How to make Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - my mom's recipe!


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How to make Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - my mom's recipe!

Mapo Tofu was one of my favorite dishes to eat growing up. My mom—who’s originally from Sichuan—used to make this this all the time since it’s a effortless staple in a Chinese household. It works as a main or a side, and tastes amazing on top of a hot steaming bowl of rice.

How to make Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - my mom's recipe!

For those who have a fear of tofu: is it because of its bland flavor or the strange texture? If so, it’s probably because you’re cooking it wrong (apologize for my sass).

Mapo Tofu, on the other hand, is full of flavor from the spicy chili bean sauce (which acts as its base) and salty fermented black beans. Traditionally, it’s topped with a red chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Its silky texture comes from the combination of the soft tofu with a cornstarch slurry that makes the sauce thick and gooey. The soft texture is balanced with ground beef or pork, which is fried throughly with the chili bean paste in the beginning.

Mapo Tofu - Mom's Recipe

Though the ingredients might seem kinda intimidating, you can buy most of these at your local Asian market. No guarantees, but you can probably find most of these in the Asian section at a regular grocery store as well.

At the usual grocery store: ground beef/pork, tofu, scallions, cornstarch, sesame oil, chili oil

At the Asian grocery store: doubanjiang, or pixian douban (Chinese spicy bean paste), douchi (fermented black beans), Sichuan peppercorns (or peppercorn powder)

Mapo Tofu - Mom's Recipe
Mapo Tofu - Mom's Recipe

Definitely serve this on top of rice, since the dish can be pretty spicy and salty when eaten by itself.

Mapo Tofu - Mom's Recipe
Mapo Tofu - Mom's Recipe

How to make Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) - my mom's recipe!

Ingredients (serves 3-4 people)

  • 1 block of soft tofu
  • ¾ cup of ground beef/pork
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tbsp pixian douban/doubanjiang (Chinese chili bean paste)
  • 3 tsp chili oil
  • 1-2 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns or Sichuan peppercorn powder
  • ½ tbsp douchi (Chinese fermented black beans) *optional
  • 2 tsp sesame oil *optional

Takes , Makes 3-4 servings.


  1. Chop the lower ends (white parts) of the scallions into 1 inch pieces. Chop the leaves (green parts) into smaller pieces that we’ll use for garnish at the end

  2. Cut the block of tofu into half inch cubes. Bring some water to a boil in a large pan and add in the tofu. (You can definitely skip this step, but this process will ensure that the tofu is super soft and silky, and removes impurities from its original packaging).

  3. Finely chop the fermented black beans.

  4. Add oil to a hot wok. When the wok is hot enough, add in the chili bean paste.

  5. Add ground pork to the wok and stir fry it with the bean paste. Make sure you break up the ground pork so that it cooks evenly and is completely coated with the bean paste.
  7. Add the chopped fermented black beans into the pan. Since these are pretty salty, just a little bit will go a long way.

  8. Toss in the roots of the scallions and stir fry it with the sauce

  9. To make the sauce thicker, combine the cornstarch with water. Stir it up to make sure it’s well combined. With the heat turned down low, add this mixture to the pan. The slurry will make the sauce and pork really gooey and silky.

  10. Toss in the whites of the scallions and stir fry it with the sauce.

  11. Toss in the boiled tofu and lightly fold it in with the meat sauce. Be super gentle with it, since you don’t want to break up the soft pieces of tofu.

  12. Add the Sichuan pepper powder, sesame oil, and chili oil. If you like your tofu to be spicier, feel free to add more chili oil than what's specified in this recipe. Finally, toss in the chopped scallion leaves and lightly fold them in. You won't need any extra salt since the doubanjiang and douchi already contribute a lot of saltiness to the dish.

  13. Spoon the Mapo Tofu on top of a bowl of white rice and top with more scallions.


I loved watching my mom in the kitchen when I was younger, and I’m pretty fortunate to have picked up this dish from her. Because she never really measures her ingredients, it was pretty hard for me to come up with the measurements for this recipe. So feel free to adjust the amounts to your liking—tasting your food while cooking is the best part!

♥ Cindy

Food, 2Cindy ZhangComment