This vegan mapo tofu is smothered in a scrumptious mushroom sauce! You will find authentic flavour and cooking method in the recipe below. Make it under 30 minutes, it’s perfect for busy weekday dinners and vegetarian days. I first shared this mapo tofu recipe in my cookbook, Vegan Chinese Cookbook.
This is my favourite tofu dish. Tender tofu stewed in a spicy, savoury sauce, it represents the best flavours of Sichuan cuisine. The traditional dish uses ground meat, but my version is vegan. Once you taste the amazing flavours, you won’t miss the meat at all. The spiciness comes from doubanjiang (fermented chili bean paste), dried chili, and Sichuan peppercorn powder. If you want to make your tofu from scratch, check out my organic sprouted tofu recipe.
Vegan Mapo Tofu Ingredients
The ingredient list of this mapo tofu is slightly long. However, it’s well worth it to source all of them for the most authentic flavour.
- Canola oil (or a neutral cooking oil of your choice)
- King oyster mushrooms
- Doubanjiang (fermented bean paste)
- Fermented black beans
- Chili pepper powder
- Red Sichuan peppercorn powder
- Shaoxing wine
- Light soy sauce
When it comes to the pre-made products in the ingredient list, here are the brands I used, shown in the photo below.
Grinding Your Own Sichuan Peppercorn Powder
Red Sichuan Peppercorns give mapo tofu a distinctive numbing taste that’s signature of Sichuan cuisine. You can buy red Sichuan peppercorns in whole pod or powder form. I prefer to grind my own Sichuan peppercorn powder, as they lose flavours quickly. You can use a coffee grinder to grind whole Sichuan peppercorns, as shown in the images below.
Prep Tips For The Stir-frying Stage
The famous mapo tofu is a braised dish. It starts with frying some ingredients in the oil to make the base of a sauce, and then follows with adding more liquid and simmering the tofu in the sauce.
The sauce of this mapo tofu dish is everything! It has a complex flavour profile that comes from stir-frying the aromatics and spices. The stir-frying process is fast-paced, therefore you won’t have the time to measure each ingredient as you are stirring the wok. I highly recommend measuring out and setting aside the combinations of ingredients you need to add to the wok during stirfying, in advance.
The left dish contains: doubanjiang, finely chopped fermented black beans, minced garlic, minced ginger, and thinly sliced scallions. Set them aside on the same plate, as you will be adding them all at the same time.
The right dish contains: chili powder and Sichuan peppercorn powder. You will be adding them together, but a little later.
How to Make Mapo Tofu
The following images illustrate the key steps for making this vegan mapo tofu recipe.
- Brown the mushrooms in oil.
- Stir-fry the aromatics and spices to make the base of the sauce.
- Add water, Shaoxing wine, soy sauce, sugar to make the sauce.
- Simmer the tofu in the sauce, then add cornstarch water to thicken.
In the mapo tofu recipe below, I have specifically set aside a portion of the Sichuan peppercorn powder and sliced scallions. Sprinkle some Sichuan peppercorn powder at the end to intensify the flavour. Use rest of the green scallions as fresh garnish, for both taste and presentation.
Vegan Mapo Tofu Recipe
Traditionally mapo tofu contains ground beef or ground pork. I used diced king oyster mushrooms instead of ground meats in this vegan mapo tofu dish. Fried small bits of diced mushrooms add flavour, and resemble the texture and look of ground meats in the finished dish. You can find the recipe in chapter 4, “Soups, Stews, and Braises”, of my Vegan Chinese Cookbook.
More Plant-Based Favourites from Vegan Chinese Cookbook:
- Chinese Eggplant Recipe: Red-Braised Eggplants
- Chinese Scallion Pancakes (葱油饼)
- Eight Treasure Congee (八宝粥)
- Mung Bean Cakes (Gluten-Free, Vegan, 3 Ingredients)
Vegan Mapo Tofu
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 1/4 cups 1/4-inch diced king oyster mushrooms approx. 3 1/2 oz or 100g per 1 1/4 cups
- 3 tablespoons doubanjiang (fermented bean paste)
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 scallion thinly sliced and divided
- 1 teaspoon chili pepper powder
- 3 teaspoons red Sichuan peppercorn powder divided
- 1 3/4 cups water divided
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 tablespoon Chinese light soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 (16 oz / 454g) block tofu cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- In a wok or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the mushroom and stir-fry for 4 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- Add the doubanjiang, black beans, garlic, ginger, and half of the scallion and stir for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the chili powder and 2 teaspoons of Sichuan peppercorn powder and stir for 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups water and the wine, soy sauce, and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the tofu and cook for 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/4 cup of water and cornstarch and add it to the wok. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sauce is reduced and thickened.
- Transfer everything to a deep dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn powder and the other half of the scallion on top of serve hot.
- Cooking Oil: Chinese cooking typically uses peanut oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, or rapeseed (canola) oil. For a healthier alternative, I use avocado oil. For the recipes in Vegan Chinese Cookbook, I chose canola oil as it’s the most available in North America, but you can use any of these cooking oil interchangeably unless otherwise specified. I usually avoid oils with distinct flavors that may interfere with the flavors of Chinese cooking, such as olive oil and coconut oil.
- Doubanjiang (Fermented Chili Bean Paste): This ingredient, made from broad beans (aka fava beans) and chilis, is primarily used in Sichuan cuisine. It has a chunky texture and adds a salty and spicy flavor to dishes. The most famous kind is pi xian doubanjiang, which has a deep-red color from a long fermentation.
- Tofu: You can use any kind of tofu for this dish, firm, medium or soft. Each has its unique texture, but all authentic.