I think one of the biggest things we’ve all learned this year is that the simple things are the things that bring us the most joy. That’s why I think the perfect way to end a pretty tough year is with a simple, easy-to-do dinner. This mapo tofu dish is a staple in my mom’s kitchen. She loves making this dish because it’s easy to throw together at a moment’s notice. Actually, when I was testing this recipe, I messed up the first batch because I made it incredibly spicy, so we just whipped up another batch in 20 minutes!
What is mapo tofu?
Mapo tofu is a traditional Chinese dish from the Sichuan province in China. Typically, it is made with ground pork, tofu, and a spicy sauce filled with Sichuan spices. Unfortunately, my family cannot handle that level of spice, so my mom opts for a more toned down version of this dish. Instead of using Sichuan spices like in my Chinese eggplant dish, she uses chili garlic sauce to give it a moderate amount of spiciness. The dish is then served with white rice.
Ingredients, Substitutions & Adjustments
- Filippo Berio extra light olive oil – The anchor of this dish is Filippo Berio extra light olive oil. I love this olive oil because it has a higher smoke point than other olive oils which makes it the perfect oil to saute with.
- Ginger & garlic – These aromatics add flavor to the dish.
- Ground pork – Ground pork is the most traditional meat used in this recipe, but I’ve seen variations with ground chicken and even ground mushrooms for a vegetarian variation.
- Salt for seasoning
- Spicy bean sauce – Fermented beans are an essential ingredient to traditional mapo tofu. However, this sauce was a tad hard to find. I had to go to a few grocery stores to get it. If you can’t find it, I would recommend adding another tablespoon of oyster sauce as a substitute.
- Silken tofu – My mom swears that you have to use silken tofu, and to be honest, silken tofu does give you the most authentic experience. However, I say use whatever tofu you can find.
- Oyster sauce – Adds umami-ness to the sauce.
- Sesame oil – Adds more flavor to the dish.
- Chili garlic sauce – Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce adds spiciness to the sauce. If you want to go the more traditional route, you could add Sichuan chili oil instead.
- Water & corn starch – These ingredients combined create a corn starch slurry which thickens the sauce.
- Green onions for garnish
How to make my mom’s mapo tofu
First add 2 tablespoons of Filippo Berio extra light olive oil to a pan. Heat over medium high heat. Next, add the garlic and ginger. Cook for ~1 minutes until soft and shiny. Add the ground pork and cook for 5-10 minutes until brown. Then add the salt, , spicy bean sauce, silken tofu, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and chili garlic sauce. Mix the water and corn starch and add to the pan as well. Stir and cook for 2-3 more minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if it tastes bland. Remove from the heat. Stir in the minced green onions and serve with a side of white rice.
What is the best tofu for mapo tofu?
The best and most authentic type of tofu to use is silken tofu or soft tofu. The reason you want to use silken tofu is it makes the dish really easy to eat. However, if firm tofu is all you can find, I would use that. It should still work for the dish.
What can I serve mapo tofu with?
Mapo tofu has strong flavors, so the best thing to serve it with is white rice, which is also how it is traditionally served. You can also serve it with brown rice, red rice, and even quinoa. When choosing something to serve with mapo tofu, choose a dish that is bland to balance out the strong flavors.
How can I store mapo tofu?
This dish can be stored for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Did you make this dish?
If you made this dish, I would love to see!
Thank you to Filippo Berio for sponsoring this post!
- Heat 2 tablespoons of Filippo Berio extra light olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.
- Add ginger and garlic and cook for ~1 minute until they are soft.
- Add ground pork and cook for 5-10 minutes until brown.
- Next, add salt, spicy bean sauce, silken tofu, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and chili garlic sauce. Mix the water and corn starch and add to the pan as well. Stir and cook for 2-3 more minutes until the sauce thickens a bit. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if it tastes bland.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the green onions and serve with a side of white rice.