Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu is a popular Chinese dish and Sichuan classic. It’s served at many Chinese restaurants but you can make an authentic version at home too.
overhead photo of a bowl of Mapo Tofu

What is Mapo Tofu

Traditionally the dish is made with ground meat and tender tofu. They are cooked in a variety of chilis for a spicy dish that is usually served with rice.

You can of course make variations of this dish. You can make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat. You can use less chili if you want to make the dish less spicy. And you can serve it with something other than rice if you are trying to keep to a low carb diet.
close-up photo of Mapo Tofu

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Origins of the Dish

Ma Po literally translates into pockmarked old woman/wife.

It is believed that the dish was invented by the wife of a couple who owned a food cart/stand. They often served to laborers passing by. Sometimes the laborers would bring pork and she would incorporate it into her tofu dish. The woman had pockmarks on her face and was known as the pockmarked woman/wife. The dish soon became very popular and was then named after her.

Key Ingredients to Make Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu uses a unique blend of chilis and spices to create a sauce that is spicy, fermented, and mouth-numbing. Some of the essential ingredients are:

  • Doubanjiang. This is spicy fermented bean paste or broad bean sauce. I purchased “Pixian Broad Bean Sauce” at 99 Ranch. This can also be found on Amazon.*photo of a package of Doubanjiang
  • Sichuan peppercorns. This is the ingredient that gives the dish the mouth-numbing spice. Again, the peppercorns can be purchased at Asian markets or on Amazon. I purchased mine on Amazon.* The peppercorns needs to be roasted and then ground up to powder.photo of a package of Sichuan peppercorns
    close-up photo of peppercorns
  • Chili Oil. This should be a little easier to find. It is sold at Asian grocery stores, Amazon and most mainstream grocery stores as well.

*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. Much like referral codes, this means I earn a small commission if you purchase a product I referred (at no extra charge to you).
close-up overhead photo of a bowl of Mapo Tofu

How to Make Mapo Tofu

  • First fry the peppercorns until the aroma of the peppers come out. Pat dry any oil released and allow to cool. Grind them in food processor until they become a powder.
  • Pre-cook the tofu for a few minutes in boiling water. Doing so will help tenderize the tofu and also strengthen the tofu so it won’t break as easily when added to the sauce.
  • Roughly chop up the doubanjiang.
  • In a large skillet, add the ground pork and sesame oil and cook until done. Then add in the doubanjiang, garlic, ginger, chili oil. Cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add in 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and slide in tofu. Stir in soy sauce and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You can add more soy sauce if you feel it isn’t hot enough. If you feel it isn’t spicy enough you can add more chili oil or more doubanjiang. Keep in mind that you will also be adding peppercorn powder at the end which will at to the spiciness. If it is too spicy, you can add a little more sugar.
  • Once the sauce has been reduced and is the desired taste, add in cornstarch water to thicken the sauce.
  • Turn off heat and sprinkle peppercorn powder and scallions over dish.
  • Serve immediately with rice or rice substitute of your choice.

photo of Mapo Tofu in a bowl with a serving spoon

Mapo Tofu

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Servings: 4

This is a popular Chinese dish featuring ground meat and tofu cooked in a spicy chili sauce. Learn how to make an authentic version of this dish at home.

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz soft tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • ¼ lb ground pork
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp doubanjiang roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 tbsp water + 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 green scallions finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sichuan peppercorn powder

Directions:

  1. To make peppercorn powder, fry 1 heaping tbsp of peppercorns in a small skillet with about 1 tsp of oil (any kind). Toss peppercorn until aroma of peppercorns come out. Pat dry and let cool. Place into spice grinder and grind to powder. Set aside.

  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Slide in tofu. Cook for about 1 minute. Drain tofu and set aside.

  3. In a large skillet, add the ground pork and sesame oil and cook until pork is cooked. Then add in the doubanjiang, garlic, ginger, chili oil. Cook for about 1 minute.

  4. Add in 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and slide in tofu. Stir in soy sauce and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You can add more soy sauce if you feel it isn’t salty enough. If you feel it isn’t spicy enough you can add more chili oil or more doubanjiang. Keep in mind that you will also be adding peppercorn powder at the end which will add to the spiciness. If it is too spicy, you can add a little more sugar. Cook until sauce is reduced.

  5.  In a small bowl add 2 1/2 tbsp water and 1 tbsp cornstarch. Stir until cornstarch is completely dissolved into water. Add to sauce and immediately stir so that the cornstarch slurry dissolves into the sauce and doesn't clump up. Cook about 30 more seconds or until sauce is thickened.

  6. Turn off heat and sprinkle peppercorn powder and scallions over dish. If desired, you can also drizzle with a little more chili oil.

  7. Serve immediately with rice or rice substitute of your choice.

Notes:

 

  • I like using soft tofu but you can also use silken or firm.
  • Ground pork can be replaced with ground beef.
  • Doubanjiang is a spicy fermented bean paste or broad bean sauce. I purchased “Pixian Broad Bean Sauce” at 99 Ranch. This can also be found on Amazon.*
  • Szechuan peppercorns powder gives the dish the mouth-numbing spice. The peppercorns can be purchased at Asian markets or on Amazon. I purchased mine on Amazon.*
  • *Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. Much like referral codes, this means I earn a small commission if you purchase a product I referred (at no extra charge to you).
Nutrition Facts
Mapo Tofu
Amount Per Serving (0.25 of recipe)
Calories 229 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 14g 22%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 20mg 7%
Sodium 159mg 7%
Potassium 302mg 9%
Total Carbohydrates 14g 5%
Sugars 5g
Protein 10g 20%
Vitamin A 1.2%
Vitamin C 1.9%
Calcium 4.6%
Iron 8.2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have. All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.
Mapo Tofu. Learn how to make an authentic version of this popular Chinese Sichuan dish at home.

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