Mapo tofu

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a very popular Sichuan Chinese dish made from tofu, Douchi or fermented black beans, rice wine, pungent Sichuan peppers and a double hit of chilli flakes and Douban, a chilli and bean paste. Classically the dish is made with ground beef or pork and so spicy as to make the diner sweat. In this recipe, I have substituted roughly chopped Shiitake mushrooms for the meat to make a tasty vegetarian option. Last year I posted a serious of recipes from one of my favourite Chinese cuisines to celebrate Chinese New Year including My Cantonese Pork and Crab and Sweetcorn Soup. This year I am going to post some Sichuan dishes to add to the collection.

Mapo tofu
Mapo tofu

Mapo Tofu History

The origins of the dish are a little confusing but one thing is for certain and all of the experts agree on the meaning of the name ‘ Mapo ‘. Ma stands for pockmarks and po is derived from the Chinese for old lady or grandma. So Mapo tofu is a shortening of the name Pockmarked Ma’s Bean Curd. This lady may have owned a restaurant, or been a relative of a restaurant owner, or simply being hospitable. whatever she created a stunning dish packed with flavour. Today there are many variations and recipes that are often adapted with less spice, but you should really give the authentic recipe a try. Enjoy.

Mapo Tofu Ingredients

Sliced tofu
Sliced Tofu

Tofu or bean curd is made from soy milk. In a process similar to making cheese it is first made into curds which are pressed into blocks. The finished product has a soft yielding texture and is quite bland in taste but is often used in really highly-flavoured dishes such as Mapo tofu.

Sichuan Pepper
Sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper is not like any of its namesakes the smell and taste is unique. It has a citrus aroma, in fact, it is a member of the citrus family and creates a mild pleasant numbness in the mouth.

Doubanjiang or douban is a salty spicy paste made from fermented broad beans, soya beans and rice and red chillies. It is known as ‘ the soul of Sichuan cuisine ‘.

Fermented Black Beans
Douchi – fermented black beans

Douchi ( 豆豉 ) are semi-dried fermented and salted black soybeans used in Chinese cooking. The finished taste is both sweet and salty so the beans are used sparingly as a flavouring to dishes. Douchi are one of the oldest know products made from soybeans dating back over two thousand years.

Top Tips

Use a wooden spoon or flat spatula to gently stir the dish when cooking to avoid breaking up the tofu. As both the fermented black beans and the douban are salty check the flavour of the dish before adding any additional salt. If you want a little more Sichuan hit sprinkle the finished dish with extra freshly ground Sichuan pepper.

Mapo tofu
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Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

As you will be making this quickly in a wok it helps to have all the ingredients ready before you start cooking.
Course Main Course
Keyword Chinese Recipes, Sichuan Cooking, Vegeterian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Christian Gott


  • 500 gram Tofu
  • 150 gram Shiitake cleaned and roughly chopped
  • A large bunch of Spring Onions washed and sliced
  • 200 ml Vegetable Stock
  • 4 large clove Garlic peeled and crushed
  • 6 centimetre piece Ginger peeled and finely grated
  • 60 ml Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon Sichuan chilli bean paste
  • 2 tablespoon fermented Black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Red Chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Cornflour
  • ½ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns crushed
  • 2 Star Anise Pods


  • In a medium bowl mix the chopped Shiitake mushrooms with the sugar and rice wine.
  • Drain the tofu and dice into thumbnail sized cubes. Put the tofu in a bowl and cover with very hot but not boiling salted water and allow too steep, this will help to firm up the tofu, so it does not break up during cooking.
  • Heat a wok and add the oil. Add the Sichuan chilli bean paste and cook, continuously stirring for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the black beans, Star anise, ginger, chilli and garlic and stir then add the vegetable stock. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  • Add the mushroom mix and simmer for five minutes.
  • Mix the cornflour with a little cold water and add it to the wok stirring continuously.
  • Carefully strain the tofu and add to the sauce with the spring onions and Sichuan pepper and gently stir until everything is coated in sauce.
  • Check seasoning, it is unlikely the dish will need any salt as many of the ingredients are very salty already. Remove the Star anise. Serve with plain white rice.


Allergens in this recipe are;


There will be Soya and may be gluten 
Please see the Allergens Page

6 thoughts on “Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

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