CREAMY GOCHUJANG PASTA WITH SHRIMP

The Creamy Gochujang Pasta with Shrimp is a dish that can be prepared in less than half an hour, is simple to prepare, and is really enjoyable. This pasta dish is a combination of Italian and Korean cuisine, and it features juicy shrimp that have been seared, rigatoni pasta that is cooked to perfection, fragrant aromatics, and a gochujang sauce that has been lightened up and is spicy and robust in flavor.

INTRODUCTION

With its spicy, smokey, savory, and deliciously creamy texture, this Creamy Gochujang Pasta with Shrimp is the perfect example of how Italian and Korean cuisines can be perfectly combined to create a pasta dish that is both delicious and opulent.

Gochujang is a fermented Korean chili paste that provides depth of flavor. When combined with cream sauce ingredients such as milk, parmesan cheese, and butter, gochujang creates a taste profile that is both fiery and rich, creating a complex and pleasant flavor profile.

An alternative to the popular TikTok creamy gochujang pasta, my version of this meal is created with a cream sauce that has been lightened up rather than heavy cream. This makes it slightly healthier than the original.

You are free to use as much or as little gochujang as you are comfortable with, depending on the level of heat that you prefer. Whether you choose to make it extremely spicy, medium hot, or on the milder side, this recipe will taste fantastic no matter what you do. I have no doubt that you are going to adore it!

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS

  • Quick and easy. This dish calls for simple ingredients and is ready under 30 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights!
  • Incredible flavors and texture. It’s full of smoky, savory, slightly sweet and spicy flavors and LOADED with umami! The thick, al-dente rigatoni pasta pairs well with the luscious creamy sauce.
  • Customizable. You can customize it with your favorite protein (shrimp, tofu, chicken) and make it vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free.
  • Lighter cream sauce. Made without heavy cream or coconut milk, this is a lighter version of the popular TikTok gochujang pasta.
  • Asian-style comfort food at its best! This hearty pasta dish that combines Korean and Italian flavors is so delicious and addictive that you’ll be making it over and over again!

CREAMY GOCHUJANG PASTA WITH SHRIMP

INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTES

  • Shrimp (or prawns): I used peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp (size 16/20). While smaller sized shrimp work too, large sized shrimp are more succulent and aren’t as easy overcook.
  • Shrimp seasonings: While cooking the shrimp, I seasoned them with kosher salt (use half the amount if using iodized table salt), black pepper and Herbs de Provence. You could also use Italian seasoning for the shrimp instead. I personally prefer the flavors of rosemary and marjoram that the Herbs de Provence adds.
  • Unsalted Butter and Olive Oil: To cook the shrimp and extra butter to cook the rest of the gochujang pasta dish.
  • Aromatics: We have fresh garlic and hot red chilies. I used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies but you can use any variety that is easily available to you. Omit or use less if you are sensitive to heat and prefer less spice.
  • Veggies: Yellow onion, champignon mushrooms and baby spinach. Feel free to use red onion or shallots and any variety of mushrooms like white button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, cremini, etc. Baby kale can be substituted for baby spinach.
  • Rigatoni Pasta: I love the thick, tubular shape of rigatoni pasta with the creamy gochujang sauce but any pasta you have on hand will work.
  • Cream Sauce ingredients: Along with the unsalted butter, we’ll use all-purpose flour and whole milk to build our cream sauce.
  • Gochujang: Gochujang is a fermented Korean chili pepper paste that comes in small tubs or jars. Although deep dark red in color, it’s not extremely spicy. It has a spicy-sweet and smoky flavor profile.
  • Gochugaru: A Korean hot red pepper powder or chili powder. Spice level varies depending on the brand so adjust the amount you use to taste. Substitute with crushed red pepper flakes or any type of medium-hot chili powder. Both gochujang and gochugaru are available in Korean and Asian supermarkets, mainstream supermarkets and online.
  • Low Sodium Light Soy Sauce: A splash to add savory umami notes. Low sodium is preferred since gochujang is quite salty.
  • Seasonings: Kosher salt, black pepper and dried thyme for a hint of lemony flavor.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (or parmesan cheese): I highly recommend buying a block of cheese at the store and grating it at home yourself. It will melt better and more evenly into the sauce since it won’t have any of the preservatives or anti-caking agents the bags of pre-shredded cheese at the store do. Pecorino Romano cheese is another great option.
  • To Serve: Chopped fresh basil, green onions (scallion/spring onion), parsley, or cilantro (coriander).

