Vegetarian Mapo Tofu (素食麻婆豆腐)

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu Recipe

Get ready for some serious spice! Here is a simple and delicious vegetarian version of the classic Sichuan dish, mapo tofu. Serve the tofu with jasmine rice and my Chinese garlic cucumber salad for a complete meal. Roughly adapted from Fuchsia Dunlop







Prepare the Tofu

  1. If you are using tofu that comes in a plastic container, drain the block of tofu and remove it from the package. Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes. 
  2. Add 8 cups of water and salt to a saucepan and bring it to boil. Remove the saucepan from heat.
  3. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, carefully lower the tofu cubes into the hot water. Let the tofu sit in hot water as you prepare the sauce (see note 6).

Prepare the Slurry

  1. Add the tapioca starch and 1/2 cup water to a small bowl and stir to combine. Set it aside.

Prepare the Sauce

  1. Heat the canola oil in a wok over medium-low to low heat. You don’t want high heat to cook the sauce because the sauces and spices can burn. Add the doubanjiang to the wok and stir to combine with the oil. Heat the sauce for about 1 minute, until you can smell the aroma. If you are noticing that the doubanjiang is darkening really quickly, reduce the heat.
  2. Next, add the black bean garlic sauce, garlic, and ginger. Stir for about 1 minute, until you can smell the garlic. Add the ground Sichuan peppercorn, gochugaru, and sugar. Stir to combine.
  3. Give the tapioca starch and water a quick stir to break up the starch that has settled to the bottom of the bowl. Pour the slurry into the wok and mix with the rest of the sauce. Increase the heat slightly and let the sauce simmer for 2 minutes, until it bubbles and starts to thicken. Add the white and light green parts of the scallion and toss with the sauce.
  4. Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to carefully transfer the tofu from the hot water to the wok. Make sure to drain as much water as possible. 
  5. Carefully use a wok spatula (or any wide spatula) to fold the tofu into the sauce. Transfer the tofu and sauce to a serving bowl. 
  6. Drizzle the sesame oil over the tofu. Garnish the bowl with the dark green parts of the scallion. Serve with jasmine rice


NUTRITION INFORMATION: Amount for 1/4 of Recipe: Calories: 230, Total Fat 18.3g, Saturated Fat: 3.6g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 987mg, Total Carbohydrate: 9g, Dietary Fiber: 1.5g, Sugar: 3g, Protein 11.5g

  1. Some silken tofu comes in 14-ounce packages, which also works for this recipe.
  2. You can also use cornstarch or potato starch. 
  3. If doubanjiang is difficult for you to obtain, use a different chili sauce and add another 1/2 tablespoon of the black bean garlic sauce. Be careful when using other chili sauces because they can be a lot spicier than doubanjiang. You can use leftover doubanjiang for other stir fries.
  4. You can find red Sichuan peppercorns in Chinese supermarkets or online. 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorns will give you an adequate amount of spice without feeling as if your mouth was on fire. I don’t like using over 1 tablespoons of peppercorns, but feel free to add more to suit your taste. 
  5. I prefer using gochugaru because it gives the sauce a nice red color and it has some level of spice. You can use Chinese chili flakes or even red pepper flakes that you can find in supermarkets. Warning: if you are using red pepper flakes that are pretty spicy, I recommend only using 3/4 teaspoon of it. 
  6. If you know it is going to be a while before you actually make the sauce for the tofu, remove tofu from hot water after 5 to 8 minutes.