Mapo Tofu – 30 minute meal

Mapo tofu

I’m not often intimidated by recipes – but one thing I had never tried to make was Mapo Tofu. This dish is a classic Chinese meal which is meant to be super spicy. It comes from the Sichuan province, where they are known for their spicy dishes!

I just assumed that it would require 20 ingredients that would be difficult to find (I was wrong!) I came across a recipe on Omnivore’s Cookbook where Maggie describes an authentic version of mapo tofu that I finally felt courageous enough to tackle.

As I was getting everything together to make this I realized that as long as I have some black bean paste (found in the Asian section of my Market Basket), I can come really close to recreating her recipe from things I keep on hand!

The first time I made this, it truly came together in just about 30 minutes. And it was GOOD!! Andrew and I drank some huge glasses of ice water (and sweat just a tad lol) – but this recipe is fantastic! In fact, it has made its way into our regular rotation. If you like some spice – I hope you give it a try!

Note – this recipe can very easily be made vegan by substituting a veggie crumble for the ground meat.

Now for the recipe!

In a small bowl, combine the corn starch and water.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat, and add in your ground meat/veggie crumbles along with the soy sauce, black bean paste (or doubanjiang), gochujiang or sambal oelek (omit if you’re using doubanjiang), and ginger powder. Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in half the scallions and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Now – add in your tofu along with the chili oil, five-spice powder, and sugar. The full teaspoon of chili oil will make this pretty spicy – so scale back based on your heat tolerance (I recommend at least 1/4 teaspoon vs omitting it).

Now stir in your veggie stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Adjust your seasoning: salt if it needs it, or some more sugar if it’s too spicy.

Stir your cornstarch & water mix and then add to your pan. Mix it into the sauce and turn off the heat.

Serve over rice, and garnish with remaining scallions, fresh basil, and a bunch of freshly cracked black pepper. This step ensures you get the extra peppery flavor this dish is known for!


Adapted from: Omnivore’s Cookbook

Makes: 4 servings

Prep: 15 minutes, Cook: 15 minutes, Total: 30 minutes

  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 oz ground turkey, chicken, pork, or veggie crumble
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons black bean paste (OR doubanjiang)
  • 1 teaspoon gochujiang or sambal oelek (omit if using doubanjiang)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 3 scallions, chopped, divided in half
  • 1 block medium firm tofu, chopped into 1/2 inch squares
  • 1/4 – 1 teaspoon chili oil, depending on heat preference
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable stock (or water)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (or Sichuan pepper if you have it)
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Steamed rice, for serving

In a small bowl, combine the corn starch and water.

Add oil to a large skillet over medium heat, and add in your ground meat/veggie crumbles along with the soy sauce, black bean paste (or doubanjiang), gochujiang or sambal oelek (omit if you’re using doubanjiang), and ginger powder. Stir to combine and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add in half the scallions and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Now – add in your tofu along with the chili oil, five-spice powder, and sugar. The full teaspoon of chili oil will make this pretty spicy – so scale back based on your heat tolerance (I recommend at least 1/4 teaspoon vs omitting it).

Now stir in your veggie stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Adjust your seasoning: salt if it needs it, or some more sugar if it’s too spicy.

Stir your cornstarch & water mix and then add to your pan. Mix it into the sauce and turn off the heat.

Serve over rice, and garnish with remaining scallions, fresh basil, and a bunch of freshly cracked black pepper. This step ensures you get the extra peppery flavor this dish is known for!


2 thoughts on “Mapo Tofu – 30 minute meal

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