2 ratings

Mapo Tofu

Serve your spicy condiments on the side so everyone can enjoy
Courtesy of Michael Tercha/Chicago Tribune; Mark Graham/food styling

Mapo tofu is a staple at some of the best Chinese restaurants in America, but you can make this spicy comfort food at home, too.

This recipe by Louisa Chu originally appeared in The Chicago Tribune.

Ready in
30 m
20 m
(prepare time)
10 m
(cook time)


  • 1 Ounce dried mushrooms (preferably half shiitake and half wood ear)
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 Tablespoons peanut or coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste
  • 2 thumb-size pieces of ginger, peeled, thickly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon dry vermouth
  • Black bean garlic sauce
  • 1 package (about 1 pound, sizes vary) soft tofu, cubed into about pingpong-ball-size pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • Roasted sesame seed oil
  • Cooked rice (preferably jasmine)
  • Roasted sesame seed oil
  • Lemon wedges
  • Lao Gan Ma
  • Roasted soybeans, peanuts or Marcona almonds, optional


Cover mushrooms in a small bowl with hot water by about 1 inch; add more if needed to just keep covered.

Allow to soak until mushrooms are soft, about 20 minutes.

Drain, straining and reserving the soaking water.

Squeeze mushrooms dry; chop roughly.

Slice whites of the green onions in half lengthwise. Slice greens crosswise into rings as thin as possible; reserve for garnish.

Heat wok or saute pan over medium heat; add oil, garlic, ginger and whites of onions; cook until fragrant but not burned, 1-2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and soy sauce.

Cook over high heat until mushrooms are golden brown and liquid mostly evaporates, about 5 minutes.

Pour mixture into a bowl; reserve.

Return pan to medium heat; deglaze by carefully adding about 1 tablespoon each mushroom water and the vermouth and scraping up all browned bits.

Add about 1 tablespoon black bean garlic sauce and reserved mushroom-garlic mixture; heat on high until bubbling.

Carefully add 1/2 cup mushroom soaking water and tofu, keeping cubes intact.

Spoon sauce over tofu, then turn heat to low; cook, 5 minutes.

Taste and add soy sauce as desired, then keep bubbling.

Pour about 2 tablespoons mushroom soaking water into a small bowl; whisk in the cornstarch until you have a milky consistency. (Add more cold water, if needed.)

Drizzle slurry around edges of sauce as needed to thicken as desired, stir well to incorporate.

Remove from heat, then drizzle sparingly with sesame oil.

Serve with rice, reserved greens of the green onions, lemon, soy sauce, Lao Gan Ma and soybeans or nuts to taste.