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Mapo Tofu Recipe

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) pictures (1 of 5)

(Chinese recipes, prepare authentic Chinese food now!)

Recently, my colleague asked me for Mapo Tofu/麻婆豆腐 recipe. He has just gotten into cooking and wished to try making Mapo Tofu at home. I was psyched by the idea of teaching a novice home cook with my secret Mapo Tofu recipe; great recipes are meant to be shared.

I went through the recipe with him in great length. But he ditched the idea of making Mapo Tofu from scratch. It was too complicated and troublesome, he said. He bought a packet of instant Mapo Tofu mix instead.

Is Mapo Tofu/麻婆豆腐 so hard to make at home? Does the long list of ingredients appear intimidating to a novice home cook? I asked myself. The answer is–unfortunately–yes. Making a plate of Mapo Tofu that oozes the signature mala/麻辣 (numbing spiciness) flavor without losing its originality is not easy…

I learned my Mapo Tofu recipe from a Sichuan friend, the birthplace of this famed Chinese recipe. My friend’s mother attended the Sichuan Culinary Institute at Chengdu, so this Mapo Tofu recipe is as authentic as it can be. The Mapo Tofu recipe is not for the faint-hearted, it’s lip-smackingly spicy and downright incendiary (think Angelina Jolie’s lips after eating this!)

BEE-STUNG SWOLLEN LIPS ARE IN, but consider yourself warned. ;)

Related Recipes:

  1. 30-Minute Meal: Steamed Tofu with Ground Pork
  2. Chinese Recipe: Szechuan Wok-fried Chicken
  3. Sichuan-style Crawfish/Crayfish/Crawdad (麻辣小龙虾)

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98 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. Marvin

    Thanks so much for this recipe Rasa! When I was in college, I used to buy the packet mix and always wished I knew how to make the real thing. I’m gonna have to give your recipe a try.

  2. evolvingtastes

    Rasa, nice to see this authentic recipe. It validated what I make which is very similar, but I keep it vegetarian, using minced tofu instead of pork.

  3. veron

    this looks like a lovely dish. The long list of ingredients is not intimidating but all that chili is. But then again my lips can use that bee-stung look ;).

  4. Nate 2.0

    Mmmm, mapo tofu ramen…haven’t had that in a long time!

    We make a version out of the “Cook Malaysian” cookbook by Lee Sook Ching that uses tau cheong (brown bean) paste. We also cut out the chili sauce so the kiddies can eat it.

    I don’t know if I can handle authentic Sichuan-style mapo tofu.

  5. team bsg

    our experience with tofu in KL is mostly of the raw/fresh kind with minced meats/salted fish with spring onion leaves or fried garlic toppings or sizzling Japanese tofus but generally this dish by itself as a meal is often forgotten in most eating out meals , maybe people consider it soft and plain and generally must go with other meats or veges as a supplement. Tho of course tofu is king of the vegetarian meal !

  6. Manggy

    Oh no, sichuan peppercorns are near-impossible to find where I am. I’ve even considered asking chinese restaurants where they source theirs!
    * also, I’ve never seen fermented black beans before..

  7. foodette

    I think the real “problem” for the average home cook isn’t the long list of ingredients – in fact, that wasn’t even that long of a list. The problem for most of us, is that those are not the ingredients we have on hand nor are we used to them. Most of us boring American have a ton of ingredients on hand – personally, I always have flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla, many vinegars, olive oil, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, cinnamon…well, the list can go on. But, I just don’t have the majority of the ingredients you list, and I am not familiar with them. For instance, I know exactly how much red pepper flake I like in my homemade spaghetti, but spicy bean paste? No clue.

    All I am trying to say in this long, drawn out response is that we typical Americans are just not used to Asian cooking. I have tried it, but have never become comfortable with the ingredients. So, while your list isn’t so long or complicated, it can be intimidating to someone who isn’t familiar with using them. However, only practice and tasting can get us to that level of comfort with something new. I am willing to put in that effort. So…thanks for posting this recipe.

  8. Terri @ hungerhunger

    my sichuan friend leifang made excellent ma po tofu, using chili oil and sichuan peppercorns she roasted herself, plus d garlic, ginger etc.then she surprised me by whipping out a pkt of mapo tofu mix she’d brought back fm sichuan. tt’s when i realised why no matter how i try i never get THAT sichuan taste, n i too use d mix now!

