Chicken glazed with a sweet and spicy sauce meets tangy cucumbers in these Gochujang Chicken Rice Bowls.
Cozy weather is officially here and this is one of those great meals that makes your entire house smell like cozy things are happening in the kitchen. I might go out on a limb and say that the sauce on the rice bowls is one of my absolute favorites. It’s simple, has a beautiful glossy red color, and this great balance of sweet, spicy, and savory that is absolutely perfect with roasted chicken.
The rest of this dinner is one of those great build-your-own-bowl, easy recipe situations that works well in a household of people with different tastes. Add more sauce if you like your meals saucy. Pile on the cucumbers for more of that tangy crunch. Add more Gochujang at the table if you love spice. And if you love a shortcut as much as I do, be sure to jump down the page for lots of time-saving tips.
By the way, if you want a little something sweet to serve after this dinner, Mango Pudding gets high marks as a complement to Gochujang chicken.
What Is Gochujang?
Gochujang is a dark red, thick Korean chili paste made from chili peppers, sticky rice, soybeans, and salt. It has a natural sweetness that comes from the fermentation process. In Korea it is sometimes fermented for years!
You can find Gochujang at almost any well-stocked grocery store, usually in the international aisle or near other varieties of hot sauce.
How to Make It
- Bake chicken. The first step is to spread the chicken out on a foil-lined sheet pan, drizzle with oil, and then season with some salt and pepper. Bake at 425°F for 20 to 30 minutes.
- Make sauce - Simmer all of the sauce ingredients - water, ketchup, soy sauce, honey, Gochujang, and ginger. Stir in a cornstarch-water mixture to thicken the sauce.
- Make marinated cucumbers - Mix cucumbers with apple cider vinegar, toasted sesame oil, green onions, sesame seeds, and some salt.
- Glaze chicken. When the chicken is cooked through, brush it with a small amount of sauce and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more, just to glaze the chicken with sauce. Slice or chop the gochujang chicken thighs.
- Build bowls. Divide cooked rice between bowls and top with chicken, sauce, and cucumbers.
- Chicken - Boneless, skinless chicken thighs work well in this recipe because they’re easy to bake without overcooking. Chicken breasts will work too, but keep an eye on them - they will likely cook faster than thighs, depending on how thick they are.
- Salt and Pepper - To season the chicken before it’s cooked and to season the cucumbers.
- Sauce - The sauce for this dish is a combination of ketchup, soy sauce, honey, Gochujang, ginger, and cornstarch to thicken. It is sweet, savory, and a little bit spicy. Don’t skip the ginger if you can help it - it adds a lot of flavor. You can use brown sugar or maple syrup instead of honey if you prefer.
- Cucumbers - Chop the cucumbers into bite-sized pieces, almost like you’re making a salsa.
- Apple Cider Vinegar, Toasted Sesame Oil, and Salt - Common ingredients for marinating the cucumbers. If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can use rice vinegar instead.
- Green Onions and White Sesame Seeds - For adding flavor to the cucumbers.
- Rice - Serve the bowls white rice or brown rice. Other cooked grains like quinoa would also be great.
- Cooking Oil - Any neutral oil will work here. I keep avocado oil on-hand for using in weeknight recipes like this.
- Use chicken tenders. Either pre-cooked or raw chicken works great. See below for details.
- Use pre-cooked rice. Pre-cooked rice (I find in the freezer section) saves time and dishes. This recipe is great with white, brown, or Jasmine rice.
- Simplify the cucumbers. Feel free to skip the green onions and sesame seeds to make the cucumbers.
- Use store-bought sauce. Skip the homemade sauce and use any store-bought sweet and spicy Asian-style sauce.
- Make it vegetarian. This is a great recipe to serve to people with multiple diet preferences. Use tofu instead of the Gochujang chicken.
- Add kimchi. Kimchi adds a great extra layer of flavor and texture to the bowls.
- Make it gluten-free. There are gluten-free Gochujang options, so use one if you can find it. If not, another gluten-free hot sauce will work. Substitute gluten-free Tamari for the soy sauce.
- Make it low-carb. Try serving these in lettuce leaves / lettuce cups instead of over rice.
Using Chicken Tenders - Crispy or Not
A great variation on these bowls is to use chicken tenders. The first option is to buy the raw, pre-sliced chicken tenders and bake them according to the recipe directions (they will cook in about 15 minutes, brush them with sauce in the last couple minutes of cooking).
OR, try this! Frozen, breaded chicken tenders work great too. Just cook them according to the package directions and brush them with the Gochujang glaze in the last couple minutes of cooking. It makes these like Korean Fried Chicken Bowls!
Yes! This is a great make ahead meal. Just reheat the rice, chicken, and sauce before serving. The cucumbers can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days and served cold.
Absolutely. Tofu would work great for a vegetarian option (slice it into thin “steaks”). Salmon would also be fantastic and would cook in much less time, closer to 10 minutes at 425°F.
I would call it moderately spicy. My kids have a decent (though kid-level) spice tolerance and they can eat this sauce. You can always start on the low end with the Gochujang measurement and taste the sauce as you go. You can also serve Gochujang alongside the finished meal so spice-lovers can add more.
Absolutely! Cook the chicken thighs according to the instructions for your air fryer. Brush them with sauce in the last minute or two of cooking.
Definitely. Use a gas or charcoal grill to cook the chicken, brushing it with sauce in the last minute or two of cooking.
More Asian-Inspired Meals
- Crunchy Asian Chopped Salad
- Asian Chicken Lettuce Cups
- Honey Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry
- Shrimp and Chive Dumplings
- Vietnamese Noodle Bowls (Bun Thit Nuong Cha Gio)
Gochujang Chicken Rice Bowls
- Half Sheet Pan
- aluminum foil
- 1 pound Cucumbers, chopped
- 2 stalks Green Onions/Scallions, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Toasted Sesame Oil
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 2 Tablespoons Cooking Oil, like grapeseed, avocado or olive oil
- Salt and Black Pepper
- Cooked Rice, for serving
- ¾ cup + 2 Tablespoons Water, divided
- ½ cup Ketchup
- ⅓ cup Soy Sauce
- 3 Tablespoons Honey
- 1–2 Tablespoons Gochujang (Korean chili paste), more or less to taste (see note)
- 2 teaspoons Grated Ginger
- 1 teaspoon Cornstarch
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (this will make clean-up easier).
- Set chicken thighs out on the baking sheet and drizzle with cooking oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes (internal temperature of 165°F).
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cucumbers, green onions, vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt. Let the cucumbers marinate while you make the sauce.
- In a large saucepan combine ¾ cup water, ketchup, soy sauce, honey, Gochujang, and ginger. Bring to a simmer. When the sauce is simmering, whisk together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water. Pour the cornstarch slurry into the sauce and stir until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 minutes more.
- When the chicken is cooked through, brush it generously with ⅓ cup of the sauce and return it to the oven. Cook just for 3 to 4 minutes more, until the sauce becomes a glaze on the top of the chicken. (Note: Because the sauce contains honey, any that drips off of the chicken may burn on the foil of the pan.)
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice it into strips.
- Assemble the bowls with a base of rice. Top the rice with chicken, sauce, and cucumber salad. You can sprinkle some extra sesame seeds over top before serving. Enjoy!