Budget Friendly, Dinner, Healthy, Soups and Stews

Moving, Camping, and Gochujang Chili

The past 2 months have been all about planning, recycling, box hoarding, organizing, purging nonessential possessions, and packing. So much packing. And then it was driving, unpacking, assembling Ikea furniture, and trying to settle into a new apartment/job/city. Moving isn’t easy. A blog hiatus was necessary, but it’s been on my mind throughout the moving process. In February, long before job offers and moving plans, we decided to go camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes in mid-May. Since we had looked forward to the trip for a few months, we decided to still go after I accepted the job offer. Now we were planning for camping AND moving! I decided to use the camping menu to help clean out the fridge and pantry, since we couldn’t move a bunch of food to Seattle. Gochujang Chili was the tasty result of my efforts.

Gochujang Chili

Gochujang is a Korean chili paste that is a bit unique since it’s a fermented condiment. The paste I bought had a very thick consistency. Thicker than a tomato paste. Unlike some chili pastes, it’s not vinegary. It’s spicy, savory, and slightly sweet. I originally purchased it to mix into stir fry sauces. With the looming move date, I needed to find uses for it outside of Asian dishes. I decided to try mixing it into chili as suggested on the jar. It seemed like a safe experiment. I’m definitely a gochujang chili paste novice, and don’t feel remotely qualified to make brand recommendations. I used Mother in Law’s Fermented Gochujang Chili Paste Concentrate in this recipe. It’s just what I found at Whole Foods. I’m sure other brands would be a fine substitute.

Gochujang chili paste

I made a batch of Gochujang Chili about two weeks before our camping trip. Before we ate the entire pot of chili, I froze 3 cups for a camp dinner in a heavy-duty ziploc bag. The frozen chili was safely chilled in our cooler, but it had mostly thawed by the second night of camping. Maybe we need a fancier cooler? However, the thawing made it super easy to heat up on our camp stove. Mid-May in northern Michigan is still quite cool, so the spicy chili was perfect for wrapping up a long day of hiking around the dunes. The dunes are STUNNING, by the way. The water is so clear and blue it doesn’t seem like it could possibly be the same lake bordering Chicago. The photo below is from our hike up to the top of the Empire Bluff Trail.

Lake Michigan

Now that we are finally settled into our new apartment, I’m getting back into cooking and blogging! I think I will have a lot to write about with all the new restaurants, markets, and hikes+picnics. I just realized that I also need to buy some more Gochujang chili paste!

Gochujang Chili


  • 1.5 Pounds Ground beef, 85% lean
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Yellow onion, medium sized, finely chopped
  • 3 tsp. Canola Oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Gochujang Chili Paste
  • 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 2 Cups Crushed, Fire Roasted, Canned Tomatoes
  • 1 Can Pinto beans, 14.5 oz cans, no salt added, drain but do not rinse
  • 2 Cans, Kidney Beans, 14.5 oz cans, no salt added, drain but do not rinse
  • 4 Cups Chicken Broth
  • Salt to taste


  • Add 2 tsps of oil to a large pot heated over medium high.
  • Added peppers and onions and saute for about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the pepper and onion mixture to a small dish and return the pot to the heat.
  • Add 1 tsp of oil and Gochujang paste to the pot and mix quickly to blend.
  • Add ground beef to the pot, stirring to mix in the chile paste, and brown for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to prevent burning, if needed.
  • Return the pepper and onion mixture to the pot with the beef.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, beans, cumin and chicken broth to the pot and stir together.
  • Bring the chili to a boil before reducing the heat to a low simmer.
  • Stir occasionally and add salt to taste while the chili simmers for at least 30 minutes.
  • Serve with extra gochujang paste to add as desired for extra spice.

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