Gochujang, or hot pepper paste, is not the only fermented paste from Korea that you should get your hands on. Let us introduce you to doenjang, Korea’s savory fermented soy bean paste, and some of the best doenjang brands that deserve a spot in your kitchen pantries.
Comparing The Best Doenjang Brands From Korea
What is doenjang?
Doenjang is a Korean paste made with fermented soybeans and brine. It offers deep and complex umami taste with a subtle hint of sourness which is a common taste in Korean dishes. It’s one of the essential fermented seasonings in Korean cuisine, alongside gochujang or red pepper paste and ganjang or soy sauce.
Typically, Korean doenjang is used for jjiggae or stews and soups. When the doenjang soybean paste is seasoned, it is used for vegetable-wrapped barbecue.
Is doenjang the same as miso?
While both and made with from the same ingredients, namely fermented soybeans and salt, they are different in many ways, specifically in taste!
In Korea, doenjang is traditionally made with purely soybeans and salt. However, Japanese miso uses rice, wheat, barley, and a fermentation starter called koji on top of the fermented soybeans and brine.
Flavor wise, Korean doenjang presents a stronger flavor profile versus the mild and sweeter Japanese miso.
These differences mean that it wouldn’t be a wise choice to use one ingredient as an alternative to the other. But we love them both, just the same!
Types of Doenjang based on ingredients
When visiting your local Korean grocery mart, you will see that Korean pastes come in color-coded tubs. Doenjang usually come in brown tubs. However, you might wonder why the Hangul or Korean labels don’t look the same despite all of them being fermented soy bean pastes.
This is because there are different types of doenjang soybean pastes. Based on their ingredients, doenjang can be classified into these categories:
Hansik-doenjang (한식된장) – traditionally-made doenjang that uses only meju (Korean soybean brick) and brine; usually fermented for at least 6 months
Ssamjang (쌈장) – Seasoned doenjang that is a combination of traditional doenjang, gochujang, and other spices. Ssamjang comes from the portmanteau of ssam (wrapped) and jang (paste), which means wrapping sauce. A dollop of ssamjang is added on top of the grilled meat, rice, kimchi, chili, and other ingredients that are found inside your vegetable wrap.
Types of Doenjang based on fermentation
Sometimes, you may also see these other labels that indicate the length of fermentation that the doenjang underwent:
Jaeraesik (재래식) – slowly fermented for 6 months or more
This type of doenjang is a byproduct of soy sauce production. When soy sauce is fermented and drained, the remaining soy bean solids are mixed with salt and chili powder and fermented for an additional 2-3 months to make doenjang.
Tojang (토장) – fermented for 1-2 months
This type of doenjang skips the process of soy sauce production all together. Meju blocks are immediately mixed with brine and naturally fermented. Because of this, much of the salty and savory flavors are preserved, making this a sharp-tasting doenjang variety.
Gyerangsik Doenjang (개량식된장)– factory-made
This type of doenjang doesn’t undergo the traditional fermentation process and typically includes koji starter, other preservatives, additional spices, and sugar. Most doenjang in your local marts are factory-made doenjang unless stated otherwise.
Where to buy doenjang?
Comparing the Top Doenjang Brands
With all the available doenjang varieties with differing fermentation processes and place of origin, there really is no way to judge which doenjang brand tastes better than the other. It’s all a matter of taste preference and availability in the market.
Whichever brand you choose below guarantees a delightful Korean doenjang jjiggae to warm your tummies.
True to their tagline, CJ Haechandle’s fermented seasonings harness the best of nature’s flow. Haechandle, which means “field under the sunlight”, is also a fitting name because they rely on sunlight and the natural flow of time to bring out the best taste out of every ingredient required to make gochujang, doenjang, and other sauces.
The result of this delicate process is a doenjang with a soft and sweet finish. Despite being a jaeraesik doenjang that underwent slow fermentation, it comes with light-hearted flavors with a weaker sour taste compared to traditional doenjang pastes.
Why you should buy this: This doenjang is perfect for those who are averse to the sour taste of fermented sauces and are more likely to enjoy a milder-tasting seasoning sauce that’s can be likened to the taste of miso.
Sempio has been fermenting Korean pastes for over 70 years, making them doenjang expert in their own right. What makes their doenjang extra special is that the 100% Korean-produced soybeans go through a 6-month traditional fermentation process in an underground tunnel in Yeongdong-gun.
Sempio likens the process as aging wine, where low temperatures in the tunnel reduces the pungent smell of bacteria and deepens the umami flavor of the doenjang paste.
Why you should buy this: Apart from its superior taste, Sempio’s Togul Doenjang comes in an economical size of 900g. You’ll never have to worry about not having enough for your doenjang jjiggae. It also contains no additives or preservatives.
How To Make Doenjang Jjiggae
Doenjang jjiggae, or soybean paste stew, is a savory Korean soup dish that’s made with doenjang, dried anchovies, white radish, and your choice of other vegetables and protein. You can choose to add meat or seafood, like clams and prawns, but based on the name itself, doenjang is the main ingredient in this well-loved Korean dish.
We’ll take you through a no-frills recipe for making doenjang jjiggae that will give you a sense of nostalgia and calm. Get the best doenjang brands for your Korean stews delivered straight to your homes through Karman Foods!
Quick and Easy Doenjang Jjiggae Korean Soybean Stew
Doenjang jjiggae is a popular traditional Korean jiggae (stew) that's made with fermented soy bean paste, dried anchovies, and various vegetables. This simple homemade doenjang jjiggae recipe combines doenjang soybean paste and gochujang hot pepper paste for an umami-packed broth with a kick of spice.
5-6 cups of water
1 Korean anchovy stock packet
White radish, sliced
2 tablespoons of doenjang
White onions, sliced
Firm tofu, cubed
Optional: sliced jalapenos or 1 tablespoon gochujang hot pepper paste
In a pot, boil your soup base ingredients together.
Once it comes to a boil, remove the anchovies and radish.
Stir in your doenjang paste until dissolved. If it is too salty, dilute with cold water.
For added spice, stir in gochujang and sliced jalapenos.
Bring to a boil. Add your tofu and cabbage last because they cook fast.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once the vegetables are cooked, serve.