A vegan version of the popular Szechuan dish. This mapo tofu has a good taste of Szechuan grains and fermented bean paste. Mix it with the jasmine rice for garnish.
Disclaimer : This is by no means an authentic mapo tofu recipe. This dish is inspired by several vegan versions of mapo tofu I’ve tried in restaurants, and also by this recipe. I also prepared it so it’s more to the taste (less spicy), so it’s far from the authentic version of Sichuan.
One of the main reasons I love eating out is that there are so many new things to try when you eat out. Of course, that was impossible last year, and I miss it terribly.
Sure, we always take strangers, but that’s not the same thing. There was no travel either, and for me, travel and food go hand in hand. Every time we plan a trip, we first check out all the great restaurants in the area and plan our days accordingly.
It was as if our travel plans revolved around food. When we went to Paris, I literally spent days looking for where to find the best croissants or the most delicious ice cream, and I was sure we’d go everywhere. Oh, how I miss traveling and having these adventures!
Let’s get back to the food: I’ve always loved Asian food. Unfortunately, I have never traveled to any of these countries, so my knowledge of the cuisine is pretty limited to what I have eaten in restaurants in the United States.
Tofu is often used in Asian recipes, and mapo tofu is a popular recipe often found on menus. It’s spicy with lots of flavor, and I like it with jasmine or brown rice.
What is Mapo Tofu?
It is a famous dish from the Sichuan region of China. This region is known for its spicy dishes, and mapo tofu is no exception.
Traditionally, mapo tofu is made with soft tofu and pork, but of course I made a vegetarian version, replacing the meat with mushrooms.
The main flavor of mapo tofu comes from the main ingredients, such as Szechuan pepper and spicy bean paste (more information on these ingredients below). Szechuan peppercorns give this dish its characteristic numbness.
Because I can’t stand so many spices, I changed the recipe quite a bit to suit my taste, hence the disclaimer at the beginning.
For the recipe of mapo tofu, special ingredients are used. These are ingredients you won’t like at home, until you go to Asia, of course.
I highly recommend buying these ingredients if you want to make other recipes of this type. You can find all of these ingredients at your local Asian grocery store or on Amazon.
Tofu: When I cook tofu, I always choose the extra hard variety. I’m not a fan of soft tofu, and extra firm tofu works best in Indian recipes, so that’s always my tofu choice.
But this tofu menu needs soft tofu or slippery tofu. Do not use extra hard tofu for this recipe.
One of the things I learned from this recipe is that tofu is so soft, you can heat it in water for a few minutes and that helps to firm it up a bit.
This tofu is very soft, so it breaks down easily. I tried a batch without tofu in hot water and another batch with tofu in hot water for 4-5 minutes. Honestly, I didn’t notice much difference, but I did find the version with a little boiled water to be a little firmer.
So if you want, you can definitely take that extra step.
Mushrooms: Mushrooms replace the meat in this vegetarian version of mapo tofu.
For this recipe they need to be shredded or finely chopped, I use my shredder for this, it works well. You can use any mushrooms you like, but I prefer shiitake mushrooms here.
Szechuan pepper: If you have never tried these products, I can tell you that they look nothing like black peppercorns, not even remotely. It has a very floral smell and when you put it in your mouth, it has that tingling feeling and then something metallic and numbing. I can say with certainty that I have never experienced anything like this. It’s also very strong… This has gone a little too far!
While working on this recipe, I inquired about the origin of this dish and of course, there is no mapo tofu without Sichuan grains. I added a bunch of stuff in my first challenge. I also chopped it up and added it. – Guys, my dish was just inedible. I had to throw it in the trash.
I think it’s an acquired taste. If you’re a beginner, it might be too much for your taste buds. I drastically reduced the amount of Szechuan grains in this recipe. If you like the taste, you can increase the amount to 2 teaspoons. I used 1/2 teaspoon and also what I took out after sautéing in oil.
I sauteed the peppercorns in the oil for a few seconds to soak them, then removed them from the oil. It’s just my way of making sure the dish always has the same light flavor as the peppercorns, but it doesn’t really outweigh the dish.
If you like it, you can use more of it. Saute the whole peppercorns, not removing them from the oil (as I did). You can also dry them a bit, then pound them with mortar and pestle and use them in the recipe.
If you mash the peppercorns, the flavor will be more pronounced, so keep that in mind. You can also use oil of Szechuan pepper, which is already infused with flavor.
To clarify, I understand that I added very little Szechuan pepper to the recipe and that traditional recipes use much more. But that’s what worked for my delicious taste buds, and you should feel free to adjust this amount to suit your tastes and preferences.
I also find that peppercorns mix well with meat, but in the vegan version their flavor is more pronounced, hence the problem I had when I added them.
