This mapo tofu recipe is a popular Chinese dish from the Sichuan province of tofu and pork or beef stir fried in a spicy chili-bean sauce.
We're cooking up some Sichuan cuisine in the Chili Pepper Madness kitchen tonight, my friends. Care to join me?
If you are a spicy food lover, Sichuan cooking is ideal for exploration. Sichuan cuisine is characterized by big, bold flavors with pungent spice, lots of spicy chili peppers and unique flavors.
This particular dish is called Mapo Tofu, and I believe it may become one of your new favorites, even if you aren't a fan of tofu.
What is Mapo Tofu? Mapo Tofu is a Sichuan dish made with tofu and ground beef or pork simmered in a spicy sauce made from chili-bean paste and wonderful seasonings. You will find variations within the Sichuan region itself as well as other areas and Chinese restaurants that have adopted the dish, like Korean, Japan, and America.
The term "mapo" means "pockmarked old woman", referring to the creator of the dish.
I personally love it for its spicy warmth and heavy use of Chinese doubanjiang, which always has a place in my kitchen. It's so full of flavor and easy to work with. As mentioned, there are different ways to make it, but this is how I like to make mine, with some added heat and spicy factor.
Let's talk about how we make Mapo Tofu, shall we?
Mapo Tofu Ingredients
- Tofu. I prefer very firm tofu for this recipe, though soft or silken tofu is often used. Use your preferred consistency.
- Oil for Cooking. Peanut oil is good here, or use vegetable oil or chili oil for more heat factor.
- Ground Pork or Ground Beef. I am using ground pork, though ground beef is often used.
- Doubanjiang. Doubanjiang is a Chinese chili bean paste made from fermented soybeans, broad beans, and hot peppers. It is also called Toban Djan, spicy bean paste or broad bean chili sauce. Learn more about doubanjiang.
- Hot Peppers. Use Chinese hot peppers if you can obtain them, like the Chao Tian Jiao, or "Facing Heaven Pepper", or use whatever is available to you. Serrano peppers are great here, or bird's eye peppers.
- Other Vegetables. Green onion or scallions, garlic, ginger.
- Chinese 5 Spice. Optional, for a bit more flavor. I love it.
- Chicken Stock. Or you can use water, for simmering.
- Soy Sauce. Use your favorite. Light soy sauce is more commonly used.
- Corn Starch Slurry. For thickening your sauce.
- For Serving. Sichuan peppercorns (freshly ground), sesame oil, spicy chili flakes, chopped scallions or other chopped fresh herbs, steamed rice if desired.
How to Make Mapo Tofu - the Recipe Method
Boil the Tofu. Bring a small pot of water to a boil with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the cubed tofu and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Blanching the tofu relaxes and seasons the tofu, making it more supple. Boil a bit longer and the outer edges will firm up a bit. You can skip this step if you wish.
Cook the Pork. While the tofu is blanching, heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. Cook the pork for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
Doubanjiang. Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan or wok. Add the doubanjiang and stir. Cook for 1 minute.
Cook the Vegetables. Add the hot peppers, green onions, garlic, ginger and Chinese 5 Spice (if using). Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Stock and Simmer. Stir in the the chicken stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
Simmer the Tofu and Pork. Add the tofu cubes and reserved pork and simmer another 5 minutes or longer to let the flavors develop. I like to simmer 10 minutes or a bit longer.
Thicken the Sauce. Stir the cornstarch with the water to form a slurry. Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce and gently stir. The sauce will thicken up quickly.
Garnish and Serve. Sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppercorns to taste, drizzle with sesame oil, and garnish with scallions and extra chili flakes. Serve the mapo tofu over steamed rice, if desired. Sichuan pepper is unique and very flavorful.
Boom! Done! Your mapo tofu dish is ready to serve. Looks delicious, doesn't it? Sichuan cuisine as its finest. Nice and spicy, my friends! Everyone absolutely loves it.
Recipe Tips & Notes
- Spice Factor. Medium. You'll get some very nice heat depending on the peppers of choice. Sichuan cuisine is typically nice and spicy. You can reduce the heat and spiciness by using milder peppers and going easy on the doubanjiang.
- Vegetarian Version. Skip the pork and use mushrooms instead for a vegetarian version of this dish. Also, use vegetable stock or water in place of chicken stock.
- Black Bean Paste. This recipe is often made with douchi, a Chinese black bean paste or sauce made from fermented black beans, though many recipes skip it. If using, add 1 tablespoon in place of the doubanjiang.
