Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - An easy mapo tofu recipe that creates the authentic taste of China | omnivorescookbook.comAn easy mapo tofu recipe that creates the authentic taste of China.

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐, ma po dou fu) is one of the most popular classic Sichuan dishes. It has a spicy, pungent, and appetizing flavor that goes perfectly with steamed rice.

I love cooking mapo tofu for a quick lunch or dinner. Sometimes I double the meat and sauce, so it will be enough to serve two people as a one-dish meal. I also like to add a handful of greens (mustard greens or spinach) at the end of braising, to create a more nutritious and balanced meal. I often replace the ground pork (used in the authentic version) with ground turkey to cut calories.

For special diets, you can make it less spicy and skip the rice so it will be paleo friendly. You can also make it into a vegan dish by replacing the meat with mushrooms.

Yes, mapo tofu is such a versatile dish!

I’m sharing my basic mapo tofu recipe below. It creates the very authentic taste that you’d get at a restaurant in China. However, based on this recipe, you can easily twist the dish according to your preferences.

Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - An easy mapo tofu recipe that creates the authentic taste of China | omnivorescookbook.com

Ingredient info

Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), also known as spicy fermented bean paste and broad bean sauce, is the most important ingredient in this dish. Try to find “Pixian Broad Bean Sauce” at an Asian market. Pixian is a small county in Sichuan province that produces the best broad bean paste. If you’re using this brand, you’re already halfway there. You can also purchase this brand on Amazon here.

The other important ingredient is chili oil (辣椒油). Although you can purchase bottled chili oil at the grocery store, I highly recommend you make it at home. Freshly cooked chili oil tastes much better than store-bought and is free of additives. You only need five minutes to cook it and it is really easy. You can find an easy chili oil recipe here. If you have more time, you can also refer to the more complicated chili oil in this recipe. It takes some effort to cook, but you won’t look at chili oil the same way after you try this one.

You will usually cook more chili oil than you’re able to use in one meal. You can store the the extra oil in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks or in the fridge for up to two months. You can use the chili oil in various dishes, including bang bang chicken, Lanzhou beef noodle soup, green beans with spicy peanut Sauce, and dan dan noodles. You can also add it into a dipping sauce for potstickers, or add it to wonton soup to enhance the flavor.

Click here for more delicious Sichuan recipes.

Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - An easy mapo tofu recipe that creates the authentic taste of China | omnivorescookbook.com

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4.7 from 3 reviews
Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Serves: 2
Ingredients
Marinade (*see footnote 1)
  • 120 grams (4 ounces) ground meat (pork, chicken or turkey)
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine (or Japanese Sake)
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger (or 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder)
For braising
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (increase to 3 teaspoons if you like your dish extra numbing)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons Doubanjiang (spicy fermented bean paste)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 1 block (400-g / 14-oz) firm or medium firm tofu, cut into 1.5cm (1/2 inch) squares
  • 1 cup water (or chicken stock)
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese chili oil (1 teaspoon for a less spicy dish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon green part of chopped green onion for garnish
  • (optional) steamed rice to serve with
Instructions
  1. Combine ground pork, cooking wine, soy sauce, and ginger in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Cut and prep tofu and herbs.
    Mapo Tofu Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Mapo Tofu Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  4. Heat vegetable oil and Sichuan peppercorns in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When the Sichuan peppercorns turn dark brown and crispy, scoop them out with spatula and transfer into a bowl layered with paper towel to soak extra oil. Save to use for garnish the dish.
  5. When oil is hot, add ground meat and Doubanjiang. Stir-fry over medium heat with a spatula, until pork is evenly coated with Doubanjiang. Add green onion and stir fry for another minute.
    Mapo Tofu Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Mapo Tofu Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  6. Spread tofu evenly on top of ground pork (*See footnote 2). Add chili oil, five-spice powder, and sugar. Pour in water and cook until bringing to a simmer. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until tofu becomes tender and the sauce has reduced to half the original amount. Taste the tofu with some broth (be careful, it will be very hot!). Adjust seasoning by adding salt. If the dish is too spicy, add another teaspoon of sugar. Gently mix well with spatula.Mapo Tofu Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com Mapo Tofu Cooking Process | omnivorescookbook.com
  7. Meanwhile, ground the fried Sichuan peppercorns (you used when heating up the oil) in a coffee grinder or by using mortar and pastel.
  8. Mix cornstarch water again until fully dissolved and swirl it into the skillet. Gently stir a few times with a spatula, until sauce thickens. Turn off heat and transfer everything to a bowl.
  9. Garnish with green onion and a small pinch the ground Sichuan peppercorns, if using. Serve warm over steamed rice or by itself as main.
Notes
1. You can skip the meat and make this dish a vegetarian one. In this case, I highly recommend replacing the meat with mushrooms (such as rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms) to enhance flavor.

2. Do not stir the tofu immediately after adding it into the skillet, in order to keep the pieces from breaking apart. The tofu will get firmer after braising and you can stir it once it's cooked.

3. The Sichuan peppercorns add a numbing nutty aroma to the dish. The fried Sichuan peppercorns has a more roundup body so it is works great for garnishing the dish or in a salad. You only need a small around in this recipe to finish up the dish. Store the rest in an airtight container no longer than a month.

 

The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 2 servings generated by this recipe.

Mapo Tofu Nutrition Facts | omnivorescookbook.com

This recipe was originally published 23 November 2013.

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my Austin, Texas kitchen.

