whichever type of onion you prefer, sweet, brown, red, etc.
Coconut milk: Preferably use full-fat coconut milk. The sauce does not have a coconut flavor.
Oil: Use any plain flavorless oil like canola or sunflower.
Tomato paste: Use concentrated tomato paste, also called tomato purée in the UK and Ireland, not fresh or chopped canned tomatoes. You’ll find it packaged up in a tube or a small can.
Lemon: Use fresh lemon juice, not concentrate. I just add a tablespoon to balance the flavors, not to add much taste, but you can add more if you wish.
Salt: Gochujang is quite salty tasting so I only add a little salt to the sauce. You should add to taste and substitute with a low or no-sodium alternative if preferred.
Pasta: Use whichever pasta type you prefer, long or short, either is fine as the thick sauce will cling well to any shape.
How to make it
Gochujang pasta is very simple and quick to make but I’ve nevertheless included detailed instructions and process photos in case you have any doubts or want to check on something. This recipe does move along fast so I recommend having your ingredients measured and prepared before beginning to make it.
- Set the pasta to cook according to the package instructions in well-salted water. Heat the oil in a large deep pan or skillet on medium-high heat. When hot add the chopped onion and fry for about five minutes until lightly browned, stirring often to prevent burning. Add the raw minced garlic.
- Mix the garlic with the onion and fry for two minutes more until the garlic is still fragrant but cooked through.
- Add the salt, tomato pasta, and gochujang.
- Mix well and fry for 3-4 minutes.
- The paste should be darker and slightly reduced now.
- Add the coconut milk and whisk until the gochujang and tomato paste are well incorporated and your sauce is a nice orange color. Four tablespoons of gochujang will give you a nice medium spicy pasta, while six will make your pasta sauce very hot. If you can’t tolerate spice well, reduce the gochujang paste to three for a mild-medium spice level but I don’t recommend using less as you won’t get much flavor then.
- Cook your sauce until thickened, which should take between three to five minutes more.
- Add the baby spinach and lemon juice, mix well, and take the pan off the heat.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of pasta water, and add to the pan with the sauce.
- Mix well. Use the pasta water to loosen the sauce and help it coat the pasta well, you probably won’t need to use the whole cup.
Serve straight away and top with optional toasted chopped walnuts for more texture and taste. This dish also pairs really well with finely grated Parmesan or vegan Parmesan.
What you’ll need:
- A sharp knife and chopping board.
- A non-stick or well-seasoned skillet that’s deep enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta.
- A large or medium saucepan to cook the pasta in.
- Measuring cups and spoons are optional but recommended.
This dish is delicious enough to eat all by itself, but if you want to stretch it out to feed more people or would like to pair it with more food, try serving it with some vegan garlic bread, a tasty Korean lettuce salad – I omit the fish sauce to keep it vegetarian or some stir-fried cucumbers.
You can store leftovers in the fridge for up to five days in a container with a lid. To reheat, add a little water to loosen the sauce and cook the pasta in the microwave for one minute, then stir and repeat until the pasta is hot and the sauce has loosened. You can also reheat it over low-medium heat on the stovetop in a non-stick saucepan, stirring often and adding water as needed until piping hot and creamy again.
You can also freeze leftovers for up to three months.
If making this dish ahead of time, it’s better to keep the sauce and the pasta separate and don’t forget to reserve some pasta water for loosening.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Gochujang is best used as a base for sauces, marinades, and stews in my opinion.
No, it is less spicy and has more of a slow-building heat that develops a few seconds after eating it.
Yes, it is fermented and should be covered or resealed and refrigerated, especially after opening.
Did you make this dish? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐and a comment below.
- 1 lb dried pasta of choice (454g)
- 2 Tablespoons oil (plain oil like canola or sunflower)
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 Tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
- 4 Tablespoons gochujang paste*
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 13.5 fl. oz. can coconut milk (400ml)
- 3-4 cups baby spinach (100-125g)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- (Optional) 3 Tablespoons chopped roasted walnuts or pine nuts
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions in well-salted water. While you are waiting for the pasta water to heat up and the pasta to cook, make the Gocgochujang pasta sauce.
- Add the oil to a large deep saucepan or skillet and heat on medium-high. When hot, add the chopped onion and fry for around five minutes until lightly browned, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking and burning.
- Add the minced garlic and fry for two minutes.
- Add the gochujang, tomato pasta, and salt and mix well. Fry for three minutes until darkened, stirring often.
- Add the coconut milk and whisk until the gochujang and tomato paste are well incorporated. Simmer for 3-5 minutes more until thickened.
- Add the spinach and lemon juice, stir, and remove from the heat.
- When the pasta is cooked, reserve one cup of pasta water and drain the pasta well. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce in the pan and toss until coated. Add the pasta water a little at a time to loosen the sauce until it's at the right consistency, you may not need to use the whole cup of pasta water.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve straight away topped with optional chopped toasted walnuts if using.
4 tablespoons gochujang paste will give you a medium-spice level, and 6 will be quite hot if you like extra spicy.
Parmesan or vegan parmesan is also awesome to top this pasta with.
Amount Per Serving Calories 625Total Fat 37gSaturated Fat 19gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 0mgSodium 1124mgCarbohydrates 65gFiber 6gSugar 15gProtein 15g