Mapo Eggplant (麻婆茄子)

5 from 9 votes
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Full of flavor, mapo eggplant is richly savory, spicy, and fragrant, not to mention quick and easy for any night you want a hearty and healthy Chinese dish. {Vegan-Adaptable}

Sichuan braised eggplant over rice

One of my favorite dishes is mapo tofu, but I absolutely love making that same mapo sauce to go with eggplant for mapo eggplant. 

I’ll admit, mapo eggplant is not the prettiest dish out there but it is full of flavor and uses a classic mapo sauce that envelops the tender eggplant in a savory, spicy, and fragrant way. Don’t let the ingredient list scare you off… You likely have most of it in your pantry and it really takes no time at all to make. 

It’s the perfect one-bowl dinner. Mapo eggplant is wonderful over hot steamed rice or even atop noodles. It’s that sauce. It makes everything good!

Mapo eggplant with ground chicken

Ingredients

Doubanjiang

A crucial aspect of authentic tasting mapo sauce is doubanjiang, a spicy fermented bean paste. You can’t skip this because it’s what makes the mapo sauce. It’s got a strong fermented taste that’s very salty and spicy. Depending on the brand, it can vary. If you can find it, look for Pixian Broad Bean Paste which is my personal favorite. You’ll find it at your local Asian supermarket or on Amazon. If you are looking for a premium product, check out the 3-Year Fermented Pixian Douanjiang from The Mala Market. It’s made by hand in small batches using the traditional method, and it has a deeper and richer flavor.

Douanjiang

Sichuan peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns are another key element in any mapo sauce. These are a bit citrusy and incredibly aromatic, and they have a numbing effect when you bite into them. I highly recommend the Sichuan peppercorns from The Mala Market, which are some of the freshest I have found anywhere.

The Mala Market Sichuan Peppercorns

Aromatics

A great mapo eggplant uses fresh ginger, garlic, and green onions as the aromatics that give it plenty of fragrance and flavor. You can skip one of them if you don’t have them all, and simply increase the amount of the aromatics you do have.

Chinese eggplant and ground meat over rice

Vegetarian & vegan adaptable

While this mapo eggplant recipe calls for ground meat (be it pork, beef, chicken or turkey), you can leave it out for a vegetarian or vegan meal. I did use chicken stock but you can replace that with vegetable broth or even water to make it friendly for meatless meals.

If you are going in the meatless direction though, I recommend replacing the meat with 1/2 lb (225 g) chopped mushrooms to give it more dimension and a meaty texture without using any meat. Don’t like mushrooms? Then just leave them out. It will still taste amazing!

Cooking process

When you’re ready to cook, your table should have the ingredients below.

Ingredients for making mapo eggplant
  1. Saute the Sichuan peppercorns in oil to infuse the oil 
  2. Brown the ground meat and doubanjiang
  3. Break apart the ground meat. Do not overcook
  4. Add the aromatics
  5. Add the eggplant, broth, and rest of the seasonings
  6. Cook until the eggplant turns tender 
  7. Serve!
How to make mapo eggplant step-by-step
Mapo eggplant close up

Once you try the dish, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to cook it and how addictive it tastes!

Grab some fresh eggplant and try mapo eggplant for dinner tonight. You’ll have it done faster than delivery would take to arrive!

Chinese eggplant over rice close up

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Full of flavor, mapo eggplant is richly savory, spicy, and fragrant, not to mention quick and easy for any night you want a hearty and healthy Chinese dish. {Vegan-Adaptable}

Mapo Eggplant (麻婆茄子)

5 from 9 votes
Full of flavor, mapo eggplant is richly savory, spicy, and fragrant, not to mention quick and easy for any night you want a hearty and healthy Chinese dish. {Vegan-Adaptable}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 Chinese eggplants , cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1 lb/450 g) (*Footnote 1)

Braising

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 8 oz (225 g) ground chicken (*Footnote 2)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons doubanjiang (*Footnote 3)
  • 4 green onions , sliced with some green part reserved for garnish
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 ” (2.5 cm) ginger , minced
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
  • 1 cup chicken stock (or water)
  • 1 tablespoon homemade chili oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Slurry

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

Instructions

  • Add the oil and sichuan peppercorns to a large skillet and cook over medium heat. Let the peppercorns cook until they are fragrant and turn brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the peppercorns using a spatula without removing the oil, and transfer them into a small bowl. (*Footnote 4)
  • Add the ground chicken and spread it across the pan. Top with the doubanjiang. Let the chicken cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the bottom turns golden. Stir with the doubanjiang and cook until the chicken is almost cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the green onions, ginger, and garlic. Continue cooking for another 30 seconds to a minute to release the fragrance.
  • Pour in the Shaoxing wine. Immediately use your spatula to scrape off any browned bits from the pan.
  • Add the eggplant, stock, chili oil, soy sauce, and sugar. Stir gently to incorporate everything. Bring to a boil, then cover. Simmer over medium-low heat until the eggplant is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Carefully taste one piece of eggplant to make sure it reaches your desired texture. Let cook a bit longer if needed.
  • Mix together the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl and stir until fully dissolved. Drizzle over the sauce and turn the heat back to medium. Stir constantly and cook until the sauce has thickened. Transfer everything to a serving plate. Garnish with the reserved green onion, if using.
  • Enjoy hot as a main dish over steamed rice or boiled noodles.

