Easy Mapo Tofu

It’s time for another dish that Mary’s mom made at home all the time. It’s quick, spicy, and goes great over rice. We skip the Sichuan peppercorns in ours and add Fresno peppers, which give it a similar kick.

Authentic Mapo Tofu


  • Chili Bean Paste: This is the most important ingredient in the dish. You can get yours at any Chinese supermarket or most supermarket chains (we found one at Whole Foods). It’s spicy, salty, and savory! This is a staple I recommend you have in your pantry, as it’s a foundation for many Chinese recipes.
  • Sesame Oil: This is optional but greatly enhances this dish (and most Asian recipes, soups).
  • Shaoxing Wine: Be sure to pick up a cooking wine if you’re planning on cooking with meat. We didn’t have any on hand, so substituted with Pinot Grigio.

INGREDIENTS (4 servings)

Key Ingredients. We ended up not using Chinese vinegar, but this is optional for a more puckery flavor.
  • Meat:
    • 1/2 pound of ground meat (we used beef, but pork is more common)
    • 4 teaspoons of white cooking wine
    • 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
    • 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger
  • Base:
    • 2 teaspoon cornstarch (mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
    • 2 tablespoons oil (to cook in)
    • 4-6 tablespoons of chili bean paste (we used 2 varieties as the spice level differs)
    • 2 Freso peppers (or any hot pepper), finely chopped
    • 2 bunches of scallions / green onions, chopped
    • 3 blocks of silk tofu, cut into chunks (we prefer silk as it gives it that melt in your mouth texture, but medium or firm will work too)
    • 1.5 cups of water
    • 1 tsp sesame oil


  • Mix ground meat, cooking wine and minces first ginger together. Set aside for at least 5 minutes to let it marinate
  • Meanwhile, add oil to a pan and heat up to medium high
  • Once heated, add in chili bean paste and marinated ground meat. Mix together, reduce heat to medium, and add in scallions and Fresno peppers. Mix
  • Lay chunked tofu on top (do not mix), add sesame oil and water
  • Simmer for 15 minutes until broth has reduced to half the amount
  • Pour cornstarch mix on top (to thicken the sauce), and mix in gently
  • That’s it! Serve over rice, garnish with some fresh scallions and enjoy 🙂

[Above] Main prep: (1) marinate the ground meat with ginger, garlic and cooking wine. (2) Remove the seeds from hot peppers. (3) Dice the scallions and finely chop the peppers. (4) Scoop out chili bean paste (we used two kinds so mixed them ahead of time).

[Above] Add chili bean paste and ground meat to a heated pan. Once mixed, stir in scallions and hot peppers.

[Above] Slice tofu into chunks (careful here, as silken tofu is very delicate). Add sesame oil and lay on top of ground meat mixture.

[Above] After about 15 minutes of simmering, you should get something like the above. Pour in the corn starch mix, mix, and you’re done!

Mapo Tofu over rice

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Sybaritica says:

    Excellent recipe. It looks much drier than many versions that end up with lots of sauce. I think yours may well be better, actually.


    1. Mary S says:

      Thanks! I cut down the amount of liquid (water or broth) most recipes had by half and the cornstarch really helped thicken the broth.


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