Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

An easy mapo tofu recipe that creates the authentic taste of China.

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

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

Key ingredients

Doubanjiang

Doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), also known as spicy fermented bean paste and broad bean sauce, is the most important ingredient in this dish. And it has a strong fermented savory, salty and spicy taste. Try to find “Pixian Broad Bean Paste” 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.

Douanjiang

NOTE: Depending on the brand of Doubanjiang you use, the salt and spicy level can varies a lot. This dish is designed to serve with rice, so it’s on the salty side. If you want to make your dish less salty and spicy, reduce the amount of Douanjiang (to 2 tablespoons).

Sichuan peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns (花椒, hua jiao) is another main ingredient in Sichuan cuisine. It has a citrusy taste with a numbing tingling sensation when you chew on it. It’s a secret to add aroma to your dish that no ingredient can replace. You can purchase Sichuan peppercorns at Asian grocery stores, but I highly recommend these premium fresh ones from The Mala Market.

Homemade chili oil

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.

PS. 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 in the fridge for up to two months. You can use the chili oil in various dishes, including bang bang chicken, dan dan noodles, Sichuan spicy wonton in red oil, and Fu Qi Fei Pian (Sliced beef in hot sauce). You can also add it into a dipping sauce for potstickers, or add it to wonton soup to enhance the flavor, or even on oatmeal!

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

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Authentic Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

An easy mapo tofu recipe that creates the authentic taste of China.
4.98 from 35 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories: 397kcal
Author: Omnivore’s Cookbook

Ingredients

Marinade (*see footnote 1)

  • 120 grams (4 ounces) ground meat (pork, chicken or turkey) (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger , minced (or 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder)

For braising

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional) (*Footnote 2)
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (increase to 3 teaspoons if you like your dish extra numbing)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons Doubanjiang (reduce to 2 tablespoons for a less saltier and less spicy taste)
  • 2 tablespoons green onion , chopped
  • 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 homemade chili oil (1 teaspoon for a less spicy dish)
  • 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon green part of chopped green onion for garnish (optional)
  • steamed rice to serve with (optional)

Instructions

  • Combine ground meat, cooking wine, soy sauce, and ginger in a bowl. Mix well.
  • Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Spread tofu evenly on top of ground pork (*See footnote 3). 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.
  • Meanwhile, ground the fried Sichuan peppercorns (you used when heating up the oil) in a coffee grinder or by using mortar and pastel.
  • 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.
  • Garnish with green onion and a small pinch the ground Sichuan peppercorns (*Footnote 4), if using. Serve warm over steamed rice or by itself as main.

Video

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. If you like the tofu with more broth, you can braise the tofu for a shorter time and use the cornstarch slurry to thicken the broth. Alternatively, you can uncover and braise until most of the liquid evaporate. The tofu will absorb more flavor this way.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 298g | Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 11.4g | Protein: 34.1g | Fat: 27.1g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 602mg | Potassium: 486mg | Fiber: 2.5g | Sugar: 5.2g | Vitamin A: 50IU | Vitamin C: 2.5mg | Calcium: 420mg | Iron: 4.5mg

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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110 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 🙂

      3. Alex

        5 stars
        Late to the party, but i also thought that 3 tbsp of the pixian with low sodium chicken stock was too salty.
        Checking the nutritonal facts, as far as salt content is concerned, 2 tbsp of pixian is about equal to 3 tbsp of lee kum kee.

        I tried 1.5 tbsp with no sodium chicken stock, and though the result was a bit bland.
        Im currently making this with 2 tbsp and no sodium chicken stock and have been happy with the results.

        Just another data point for anyone browsing here.

  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
      1. Lilian Cheng

        Just made this and I wish I listened to the comments about it being too salty. Next time I’d cut the doubangjjang by half and avoid soy sauce and salt. I hate wasting food, but I had to throw half of it out. The other half I’m trying to salvage by adding more ground pork.

  7. Chit

    Hi maggi am so happy and excited I stumbled upon your website! I did Mapo tofu today and you are right absolutely…the best! Been doing other recipes…now I have to delete them all in my recipe file! Thanks! And you are so pretty! I look forward to doing all in your cookbook! Thanks for that freebie!

    Chit from the Philippines

    Reply
  8. Savannah

    Great recipe! I absolutely love Mapo-tofu. I was wondering, what’s the green vegetable side dish in the first picture? It looks delicious!

