This spicy mapo tofu is an easy Chinese dish you can make at home in minutes. This version uses easily accessible ingredients.
I love Chinese food.
That being said, my pantry and fridge are a pathetic sight to anyone who even remotely knows how to put together a decent Chinese dish.
I’ve got a nub of ginger that takes up permanent residence in my freezer, some fish sauce and soy sauce hanging out on the fridge door shelf and an old jar of chili paste I found hidden in the pantry unopened.
I was talking with my friend Julie a couple of weeks ago about some tofu ideas (hi, I’m a walking stereotype. Let me just ask my Asian friend what she does with tofu) and mapo tofu came up as something her mom makes all the time.
A little googling and I saw a delicious Chinese dish in front of me with at least five crazy ingredients I will likely never use again in my lifetime.
So, I set out to make a mapo tofu dish at home using accessible ingredients and not stuff like fermented black beans and Sichuan peppercorns. Wha???
And if I do say so myself, the result is pretty stellar.
Like legit Chinese food, you could sell this to people and they’d totally pay for it kind of stellar.
It’s spicy without burning your tongue off (just don’t actually eat those dried chiles in there) and I absolutely love the combination of the tofu with the beef.
I’ve always only eaten tofu as the sole protein source in dishes before (like in this sweet and sour tofu recipe), never combining it with meat as if that wasn’t allowed.
Well, duh, I’m not vegetarian, I don’t know why I thought that.
Bring on the beef! Burger bowls anyone?
I’ve done tofu before but I’m usually trying to crisp it up and avoid it’s natural texture like in this sheet pan meal prep tofu recipe.
This dish is made with organic firm silken tofu and it’s a whole other ball game, folks.
I always assumed silken tofu meant soft. It doesn’t.
Silken tofu is a smooth, delicate variety that’s never pressed or drained so the texture is creamy and custard-like.
BTW – It’d be great in this healthy peanut butter cookie dough dip!
Love mapo tofu? Try one of these Chinese inspired recipes too:
- 1/2 pound ground beef a leaner cut is preferable so you don’t have to deal with draining excess fat
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic minced and divided
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red chili paste
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 4 dried chiles
- 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 3 green onions chopped
- 1 package firm tofu
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons water
- Combine the beef, soy sauce, 1 of the minced garlic cloves and rice vinegar in a bowl, set aside.
- Combine the fish sauce, sugar, ginger, red chili paste and remaining clove of garlic in another small bow, mix and set aside.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Once hot, add the dried chiles and peppercorns and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the green onions, cook for another 1 minute.
- Add the beef mixture, break up with a spatula or wooden spoon and cook until browned.
- Add the chili paste mixture and stir until combined.
- Add the tofu and chicken broth and stir gently. Bring to a boil and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Mix the cornstarch and water together in a small bowl, pour it into the skillet and gently stir. This will thicken the sauce a bit.
- Serve over white rice and garnish with additional chopped green onions.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.
Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.