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15 thoughts on “Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

      1. Maggie Post author

        Hi Xiaolu, thank you for stopping by and I’m glad you like the recipe. 🙂
        Yes, I used homemade chili sauce from another recipe instead of chili oil from supermarket. Although they are interchangeable, I like the homemade chili sauce better, because it’s fresh and have better flavor. Also it’s very easy to make and you can store it under room temperature for relatively long time – about 1 month.
        Happy cooking and hope you enjoy the dish! 🙂

  1. CartoonGent

    Thanks for the advice! I poked around a bit in the store and didn t see any Sichuan peppercorns that looked green and red like yours. The dried prickly ash all looked like dark brown balls. I was led astray by the spicy bean sauce because the jar had a picture of mapo tofu on it! I may try this dish again after learning from my mistakes. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Joyce

    Thanks for such a delicious and easy recipe Maggie! I’ve tried another mapo tofu recipe that was not very successful, but when I saw your recipe, and how I already had all the ingredients at home, I decided to try making it again.

    It was a HUGE hit with my husband, and it will be on my regular dinner rotation! 🙂 I also love reading about your Austin restaurant adventures – I live in Houston and travel to Austin a few times each year and enjoy reading about the new eats in town to check out. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I’m so glad you tried my recipe and liked it Joyce! This is such a comforting dish that we cook it at home very often.
      I didn’t realize we’re so close! We travel to Houston once in a while. It has a great collections of Asian restaurants and markets there, and I grab Shaoxing wine (the non-salted kind) there. I cannot find Shaoxing wine in Austin!
      We cook at home most of the time, but we try to go to a new place every week or two. Will keep talking about it on the blog 🙂
      Have a great week ahead!

      Reply
  3. Tim

    Is the doubanjiang really 3 tablespoons and not teaspoons? I’ve made it twice using no salt containing ingredients except the doubanjiang (no soy sauce or chicken bouillon) and have used both 2 and 3 tbsp. Both were too salty. :(. I see another recipe online that calls for only 2 teaspoons of doubanjiang (lady and pups).

    Help!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Tim, I’m pretty sure I used 3 tablespoons when I was cooking this recipe, because it is the main ingredient. One of the reasons I can think of, probably I was using another brand of doubanjiang back then (I considered it common to find). I made sure I added enough so the dish won’t taste plain when serving with rice. I switched to the authentic brand now. From the ingredients of the recipe, I’d probably add 1 to 2 tablespoons (or 1 tablespoon plus extra homemade chili oil). I will need to test this recipe again so I can found out the correct measurement.
      I’ve checked the recipe from Lady and Pups, it looks gorgeous! I like the idea of adding chicken stock into the stew.
      Thanks for helping me troubleshooting the recipe Tim. I’ll make sure to revise and fix it.

      Reply
      1. Tim

        Thank you so much, Maggie. I just found your blog and absolutely love your recipes. I lived in China for a little while and fell in love with the food but quickly became sad when I couldn’t find the same flavors back home – even at Chinese restaurants. I do think the key is the brand of doubanjiang because they all have different salt levels. I use the same brand as Lasy and Pups uses. I’m going to have to make this again tomorrow and use less doubanjiang but I really prefer to use more to get the flavor (but then the salt…). I guess I just need a less salty brand so I can use more of it. 🙂

        Keep up the excellent work. You’re awesome!

      2. Maggie Post author

        Hi Tim, always so happy to see a new reader who appreciates real Chinese flavor! 🙂 I agree with you, it is very difficult to find the authentic flavor outside of China. That’s the reason that I mostly cook Chinese food at home and seldom go trying out new restaurants these days.
        As for the doubanjiang, you can try Lee Kum Kee. That’s the brand I used to cook with and it might be less saltier. But the Pixian one is supposed to be the real deal (the one you’re using now). One of the great way to add flavor is adding tons of homemade chili oil into the dish, like the recipe from Lady and Pups. If you’re cooking with my recipe again tomorrow, try 1 tablespoon doubanjiang and more chili oil (maybe use chicken stock instead of hot water). If you’re making chili oil with a less spicier type pepper (Korean chili pepper instead of Thai chili pepper), you can use quite a lot to add flavor without making the dish too salty.
        Thanks for the kind words Tim! You just made my day 🙂

  4. dylan

    ahhh this was sooo yummy and delicious! thank you 🙂 i’ve been using pre packed ma bo and finally decided i needed to make it myself 🙂

    Reply
  5. D.Friesen

    Looks like a great recipe, and I’m going to try it tonight with one quite important addition: Sichuan peppercorn. When I lived in Chengdu I don’t think I ever had this dish without that Sichuan spice. Not sure how it can be called authentic without it.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I totally agree with you on the Sichuan peppercorns. I usually add 2 teaspoons when heating up the oil to make the oil smoky and fragrant. When the Sichuan peppercorns turns dark brown, scoop them out and transfer to a small bowl with paper towel to soak extra oil. Once the dish is cooked, you can ground the sichuan peppercorns in a coffee grinder and sprinkle on the tofu. The freshly ground fried peppercorns have a more roundup flavor and nutty aroma.
      Not sure why I skipped it when I published the recipe… Going to edit it right now.

      Reply
  6. J-Mom

    My husband was hankering for mapo tofu. I knew I would find a great recipe at your website. We loved this. I really liked the flavor and kick of the Sichuan peppercorns. Thank you for the recipe !!!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Big sorry if your inbox is bombarded with my replies J-Mom! I was traveling most of the weekends and just realized I haven’t reply my blog comments for weeks…
      I’m glad that you like this version and do not mind the spiciness! It is one of our favorite winter dishes and it the perfect pair with rice 🙂

      Reply