Vegetarian Mapo Tofu
Vegetarians rejoice! This delicious version of Vegetarian Mapo Tofu is a meatless meal that takes only 20 minutes to make. It’s packed full of Sichuan flavour, is easy to make and will convert you into a tofu lover.
What is Mapo Tofu?
If you’re looking for a tofu dish to convert a tofu hater, look no further.
Mapo tofu is salty, savoury and full of flavour and might just convert that tofu hater in your family to a total tofu lover.
What makes this tofu dish different from most other tofu recipes, is that it uses soft tofu rather than firm or extra-firm tofu. Vegan & Vegetarian Mapo Tofu is salty, savoury and full of flavour and might just convert that tofu hater in your family to a total tofu lover. The result is tofu that is silky and pillowy and absorbs all the delicious flavour of the sauce.
Mapo Tofu is a Chinese Sichuan dish that is made with soft tofu in a rich and spicy sauce. It’s traditionally made with minced beef, but can easily be made into a vegetarian and vegan-friendly version by just leaving out the beef.
One of the key ingredients to Vegetarian Mapo Tofu is Sichuan Peppercorns. These peppercorns are technically not actual peppercorns, but rather the husks of seeds from an ash shrub. What makes them so unique is that they have a slightly numbing and cooling effect on the tongue when you eat them.
Sichuan peppercorns are essential to making an authentic tasting Mapo Tofu that will give you a true Mapo Tofu experience!
What is Mapo Tofu sauce made of?
Mapo Tofu sauce is made from a mix of oil, Sichuan peppercorns, fermented chili bean paste, (also known as doubanjiang) soy sauce, sugar and broth. This all gets cooked down together until it’s thickened and then gets tofu added to it.
The sauce is spicy, savoury and slightly numbing on your tongue.
- Vegetable oil: any neutral tasting oil is best for this recipe.
- Sichuan peppercorns: you want to get your hands in Sichuan peppercorns, NOT regular peppercorns for this recipe. These are not the same.
- Ginger: fresh ginger adds great flavour to the Mapo Tofu.
- Garlic: fresh finely chopped garlic.
- Fermented chili bean paste: this is also known as Doubanjiang. It’s a Chinese bean paste commonly used in Sichuan cooking. You can find both spicy and non spicy versions of this paste. The spicy version will be more red in colour.
- Brown sugar: you can also use white sugar. This helps to balance out the flavour in the dish.
- Vegetable broth: this is what helps to create that soup-like rich sauce. The broth will cook down a lot so the sauce won’t be liquidly.
- Cornstarch: this is used to help thicken the sauce.
- Tofu: use soft tofu in this recipe. The tofu should be silky and absorb the flavour of the sauce.
- Sesame oil: this is added at the end to help elevate the flavour and make the dish more aromatic.
- Scallions: to top it all off!
How to make Vegetarian Mapo Tofu
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or a large pan on medium heat, Lightly grind the Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle then add the peppercorns, garlic and ginger and toast slightly, for 1 minute.
Add the fermented chili bean paste and stir everything together.
Next add the soy sauce, brown sugar and vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.. Let the sauce cook for a couple minutes until it starts to slightly thicken, then add in the cornstarch mixed with water and mix. This will thicken the sauce even more.
Add the tofu to the pan and gently toss together with the sauce on medium heat until the tofu is evenly coated and warmed through.
Pour the Vegetarian Mapo Tofu into a large bowl and top with sliced scallions. Serve right away while the sauce is still hot!
What to serve with this Vegan Mapo Tofu
Mapo tofu is delicious on its own or serve with a side of rice and steamed vegetables. if you want to serve this dish family-style with some other Chinese dishes, try serving it with Orange Cauliflower, Chow Mein, Vegetable Lo Mein and Tofu Stir Fry.
How to store and reheat leftovers
Store leftovers of this Vegan Mapo Tofu in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Reheat in a pan on the stovetop or in the microwave.
This recipe doesn’t freeze well, so I wouldn’t recommend freezing it!
Where to find Sichuan Peppercorns and Fermented Chili Bean Paste
You likely won’t be able to find these items are your local grocery store, though it is possible that they could have these in the Asian or Chinese section.
The best place to find these ingredients is to go to your local Asian grocery store or Asian market. Here you will find a variety of Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean paste. Otherwise, you can also find these ingredients on Amazon:
Expert tips for making Mapo Tofu
- Cook on medium heat. If you have the heat on too high, you can burn the sichuan peppercorns.
- Use soft tofu, not silken. Make sure to check the packaging of the tofu. Soft and Silken tofu are not the same. Silken tofu is too soft and will fall apart in the dish.
- Don’t add the cornstarch straight to the pan. It’s important to mix the cornstarch with some cold water before adding it to the pan. If you add the cornstarch directly to the pan it will become clumpy and won’t thicken the sauce properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to make this dish without Sichuan peppercorns, you can use regular peppercorns. Just keep in mind this will alter the overall taste of the final dish!
A good substitution would be gojuchang, which is a Korean chili paste.
You can, however, keep in mind that it won’t taste so great if you just add the firm tofu to the dish as you would the soft tofu. If you want to use firm tofu, I’d recommend pan-frying the tofu cubes until golden brown on each side before adding them to the sauce.
If you want to make this recipe gluten-free substitute the soy sauce for gluten-free soy sauce and make sure to check the label of the fermented chili bean sauce. Most brands are gluten-free, but some may have gluten in them.
You can simply leave out the minced bean, or you can finely chop shiitake mushrooms and sauteé them in the pan with the garlic and ginger. This will add a meaty texture to the dish.
Try these tofu recipes next!
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Vegetarian Mapo Tofu
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: main
- Method: cook
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Diet: Vegetarian
Mapo Tofu is salty, savoury and will be your new favourite comfort food!
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1-inch cube ginger, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fermented chili bean paste (also called doubanjiang)
- 1–2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tbsp cold water
- 1 pack soft tofu
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- sliced scallions for serving (optional)
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok or pan on medium heat.
- Lightly grind the Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, then add the Sichuan peppercorns, ginger and garlic and sauteé for 30 seconds. (You can also leave the peppercorns whole.)
- Next add the fermented chili bean paste, soy sauce and brown sugar and mix together.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and bring to a light boil, letting the sauce cook for 2-3 minutes. As the sauce boils it should start to reduce.
- Lower the heat to medium-low and add the cornstarch mixture and mix together. The sauce will start to thicken.
- Add the tofu and sesame oil and toss together until the tofu is warmed through.
- Serve with sliced scallions.
Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Cook on medium heat. If you have the heat on too high, you can burn the Sichuan peppercorns.
Use soft tofu, not silken. Make sure to check the packaging of the tofu. Soft and Silken tofu is not the same. Silken tofu is too soft and will fall apart in the dish.
Don’t add the cornstarch straight to the pan. It’s important to mix the cornstarch with some cold water before adding it to the pan. If you add the cornstarch directly to the pan it will become clumpy and won’t thicken the sauce properly.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 245
- Sugar: 4g
- Fat: 16g
- Saturated Fat: 2.5g
- Carbohydrates: 12g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 10.5g
Keywords: vegan mapo tofu, vegetarian mapo tofu, mapo tofu no pork, mapo tofu no meat