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Korean Cuisine: 5 Best Doenjang Substitutes

Korean cuisine? It’s a flavor fest, friends. And central to it is doenjang, a rich, savory soybean paste.

But here’s the twist: finding doenjang can sometimes feel like a scavenger hunt you didn’t sign up for.

No sweat! We’ve got the inside scoop on the top five substitutes that’ll keep your dishes singing with authentic Korean zest.

Ever been in a kitchen pickle, staring at a recipe and the pantry’s just not cooperating?

Yeah, we’ve been there. That’s why we’re dishing out this handy guide.

It’s all about keeping your Korean cooking game strong, even when doenjang plays hard to get.

Trust us, these swaps are culinary gold.

What is Doenjang?

what is doenjang

Doenjang is a traditional Korean fermented soybean paste that has a deep, rich flavor.

It is made by fermentation of soybeans, brown rice, and salt over several months.

The result is a thick paste that is intense in flavor and has a slightly bitter taste.

Doenjang can be used as a condiment or ingredient in many dishes, such as stews, soups, and marinades.

It is also commonly used as a dipping sauce for Korean BBQ.

Because of its strong flavor, doenjang is often paired with other ingredients, such as garlic or green onion, to create a more complex flavor profile.

Compared to other soybean pastes, such as miso and otokéba, doenjang has a more robust flavor that can be overwhelming if used in excess.

Most importantly, doenjang is a critical ingredient in the iconic Korean dish, kimchi jjigae (Kimchi Stew).

You can find doenjang at most Korean grocery stores or online, so it’s easy to get your hands on some if you want to try it out.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Doenjang

If you cannot find doenjang at your local grocery store, or if you are looking for a lighter flavor profile, there are several substitutes that can be used in its place.

Here are 5 of the best substitutes for doenjang:

1 – Sweet Bean Sauce

sweet bean sauce

Sweet bean sauce is a thick, dark brown condiment with a sweet and mildly savory flavor.

It is made from fermented soybeans, sugar, rice wine, and salt.

The beans are soaked in water and then boiled until soft.

They are then mashed into a paste and mixed with the other ingredients.

Sweet bean sauce is commonly used in Chinese cuisine, often as a dipping sauce or marinade.

It can also be used to add flavor to stir-fries or noodle dishes.

The sauce should be stored in a cool, dry place and will keep for several months.

2 – Miso Paste

miso paste

Miso paste is a Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans.

It has a salty, savory flavor that is perfect for adding umami to dishes.

It is often used in soups and stews, as well as in sauces and marinades.

The fermentation process also gives miso paste a slightly tangy taste.

Depending on the type of miso paste, it can also be quite sweet.

The length of the fermentation process determines the final flavor of the paste.

The lightest, sweetest misos are called Shiro miso, while the darkest, most intensely flavored pastes are called hatcho miso.

In between these two extremes, there are myriad flavors to choose from.

So, if you can’t find doenjang, miso paste is a great substitute.

3 – Gochujang


Gochujang is a traditional Korean condiment that is made from fermented chili peppers, glutinous rice, and soybeans.

It has a rich, savory flavor with a hint of sweetness and a moderate amount of heat.

The fermentation process also gives gochujang a slightly funky taste that is similar to that of miso or MSG.

Gochujang is typically used as a dipping sauce or marinade, but it can also be used to add flavor to stews and soups.

Because of its popularity in Korean cuisine, gochujang is now widely available in both Asian markets and Western supermarkets.

4 – Doubanjiang


Doubanjiang is a Chinese fermented bean paste that is prized for its unique flavor.

The paste is made from various beans, including soybeans, black beans, and fava beans.

The beans are soaked in water and then fermented with salt and spices.

The resulting paste has a strong salty flavor with hints of acidity and sweetness.

It is often used as a seasoning for stir-fries, noodle dishes, and soups.

Doubanjiang can also be used as a dipping sauce or spread on bread.

The paste is usually fiery red in color, but it can also be found in more muted shades of brown or black.

Regardless of its color, doubanjiang adds depth of flavor to any dish it is added to.

5 – Fermented Black Beans

fermented black beans

Black beans that have been fermented have a deep, rich flavor that is perfect for adding depth to any dish.

The fermentation process breaks down the carbohydrates in the beans, making them easier to digest and also giving them a unique flavor.

Fermented black beans are often used in Chinese cooking, as they are an essential ingredient in many traditional dishes.

They can be added to stir-fries, soups, and rice dishes or enjoyed independently.

Because of their strong flavor, fermented black beans should be used sparingly at first.

Once you have found a dish that you enjoy them in, you can then adjust the amount to suit your taste.


In conclusion, doenjang is a Korean fermented soybean paste that imparts a unique umami flavor to dishes.

If you cannot find doenjang at your local store, there are several substitutes that can be used in its place.

These substitutes include miso paste, sweet bean sauce, gochujang, doubanjiang, and fermented black beans.

Each of these substitutes will provide a different flavor profile to your dish, so be sure to choose the one that best suits your taste buds.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Doenjang

Looking to substitute Doenjang in your recipe? Don't worry, we've got you covered! Here's a curated list of the 5 best substitutes for Doenjang that will help you maintain the rich and savory flavors in your dish:
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Substitutes
Servings 1 Serving


  • Sweet Bean Sauce
  • Miso Paste
  • Gochujang
  • Doubanjiang
  • Fermented Black Beans


  • Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  • Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
Keyword best substitutes for doenjang
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