    • pookiguy

      a great substitute for meat, or addition to meat, is Chinese black or Shitaki mushrooms, preferably
      marinaded in a little sesame oil and soy sauce prior to adding….

  9. Lydia

    I absolutely love Ma Po Tofu and I’m so glad to have your tongue-numbing recipe. For those who are accustomed to Asian ingredients, this recipe is not at all complicated. I have most everything in my pantry. I do, however, substitute ground turkey for the pork when I make it at home.

  10. Hilda

    Yum! I love super spicy tofu dishes and am definitely keeping this recipe to try out the bee-stung look. Thanks for posting it!

  11. Gini

    I once had this at an authentic chinese restaurant in Flushing,NY. I thought I was having an allergy when I felt my mouth go numb and the tingling set in. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  12. Kate

    ooh you believe it …i just made ma po tofu yesterday …(hehe and me too i used the ready Lee Kum Kee packet) along with crispy sichuan Peking duck at home !!

  13. YOYO's FOOD



  14. The Cooking Ninja

    No, it doesn’t look that complicated :) Is the silken tofu the same type as the Japanese tofu? The only ones I get here are either firm tofu or japanese silken tofu which is very soft and at the slightest stir, it breaks up.

  15. Tunku Halim

    Ma Po is one of my favourite home cooked dishes. I use beef mince instead of pork. But I find that turkey mince gives it a more delicate flavour.

    BTW, I “cooked” Sashimi for the first time today. I’m really excited. All you need is very fresh fish and a very sharp knife!

  16. aria

    oh wow rasa this is a beautiful piece of work! the color of the sauce is wonderful. the combo of silken tofu and ground pork sounds jsut perfect too. this is a recipe I MUST try :):)

  17. Chubby Hubby

    I LOVE this dish. I like mine only a little spicy which is a problem as most restaurants serve it way too hot for wimpy ‘lil’ me.

    I’ll have to try your recipe but bring the heat down. I am nowhere near as hot and spicy as you are (heh heh heh).

    It’s so sad that your friend succumbed to buying an instant packet. Sigh.

  18. Anonymous

    Goodness but that looks delicious! We love using tofu in our kitchen, though I’m always on the lookout for new recipes to try and/or modify for our vegetarian tastes. Sweet & sour tofu has been our fav of late, but your recipe looks too good to pass up. Hope you don’t mind my tinkering!

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  19. Kevin

    Ma Po Tofu is one of my favorite dishes. Yours looks really good, though it looks a bit hotter than the one that I make.

  20. Brilynn

    Your story sounds familiar. Recently a non-cooking friend of mine asked me for my lemon chicken recipe, he was going to try to make it. At first I was so excited, then I found out when he actually tried making it he didn’t have half the ingredients and it didn’t work out at all. I was so sad!

  21. Rasa Malaysia

    Marvin – you are welcome. No more packet mix for you. ;)

    K&S – wow, Ma Po Tofu with ramen, that sounds like a very good idea. :)

    Evolvingtastes – yep, you can make it a vegetarian dish easily. You can also try adding finely chopped carrots and shitake mushrooms too.

    Veron – LOL, yeah, it’s like having a lip augmentation without all those crazy needles and injections, and I guarantee you won’t look like Meg Ryan after eating this dish. :P

    Nate 2.0 – tau cheo will work too. I love Sichuan food because of that spicy kick, but mine is considered toned down…you should see the real Sichuan Map Po Tofu, with crazy oil! LOL.

    TeamBSG – you are right…I haven’t had Ma Po Tofu in Malaysia…only know this dish after I came to the US.

    Manggy – where are you located?

    Foodette – thanks for your comment. You are correctm likewise, I am not familiar with western ingredients either and have no idea whatsoever how to source those foreign looking ingredients. So I always stick to the really simple western dishes. But the willingness to explore and learn more about other cuisines will overcome that intimidation, hopefully. :)

    Terri – the mix is really not so bad. They are as good as it gets, but when you make everything from scratch, you just have that satisfaction when you eat it. Hehe.

    Anh – cool. I look forward to hearing your verdict about my recipe.

    Anonymous – you can use dried shitake mushrooms instead. Try it and let me know if you like it.

    Lydia – ground turkey, that’s a great idea. You can also use beef, or chicken. It’s really up to personal liking. :)

  22. Rasa Malaysia

    Bayi – yeah, hot tofu is good. :)

    Hilda – I should have posted my bee-stung lips after eating this dish. But that would scare everyone away I swear. LOL.

