Mapo tofu (Chinese Tofu, Pork, and Vegetables) -

Mapo Tofu

In Recipe by Sean2 Comments

Mapo Tofu

Share this Recipe

Mapo tofu is a dish that, in many ways, defies classification or explanation.  It is, in a sense, rather familiar, appearing on countless restaurant menus and home tables alike.  And yet, its combination of soft tofu, ground pork, and a flavorful (but endlessly variable) sauce is rather unlike the image that many westerners have of “Chinese” food.  Despite this, it is in many ways an ideal dish to learn, adapt, and make your own; rather like a Chinese version of meatloaf, it invites adaptation and branding by the home cook.

The name, as is often pointed out, seems a bit bizarre at first blush – literally translated, mapo is a truncation of mázi pópo (麻子婆婆), which more or less means “pockmarked old woman.”  So this is the tofu of a pockmarked old woman.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Basically, the dish is meant to honor the original old granny who first made it (or best made it) in Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan, China).  To further clarify, it’s not at all uncommon (or impolite) to assign nicknames in Chinese culture based on physical attributes that westerners might find a little gauche; Chinese nicknames frequently feature monikers like ‘fat’ or ‘old’.

As with a great many dishes from Sichuan, mapo tofu is notorious for its fiery heat.  This heat in this version would be unlikely to satisfy the taste buds of Chengdu, but it’s got just enough heat to keep me happy.  That being said, feel free to up the ante with more chilies and/or a particularly hot doubanjiang.

And speaking of doubanjiang, there are couple of things to note about the ingredients in this recipe.  First, doubanjiang, or spicy bean paste, is an irreplaceable condiment (and staple of the Chinese cupboard) that you should be able to track down at any Asian grocer.  It comes in spicy and non-spicy versions, and I encourage you to explore a few different varieties over time to find your favorite.  If you absolutely must substitute it, try tomato paste and use less ketchup.  Second… yes, ketchup.  Before you go and call out sacrilege in the comments section, ketchup is actually a relatively common ingredient in many Chinese dishes, and you can even find less-sweet Chinese versions of it (and no-sugar-added Western versions).  But at the end of the day, I like the slightly sweet, vinegary hit that ketchup adds to this dish.  And hey, if you don’t like it… well, you feel free to take mapo tofu and make it your own.

Nutrition Facts
Mapo Tofu
Amount Per Serving
Calories 321 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 23g 35%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Polyunsaturated Fat 7g
Monounsaturated Fat 9g
Cholesterol 27mg 9%
Sodium 1410mg 59%
Potassium 373mg 11%
Total Carbohydrates 15g 5%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 9g
Protein 13g 26%
Vitamin A 2%
Vitamin C 10%
Calcium 4%
Iron 10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Nutritional Summary

NOTE: the nutritional information does not include rice.

Low in calories, fairly high in protein. The fat content is moderate, and can be reduced by making a vegetarian version (remove the ground pork) or by using a lean meat like ground turkey.

The combination of Chinese soy-based sauces and other high-salt ingredients means that this dish is fairly high in sodium.  Consider adjusting your cooking with low-sodium sauces, and/or eliminate the added salt from the pork and sauce stages of the recipe.

Ingredient Pages

No Ingredient Pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

Pantry Pages

No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe.  Like to see one?  Let me know in the comments below or by email.

  • Reduced meat
  • Vegetarian option
  • Gluten free

*Note – As with a LOT of recipes using Chinese ingredients, whether or not this is wheat/gluten-free will depend on the sauces you choose. GF oyster-flavoured sauce is fairly common, while doubanjiang is all over the place in terms of ingredients, including wheat.