HOW TO MAKE CREAMY GOCHUJANG PASTA

1. Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta a minute shy of al-dente according to package instructions in a large pot of boiling salted water. Reserve some pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside.

2. Sear the shrimp. Heat unsalted butter and olive oil in a medium-sized deep sauté pan. Add the shrimp and spread the pieces out in the pan. Season and sear both sides until just cooked and lightly browned. Transfer to a clean bowl.

3. Sauté the aromatics. Add more butter to the pan and sauté the yellow onion, garlic and fresh red chilies until softened and fragrant.

4. Add the mushrooms. Add the sliced mushrooms and season with a pinch of kosher salt. Sauté until softened.

5. Whisk in the flour. Whisk in the all-purpose flour. Cook for a minute or so to get rid of the floury taste.

6. Add milk and seasonings. Lower the heat and gradually pour in the milk while continuing to whisk. Stir in the gochujang, low sodium light soy sauce, gochugaru, remaining kosher salt, black pepper and dried thyme until combined well.

7. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Mix until fully melted and the sauce starts to thicken.

8. Mix in the baby spinach. Stir until just wilted.

9. Add the cooked pasta and shrimp. Mix until everything is evenly coated in the sauce. Add pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce.

10. Serve! Divide evenly onto plates or in bowls. Garnish with chopped basil or other fresh herbs of choice and enjoy!

CREAMY GOCHUJANG PASTA WITH SHRIMP

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

This creamy gochujang pasta with shrimp might be considered a complete meal on its own because it contains carbohydrates, protein, and vegetables. On the other hand, you might serve it with a straightforward side salad or garlic bread to provide a vehicle for the mouthwatering and creamy gochujang pasta sauce.

STORING AND REHEATING LEFTOVERS

In the refrigerator, leftovers can be stored for two to three days. Reheat in the microwave for two minutes on high, stirring halfway through the process, until the beverage is hot all the way through. It is recommended that you garnish the dish with basil after it has been reheated because basil can get bitter and blackened in the microwave if it is exposed to heat for an extended amount of time.

COOK’S TIPS

  • Adjust spice level to taste. You can omit the red chili peppers and/or use less less gochujang to make this dish milder. In addition, you can add the gochujang when sautéing the aromatics. Toasting the gochujang in oil lessens the spice level as opposed to adding it to the cream sauce.
  • Double the recipe. This recipe serves 2-3 people. If feeding more people, simply double the recipe ingredients and cook in a larger deep edged skillet/pan.
  • Adjust sauce consistency. If the sauce thickens too much after mixing in the cooked shrimp and pasta, add a small splash of reserved pasta cooking water to loosen it. Note that this dish is meant to be slightly saucy.

