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5 April 2021

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 in a pan

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.

Cubed tofu for making Mapo Tofu

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.

Cooking the pork for mapo tofu

Doubanjiang. Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan or wok. Add the doubanjiang and stir. Cook for 1 minute.

Cooking the chili paste

Cook the Vegetables. Add the hot peppers, green onions, garlic, ginger and Chinese 5 Spice (if using). Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Adding the vegetables and chili paste together in the pan

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.

Simmering the Mapo Tofu sauce

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.

Stirring the tofu into my pan of Mapo Tofu

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.

A spoonful of Mapo Tofu

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.

Mapo Tofu in a bowl

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.

Mapo Tofu in a bowl, ready to serve

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!

Book Recommendations

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.

Try Some of My Other Popular Recipes

Mapo Tofu in a bowl with chopsticks

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
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4.8 from 5 votes

Mapo Tofu Recipe

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.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: doubanjiang, ground pork, Sichuan, spicy, tofu
Servings: 4
Calories: 391kcal

Ingredients

  • 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

FOR SERVING

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

Calories estimates without steamed rice.

Nutrition

Calories: 391kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 748mg | Potassium: 326mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 241IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 3mg
Mapo Tofu Recipe
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