That's it, my friends. I hope you enjoy this Chinese mapo tofu recipe. Let me know if you make it. I'd love to hear how it turned out for you. Keep it spicy!
If you enjoy cooking Chinese or other Asian cuisine, I recommend these books for a lot of easy and iconic recipes. I've learning a lot from them and have been inspired to make many spicy dishes.
- Easy Chinese Cookbook, Restaurant Favorites Made Simple, by Chris Toy
- Essential Wok Cookbook, by Naomi Imatome-Yum
Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes
- Mongolian Beef
- Szechuan Chicken with Homemade Szechuan Sauce
- Szechuan Beef
- Drunken Noodles
- Chinese Pepper Steak
- Cashew Chicken
- Spicy Chicken Fried Rice
- Spicy Ramen Noodles
- Dan Dan Noodles
- Teriyaki Shrimp Stir Fry
- Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans Recipe (Ganbian Sijidou)
- Shuizhu Yu (Boiled Fish In A Seething Sea Of Chilies)
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Mapo Tofu Recipe
- 15 ounces firm tofu cut into small cubes (use 1 pack)
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil divided (or use chili oil)
- 8 ounces ground pork or use ground beef
- 3 tablespoons doubanjiang Chinese chili-bean paste
- 1-2 hot peppers chopped
- 4 green onions chopped (white and green parts)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice optional
- 1/2 cup chicken stock or more, as desired
- 1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns crushed or ground
- Spicy chili flakes
- Chopped scallions or green onion or other chopped fresh herbs
- 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
- Steamed rice
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add the cubed tofu and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- While the tofu is blanching, heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. Cook the pork for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.
- Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan or wok. Add the doubanjiang and stir. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the hot peppers, green onions, garlic, ginger and Chinese 5 Spice (if using). Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Stir in the the chicken stock and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Stir in the tofu and reserved pork and simmer another 5 minutes.
- Stir the cornstarch with the water to form a slurry. Pour the slurry into the simmering sauce and gently stir. The sauce will thicken up quickly.
- Sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppercorn to taste, drizzle with sesame oil, and garnish with scallions and extra chili flakes. Serve the mapo tofu over steamed rice, if desired.
Kevin Moser says
My wife is a vegetarian. I cooked many tofu recipes over the years. Never boiled it. Her words..."This is absolutely AMAZING! Couldn't get anything better in a restaurant!"
Mr. Hultquist, we have made many recipies from your website, all of them have been outstanding! This was one of the best!
Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness says
Outstanding, Kevin! Super happy she enjoyed it! I greatly appreciate it.
will be making this with few subs i never had mapo tofu before perfect for my after office meals will tag you on twitter if i make this Thanks Ramya
Damien C. says
Just picked up a container of tofu and ready to dig into this tonight. Looks perfect.
Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness says
Hollis Ramsey says
When could I add rinsed/chopped douchi and how much would you recommend? Also, I don’t think that firm tofu needs blanching; isn’t blanching tofu a technique for firming up soft tofu? One more thing — where’s the trademark chili oil “slick” that I look for in this dish? I have loads of ma po recipes — beef is traditional but many (like me) prefer pork; if trying to make “traditional” style, only 2oz of meat is called for, as the meat is intended as a flavoring component — but I like to tailor recipes to add what I like, leave out what I don’t. So I use at least 6-8 whole dried Sichuan chili peppers and a mix of fresh toasted/ground red and green Sichuan peppercorns, all of which I get online at the Mala Market (they’re currently offering a very intense Sichuan Flower Pepper (SPECIAL-GRADE DA HONG PAO SICHUAN PEPPER) that is to die for, honest!) Their Yaomazi Green Sichuan Pepper Oil is a fantastic finishing oil, and I’ve been on the waiting list for the Caiziyou (Roasted Rapeseed Oil) for many months, but now I read that a shipment is due in possibly this week (4/7/21) — better snatch it up fast, if it appeals to you bc it’s almost impossible to find anywhere else in America or online!
Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness says
Hollis, my recipe used Doubanjiang, not douchi. If using douchi, I would add them in with the aromatics and stir fry them. Of course the great thing about recipes is that you can adjust to your own preferences, as you mention. For chili oil, there are many options and I would say use your favorite, or use chile crisp, which I love. See my recipe notes on the tofu, as again that is something you can prep and cook to your preference. Enjoy.