Kettle Brand Gochujang Chips Review: Do They Taste Like The Real Deal?

Kettle Brand's new limited-time flavor seeks to replicate the flavor of a foundational Korean ingredient.

When Kettle Brand announced that it was dropping a new limited-time flavor, my ears perked up. That's because it's not a new type of ranch-, barbecue-, or cheese-flavored chip, but rather one that's nearer and dearer to my heart: gochujang.

As a Korean-American, it's been fascinating to see the sustained popularity of Korean flavors in American food over the past few decades. When I was a kid, my non-Korean friends were afraid of trying Korean staples like kimchi but can't imagine a world without it now. The fact that gochujang-flavored Kettle Brand chips are right at home in the snack section alongside the salt and vinegar ones is a joy to me — so I wanted to see if Kettle Brand achieved that very specific flavor, or if the Korean spin is just a marketing gimmick.

Some recommendations are based on first-hand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer/distributor/etc.

What is gochujang, and how is it typically used?

Before I tear into that bag of chips, let's talk about what gochujang actually is, because it's one of those words that gets thrown around a lot these days. It's a sweet red pepper paste that starts with a base of ground red chili pepper, which is then mixed with ingredients like barley malt powder, fermented soybean powder, sweet rice powder, and rice syrup.

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That mixture is then fermented, which allows the sauce to develop a deep, rich, and tangy flavor. It's definitely spicy, but it's sweet, earthy, and complex at the same time.

Here's the thing — a lot of packaging, people, recipes, and websites tout it as a condiment, but the truth is, gochujang is more of a foundational ingredient used to flavor dishes. You'll see tablespoons of it stirred into soups, stir-fries, and more, but generally speaking, you don't eat it as a condiment by itself (like say, mayo on a sandwich).

Confusingly, there are exceptions to this. Growing up during the summer, we'd dip raw vegetables from the backyard into tiny bowls of gochujang, such as cucumbers or green chili peppers. You also use gochujang as part of the base of other dipping sauces. Basically, what I'm saying is that gochujang usually is not a sole flavoring agent for anything, but even that's not a hard and fast rule.

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How do Kettle Brand Gochujang Chips taste?

For me, the curiosity was mostly in the accuracy of the gochujang flavor. As in, could Kettle Brand recreate a flavor so nuanced in something like a potato chip?

After my first bite, I can confidently say that the answer is no, but don't take that the wrong way — because these chips are absolutely delicious. They're sweet and not what I'd consider particularly spicy, but they definitely have a chili flavor to them.

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Looking over the Gochujang Chips' ingredients, I noticed a few things. For one, there's no gochugaru, which is Korean red chili powder, specifically listed, but rather a mix of spices, cayenne pepper sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, and red bell pepper. Onion, garlic, and bell pepper are not a part of gochujang's ingredient base, which is why these chips register much more closely to barbecue-flavored ones than they do to gochujang.

So if we're nitpicking, no, these chips don't taste like gochujang, nor are they spicy. The imitation is more like a spiritual cousin to gochujang, but that doesn't mean they're not awesome.

I popped this large sample bag open at 9:30 in the morning, and I ate almost half of it in one sitting, which is wholly unlike me. (I usually eat maybe a handful.) If you're a fan of Kettle Brand's heavy-on-the-crunch-type chip and you like sweet and savory, I'd snag a bag of these, since they're out at major retailers now.

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The brand declined to tell me exactly where its Gochujang Chips are available for some reason, but I am seeing that you can get them at big-box stores like Meijer, so finding them shouldn't be too much of a challenge. The real challenge is to see how long you can make that bag last, because I have a feeling you'll go through it pretty quickly.

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