Vegetarian Mapo Tofu Recipe

Get your Chinese food fix without having to order take-out with this satisfying vegetarian mapo tofu recipe. What is mapo you may ask? Mapo tofu is a signature dish of Sichuan cuisine, according to The Guardian, and dates back all the way to the Qing dynasty. Recipe developer and registered dietitian nutritionist Kristen Carli, MS, RD says, "this nontraditional recipe was created with simplified ingredients that are easily accessible at your local grocery store." It is an ode to the classic mapo tofu dish and will surely please your taste buds.

It's gluten-free, vegan, and an out-of-the-box yet easy dish to add into your dinner rotation at home. Mapo tofu is so versatile that it can be made with or without animal protein, and you can even sneak in some extra veggies if you'd like. This dish has been recreated with so many different variations, making it easy to have fun and get creative. It's comforting and the zesty flavors will surely hit the spot.

Gather your ingredients to make vegetarian mapo tofu

A lot of traditional Chinese dishes require unique ingredients that you may only be able to find at Asian-focused grocery stores. If you do not live close to one, that is okay. The beauty of this recipe is that you will be able to find all of the ingredients in this recipe at your local grocery store. You will need dried shiitake mushrooms, water, sesame oil, black bean sauce, red chili flakes, minced garlic, tofu, crushed ginger, and scallions.

Soak the mushrooms

Soaking the mushrooms should be the very first thing on your list as it takes a minimum of 20 minutes to let them soak in water. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Once boiling, carefully add to a small bowl with four shiitake mushrooms and let them soak for at least 20 minutes. If you'd like to save yourself some time, this step can be done the day before and stored overnight in the fridge. When ready, drain, squeeze, then chop the mushrooms, but don't forget to save the liquid. Set the liquid and mushrooms aside.

Make the bean sauce

"Traditional Mapo tofu recipes call for fermented black beans and sichuan pepper. However, this recipe swaps out the sichuan peppers for red chili flakes, making it easier to find at your typical neighborhood grocery store," raves Carli. Grab a large skillet and place onto the stove over medium heat. Next add the sesame oil, black bean sauce, and red chili flakes. Heat until fragrant, about three minutes. Make sure to not burn the bean sauce.

Add tofu and aromatics

Alright folks, it's tofu time. If available, medium-firm tofu works best. Take your block of tofu and cube it up. Add your tofu, minced garlic, crushed ginger, mushrooms, ½ reserved mushroom liquid, and scallions to the skillet. Never crushed ginger before? No problem. Simply wash and peel your ginger and coarsely crush with a rolling pin (a bottle of wine works too!) or mortar and pestle. Minced ginger is also an acceptable substitute for this recipe. Carli recommends "using frozen crushed ginger as it is so easy."

Let this mixture cook for roughly ten minutes, or until tofu is cooked thoroughly. You will know you have reached this point, when the tofu is soaked with the delicious sauce and its warm through its center. If you feel the mixture is too thick, slowly add leftover reserved liquid and stir the mixture until desired consistency.

Serve over rice

Mapo tofu is traditionally served on top of a bed of white rice, although this can easily be swapped out for a different alternative. Brown rice is a great option if you'd like to sneak in some extra fiber into this meal. There are plenty of nutritious grain-free options as well such as riced cauliflower, riced broccoli, quinoa, and couscous. You could even use shredded cabbage. The limit does not exist when it comes to this adaptable recipe!

Vegetarian Mapo Tofu Recipe
4.9 from 27 ratings
This vegetarian mapo tofu recipe comes together easily and is loaded with savory flavors.
Prep Time
Cook Time
vegetarian mapo tofu
Total time: 33 minutes
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon black bean sauce
  • ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 block tofu, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed ginger
  • 4 scallions, sliced
  1. In a small bowl, add the mushrooms. Cover them with boiling water and allow them to soak for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Drain the mushrooms from the liquid, but be sure to reserve the liquid as well. Squeeze out excess liquid and chop mushrooms.
  3. In a large skillet, over medium heat, add sesame oil, black bean sauce, and red chili flakes. Heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, tofu, ginger, mushrooms, ½ of the reserved liquid, and scallions to the skillet. Cook for about 10 minutes until the tofu is soaked in liquid and warmed through.
  5. Serve over rice.
Calories per Serving 147
Total Fat 10.3 g
Saturated Fat 1.7 g
Trans Fat 0.0
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 8.0 g
Dietary Fiber 2.1 g
Total Sugars 1.0 g
Sodium 15.6 mg
Protein 8.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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