VARIATIONS

  • Use a different pasta type. Other great pasta options for this creamy gochujang pasta recipe include orecchiette, mezze paccheri, spaghetti, fettuccine and orzo.
  • Make it gluten-free. Use a gluten-free gochujang like Wholly Gochujang, gluten-free soy sauce (low sodium preferred), tamari or coconut aminos, and a gluten-free pasta.
  • Use a different protein. Italian sausage, boneless skinless chicken thighs, ground chicken, ground turkey or beef would taste delicious!
  • Use shredded chicken. Shredded leftover cooked chicken or store-bought rotisserie chicken can be tossed in instead of shrimp when adding the pasta.
  • Make it vegetarian. Switch out the shrimp for a plant-based protein, pan-fried tofu or tempeh.
  • Make it vegan. Use a plant-based milk like coconut milk, vegan butter and vegan parmesan cheese. Replace the shrimp with these moreish crispy pan-fried tofu cubes or tempeh.
  • Add more/other veggies. Baby kale instead of baby spinach, peas, sautéed asparagus or diced carrots, blanched broccoli florets would be tasty additions.
  • Use noodles. Ramen, thin dried rice noodles like the ones used in pad thai or udon noodles would taste lovely in the creamy gochujang pasta sauce. If you’re a udon noodles lover, check out my Creamy Spicy Korean Udon Noodles with Bulgogi Chicken!

CREAMY GOCHUJANG PASTA WITH SHRIMP

NOTES

1. Fresh red chilies and heat level: Omit or reduce the quantity based on your heat level preference. Gochujang and gochugaru will add a good amount of heat to this dish. The chilies are a tasty addition if you are a fan of spicy and hot food.

2. Gochujang. This is a fermented Korean chili pepper paste that comes in small tubs or jars. Although it has a deep dark red color, it’s not extremely spicy. It has a spicy-sweet and smoky flavor profile with a slight kick of spice. Feel free to use less if you are extra sensitive to spicy food. You can find gochujang in Korean and Asian supermarkets, mainstream supermarkets, or purchase it online.

3. Gochugaru. Gochugaru is a Korean hot red pepper powder or chili powder. It comes in varying heat levels depending on the brand. Adjust the quantity you use to taste. Substitute with crushed red pepper flakes or any type of medium-hot chili powder. You can find it in Korean and Asian supermarkets, some mainstream supermarkets, and online.

4. Rigatoni pasta: Other great pasta options for this recipe include orecchiette, mezze paccheri, spaghetti, fettuccine and orzo.

5. Storing and reheating leftovers. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat on high in the microwave for 2 minutes, stirring halfway in between, until hot throughout. I recommend garnishing with basil after reheating as it can blacken and turn bitter in the microwave when exposed to heat for an extended period.

6. Nutritional information provided is approximate and will vary with any ingredient substitutions.

7. See the ‘Variations’ section in the post above if you’d like to customize this dish for specific dietary needs or use a different protein, veggies, etc.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’s):

1. Does gochujang thicken pasta sauce?

Ans. Yes, the gochujang does thicken the cream sauce but additional flour is also needed to thicken the sauce since no heavy cream is used in this dish.

2. Can i use heavy cream instead?

Ans. Yes, add ⅓ to ½ cup (79ml to 118ml) of heavy cream if you prefer a richer creamy gochujang sauce.

3. Can i use coconut milk?

Ans. Yes, substitute the whole milk with coconut milk if desired. The flavor will be different with a slight nutty sweetness. Nonetheless, it will still taste delicious!

4. What is Korean Gochujang sauce used for?
Ans. Unlike sriracha or Tabasco, gochujang isn’t meant to be used as a finishing sauce on its own—it’s too aggressive. Instead, it’s used to complement rich meat dishes, like spicy pork or beef bulgogi or our new chicken recipe, and liven up starchy foods like winter squash or squishy Korean rice cakes.
5. Is gochujang healthy?
Ans. Results showed that gochujang improved glucose homeostasis by reducing insulin resistance. Glucose homeostasis is the balance of glucagon and insulin that maintains blood glucose levels. More studies have also linked capsaicin to anticancer, antiobesity, antidiabetic, and pain- and itch-relieving effects.
6. Is gochujang very spicy?
Ans. Sure, gochujang has heat — depending on the brand, it can be extraordinarily spicy — but it also has a salty, almost meaty depth and a slight sweetness. In other words, it’s not a one-note hot sauce that you add to a dish after the fact.

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