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Mapo Tofu is a Chinese classic that promises to awaken your palate with an explosion of flavor! Featuring tender cubes of tofu and seasoned ground pork in a fiery, chili-infused sauce, it’s the ultimate comfort food with a spicy, tingly, tongue-numbing twist!
What Is Mapo Tofu
Loved for its bold and dynamic flavor, mapo tofu is a Chinese classic hailing from the Szechuan province. It’s a vibrant stir-fry of cubed tofu and ground pork, drenched in a spicy sauce crafted from a mixture of mouth-numbing Szechuan peppercorns, doubanjiang chili paste, and salty fermented black beans. The dish is extra spicy, all while showcasing the custardy texture of the tofu.
But you don’t have to be a Chinese chef to make this recipe! You’ll find all the ingredients you need at your local Asian grocery store, and with just a skillet, you can whip up this entire dish in under 30 minutes. This mapo tofu recipe focuses on the simplicity of Asian cooking and will leave you ready to try some of my other recipes like Beijing beef or chicken lo mein.
Why You’ll Love This Mapo Tofu
- Easy Asian Recipe! With just a few simple steps and easy to find ingredients, you can create a restaurant-quality Chinese favorite that will leave your taste buds tingling with delight!
- Authentic Flavor! Made with a combination of tender tofu and seasoned savory ground pork bathed in a spicy sauce, this dish captures the true essence of Chinese cuisine.
- Versatile Dish! From tofu lovers to hardcore meat eaters, mapo tofu is always a hit! Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or feeding your family, this dish never disappoints.
- Ground Pork: It adds meatiness. You can use ground beef if you prefer.
- Low-Sodium Soy Sauce: It infuses the ground pork with a savory umami flavor and a hint of saltiness.
- Vegetable Oil: Used for stir-frying. Any neutral flavored vegetable oil will work.
- Szechuan Peppercorns: These reddish-brown peppercorns are a signature spice in Szechuan cuisine that provide a unique tingling and numbing sensation. You need to grind them up for this dish.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves add aromatic depth and pungent flavor.
- Ginger: Adds some warmth and a slightly spicy, citrusy note.
- Chili Bean Paste (doubanjiang): This spicy key ingredient is made from fermented broad beans, chili peppers, and spices.
- Fermented Black Beans: These are small soybeans that have undergone fermentation, resulting in a salty and savory flavor with a hint of sweetness.
- Granulated Sugar: Used to balance the spiciness of the chili bean paste by providing a touch of sweetness.
- Low-Sodium Chicken Broth: Serves as the liquid base of the sauce and is essential for creating a well-rounded flavor profile.
- Firm Tofu: The heart of mapo tofu! It provides a creamy texture and absorbs the flavors of the sauce.
- Cornstarch: Used to create a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce.
- Green Onions: Add a final layer of fresh mild onion flavor and a bit of color.
You only need a skillet and less than 30 minutes to create this flavor-packed, tongue-tingling masterpiece! It’s the kind of recipe that makes you wonder why you didn’t try it sooner!
To begin, put the ground pork in a large bowl and mix it together with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce until fully combined. Then set the mixture aside for now.
Heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat in a wok or large skillet. Add the pork and cook it for a couple minutes until no longer pink.
Now add the crushed Szechuan peppercorns and stir-fry them for a quick 10 to 20 seconds until they release their fragrant aroma. Mix them in with the pork so they’re thoroughly combined.
Next, add the garlic and ginger to the wok along with the minced pork. Then stir fry the mixture for 2 to 3 minutes, make sure to break the pork up as you cook it and keep everything moving around the pan.
Add the chili bean paste, fermented black beans, and sugar and stir-fry for another minute. Now pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Time to add the key ingredient! Add the cubed tofu to the wok and gently stir it into the sauce. Now, let the tofu simmer in the sauce for 5 to 7 minutes to give it time to soak up all the flavors. After the tofu cooks for a bit, stir the cornstarch mixture into the dish and let it cook for about 1 minute while stirring constantly. The sauce will quickly thicken up.
Finally, when the dish is ready, garnish it with the chopped green onions and serve it right away with some steamed rice.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I add to the dish?
In addition to the classic ingredients, consider adding vegetables like bell peppers, shiitake mushrooms, or bok choy for added texture and flavor variation. Some recipes even incorporate minced bamboo shoots or water chestnuts.
Can I make vegan mapo tofu?
Absolutely! Replace the ground pork with a plant-based alternative and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
What is the difference between Chinese and Korean mapo tofu?
The Chinese version typically uses Szechuan peppercorns and chili bean paste, resulting in a numbing, spicy, and savory flavor profile. Whereas, the Korean version may use gochugaru for a spicier kick and often includes vegetables like zucchini and Korean radishes.
- Use firm tofu. Silken tofu and soft tofu will not maintain their texture when stirred into the sauce.
- Adjust the spiciness. Increase or decrease the amount of chili bean paste to achieve your preferred level of heat.
- Rinse the black beans. This step removes any excess salt and prevents the dish from becoming overly salty.
- Make lettuce wraps. Got leftovers! You can use mapo tofu can to make healthy lettuce wraps for a quick and easy lunch.
You can store leftover mapo tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat, gently warm it on the stovetop over medium heat, adding a splash of water if necessary to thin out the sauce. It’s also possible to freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Just let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce (low sodium)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Szechuan peppercorns (crushed)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger (minced)
- 2 tablespoons chili bean paste (doubanjiang)
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup chicken broth (low sodium)
- 14 ounces firm tofu (cut into small cubes)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
- 2 green onions (finely chopped)
- In a bowl, mix the ground pork with 1 tablespoon soy sauce and set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the ground pork and cook for a couple minutes until almost no longer pink.
- Push the pork to the side and add the crushed Szechuan peppercorns and stir-fry for 10-20 seconds until fragrant. Toss to combine with the pork.
- Add the garlic, ginger and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes until the pork is browned and cooked through.
- Add the chili bean paste, fermented black beans, and sugar and stir-fry for another minute. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the cubed tofu and gently stir to combine with the sauce. Let simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook for another minute until the sauce thickens.
- Garnish with chopped green onions and serve hot with steamed rice.
- Tofu Choice: Firm tofu is recommended as it holds its shape well during cooking. If you prefer a softer texture, you can use medium firm tofu.
- Heat Level: Adjust the amount of chili bean paste and Szechuan peppercorns to your desired spice level. If you prefer it milder, use less; for more heat, feel free to add more.
- Serving Suggestion: This dish pairs excellently with steamed rice or noodles to balance the bold flavors. Additionally, it goes well with a side of blanched or stir-fried greens like bok choy or spinach.
- Vegetarian Version: For a vegetarian alternative, you can substitute the ground pork with shiitake mushrooms or another plant-based protein like tempeh, adjusting the cooking time accordingly.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.