Mapo Tofu is a classic Chinese dish that is perfect for colder months! It’s a wonderful combination of spicy, meaty and tingly from the sichuan peppercorn, and great with a bowl of freshly steamed rice.
It’s so easy to make and great for a quick meal that doesn’t require a lot of prep. I love making Mapo tofu in larger batches because it’s very easy to heat up during the week for a quick lunch!
Watch the Mapo Tofu Recipe Video Below!
Ingredients for Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu is extremely easy to make and perfect for a weeknight meal! Here is what you’ll need for the recipe:
- Firm Tofu
- Ground Pork
- Doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
- Chili Oil
- Sichuan Peppercorn
- Dark soy sauce
- Shaoxing wine
- Chicken stock
- Salt to taste
- FIRMNESS: There are differing opinions on what firmness tofu you should use for this dish. I personally like to use firm or extra firm, as I like the tofu to maintain its shape and not crumble into the dish. You can use any level of firmness and it will still taste delicious!
- SIZE: I like to cut them into 1″ or even 1/2″ cubes. Other recipes may recommend cutting them into larger or smaller cubes, or even rectangular shapes. This is up to you! I like smaller cubes because it allows for a more even ratio of tofu to sauce but you can cut them to the size & shape you prefer!
If you cannot eat or prefer not to eat ground pork, you can substitute with a different ground meat of your choice (chicken or turkey come to mind). You can also skip it altogether to make it a vegetarian option.
I always get asked which brand of chili oil I use at home and my answer is – my own! I love making my own chili oil – check out my Sichuan Chili Oil recipe here!
Doubanjiang is a spicy Chinese bean paste that is one of the main components to this dish. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend a substitution. I get mine from any of the local Asian grocery stores I visit (99 Ranch, H Mart, or even Mitsuwa). You can also purchase this from Amazon.
DARK SOY SAUCE
Dark soy sauce is thicker, darker, and sweeter (as well as has a higher sodium content) than regular soy sauce. If you don’t have this on hand, you can substitute with oyster sauce or even regular soy sauce.
If you cannot or do not want to use wine, you can sub with sherry, mirin, or chicken stock!
Mapo Tofu: Recipe Instructions
Cube the tofu
Drain the tofu from the package and then cut across into two sheets, then width wise and length wise to create 1″ cubes. Feel free to cube them larger or smaller based on your preference!
Once your tofu is cubed, add salt to a pot of boiling water and blanch your tofu for about 2 minutes. This will firm up the tofu, creating better texture and allowing the tofu to soak up all that delicious sauce by the end. Once the tofu is blanched, drain it and set it aside.
Brown the ground pork
In a large nonstick pan or wok, add 2 tbsp of neutral oil over high heat and brown the ground pork until golden brown and crispy. This process will take about 3-5 minutes depending on your stove, but the key here is to cook out all the water content in the pork and let the fat render out. This fat, in turn, will then crisp up the pork very nicely, resulting in a better dish overall.
When the ground pork is browned, add minced garlic and ginger as well as 2 tbsp of Doubanjiang, or Chinese chili bean paste.
Mix this all together and continue cooking on medium high heat for 2 minutes or until the aromatics have softened and the chili paste has been cooked out. Then add the chili oil to the pork mixture and stir to combine.
Next, add 2 cups of high quality chicken stock (I always use Kettle & Fire – get 20% off your order when you use code CJPINS!), along with sugar, msg, dark soy sauce, shaoxing wine, and ground sichuan peppercorn. Give that a good mix and bring to a boil over high heat.
Add the tofu and cornstarch slurry
Once the mixture is boiling, add the blanched tofu and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes to let the tofu soak up all that flavor from the spices and chilis. For the final step, add a cornstarch slurry mixture and stir until the sauce has thickened to about the consistency of a gravy. If too watery, add more cornstarch slurry. If too thick, thin the sauce out with more chicken stock. Serve with fresh rice and enjoy!
Plate it up with some freshly steamed white rice and you have a truly comforting meal! I love the spiciness and tender pork from the dish paired with the neutral white rice. It’s a perfect combination!
If you liked this Mapo Tofu recipe, check out some of the most popular Chinese Take-Out recipes on the blog!
A cornstarch slurry is a mixture of cornstarch and water that is used in cooking to thicken WITHOUT powdery lumps or additional flavors/colors! This is the secret to so many of your favorite Chinese dishes. My #1 tip is make sure your cornstarch slurry has not separated before adding it in – I always try to re-stir right before!
BLANCH YOUR TOFU
I like to blanch the tofu in salted water as it 1. seasons the tofu and 2. firms it up for cooking.
- 1 lb firm or extra firm block tofu cut into 1" – 1.5" cubes, depending on your preference
- 8 oz ground pork
- 2 tbsp doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 1/3 cup chili oil adjust to your spice preference
- 1 tbsp toasted ground sichuan peppercorn
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp msg
- 1 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp shaoxing wine
- 2 cup chicken stock
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup water
- Cut the tofu block into desired width. I prefer bigger pieces so I slice the block in half width-wise then into cubes.
- To a pot of boiling water, add 1 tbsp kosher and the tofu and blanch until just before the water begins to boil (2-3 min). Drain and set aside.
- Over high heat, fry ground pork in 2 tbsp neutral oil, or until the water has evaporated from the meat and fat is rendered and slightly crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in doubanjiang, garlic, and ginger – continue cooking until aromatics have softened, chili bean paste has cooked through, and oils have been extracted, about 2-3 minutes.
- To your pork, add chili oil, chicken stock, toasted sichuan peppercorn, dark soy, shaoxing wine, sugar, and msg. Stir to combine.
- Add back your tofu and simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat.
- Add your cornstarch slurry to thicken and stir until it reaches your desired consistency. Salt to taste. Garnish with fresh scallions and serve with rice – enjoy!