Mapo Tofu is a hearty dish that will light up your taste buds! It’s packed with Thai chilies that are notorious for bringing the heat. Then, you have the soft silky tofu that cools everything down for a moment… Right before getting that signature mouth-numbing effect from the Sichuan peppercorns. Get ready for a flavor adventure because this easy Mapo Tofu is made in 30 minutes or less!
Origins of Mapo Tofu
Mapo tofu can be traced back to 1862 and an elderly woman in China, Mrs. Chen, who had a pock-marked face. She ran a restaurant and was given the nickname mapo. “Ma” means pockmark and “po” means old woman or grandma.
Though this wasn’t the most endearing name, her spicy tofu dish became increasingly popular and eventually became a signature dish!
Can You Beat the Heat?
Mapo tofu is hearty, spicy, and comforting. The sauce is filled with spice from the fresh and dried hot peppers and bits of browned ground meat. Luckily, the creamy silky tofu eases a bit of the heat. The signature component though is the mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
The Sichuan peppercorns have a very distinct floral aroma and give a tingly feeling in your mouth. It’s truly like nothing else! It’s rumored that the numbing effect helps you take on more heat. I guess there’s only one way to find out, right!?
This delicious dish has layers and layers of flavor without having to spend all day in the kitchen. In fact, you can make this in less than 30 minutes!
Easy Mapo Tofu
This signature dish from Sichuan, China has cubes of silky tofu swimming in a spicy bath of sauce. Originally, mapo tofu has lots of oil, however, I wanted to make a healthier spin.
I’ve reduced the amount of fat and opted for ground turkey to create a lighter version. AND, I made sure not to sacrifice the bold flavors of the dish! You still get tons of garlicky spicy flavor, delicious morsels of meat, and creamy tofu followed up with a burst of that signature tingling mouth-numbing feeling.
It’s the same beloved dish, just with fewer calories!
Try out this quick and healthier version of mapo tofu and let me know what you think in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.
Let's Get Cooking!
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Easy Mapo Tofu
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil*
- 1 - 3 Thai chilies thinly sliced
- 5 garlic cloves minced
- 7 dried chilies chopped
- Mix together ground meat, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Set aside.
- Heat a wok or large skillet on medium-low heat. Add 4 tablespoons of neutral oil, then the aromatics to infuse oil with their flavors. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, watching carefully not to burn them.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, then quickly add in ground turkey and cook thoroughly. Add in toban jang (Chinese chili bean paste) and cook for 1 - 2 minutes, making sure the meat is well coated.
- Add in ground Szechuan peppercorn. If you haven't tried Szechuan peppercorn, you can start by adding ½ tablespoon first to see how you like it. You can always add more later if you'd to intensify the flavor.
- Pour in chicken stock and cook for 1 - 2 minutes to bring to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, create a slurry by mixing cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Pour the slurry into the pan and cook until the sauce starts to thicken. If it becomes too thick, you can add more chicken stock or water.
- Add in the tofu and very gently mix together, being careful not to break the tofu pieces. Drizzle on sesame oil and Shaoxing wine, then cook for another 2 - 3 minutes. Top with green onions, if desired, then serve with hot steamy rice. Enjoy!
- Neutral Oil: I highly recommend using a neutral oil so it doesn't alter the flavor of the chili oil you create. My favorite is using grapeseed oil, but vegetable or canola oil would also work.
- Protein: For this recipe, I used ground turkey to make it leaner, however, alternatively you can use ground pork.
- Szechuan Peppercorns: If you haven’t tried Szechuan peppercorns before or are sensitive to spice, try starting with ½ tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns first. You can always add more if you like it!
Exact calculations may vary. For the most accurate nutritional information, use your preferred nutrition calculator, actual ingredients, and quantities used for the recipe. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian if more precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.