Our Mapo Tofu recipe remains one of the most popular recipes we’ve posted on the blog to date.
Indeed, mapo tofu is one of the most famous tofu recipes to have made it out of China. This spicy, delicious dish usually includes small amount of ground pork, but for this vegan version, we use chopped shiitake mushrooms.
The result is a vegetarian/vegan dish that hasn’t sacrificed a bit of umami!
Developing a Vegan Version
This vegan mapo tofu recipe is very similar to our ever-popular traditional mapo tofu. The main difference is that instead of ground pork, we’re using finely chopped shiitake mushrooms to add umami to the dish.
We’ve also added fermented black beans to the recipe to add an extra savory kick.
Since we’ve all been trying to eat a bit less meat lately, I’ve been making this version more often at home, and I have to say, I really don’t miss the meat!
What Kind of Tofu to Use in Mapo Tofu
Mapo tofu should include silken or soft tofu. The high water content in these types of tofu means they have the silky, almost custard-like texture that mapo tofu should have.
Some recipes out there on the Internet tell you not to use silken tofu, or even to use firm tofu. In our humble opinions, that is just plain wrong.
It’s true that silken tofu and soft tofu are very delicate, and can break up easily if handled improperly. As you’re slicing and stirring this tofu, just make sure to do so gently. Use a slow folding motion when stirring so that the tofu doesn’t break apart in the sauce. I used silken tofu here, but soft tofu is a little easier to work with!
Ok, let’s cook!
Vegan Mapo Tofu Recipe Instructions
In a wok over medium low heat, add the vegetable oil and ground Sichuan peppercorns (remember to reserve ¼ teaspoon for garnishing the dish at the end).
(Note: You can use Sichuan peppercorn infused oil as a shortcut to this step.)
Cook for 30 seconds, and add the ginger.
Stir for another 1 minute and add the garlic. Cook for another 1 minute.
Add the black beans, and chilies. Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Turn up the heat to medium, and add the mushrooms.
Caramelize the mushrooms, about 5 minutes.
Add the spicy bean sauce and chili oil to the mixture and stir it in well.
Turn up the heat to high, and add ⅔ cups water or broth and stir. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, and allow to bubble for 1 minute.
Stir the cornstarch and water mixture to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved, and add it to the sauce. Allow the sauce to thicken (if it gets too thick, splash in more water or stock). If the sauce is too thin, make a little more cornstarch slurry and add it in. There will be variations depending on how high your heat is.
Add the tofu to the wok and gently toss the tofu in the sauce.
Allow the tofu to simmer for 3-5 minutes, and then add the sesame oil, sugar, and scallions.
Give everything a final stir, and taste for seasoning (you likely won’t have to add any additional salt, as the spicy bean sauce and fermented black beans are quite salty). Serve, garnished with a last sprinkle of Sichuan peppercorn powder.