    Reply
  9. Kelly B

    This was fantastic! I surprised my husband with this recipe today and he was silent (mouth full) for two big helpings lol! Thank you I will keep this in my repertoire along with some of your other fabulous dishes!

    Reply
  10. O

    Made this tonight with chicken and tofu. It’s abolitwly amazing, better than in any restaurant! Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Reply
  11. Kula

    Hello Maggie,greetings from Singapore!
    I made this for dinner today and it was very good.
    I did not have chilli oil so I just added 2 fresh chillis. I also added some button mushrooms (leftover in the fridge) to make it a more complete one dish meal.
    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to trying your other recipes.

    Reply
  12. Susan Dubose

    I do love Mapo Tofu and will make your version soon. I didn’t know you could use beef too so will try it that way. Keep the good recipes coming, I am enjoying all of the ones I’ve tried.

    Reply
  13. Kelly B

    This is an amazing dish. I’m making it again tonight but wondered if I could cut out the meat entirely? Would it have enough flavor and is there anything I could replace it with?

    Reply
  14. Kelly Bossert

    This is an amazing dish. I’m making it again tonight but wondered if I could cut out the meat entirely? Would it have enough flavor and is there anything I could replace it with?

    Reply
  15. [email protected]

    Tofu!! I like tofu, I have cooked it with meat before, the recipe is not the same. I think I’ll try your recipe, it’s not too much complex. What’s kinds of rice in your photo? Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  16. Shona Levingston

    This is an excellent recipe. Very tasty. I usually find it difficult to get an authentic taste when I make Chinese food. I don’t seem to have the knack of balancing flavors. However, by following your recipe, I was able to achieve a delicious result. I did cut down on the chili bean paste to suit my taste.

    Reply
  17. Dolores

    Hi Maggie, thanks for the recipe! Have tried it twice and it is delicious. One thing I ‘ve found is that the final dish has quite a bit of oil floating on the top. Do you have any tips to make it less oily – using less Sunflower oil at the start perhaps, or replacing the chili oil with fresh chilies?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Dolores, you can totally start with less Sunflower oil at the beginning if you’re using a nonstick pan (1 teaspoon is probably enough). It’s also possible to replace the chili oil with chili flakes, but I really prefer the homemade chili oil because it’s more fragrant.

      Reply
  18. Celine

    Question about making it vegetarian.
    Hi Maggie, I love your blog so much. Thank you for being such a good cook and giving us good recipe.
    I would love to make this tofu next week for Chinese New Year on Wednesday.

    How do I add the dry shiitake mushroom? Is it better with dry shititake or fresh one okay too?
    How long should I Stirfy the mushroom? I am cooking for 8, how many Tofu should I use? and how much shiitake ? 1 large dry package?
    Thank you and looking forward to hear from you.
    Lastly, do you know any brand for cooking sauce that doesn’t have MSG? My husband is allergic and a lot of guests cant eat with MSG some of them will have severe headache. I noticed the Lee Kum Kee has MSG. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Celine, I do have a vegetarian mapo tofu recipe here: https://omnivorescookbook.com/vegetarian-mapo-tofu/
      It uses fresh mushrooms and the taste is great without using shiitake mushrooms.
      Re serving size, it really depends on how many dishes you will be cooking. But I’d say doubling the recipe (2 blocks of tofu) will generate plenty, considering you’ll be also serving other dishes.
      PS. Highly recommend the 3-year old doubanjiang from the Mala Market (https://themalamarket.com/collections/all/products/3-year-aged-pixian-chili-bean-paste-doubanjiang?aff=2). It’s so rich. I used it to make vegan mapo tofu the other day and it turned out so good. The shipment might not able to make it for your CNY party, but it’s something that’s really nice to have if you cook vegetarian dishes a lot.
      For Asian cooking sauce, I’m not sure if you’re looking for a basic sauce like soy sauce, or a packaged premade sauce. I use soy sauce from Kikkoman and Pearl River Bridge and both of them do not contain MSG. Most packaged premade sauce contains MSG, but I think some of them at Wholefoods use natural ingredients.

      Reply
      1. Celine

        Thank You! I just ordered the Pixian red package! I remembered I bought it last year, but the package smell bad un-opened so I threw it away 🙂 I wish I knew about the Mala Market 3 year old Doubanjiang. I am moving the dinner to Friday the 8th. I wonder if they can deliver it by Thursday. I went for dinner last week in Culver City Chinese restaurant Fifty one https://www.fiftyonekitchen.com/menu ( the Mapo tofu vegetarian one) I don’t know what type of mushroom , it was silky and its seems they minced it. Anyway, Thank you for responding. You helped me tremendously.