Chinese Recipes on Diversivore

Sort By Rand
  • Chinese egg noodles, made from scratch -
    Homemade Chinese Egg Noodles
    Makes approximately 650-670 g of noodles (a little under 1.5 lbs)
  • Universal Chinese Greens - Stir fried yu choy sum with ginger and garlic -
    Universal Chinese Greens Part 1: Stir-fry
    All the basics about Chinese stir-frying, plus a basic and versatile recipe to practice with.
  • Garlic and Lemon Bok Choy with Black Sesame Noodles -
    Garlic and Lemon Bok Choy with Black Sesame Noodles
    Noodles are always good, but the bok choy is the star here. It cooks to a delicious, almost creamy texture, and works with the sauce without being overpowered.
  • Liangban Huanggua (涼拌黃瓜) - Chinese cucumbers with garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, and hot peppers -
    Chinese Garlic Cucumber Salad (Liangban Huanggua)
    Delicious, garlicky, and adaptable to any level of spice.  This simple salad/side is wildly popular all over China for a good reason!
  • Salmon Fried Rice Cakes (Chao Nian Gao) -
    Salmon Fried Rice Cake (Chao Nian Gao)
    Savoury rice cakes, a Shanghainese specialty, is paired with Canadian wild sockeye salmon, making for a wonderful stir-fry that's as unique as it is delicious.
  • Shrimp and Clams with Douchi (Chinese Black Beans) and Citrus -
    Shrimp and Clams in a Black Bean and Citrus Sauce
    Fermented black soybeans are one of the most distinctive flavours in Chinese cooking. Here, they're balanced beautifully by the bright taste of citrus.
  • Stir fried snow peas with lotus root -
    Stir Fried Snow Peas and Lotus Root
    Snow peas are easy to love and use. Fortunately the same can be said of the less familiar lotus root. They're even better together in this distinctive stir fry.
  • Taiwanese stir fried white water snowflake stems (炒水蓮) with pickled cordia fruit (破布子) -
    Stir-fried White Water Snowflake
    A distinctively Taiwanese treat, these slender, crunchy green stems from the aquatic plant known as white water snowflake (Nymphoides hydrophylla - aka crested floatingheart, or 水蓮 in Chinese) are...
  • Stir Fried Udon with Chicken, Shimeji, and Broccolini - Japanese ingredients with a Chinese twist -
    Udon Noodles with Chicken, Broccolini, and Shimeji Mushrooms
    Chinese flavours with Japanese ingredients - a great combination with big flavour that's ready in no time.
  • `Triptych of three blanched Chinese greens -
    Universal Chinese Greens Part 3: Blanching and Dressing
    Chinese greens can easily be blanched to make flavourful, simple sides. This method is very rewarding, and easy to apply to a wide variety of vegetables.  This version...
  • Universal Chinese Greens - Braised Tatsoi -
    Universal Chinese Greens Part 2: Braising
    Braising is a great way to capture the essential flavours typical of good Chinese vegetables (especially leafy greens) without the hassle of stir-frying.  This basic recipe features tatsoi (or...
  • Mapo tofu (Chinese Tofu, Pork, and Vegetables) -
    Mapo Tofu
    A Chinese classic, and one that comes in endless varieties, mapo tofu is a simple and delicious dish that's easy to make and easy to adjust to your tastes.
  • Five spice baked crispy tofu with seared bok choy and watermelon radishes -
    Five-spice Baked Tofu with Seared Bok Choy
    Crispy baked tofu is the answer to your meat-free prayers. Add creamy bok choy and flavourful Chinese spices for rich, satisfying, totally vegan comfort food.
  • Dongpo Rou - Chinese Braised Pork Belly -
    Dongpo Rou (Chinese Red-cooked Pork Belly)
    This classic dish illustrates the how essential Chinese ingredients can combine with the rich taste of pork belly to make a unforgettable but simple meal.
  • Poached Chicken and Choy Sum (Hakka-style) with Garlic and Ginger Sauce -
    Poached Chicken and Choy Sum with Garlic and Ginger Sauce
    Poaching meats has gone out of vogue in many circles, but with care and an interesting technique, it can yield some of the most delicious, tender chicken ever.
  • Honey Ginger Pea Tips -
    Honey Ginger Pea Tips
    Pea tips aren't too familiar outside of China, but they should be. They're incredibly healthy, delicious, and easy to use. Here the mild green taste is played against bright...
  • Taiwanese Tea Eggs - Hard boiled eggs steeped in Taiwanese tea and a mixture of spices -
    Taiwanese Tea Eggs
    A simple and delicious classic, boiled eggs with a velvety yolk are marinated in tea and Chinese spices to make an unforgettable and distinctive snack or side.

Share this Recipe

5 from 1 vote
Mapo tofu (Chinese Tofu, Pork, and Vegetables) -
Mapo Tofu
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
5 mins
Total Time
45 mins
A Chinese classic, and one that comes in endless varieties, mapo tofu is a simple and delicious dish that's easy to make and easy to adjust to your tastes.
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese, Chinese (Sichuan)
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 321 kcal
  • 150 g ground pork
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch white pepper
Tofu and Veggies
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 2-4 Thai bird's eye chilies minced, including seeds and membranes
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 green onions white portions sliced thinly, green portions chopped
  • 500 g fresh tofu (soft or medium firm)
  • 3 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp doubanjiang (spicy or mild)
  • 60 ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar (substitute balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tsp thick soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger peeled and minced
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns ground
  1. Combine pork, sesame oil, salt, and pepper and set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Combine all of the sauce ingredients and set aside.
  3. Heat a wok on high for 30 seconds, then add the peanut oil, stirring to coat the sides. When the oil is shimmering and just beginning to give off small puffs of smoke, add the chilies, onion (white part) and garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds. The chilies should start to blacken. Add the pork and stir fry for 1 minute. Add the tofu and gently stir to combine. Cook for about 3 minutes or until heated through.
  4. Make a well in the mixture and pour in the sauce. Mix together, stirring regularly until the sauce thickens.
  5. Add onion greens, stir, and serve.


  1. This is one of my favourite dishes and this version is easy to whip together and healthier than the restaurant version.

  2. Pingback: Inauthentic Thai Basil Tofu (Stir Fry Worthy!) - The Cookie Writer

Leave a Comment