If you are about to cook some delicious Korean dish, but find yourself without the famous Doenjang and need to replace it, you have come to the right place.
Since this amazing ingredient is common in many cuisines, but not the easiest seasoning to find, you might need a decent Doenjang substitute to get that perfect umami taste and aroma.
Keep on reading because we have all the soybean paste substitutes you can imagine, and detailed instructions on how to use them in different recipes.
The best substitutes for Doenjang
Table of Contents
Doenjang is a famous soybean paste that is mostly used in Korea, but a lot of cuisines around the world are incorporating this delicious and savory paste. For the most part, the Doenjang is made from soybeans, it’s rich in proteins and has a great taste.
It’s used as a seasoning ingredient in dishes, but also a great addition to soups and stews. Besides this, it can be a good dipping sauce for vegetables and chips, but keep in mind that it is quite salty and you need to use it sparingly.
Even though this ingredient or paste is common, it’s still not the easiest one to find, so you might want to have a substitute for Doenjang by your side when you decide to cook a Korean dish.
Here is the list of ingredients that are the best fermented bean paste substitute.
1. Sweet Bean Sauce
Despite the name, this sauce is mainly made out of sugar, salt, and wheat flour. Sometimes it does contain soybeans, but it’s not a mandatory ingredient in this sauce.
The sauce is called sweet, which is common for sauces that are not considered hot or spicy. It still can be used for savory dishes and as a great Doenjang substitute.
It’s thick and brown, just like Doenjang, so you can use it in any dish you want to. It’s also good to know that this substitute can be used in the same ratio as Doenjang, but you can add more or less depending on your taste.
Miso is probably one of the best substitutes for soybean paste although it is mostly used in Japanese cuisine.
Fermented soybeans are used in the making of this ingredient, but it also has koji (which is a type of mold) and salt added. Depending on the manufacturer miso can also contain rice, seaweed, and barley so the taste might be slightly different.
You can use it in sauces, spreads and it goes great with meat and vegetables.
Keep in mind that there are a few differences between red, white, and mixed miso, and you should use red miso if you want to substitute Doenjang. The taste might be slightly sweeter so you will have to adjust other ingredients.
Gochujang is made from fermented soybeans and added chili peppers (a lot of them). Some Doenjang might also have chili, but it’s rarely the dominant ingredient.
Gochujang is a great substitute for Doenjang as long as you don’t mind the extra spiciness it will bring to the dish. It has the same texture as Doenjang and it might be easier to find, so we had to mention it as one of the best alternatives.
It goes great in stews and stir-fries, but it’s so versatile that you can use it to marinate meat and add it to your favorite soup.
Doubanjiang is one more item on our list that is made from fermented soybeans, but what makes it unique and different is that the fermentation time is often longer than three years.
This gives the paste that one-of-a-kind flavor and it generally has more salt than Doenjang.
It can be a good alternative as long as you don’t buy the spicy version also known as La Doubanjiang and you adjust the amount of salt in the recipe.
5. Korean soy sauce
Korean soy sauce is a great alternative for Doenjang because they are essentially the same product. When soybeans are fermented they separate into solid and liquid and the solid part is the base for Doenjang, while the liquid part is soy sauce.
You can use it in various dishes as long as the consistency is not the problem. The taste will be similar and you are going to have one umami meal. People mostly use it as a dipping sauce, but you can add it to stir-fries and stews.
6. Ground Bean Sauce
Ground bean sauce can substitute Doenjang so well that most people will confuse the two and think it’s the same ingredient. The ground bean sauce is made out of yellow soybeans that are fermented and it’s great as BBQ sauce.
You can use it with various meats, as a rib sauce and even stews.
Some people love to put it in soups instead of Doenjang, but keep in mind that the taste and color are not the same so the end result will be delicious, but different.
7. Fermented black beans
Fermented black beans are made from black soybeans and they have a slightly bitter and sweet taste. It can be found in a variety of Chinese dishes, but it’s also a good substitute for Doenjang in Korean dishes if you are out of options.
Fermented black beans can be in a form of paste or sauce, so this might alter the texture a bit. Also, keep in mind that too much will taste bitter so use the ingredient sparingly.
Fermented black bean paste goes great with seafood, vegetables, and bean curd.
8. Hoisin Sauce
This amazing soybean sauce replacement has a sweet and salty flavor, so it might be one of the best substitutes for Doenjang. Hoisin sauce does have fermented soybeans but also a lot of different added spices like garlic, sesame, and chili.
Hoisin sauce was popular as seafood sauce, but don’t get confused because it doesn’t contain seafood and it’s not usually used with seafood dishes.
Just like ground beans sauce, the Hoisin sauce can be used for marinades and BBQ dishes, and it goes great with duck and chicken meat. This is why so many people use it as a seasoning in Peking duck.
Because of the added spices, you might want to adjust the seasoning of the dish you are preparing.
9. Chee Hou Sauce
One more sauce that is made from fermented soybeans, but in a different way, is Chee Hou sauce. This sauce is also known as chu hou paste and it tastes similar to Hoisin sauce but with different ingredients.
Chee Hou sauce is made with salted plums, bean curd, and lemons which give it that unique flavor. It is still a great alternative for Doenjang, but you will probably need a bit less in your recipe.
It’s mostly used in soups and stews, but you can test it out with different dishes, especially those from Cantonese cuisine.
10. Sweet Soybean Paste
Sweet soybean paste is not actually sweet as the name might suggest, but it’s less spicy, so it’s perfect if you are used to Korean ingredients. This soybean paste is a great Doenjang substitute in a pinch if you need to make a quick stir-fry.
It will add a lot of flavors and thicken the dish, so you might want to use it sparingly and add a little at a time.
It’s also a dark brown and smooth paste, so the texture will be the same. Just keep in mind that you need to keep this sauce refrigerated to prevent it from spoiling.
How to choose a Doenjang substitute
Doenjang is such an amazing ingredient that a lot of people use in their daily cooking, and can’t really imagine replacing it with anything. However, as you can see there are plenty of options when you are out of Doenjang but still require that umami flavor.
Depending on the dish that you are preparing different alternatives for Doenjang will work better.
For example, if you need a good substitute for Doenjang in soups and stews you should use Gochujang, Miso, or Chee Hou sauce. But in reality, most of the ingredients we mentioned could work just fine.
It’s always important to remember that different ingredients will not taste the same, but you might even like the substitute more.
If you want to prepare some BBQ, marinate meat, or even a duck you should use Hoisin sauce or Ground bean sauce, as the best alternatives to Doenjang. The meat will be marinated perfectly and the taste will bring all the flavors together.
Doenjang can also be used in stir-fries and you can use Gochujang, Korean soy sauce, or Sweet Soybean Paste to mix it up with vegetables and thicken the dish. It might taste a bit different but it will add that saltines and aroma to the dishes.
Just like Doenjang, all the ingredients we mentioned can be used in various dishes that need that extra saltines and spice. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find out what works best for you and your cooking style.
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