  19. JAY R ZABLAN

    I found Sichuan / Pixian / Pi Xian Broad Bean Paste 16OZ (454g) on Amazon for $7.45. Hope this is the same sauce.

    Reply
  20. Arnab Nayak

    Loved your recipe. Made a few changes to my taste: but loved the way you have laid out all the steps and ingredient info.

    Reply
  21. Ellrick

    I really like your recipe and it’s prolly one of the most delicious Mapo Tofu I’ve ever eaten. Although there’s a problem when I made it, because my bro say it’s salty but when I tried it, it’s fine and I’m glad most people agreed it’s really delicious so I think maybe it’s prolly cultural difference that some people aren’t used to the numbness of sichuan pepper. But I’m not sure where I went wrong. I followed exactly your recipe except that I didn’t put salt on it(which is doesn’t make sense why he said it’s salty).

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Jun, you can use medium firm or firm tofu for this recipe. Sometimes I even use soft tofu when I want a heartier texture!

      Reply
  22. Lasesana

    5 stars
    Great recipe. I have vegan dish made of tofu sometimes, so I’ll cook this without meat. Will have and enjoy it this week. Thanks for your post.

    Reply
  23. rook

    Simple instruction but tasty with the adding of a lot spices. I always like tofu, I will definitely cook it. Thanks for all photos and nice post.

    Reply
  24. Tom Hill

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie,
    I just returned from two incredible weeks in Chengdu, and already miss the food. Thanks for this website. Since I live near San Francisco’s Chinatown, getting the ingredients will be easy. I brought home some red and green peppercorns just in case!

    Reply
  25. Lauryn

    5 stars
    Very excited to try this recipe!! If I wanted to tone down the spice a notch, which ingredients would you recommend cutting back on?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Lauryn, I would cut the doubanjiang. It can make the dish quite spicy and salty depending on the brand you use. Maybe cut it to 2 tablespoons or even less.

      Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Christine, you don’t need to press the tofu to cook this dish. The broth is super rich and the cooking time is long enough that the tofu will be flavorful at the end of cooking.

      Reply
  26. Suzanne

    5 stars
    Maggie – Thanks for providing your recipe for Mopo Dofu. We first encountered it while living in S. Korea and traveled to Shanghai for lunar new year. What luck to find a Sichuan restaurant. We returned several times over a few years and since have not found the same taste anyplace in the US. I took the scenic route and made the chili oil at home, which provided a heavenly aroma. I was in heaven then. The meal met our expectations and I’m just now recovering from a tingly lip. We have no changes to the recipe – it was as good as we remember in Shanghai.

    Reply
  27. Carol V. Muse

    5 stars
    This was fantastic! I surprised my husband with this recipe today and he was silent (mouth full) for two big helpings lol!

    Reply
  28. Steevo

    5 stars
    Hi Maggie!
    We tried to scale up the recipe 3x to get enough for lunches, but it was inedible because of the saltiness 😭. I believe it was the doubanjiang(I used Pixian), as we used 9 tbsp. The flavor was definitely there, and we’re gonna try it again per the recipe, and knock back the Pixian to 2 tbsp, based on some of the comments. I bet it’s gonna be A-MAY-ZING!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I’m sorry to hear the dish didn’t turn out well for you. Doubanjiang is quite tricky because the taste varies a lot depending on the one you buy. Even Pixian has very different brands. Yeah scale down to 2 tablespoons should help.

      Reply
  29. Thomas

    5 stars
    Awesome! One of my favorite Mapo Tofu, nice to see your recipe, easy to follow, will cook this for family this weekend. Thanks you!

    Reply
  30. Krisztián

    I tried this, with every ingredient fresh and homemade. It is wonderful, exactly the type of food i’m always looking for. I actually had to travel to get the Chinese ingredients like doubandjan and shaoxing wine, and sichuan peppercorns, but it definitely worth it. Thank you very much for this recipe. I’ll definitely do this regularly from now on. Maggie you are the best :3 <3

    Reply
  31. Erika

    I love this recipe and your site in general. I have also made your stuffed aubergine recipe which was delicious. Thanks so much for the great recipes!