    Gini – I know what you mean, I felt weird the first time I had Sichuan peppercorn. But then right after that, I was like “that was cool!” ;)

    Kiriel – so I take it that you like spicy food.

    Kate – you can do no wrong with Lee Kum Kee, but I am sure it’s toned down on the spiciness. ;)

    Cynthia – stop bookmarking…make it for real. Hehe.

    Yoyo’s Food – 速食调料包风味差太多了。

    Cooking Ninja – yeah, it’s the Japanese tofu. Yeah, that’s why you can’t stir too much. You can also use the regular soft tofu, it will work, but I like silken tofu.

    Claude – yeah, you can eat my blog. Hehe.

    Tunku Halim – cool. Looks like ground turkey is the way to go, will have to try it next time. Haha, yeah, sashimi is really easy to “cook.”

    Piggy – quick quick cook and post it on your blog. :)

    Aria – thanks for your kind comment. Yes, must try!

    Nicisme – thanks. :)

    Puspha – hey, fellow Malaysia. Thanks for visiting. Do come by often. :)

    Pablo – use less oil lo. :P

    Chubby Hubby – yeah, you can tone down the chili oil and chili powder and Sichuan peppercorn to your own liking. Well, bee-stung lips on a guy is not advisable. LOL. ;)

    Yoymimismo – thanks. :)

    Ari – yeah, you can use dried shitake mushrooms or diced carrots instead of meat. Good eating!

    Kevin – I love it hot. LOL.

    Brilynn – yeah, most of the time people get lazy and they cheat that’s why packet mix is a HUGE business. Hehe. :)

  23. christine

    Haha, sounds like something I would do if it looked too intimidating or the list was too long.I love mapo tofu but only ever ordered it in restaurants, I’ve never even seen packet mixes for it here. Yours looks so yummy!

  24. Anonymous

    “That Sichuan taste” that someone noted above is usually a result of using the correct variety of 辣豆瓣酱. In particular, look for 郫县豆瓣.

  25. dmreed

    thanks, nuce site…this is a pretty standard recipe…sorry your friend thinks it is too complicated…he is really missing a good dish! I prefer to add about 2 tablespoons of fermented black beans and I also prefer Ma Po Dofu over noodles/spaghetti rather than over rice.

  26. Benbini

    apologies if someone down the chain has already said this – but might be good to distinguish between the two kinds of spiciness that the peppercorns and chili sauce respectively contribute to the dish – the peppercorns make it ma2/tingly spicy, while the sauce makes it la4/hot spicy. Some folks might wanna cut down just on the la4 while keeping the ma2, in which case they’ll want to reduce the amount of sauce while keeping the same amount of peppercorns

  27. I’ve been making this for about 3 years now. Love it!!! One of those dishes that feels oh so good in the winter when it’s cool & cloudy. Perfect texture, spice, & porkiness!!!

  28. Shoshanna


    My hubby made Ma Po Tofu with your recipe tonight and it definitely rivals my mom’s when she used to make it from scratch. It was simply delicious and brought back memories of my childhood. My hubby went a little overboard with the chili and made it too spicy for his taste but it was bee-stung swollen lips for me.

    I love your blog; your blog and Jen’s ( are probably two of my favorite blog.

    My next recipe to try is the lettuce leaf wraps…mmmmm… :o)

  29. I live in China and I’ve been looking for an authentic Ma Po Tofu recipe for ages. I tried your recipe a few days ago, and it seriously rivals the Ma Po Tofu we get in the many Sichuan restaurants in our city. In fact, it’s better, since it doesn’t have loads of MSG! I put a shout-out to you on my blog for this recipe – thank you!

  30. Bev

    Hi RM,

    I got the peppercorns and am new to all these cooking terms. Just wondering what you meant by roasted? Do i just throw them in a pan and stir it around?