Fermented bean paste: I used two kinds of fermented paste….
Gochujang: This is a spicy chili paste made from sticky rice, fermented beans, etc. It can be very spicy, but the brand I used was not very spicy. It has a strong taste, it’s salty and it has some sweetness too. Sure, spicy, but not very spicy.
Different brands have different degrees of spiciness. Try it before you use it in a recipe. If the brand you are using is super spicy, you should reduce the amount of gochujang in the recipe.
Toban Djan (Red Bean Sauce) : This is a mixture of chili pepper and fermented beans that works well in this recipe to create depth of flavor. Again, it’s not very spicy, but different brands have different levels of spiciness.
The flavors: Besides these main ingredients, the recipe also uses a lot of ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sesame for flavor. I also add a little sugar to balance the flavors.
frequently asked questions
What can I substitute for Szechuan peppercorns?
Fullback Körner would be a replacement. Although the two peppers are very different in taste, the Szechuan pepper has a floral aroma and a sharp taste. It is without a doubt unique and hard to replace.
Some also recommend using a combination of coriander seeds and black peppercorns.
Does fermented bean paste replace?
Again, they should not be replaced because of their taste. But hoisin sauce and hot sauce can be tried as substitutes.
As a substitute for mushrooms?
I think lentils could be a substitute, maybe chana dal or soy pellets.
That gluten-free vegan tofu recipe?
No, there’s wheat in the chili bean sauce. If you read the labels and check that the sauces are wheat-free, the recipe is gluten-free.
Serving things on mapo tofu?
I like to eat mine with white jasmine rice or brown rice. You can also serve them with green beans, broccoli or salad.
1- This step is optional, but enhances the soft tofu a bit. For this step, boil the water in a large pan, add the tofu cubes to the hot water and leave for 4-5 minutes, then remove the tofu from the water and set aside. You can skip this step.
2- Heat 2 tablespoons oil (I used avocado oil) and 1 teaspoon chili in a pan over low heat. Once hot, add Szechuan peppercorns. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes until the oil has a good peppery aroma.
3- Turn off the heat, remove the pan from the heat and then use kitchen tweezers to remove the peppercorns from the oil. If you prefer the taste of the peppercorns, you can leave the peppercorns in place, there is no need to remove them.
You can also add peppercorns here if you wish. That’s exactly what I liked best.
4- Return the pan to the heat, turn the heat to medium-low and add the gochujang. Brush the dough in the oil for 1 to 2 minutes.
5- Then add the ginger and garlic and chili sauce. Also add the mushrooms to the pan. Stir and increase the heat to medium.
6- Cook until mushrooms are caramelized, about 6 minutes.
7… Then add water and stir.
8… Add the soy sauce and mix.
9- Also add sugar and salt and mix well. At this point you can adjust the consistency. If you want more sauce, you can add more water.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix 3 teaspoons cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water.
10 Now add the prepared cornstarch suspension to the jar (stir before adding so that the cornstarch does not sink to the bottom). Stir and the sauce will thicken immediately.
11 – Add the tofu and stir well. Be careful as tofu is soft and can crumble, so stir carefully. Let simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the sesame oil and extinguish the heat.
12- Add chopped spring onions on top.
Serve the tofu carpo with green onions and jasmine rice. If you like the taste of Szechuan peppercorns, you can also crush a few and sprinkle them on top before serving (I didn’t).
Other Asian-inspired tofu recipes
Roast beef with tofu and Asian broccoli
Kung Pao Tofu
Roast Beef with Tofu and Thai Basil
If you’ve tried this recipe for vegan mapo tofu, be sure to rate it! You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s new in my kitchen!
Mapo Vegan Tofu
Vegan tofu mapo is a vegan version of the popular Sichuan dish. It has a lot of flavor and spiciness thanks to the Szechuan beans in chili bean sauce! Jasmine rice is the best.
Cooking time 15 minutes
Cooking time 15 minutes
Total duration 30 minutes
Calories 206 kcal
- 1 pound soft tofu, 453 grams, diced.
- 2 tablespoons 30 ml oil, I used avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon chili oil 5 ml
- Add 1/2 teaspoon Szechuan beans to taste
- 1,5 tbsp. gochujang to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 1,5 teaspoon chilibon sauce to taste
- 4 ounces stuffed shiitake mushrooms, use a food processor
- 1.25 cup 10 oz. water
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce 5 ml
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil 5 ml
- 3 stalks of green onions, chopped
- Read the blog post for my notes and substitution tips before trying this recipe, especially if you don’t know some of the ingredients here.
Calories: 206kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 12gFat: 14gSaturated fat: 1gFat: 1gSodium: 166mgPotassium: 159mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A : 105IU Vitamin C: 3mg Calcium: 159mg Iron: 2mg
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