    Reply
  32. Laura

    5 stars
    This recipe is amazing! I always wanted to make my own instead of buying it and this is far superior! A real hit in my house and will be a regular from now on. THANKS !

    Reply
  33. James Wood

    Your dish was so incredible and delicious. I cooked this dish for my family members. They all were happy to eat this tasty dish and loved your recipe. I will cook this recipe again for my family and friends. Thanks for being sharing this dish with all of us. Happy cooking & Have a great day!

    Reply
  34. Amber

    I truly like your formula and it’s probably one of the most scrumptious Mapo Tofu I’ve at any point eaten. In spite of the fact that there’s an issue when I made it, on the grounds that my brother state it’s salty yet when I attempted it, it’s fine and I’m happy a great many people concurred it’s extremely delectable so I think perhaps it’s prolly social distinction that a few people aren’t utilized to the deadness of sichuan pepper. I followed precisely your formula aside from that I didn’t put salt on it (which is doesn’t bode well why he said it’s salty).

    Reply
  35. Andrew Koizumi

    I would love to try this recipe but unfortunately I cannot due to health reason. Any spices, especially chilies, causes skin rash that eventually spreads all over my body. Simply, my liver cannot handle spices.

    Do you have a suggestion for people like me? What can you substitute for those chilies?

    Thank you,
    Andrew K

    Reply
  36. Paul

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for this recipe. It worked out perfectly! We didn’t have any ground pork, so we used ground bison. Excited to try more of your recipes!

    Reply
  37. Yegor Timofeyenko

    5 stars
    We enjoyed the recipe! Thank you, Maggie!

    The 3 tbsp of Lee Kum Kee brand Doubanjiang (810mg sodium/tbsp) listed in the recipe ingredient amounts converts to 1.6 tbsp Pixian Doubanjiang (1518 – 1590 mg sodium per tbsp in the affordable Pixian version) to maintain the same salt levels. My wife and I preferred using 2 tbsp of Pixian Doubanjiang with double the Sichuan peppercorns and with addition of 3/4 of ground whole dried Thai chile. We also increased the oil amount as you recommended, which worked great. Replacing the soy sauce by adding 2 tsp of crushed Yang Jiang Preserved Beans kept the salt amount consistent and was nice compliment to Pixian Doubanjiang.

    I made several variations of the recipe and found that perceived salt amount was a function of spice/sugar levels. With lower spice levels the salt flavor was more apparent and 1 2/3 tbsp Pixian Doubanjiang (firmly packed into a measuring spoon and leveled with a chopstick) seemed to work best. As I increased the spice levels, 2 tbsp of Pixian Doubanjiang seemed to work best. Another example of the perceived salt level paradox: Lee Kum Kee Premium (light) Soy Sauce tastes very noticeably saltier than Lee Kum Kee Premium Dark Soy Sauce although the light sauce has 11% less sodium content than the dark sauce. It’s been my general experience with different light and dark soy sauces that one’s taste buds do not agree with the label regarding sodium content because the different amounts of sugar, molasses, as well as different fermentation methods change the perceived salt level.

    When I lowered Pixian Doubanjiang below 2 tbsp it definitely felt as if a key flavor was reduced. Replacing soy sauce with the fermented black beans definitely filled the gap when using less than 2 tbsp of Doubanjiang.

    When making the recipe with Lee Kum Kee brand Doubanjiang I would definitely keep the soy sauce because Lee Kum Kee chili bean paste version is balanced by soy sauce or black bean sauce. Based on the flavor of Mapo Tofu I have had in most restaurants across the US, they likely don’t use Doubanjiang at all and mix Sambal Oelek with black bean paste or soy sauce instead. At least, I was able to reproduce many US restaurant general public versions of Sichuan food using black bean paste or soy sauce and Sambal Oelek. The conversion, keeping the salt amount constant, is the following:

    3 tbsp of Lee Kum Kee Chili Bean Sauce (Toban Djan) = 1.6 tbsp Pixian Doubanjiang = 2 tbsp Lee Kum Kee Black Bean Garlic Sauce (or Lee Kum Kee Soy Sauces) + 1 1/3 tbsp Sambal Oelek = 2 1/4 tbsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce + 1 1/2 tbsp Sambal Oelek.

    Reply
  38. Alyssa

    5 stars
    I’ve made a few different versions of mapo tofu before coming across this one. This one is the best!! Perfect amount of spice (i didn’t have the Sichuan peppercorns so i used fresh black pepper and then diced a Thai red chili into the ground meat which worked well!) I loved all the flavors in this, especially the addition of the 5 spice which i haven’t seen before. Will definitely make this again!

