Gochujang Carbonara

published Feb 5, 2024
Gochujang Carbonara Recipe

Add some spice and umami-rich flavor to your favorite pasta.


Prep10 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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overhead shot of gochujang carbonara in a small speckled bowl, topped with fresh black pepper and cheese.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

One of my go-to easy pasta dishes is spaghetti carbonara. It’s rich, creamy, and glossy with crispy bits of pancetta. But I often find myself craving something spicy to offset its richness (which is why I often eat carbonara with a side of spicy kimchi). So, I thought to myself, why not give my favorite pasta dish a spicy twist? Enter: gochujang carbonara!

Gochujang carbonara is the perfect marriage of Korean and Italian comfort food. Spicy gochujang (mixed with rice vinegar and honey) brings some heat, while the cheesy-eggy carbonara sauce keeps the noodles rich and delightfully decadent. The first slurp might make you think you are just eating creamy gochujang noodles, but the second slurp will remind you that it’s carbonara. Between the spice and richness, it’s a glorious eating experience.  

Key Ingredients in Gochujang Carbonara

  • Parmesan cheese: Parmesan cheese makes the carbonara delightfully cheesy and creamy. You can also use Pecorino Romano instead.
  • Gochujang (Korean red chili paste): The secret ingredient that adds so much flavor and spice to a creamy carbonara. It’s important to cook out the raw taste of gochujang in the pork fat. 
  • Rice vinegar: A little bit of acidity balances the spice of gochujang. Also, it’s not too harsh and has a slight sweetness. 
  • Honey: Adds a nice sweetness to the sauce and balances the rice vinegar and gochujang. 
  • Garlic: It’s unusual to add garlic to carbonara, but with the gochujang sauce (and especially once cooked in pork fat), it adds a beautiful layer of flavor without being too aggressive. 
  • Scallions: Adds a much-needed oniony flavor to this creamy carbonara.
  • Pancetta: Typically, you would use guanciale (cured pork jowl) to make carbonara, but I love the smoky taste of pancetta — especially when it gets really crispy. You can also use bacon instead. (We’ve written about the difference between pancetta and bacon if you need it!)
  • Spaghetti: I usually go for spaghetti or bucatini for carbonara. But you can certainly use other shapes of pasta like rigatoni. 
  • Egg yolks: Make for a creamy, cheesy, and glossy sauce. 

How to Make Gochujang Carbonara

  1. Make the gochujang mixture. Make the sauce by mixing gochujang, rice vinegar, and honey. 
  2. Cook the pancetta. With a little bit of oil, cook the pancetta until it’s all crispy. Keep the residual pork fat. Set the pancetta aside for later. 
  3. Cook the gochujang mixture in the skillet. Cook the gochujang mixture in the pork fat until it’s caramelized and bubbling. 
  4. Cook the spaghetti. Cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Keep the starchy water for later. 
  5. Make the cheese-egg yolk mixture. Mix grated Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, salt, and pepper.
  6. Toss the spaghetti with the cheese-egg yolk mixture. Add the cooked spaghetti directly to the skillet with the gochujang mixture, then add the cheese-egg yolk mixture and the crispy pancetta. Toss the pasta vigorously until it comes together — it should be glossy.
  7. Serve and garnish. Serve with extra cracks of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

If You’re Making Gochujang Carbonara, a Few Tips

  • Caramelize your gochujang in the skillet. Gochujang has a little bit of a rough, raw taste to it, so be sure to cook it thoroughly to bring out a wonderful rich, caramelized taste, which makes the silky carbonara taste so much better. 
  • Garnish with another egg yolk to make it extra rich. I love to top individual serving bowls of carbonara with an extra egg yolk on top. It not only makes the dish stand out more (and it’s a great way to impress yourself!), but an extra yolk adds another layer of richness as it coats the still-warm pasta sauce.

Gochujang Carbonara Recipe

Add some spice and umami-rich flavor to your favorite pasta.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 3 ounces

    Parmesan cheese (3/4 packed cup freshly grated or 1 cup store-bought grated), plus more for serving

  • 2 tablespoons

    gochujang (Korean pepper paste)

  • 1 tablespoon

    rice vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 3

    garlic cloves

  • 2

    medium scallions

  • 8 ounces


  • 1 tablespoon

    neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola

  • 1 pound

    dry spaghetti

  • 4

    large egg yolks

  • Kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons

    coarsely ground black pepper, plus more for serving


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, finely grate 3 ounces Parmesan cheese (3/4 packed cup), or measure out 1 cup store-bought grated. Place 2 tablespoons gochujang, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon honey in a small bowl and stir until combined. Finely chop 3 garlic cloves. Thinly slice 2 medium scallions. Cook the pancetta.

  2. Dice 8 ounces pancetta. Place the pancetta and 1 tablespoon neutral oil in a large nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until starting to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate. Remove all but 1/4 cup of the fat in the pan. (If you have less than that, add more oil to get 1/4 cup.)

  3. Add the garlic and scallions to the pan. Cook over medium heat until the garlic starts to brown and the scallions are tender, about 1 minute. Add the gochujang mixture and cook, stirring and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until starting to bubble, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

  4. Add 1 pound dry spaghetti to the boiling water and cook according to the package directions until just al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place 4 large egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk until combined. Add the Parmesan, a pinch of kosher salt, and 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper. Whisk until combined.

  5. When the spaghetti is ready, use tongs to transfer the spaghetti to the skillet. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the skillet and toss until the pasta is well-coated with the sauce. While tossing the pasta constantly, slowly pour the egg mixture into the skillet, pouring into the center.

  6. Turn the heat on to the lowest setting. Return the pancetta to the skillet and cook, tossing constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken and coat the pasta, 1 to 2 minutes. If the pasta looks dry, toss in more pasta water 1/4 cup at a time.

  7. Turn off the heat. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer to a large bowl or individual serving bowls and serve immediately with more grated Parmesan cheese and a few grinds of pepper on top if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.