Mapo Tofu Recipe

4 people
40 min

An authentic Chinese recipe, this delicious, spicy dish is the perfect fake away dinner to make at home. Our mapo tofu recipe has that nice mouth numbing kick of heat, that Sichuan peppercorns and Sichuan cuisine is famous for. A great Chinese recipe with tofu, as it soaks up all the amazing flavours of the mapo sauce.


This recipe has a mix of staple ingredients and less well known Chinese items, but don't let that put you off giving this recipe a try! All of these ingredients can be found in either your local supermarket or your nearest Asian grocery store. We love wondering the aisles of our local Asian store, with it’s shelves full of interesting and inspiring ingredients. I have a translator app on my phone, specially for the Asian store, so I can learn more about the products!

But let’s talk a bit more about these ingredients:

Szechuan / Sichuan pepper or peppercorn

A spice that is used in many dishes in the Sichuan province of China. When toasted and pound into a powder, it creates an intense flavour and the numbing effect to your mouth. The numbing effect allows you to handle a little more spice than normal. This spice is actually not related to peppercorns but comes from the dried red- brown husks of the seeds from the ash trees. Sichuan pepper can be found in most supermarkets, you then need to pound or grind these into a powder.

Doubanjiang also called chilli bean sauce or paste

Made from fermented soybeans, broad beans and chilli peppers. A common ingredient in Sichuan cuisine, it is known as ‘the soul of Sichuan cuisine’. There are regional differences in the paste, creating a slightly different flavour profile each time.

Fermented black beans also called Douchi or fermented black soybeans

They are actually fermented and salted soy beans. With a hint of ginger, orange, spices and soy, giving the dish a rich umami, salty and slightly bitter flavour. They are know as Chinese capers and are a great source of protein, fibre and good bacteria. You can find these at your local Asian store.

Our recipe uses beef mince but you could substitute this with pork mince.

What type of tofu should I use?

Tofu is such a versatile ingredient. A great source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a viable plant source of iron, calcium and minerals.

Tofu is made by curdling fresh soya milk and pressing the solids into blocks. Similar to how you make cheese. The harder the tofu is pressed reflects the different types you can find in store. There are a few types of tofu available, silken, regular, firm.

  • Silken tofu is common in Japanese cuisine, soft in texture and creamy. Great is salads or cubed into soups, served with soy dressing with chilli, coriander and spring onion.

  • Regular tofu is good for sauce based dishes, like Asian stews. Regular tofu is a great vehicle for absorbing flavour, perfect for our Mapo tofu recipe!

  • Firm tofu is excellent for dishes that require stir frying or wok cooking. It is a lot denser and can handle a little more robust cooking.

How to cook tofu

This is a delicious Chinese recipe with tofu, as is absorbs all that amazing sauce! But to make sure the regular tofu stands up to the cooking process, we recommend poaching the cubed tofu is simmering water prior to cooking. To do this half fill your wok with water and bring to a boil, add a pinch of water. Then reduce to a simmer and add the cubed tofu and poach for around a minute, remove and allow to drain on a paper towel. This will firm up the tofu, preventing it from breaking down.

Preparing the tofu.
Creating amazing flavour in the wok.
Simmering the tofu in the sauce, to absorb all that flavour!

Tips from the chef

Have you ever watched a chef cooking Chinese food in a wok. They work quickly, building amazing flavour by adding their oils, spices, sauces and liquid in a certain order (as I have described in the card below). When working at the wok, make sure you have your ingredients measured and ready, so you can focus on the cooking.

If you are a lover of peppery heat and authentic Chinese recipes this mapo tofu dish is one to add to your collection. It will transport you to China (or your favourite Chinese restaurant). Serve with a side of Asian greens and plenty of rice for that mouth cooling effect and enjoy!

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Happy cooking!

Recipe details
  • 4  people
  • Prep time: 20 Minutes Cook time: 20 Minutes Total time: 40 min
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  • 1 ptk Regular tofu 450g
  • 100 gram Beef mince See note 1
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp White pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Sesame oil
  • 4 tbsp Canola oil
  • 2 tbsp Doubanjiang See note 2
  • 1 tbsp Fermented black beans Rough chopped. See note 3
  • 1/2 tsp Chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns Pounded into a powder. See note 4.
  • 400 ml Water
  • 2 tbsp Light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp White sugar
  • 2 sticks Spring onions Fine sliced
  • 2 cloves Garlic Fine chopped
  • 20 g Fresh ginger Fine chopped
  • 1 tbsp Corn flour
  • 2 tbsp Water
Prepare and cook the proteins
Season the beef mince with salt and pepper, give it a good mix and set aside.
Next is to grab your wok or deep frypan and half fill with water. Place onto a high heat and bring to a boil, add a pinch of salt. Reduce to a simmer. Cut the tofu into large cubes (approx 2cm squares)
Gently add the tofu to your simmering water and poach for around a minute, this will firm up your tofu. Remove and drain on a paper towel.
Tip the water from your wok, dry well and place it back on the heat. Add 2 tbsp of your canola oil, add your seasoned minced beef and fry until well cooked and crispy. Remove the cooked mince from the wok and set aside, leaving the excess oil in the wok.
To make the sauce
Add the doubanjiang to the wok and fry for a minute on a low heat. Add your fermented black beans, garlic, half of the spring onion, ginger and cook on a low heat for around a minute.
Add the chilli flakes, sichuan pepper, water, light soy, sugar, mix well and bring to a simmer. Add half your cooked minced beef, and cubed tofu. Bring back to a simmer for 8 minutes, allowing the tofu to absorb the flavour.
Mix the cornflour and water together in a small bowl. While your wok is still simmering pour in the cornflour mix, using a wooden spoon mix your sauce until it thickens. Add the remaining cooked minced beef.
To serve
Pour into your serving bowl and drizzle over the sesame oil and remaining sliced spring onions.
Serve with Asian greens and steamed rice. Enjoy!
  • Note 1 – Can replace beef with pork mince.
  • Note 2 – Also called chilli bean sauce or paste and can be found in your local supermarket.
  • Note 3 – Also called douchi or fermented black soybeans, can be found in Asian supermarkets.
  • Note 4 – Sichuan or Szechuan peppercorns are commonly found in local supermarkets. Simply grind them with a mortar & pestle or electric grinder to make a powder.
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