Notes

  1. Asian eggplant has the best texture for this dish. You can use other types of eggplant as well.
  2. Other ground meat (pork, beef, turkey) works great as well. To make this dish vegan, use 1/2 pound (225 g) white mushrooms and chop them into small pieces or simply skip the meat.
  3. The brand of doubanjiang you use will affect the salt and spice level of the dish. If you’re unsure, start with 1 1/2 tablespoons and add more at the end of the dish.
  4. The cooked Sichuan peppercorns are delicious. You can coarsely grind them (using a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle), and use them as a salad or noodle topping or garnish this dish with them at the end of the cooking if you’d like more Sichuan peppercorn flavor. You can also discard them if you do not wish to re-use them.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 218kcal, Carbohydrates: 16.2g, Protein: 14.2g, Fat: 11.3g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 289mg, Potassium: 394mg, Fiber: 4.3g, Sugar: 8g, Calcium: 29mg, Iron: 1mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

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.

Other delicious Sichuan recipes

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Pey-Lih says:

    5 stars
    Really stunning! Thanks for sharing. I will definitely make this. I love mapo anything.

  2. Patrick says:

    5 stars
    The doubanjian was amazing, the best I have ever tasted. So thank you for the suggestion.

  3. Peter says:

    Your mapo looks wonderfull. I tried to make it today and DISASTER !! The eggplant doesn’t look like eggplant, the whole dish looks like… better not to say. I dont know what I spoiled but what I’m sure is following: too much meat, too much chicken stock, I cut eggplant into strips instead cubic etc. Everything taste not bad but look…. I send you a photo when reply by mail.
    Regards

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Peter, I’m sorry to hear the recipe didn’t work for you. The dish is definitely not a super appealing one. For a better look, you need to flash fry the eggplant before braising, which I decided to skip because it doesn’t worth the trouble.
      Judging from your description, I think the issue might be caused by your cutting method. The eggplant will cook faster and fall apart easily if cutting into stripes. Also, if you use a different pan (less wider than the 12″ skillet I used), you might ended up a bit more liquid than it should.

  4. Jessica says:

    5 stars
    Made this without the doubanjiang as I didn’t have it and it still tasted really good. I’ll definitely be making this again .. with the bean paste.

  5. Sue says:

    5 stars
    I made this tonight. Oh my gosh it was so good! Definitely add the ground Szechuan pepper at the end. This is going in my permanent recipe box for sure.

  6. Ken says:

    5 stars
    Your Sichuan eggplant is my go-to dish for using eggplant but I thought I would try this one for a change. So good! I didn’t have ground chicken so I used ground pork instead. And I used store bought chili oil since I have yet to make your homemade version. The prep work takes a little time but it comes togther on the stove quickly and was delicious! I will make it again. Served with your oven roasted green beans which were a great sweet compliment and your insanely good lamb dumplings which I made and froze. Thanks so much for your blog While some of the ingredients take a little effort to source, the recipes are not complex and are totally delicious.

  7. S Walker says:

    I went ahead and ordered the doubanjian and did not regret it. This was delicious with layers of flavors. Thank you!

  8. Erlinda Tjhai says:

    5 stars
    Oh my, this recipe is delicious!! Thanks so much for sharing it! ❤ your blog.

  9. Gary says:

    5 stars
    Should I soak the cut up eggpplant in salted water for 15 minutes or so as in some of your other recipes?
    Thanks

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Gary, I didn’t include the soaking method here because I want the recipe to be super simply. Because it’s braised, the soaking is not very important especially if you use Asian eggplant. But if you use the large round eggplant, soaking will slightly improve the texture.

      • Gary says:

        5 stars
        Thanks Maggie,
        Think I’l soak the Asian eggplant….I .like the texture better……Happy New Year!!

  10. Frank says:

    Since my wife cannot tolerate tofu (I usually make my Ma Po with tofu), I tried your recipe for Ma Po Eggplant. The flavor was excellent, but my problem is getting fresh Asian eggplants, so I used an Italian type. Your’e right, the Asian type is better for this recipe as the eggplant pieces were somewhat tough despite cooking for 11 rather than the 7 minutes that’s on the recipe. I also added 1/2 teaspoon of dark soy sauce to deepen the color. One tsp of sesame oil was also added. Since my wife also has trouble with garlic, I always substitute extra ginger.
    Thanks again for a wonderful dinner.

  11. Caroline says:

    5 stars
    Your recipe became a classic in our family! Thanks so much for sharing! Though Every recipe i ve tried out from your blog was a success! Merci beaucoup!!!❤️

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