    Reply
  39. Callie

    5 stars
    Your recipe is quick, easy and delicious. So much healthier and better tasting than the store packaged version. I make this often. Thank you.

    Reply
  40. Theresa

    4 stars
    Hi there: I love this fish and usually buy the premade sauce. So I wanted to use a full pound of pork and I think I threw the whole thing off. Possible to suggest how to up the other ingredients if I do that? Quadruple everything?

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I think it’s possible to scale up the recipe, although it can be a bit tricky to braise many blocks of tofu at the same time.
      You probably need to use firm tofu and handle them carefully, so they won’t break apart. I think use a large skillet (instead of a pot) will help keeping the tofu in the braising liquid.
      Alternatively, if you just want to use more pork, I think it’s possible to double the rest of the ingredients and keep the dish delight. I would start with 4 tablespoons doubanjiang just in case it gets too salty (because the pork will absorb the sauce better than tofu).

      Reply
  41. Lori

    5 stars
    Despite of the too hot from chili much but I do always add more and more into my dish. Love the taste of Chinese meal.
    Thank you much for what you sharing in this site!

    Reply
  42. Quinn

    5 stars
    This is THE recipe that got me hooked on this blog, so I figured that it was about time that I write a comment. My wife likes this mapo tofu better than the one we used to get from her favorite takeout place.

    The doubanjiang (spicy bean paste) that Maggie recommends is great, but my wife prefers the Pixian brand:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M31VHNZ/ref=dp_cerb_2

    But no matter which one you use, it will come out great.

    If you are interested in trying a twist on this recipe, replace the tofu with cauliflower. I know it sounds weird, but it is amazing. One night my wife wanted mapo tofu but I didn’t have any tofu in the fridge (I know, I am a really bad husband!). However, I did have a head of cauliflower, so I cut the cauliflower into steaks, dusted them with flour and fried them until they turned a golden brown. Then I removed the cauliflower from the pan and followed the recipe as is, but added the fried cauliflower instead of the tofu at the end. My wife loved it and now requests this variant frequently as a veggie side dish.

    Thanks again Maggie!

    Cheers,
    Quinn

    Reply
  43. Natasha

    5 stars
    Wonderful recipe. I used it on the first homemade tofu I’ve ever made. It was more medium/firm, but still worked and held together (and next time, I’ll press more water out). Thank you so much for the recipe–loved it and will surely make it again.

    Reply
  44. Dan

    5 stars
    Maggie,
    You continue to knock it out of the park, thank you. The music rocks too. You need to give musicians attributions and royalties are due if applicable. You just can’t use people’s music without giving them credit. Maybe they’ll trade for take-out.
    Love everything you do!
    Dan

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Happy to hear you like the dish!
      Re music – I use a subscription service that I pay monthly to use their loyalty free songs. Will make sure to add the attributions next time!

      Reply
  45. Francis henry

    5 stars
    Delish! Only caveats: I had to use Thai chilis in my homemade chili oil and they seemed to be sharper and less rounded. Don’t know how old they were. I’ll use a bit less chili oil next time. Also, I used the same oil I fried the Szechuan peppercorns in to fry the meat. Next time I’ll change the oil. The Doubanjiang I had was Lee Kum Kee, and it tasted great but I had to stir it like mad since it had separated. BUT…my wife and I really enjoyed!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      I’ve never tried using Thai chili in the oil but that sounds pretty spicy! Yeah definitely use less and you can add a bit more sugar to round up the taste.

      Reply
  46. Winnie

    5 stars
    Just how I like it! Thank you for sharing this recipe 🙂 I will have less doubanjan in the dish for my next attempt XD

    Reply
  47. Emily Stimpson

    5 stars
    If I wanted to cheat to save time and use storebought chili oil, would that be a dealbreaker for this recipe? The chili oil is a very strong one with flakes in it from my favorite Asian market near my house in Brooklyn

    Reply
  48. NY

    I wish I put in the third tablespoon! I read the reviews and was worried about the salt level but in the end it could have used more depth of flavor. I should have trusted you!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Yeah the quantity of doubanjiang is a bit tricky sometimes depending on the brand you use. I use two types and I do use different tablespoons depending on the brand. Hope next time it will turn out better!

      Reply