Traditional Chinese comfort food Mapo Tofu made easy. This gluten-free dish is made with 5-min home-made hot chili oil and pepper solids and simmered in beef broth or a hearty home-made bone broth. It’s healthy and rich in flavor. Pair it with rice to complete your legit 30-min Chinese meal.
Last month, we went back to China to visit my mother for two weeks. We all know what happens when a mother reunites with her children. She gives the best care, the best love, and the best of herself to them. In my case, my mom cooked many of her signature dishes for us and this Mapo Tofu is one of them.
I don’t make Chinese food in the States very often because some of the ingredients are just really hard to find. I surely miss it, though. However, watching my mom make her Mapo Tofu opened my eyes.
She didn’t use fermented black beans and fermented spicy broadbean paste (doubanjiang), which are two essential ingredients in a traditional Mapo Tofu dish. Instead, she used something that I grew up eating – Hot Chili Oil.
Instantly, I realized two things.
- To make a better-than-Chinese -takeout Mapo Tofu at home, you don’t have to have fermented black beans and doubanjiang, which are probably only available in an Asian market or online.
- And those two ingredients usually contain gluten. My mom’s Mapo Tofu is totally gluten free!
Today, I am so excited to share what I have recreated after learning how to cook Mapo Tofu the easy way from my mother. Before you roll up your sleeves, let me explain how to prepare the hot chili oil in 5 minutes and why you should have it in your kitchen.
Just a heads up – I will be sharing a few more Chinese dishes that I learned from my mom in the next couple weeks. And the hot chili oil will be used frequently. So if you’d like to learn to cook Chinese food, I’d highly recommend you make the hot chili oil and reserve the pepper in the oil.
If you are worried that you won’t be able to use it that often, make a small batch. I’ll have plenty of delicious Chinese recipes that will help you use it up. Then, you can decide if you want to make more of it. I bet you will. ?
Now, here comes the gluten-free Mapo Tofu recipe. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, fire away in the comments below. Happy cooking!
Traditional Chinese comfort food Mapo Tofu made easy. This gluten-free dish is made with 5-min homemade hot chili oil and pepper solids and simmered in beef broth or a hearty homemade bone broth.
- 1 (16-ounce) block soft tofu
- 4 ounces ground beef or ground pork
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons dried Sherry
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/2 cups beef broth (I used homemade beef bone broth)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons hot chili oil with pepper solids
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground Sichuan pepper (aka numbing pepper)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste (preferably finely ground Sichuan numbing pepper)
- Chopped green onion for garnish
- Cut tofu into half-inch cubes.
- In a medium saucepan, bring a large amount of salted water to a boil and gently place the tofu into the boiling water. Let it cook for 2 minutes. Drain.
- Combine ground beef or pork, sesame oil, dried Sherry, 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Mix well.
- In a large wok or sauté pan, heat up 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Brown the seasoned meat in oil, breaking it into small pieces with your spatula, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the meat to the same bowl that you use to season the meat and set aside.
- Add another 2 tablespoons canola oil in the same wok. Keep the medium heat. Add ginger and garlic, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Pour broth into the wok. Turn the heat up to high and bring the broth to a boil.
- Add tofu cubes, beef, hot chili oil with pepper solids and Sichuan pepper into the broth. Shake the wok to distribute the sauce, using a wood spatula to back push the tofu gently. Turn down the heat to simmer for 6-8 minutes.
- In the meantime, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water.
- Drizzle the cornstarch mixture into the tofu mixture. Back push it slowly, add brown sugar and continue simmering the tofu in the sauce until it’s thickened, about 2 minutes. Taste and add more salt if desired.
- Dish, sprinkle with finely ground Sichuan numbing pepper or ground black pepper, garnish with chopped green onion and serve over rice.
1. Boiling tofu in salted water will make the tofu strong and not easy to break.
2. Browning meat over medium heat allows the meat to be broken into smaller pieces, which is preferred in this dish. If you use high heat, meat will easily turn into bigger chunks.
3. If you don’t have Sichuan numbing pepper, you can still make this recipe with ground black pepper. But the result is going to be less ideal.
4. For finely ground Sichuan numbing pepper, toast the peppercorns over medium heat until fragrant, then process them in a food processor.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 639
- Sugar: 3.5g
- Sodium: 891.2mg
- Fat: 53.7g
- Carbohydrates: 14.2g
- Protein: 28.4g
- Cholesterol: 40.3mg