Mapo Tofu

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This is a traditional recipe from Sichuan and is also one of the most popular tofu dishes in Chinese cuisine. The history of this dish dates back to the 19th century and was allegedly invented by a woman called ‘Chen Mapo’.  Chen was her last name whilst  Mapo was a nickname which refers to a woman with a freckled face.

Mapo Tofu is originally cooked with a bit of minced beef and Sichuan peppercorn, which is known to be mouth-numbing. In this recipe I substituted vegan mince for the beef mince, which is delicious and easily accessible.

Preparation time: 15 minutes 

Cooking time: 15 minutesMapo tofu in a bowl

Serves 2 people


  • 750 g (1lb 11 oz) tender tofu, cut into 2 cm (¾ in) dice
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) canola (rapeseed) oil
  • 100 g (3½ oz) vegan mince
  • 100 g (3½ oz) Pixian broad bean paste
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) chilli oil
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 360 ml (12 fl oz) hot water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 90 ml (3 fl oz) warm water
  • ½ teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn
  • 1 green garlic stalk, cut into short lengths


  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil on a medium heat and add the tofu. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the water and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok over a medium heat. Once hot, add 3 tablespoons of the oil and the vegan mince, breaking it into small pieces with a spatula.
  3. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the mince is slightly crispy and brown on the outside, then remove from the heat and set it aside for later.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the wok and fry the Pixian broad bean paste for about 1 minute, then add the vegan mince, chilli oil, chilli flakes and fermented black beans. Stir a little, then add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Carefully add the tofu, then pour in the hot water and soy sauce.
  5. When the sauce starts simmering, mix the cornflour with the warm water and add half of the starchy water to the wok. Stir carefully and let it come to a simmer again.
  6. When the sauce has reduced by half, turn the heat down to medium-low and add half of the remaining starchy water.
  7. Stir and let the dish simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened, then add the remaining starchy water. Let it simmer for another minute, stirring gently so the tofu doesn't stick to the wok, then turn off the heat.
  8. Carefully transfer the tofu to a bowl and top with the ground Sichuan peppercorns and the green garlic.

Recipe by Yang&Kathi from their cookbook Vegan Chinese Food. 

If you are interested in the plant-based diet and would like to explore more Asian vegan recipes, you can check out their channel @littlericenoodle on Instagram or visit their website:

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