Mapo Tofu

Our go-to recipe for the Sichuan classic is fiery and tongue-tingling—and perfect for a weeknight.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    40 minutes


By SAVEUR Editors

Updated on September 27, 2023

One of Sichuan cuisine’s best-known dishes, mapo tofu is a comforting, tongue-tingling braise showcasing many ingredients which form the bedrock of the regional cooking style. Doubanjiang, a dark red fermented paste of erjingtiao chiles and broad beans, brings deep umaminess and heat, while douchi, fermented black soybeans, penetrate the tofu with briny, pungent flavor. Red chiles and Sichuan pepper mingle to create the fiery, mouth-numbing flavor profile known in Chinese as mala.

Featured in “Capital of Heat,” by Matt Gross.

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  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • One 14-oz. package silken tofu, drained and cut into 1-in. cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup hong you (Sichuan red chile oil), or substitute store-bought
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 oz. ground pork or beef
  • 2 Tbsp. plus 1½ tsp. doubanjiang (Chinese red chile bean paste)
  • 1 Tbsp. douchi (Chinese fermented black soybeans)
  • 4 Chinese chives (blossoms discarded), or scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 xiao mi la or red Thai chile, finely chopped
  • 1¼ cups chicken stock
  • 1 Tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. ground Sichuan pepper
  • Steamed rice, for serving


Step 1

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of water until dissolved. Set aside. 

Step 2

To a bowl, add the tofu and 3 cups of boiling salted water and soak for 15 minutes. Drain, then set aside on a paper towel-lined plate.

Step 3

To a large flat-bottomed wok or skillet, add the hong you and turn the heat to medium-high. When it’s hot and shimmering, add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the pork and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat, until browned, 4–6 minutes. Add the doubanjiang, douchi, chives, and xiao mi la and cook, stirring frequently, until the chives are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and reserved tofu and bring to a boil, stirring gently (don’t break up the tofu). Add the soy sauce and sugar and continue to boil until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. While swirling the pan, slowly add the reserved cornstarch mixture and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes more. Sprinkle with the Sichuan pepper and more chives. Serve with rice.

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