    Cheers :)

  31. mvnw

    Hi Rasamalaysia, I’m new to your website and so impressed with all your beautiful pictures and delicious recipes. Btw, I’m going to have a house warming party this weekend and wish to serve some finger foods and also dinner. I’m thinking of trying your Ma Po Tofu for the first time and I’m so excited about it :) because everyone I invite loves tofu. Also the Kung Pao Chicken. But now I’m wondering if I cook a large portion (for about 20 peoples), should all the ingredients be exactly the same, just double or tripled them? Or the recipe will be different. I tried to check out from your “Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Summer White Party” but I still clueless :( I know that this question sounds silly, but I’m so not screwing up my party. Please help… Oh, and I appreciate it :)

      • mvnw

        Hi Rasamalaysia, thanks for your reply. I went with the risky bet option, that is cooked them in according to the ratio, but it turned out too spicy and too salty. Luckily i got my husband to run to buy some more tofu and chicken, and then (phew) it turn out okay. A few days after that house warming dinner though, i tried the same recipes, this time as it is, and they turned out wonderful. I wish i went for the safest bet on that party, but i guess i was too lazy to cook a few batches… hehehe. Anyway, thanks a lot and Looking forward for all your new delicious recipes and beautiful photos! :)

  32. Jay

    I tried making Mapo Tofu using this recipe, and my first attempt was a disaster.

    I say this because the recipe calls for three tablespoons of Spicy Bean Paste. On my first attempt, it was way too salty. I thought there was something wrong with the recipe, or one of the ingredients. I had to add one more block of tofu and a whole cup of water to offset all that salt.

    On my second attempt, I only used one tablespoon of Spicy Bean Paste. This time, it came out perfect.

    If anyone plans on trying this recipe, you should be careful with the Spicy Bean Paste, because I’m pretty sure each brand has its own taste, and the one that I have just happens to have too much salt.

  33. Adelina

    I love this dish and attempted to make it at home the other week and it didn’t turn out too great! I think the hardest thing for me would be to find the “right” bottle/ can of Sichuan bean paste. A local Asian store offers a wide variety, and to some extends this is awesome! However, I found myself starring at at least 30 something plus bottles/ cans and finally I got dizzy and made a poor choice! The bean paste bottle I picked up had a strange paste to it! Hence my dish didn’t turn out as I had hoped for! But, the quest will be continued!

    Love your site and your continued generosity!

    • L

      Adelina, Ma Po Tofu is my hometown dish and it’s actually very easy to make. To cook the authentic Ma Po Tofu, you have to choose the right Sichuan spicy bean paste. The best is called Pi(pea) Xian Dou Ban (郫县豆瓣)- a traditional spicy bean paste made in the suburb of Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan. Before dishing out, blend some cornstarch with water, slowly pour it into the wok while stirring. This way the sauce is thickened. After put the Tofu in plate, add the Sichuan peppercorn powder and chopped scallions on top. Stir and serve. BTW, the best Sichuan peppercorn is from another county near Chengdu and it’s called Han Yuan Hua Jiao (汉源花椒)。Also the ground pork can be replaced with ground beef. The original recipe back to hundreds of years ago actually used ground beef.

  34. I don’t think it is too troublesome or long to make mapo tofu, especially when it yields such delicious results! This is an amazing recipe! You are sooo talented! =)

  35. Pelin

    Great recipe! I prepared with extra lean ground meat(cow) instead of pork, and it turned out perfect! Thank you so much for sharing.

  36. Barbara

    This is similar to one I learned whilst doing an apprenticeship in a Chinese restaurant. In my view, you can’t really have enough of the Szechwan peppercorns!! I add rice wine to help thicken it, and thus find that the recommended cornflour I see in many recipes is not necessary. The beauty of this dish is that in summer, it lifts jaded palates, and in winter, it’s the most warming of soul foods. Whoever invented it was a genius.

  37. Vinita

    I’ve been searching the internet for the perfect mapo tofu recipe, and now I know I’ve found the one. I tried your recipe today without the chili oil, and it still turned out spicy and wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing. :)

  38. I spent a few months living in Buenos Aires, and my apartment-mate was Taiwanese. So, of all places, the first place I had Mapo Tofu was in Argentina! It blew my mind, and I think I’m finally going to make it myself!

  39. todd howard

    I LOVE my Sichuan foods–hot and spicy, please. I have a question; when you call for chili powder, do you mean the basic chili powder in the US that smells like it’s made from dried guajillo or maybe ancho chiles, or do you mean powedered hot dried red chiles, such as Japonese chiles?

