Vegetarian Mapo Tofu 4.000

Tom McCorkle for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post

Apr 3, 2019

This meat-free version of a popular Sichuan dish boasts tender tofu draped in a savory, mouth-numbing sauce. The characteristic tongue-tingling comes from Sichuan peppercorns.

Food writer Diana Kuan prefers soft or medium tofu here, but firm will work as well.

Serve with steamed rice.

Where to Buy: Black bean sauce, which may be labeled as garlic black bean sauce, is available at well-stocked supermarkets. Chili bean paste (or sauce) and Sichuan peppercorns are available at Asian markets or online. For best flavor, grind the peppercorns just before you use them.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • 1 ounce (about 12) dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons chili bean paste
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (Chinese rice wine; may substitute dry sherry)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons black bean sauce
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, white and green parts separated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, minced (1 teaspoon)
  • 1 block tofu (soft, medium or firm; about 1 pound), drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water


Combine the shiitake mushrooms and cup of warm water in a mixing bowl. Soak for 15 to 20 minutes, then lift out the mushrooms and transfer to a cutting board, squeezing as much moisture out of them as you can back into the bowl. Reserve the soaking water, straining it if it has grit or dirt. Discard the stems, then finely chop the shiitake mushroom caps.

Add the chili bean paste, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and Sichuan pepper (to taste) to the bowl of mushroom soaking water, stirring to incorporate. This will be your sauce.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. It is hot enough when a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact.

Add the peanut or vegetable oil and swirl to coat. Add the minced mushrooms; stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the mushrooms are crispy. Reduce the heat to medium; add the black bean sauce, white parts of the scallions, garlic and ginger; stir-fry for about 1 minute, until fragrant.

Pour in the mushroom-mixture sauce; once the liquid starts to boil, reduce to a gentle bubbling over medium-low heat. The liquid in the pan should now be a nice red color. Gently add the tofu cubes, being careful to not move them around too much so they don't break up. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes so the tofu cooks and absorbs the sauce. You can spoon some of the sauce over the tofu cubes to help better coat them.

Carefully push the tofu to the sides and create a small well at the center of the pan. Stir in the cornstarch mixture there. Cook for another minute, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Transfer to a deep plate or wide bowl, sprinkle the scallion greens on top with additional Sichuan pepper as needed, and serve hot.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from a recipe by Diana Kuan at

Tested by Becky Krystal.

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