Gochujang Is The Secret To Deliciously Spicy Caramel Cookies

There have been quite a few delicious cookies that have broken the internet — Alison Roman's Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread comes to mind — but few have brought the heat like Eric Kim's Gochujang Caramel Cookies. If you haven't yet heard of the latest viral sensation, let us bring you up to speed. Last holiday season, Kim, a cookbook author and cooking writer for The New York Times, unveiled a recipe that combined a classic sugar cookie base rippling with gorgeous gochujang caramel streaks. They were sweet, spicy, and infinitely Instagrammable. 

So what compelled Kim to add gochujang, a traditional Korean fermented chili paste, to a brown sugar and butter caramel recipe? For Kim, the reason that the chili paste plays so well with the caramel flavor is its hidden sweetness. In a segment for "Good Morning America," he likened it to adding miso to your baked goods, adding that "it's got umami, savory, salt ... and it's quite a sweet paste." As for that high heat, it's nicely balanced out by the rich butter and the molasses-forward brown sugar. Kim notes that this spiciness also works as a Korean twist on the ginger you'd use to create a sweet and spicy gingerbread cookie. 

At the corner of sweet and spicy

To make the gochujang caramel central to his recipe, Kim mixes softened butter, gochujang, and brown sugar into a paste. He admits it's more of faux caramel, as you're not cooking it on the stovetop, but that it still works for this cookie's purposes. The cookie base is fairly straightforward, with a touch of cinnamon to compliment the spice in the gochujang. Finally, Kim suggests a gentle touch when marbling the gochujang caramel into the cookie dough, as you don't want to over-mix and lose those dramatic red ripples. 

Of course, now that you know you should be adding this gochujang caramel to your favorite sugar cookies, what's stopping you from adding it to more of your favorite treats? Try to add the caramel to a traditionally super-sweet dessert that could use a complex note of heat. Consider swirling this adobe-hued caramel into the batter of your favorite blondie recipe or even atop a tray of cheesecake bars. And imagine what this delicious flavor combo would bring to your caramel popcorn or when mixed into a pineapple upside-down cake. But before you go too far down the gochujang caramel rabbit hole, start with this surprisingly fun cookie that showcases its simple perfection.