Mapo Tofu

Mapo tofu is a dish that has become popular outside its roots in Szechuan Province, China, perhaps because it is so adaptable. The type and amount of both tofu and meat can vary and even the spicy sauce can be tuned to the desired level of heat.

Prep Time:
35 mins
Total Time:
35 mins
6 servings


  • 6 tablespoons peanut or canola oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons Pixian chili bean paste (doubanjiang; see Tips)

  • 2 teaspoons fermented black beans (douchi; see Tips), rinsed and coarsely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan chile flakes (see Tips) or crushed red pepper

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 ounces lean ground beef

  • 1 cup water or low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

  • 1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 14- to 16-ounce package silken tofu, drained and cut in 3/4-inch pieces

  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns (see Tips)


  1. Combine 5 tablespoons oil, chili bean paste, fermented black beans and chile flakes (or crushed red pepper) in a small bowl. Whisk cornstarch and water in another small bowl. Set both next to the stove.

  2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large flat-bottom wok or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked through and browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

  3. Add the reserved chili bean paste mixture to the pan and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn it, about 1 minute. Add water (or broth), soy sauce and scallions. Return the beef to the pan, then add tofu; bring to a simmer, gently tossing the tofu with the sauce, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the cornstarch slurry, stirring, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppercorns.


Equipment: Spice grinder or mortar and pestle

Tips: Pixian chili bean paste (doubanjiang): A salty and spicy umami concentrate made with chiles and fermented fava beans, the paste gives deep flavor to braises, soups and stir-fries. It is sometimes labeled "broad bean" chili paste.

Fermented black beans (douchi): These black beans are preserved in a heady mix of liquor and spices. The beans can be added to an array of dishes to add both salt and flavor. The more familiar Cantonese black beans make a good substitute but are fermented with salt only, so rinse them before using.

Sichuan chile flakes: Whole dried chiles that have been fried until crisp and ground into a mix of flakes, powder and seeds. Korean pepper powder, available at Korean markets and online, is a good substitute.

To grind Sichuan peppercorns, sort and discard any black seeds or twigs. Toast in a dry skillet over low heat until very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes (do not brown them). Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle to your desired coarseness. Sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 weeks.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

196 Calories
17g Fat
6g Carbs
7g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 6
Calories 196
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 7g 13%
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 7mg 2%
Vitamin A 525IU 10%
Vitamin C 4mg 4%
Folate 11mcg 3%
Sodium 703mg 31%
Calcium 61mg 5%
Iron 1mg 7%
Magnesium 7mg 2%
Potassium 94mg 2%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

Related Articles