  40. danipreda

    I too was searching for the best Mapo Tofu recipe, this is a great one, we really enjoyed it. Another thing I have been searching for a very long time, is a recipe for Sechuan pork saussages. I was thinking perhaps you would have access to such recipe with the Sechuan connections…I would so love to make these. In China, it was delivered to me by a friend who had a family in Chengdu producing them on a very small scale, but the family that made them, would not give out the secret:(

  41. Hi Rasa,
    I just wanted to let you know i tried your Mapo tofu and it was FANTASTIC !! I wanted to let you know that i have linked your site on my website. I mostly make Korean cuisine and would like to share my recipes with you someday.
    Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. Great Job, great site. I will be trying out your other great recipes. I will keep you posted.

  42. renee

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I bought your book on amazon and I tried this recipe. It’s so yummy. My husband doesn’t eat tofu at all normally, but he loves this dish. Finally I can cook tofu that my husband will enjoy too. I will keep on trying your recipe from your cookbook and leave reviews to you.:)

  43. CozyPixie

    In search of the ultimate Mapo Tofu recipe, I’ve tried four other recipes, and while they were good, I find myself coming back to this one again and again. I’ve made this Mapo Tofu recipe three times already and it’s DELICIOUS!!!

  44. Taylor

    My family and I love this! It’s not as soupy as the picture above, but this is only my second attempt at authentic Chinese, so I’m still learning. Next time I’ll add more of the actual oil, and maybe even some vegetables with the meat and tofu.

    Thanks for this. <3

  45. Hi Bee,

    I’ve made this recipe countless of times for my husband and it’s become his all time favourite dish. Sometimes he requests for it twice a week. I made it for my mum and it too has become a staple at my parents’ place, my dad always asks for this. Of course, I had to switch out the pork with ground beef but it’s really delicious. Thank you for writing a family favourite.

    Your fellow Malaysian,


  46. STSF

    Thank you so much. I have been looking for a recipe that echoed the Mapo Tofu I had in Chengdu. This is it. Fortunately, living in San Francisco, I can get all the right ingredients – I think I now have about a gallon of Szechuan peppercorns. Thank you and brilliant. And to think I would not even think of tofu before. Also this recipe, opens the door to other ideas with tofu.

    One question, I have also seen szechuan peppercorn powder ground with salt – have you come across that? I made some and cannot stop tasting it – would be great on roasted peanuts or other items that are salted. And you could reduce the overall salt content.


  47. Jennifer

    Bee, what kind of spicy chili bean paste do you use? I use Pixian, but I wonder if there is a better one. Pixian is very salty, I used just two T but it was still not edible.

  48. sub

    I think Pixian douban is a key ingredient for this dish.

    Maybe try another brand Jennifer, some are saltier than others

  49. Link

    I also have the Pixian Spicy Bean Paste, but it is too salty, so I can’t use as much of it as said in the recipe either. However, I still want it too be very spicy. What can I do?

  50. Hi,
    I have a 15-year old son from Chengdu, adopted a little over a year ago. He still misses his Chengdu foods, though I try to make them. Can you tell me what I could substitute for the fermented black beans? I can get a can of regular black beans; is that the same thing? I don’t live near an Asian grocery store.
    If you could respond fairly soon, that would be great!

      • Jeff

        I would love to try to make this at home! I’m tired of hunting for good mapo ever since the recent szechuan place went out of business :-( However, I, like a lot of westerners as above, am a little afraid – I don’t want to buy the wrong things! I was going to try and buy from amazon since I get free shipping. Do these look right? Also, what makes light soy sauce (lite = low sodium, or another difference?)

        Ajika Sichuan Peppercorns Chinese Pepper, 2.5-Ounce

        Sichuan / Pixian / Pi Xian Broad Bean Paste 16OZ (454g)

        Pearl River Bridge Superior Light Soy Sauce – Pearl River Bridge

        Lee Kum Kee Chiu Chow Chili Oil

        Fermented Black Beans by Hoosier Hill Farm, 1.5 Lb. Jar – Hoosier Hill Farm

        Thanks for posting this!

  51. Jon B

    I absolutely love your Nonya recipes. Several year of living in Singapore with meals regularly taken at gourmet place as Orchard Rd Car Park, Albert Street and Newton Circus. Whenever I can I try to duplicate those flavors this leads me to a questin: when you call for “chili powder”, what exactly do you mean”. There are several choices: chili powder as is used in Mexican cuisine (usually a mix of long red, ancho & pasilla chilis; cayenne and straight red pepper powder from dried long reds. In the quantities called for in most Asian recipes cayenne is way too much, the Mexican powder probably does not offer the right flavor leaving only red pepper powder or so it seems.

    What ami missing?

    Thanks much.

    Terimah kaso


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