Vegan Mapo Tofu
This vegan Mapo Tofu dish is made with a 5-min home-made hot chili oil and pepper solids and simmered in a shiitake mushroom broth. It’s healthy and rich in flavor. Pair it with rice to complete your legit 30-min vegan Chinese meal.
In my previous post, I shared a non-vegan version of Mapo Tofu that I learned from my mother and it’s made with ground beef (or pork). I’ve always wanted to create a vegetarian Mapo Tofu. So my mom suggested I substitute shiitake mushrooms for the meat. And I hate to admit it, but that woman is always right!
Shiitake mushroom is definitely a great choice if you want to make your Mapo Tofu meatless. By simmering some in water for 15 minutes, you’ll get a flavored mushroom broth, which can be used to braise tofu. After reserving the broth, you want to chop the shiitake mushrooms into small bits for this recipe. Shiitake mushrooms have a stronger texture so they are not easy to break unless you chop them. With tofu’s soft and tender texture, they make a fantastic combination.
Now, the question is whether we should use fresh shiitake mushrooms or dried ones. Actually, either one works. Just note that the ratio between fresh mushrooms and dried ones is around 10:1, meaning 10 pounds of fresh mushrooms equals 1 pound of dried. You will need about 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms in this recipe, which equals less than 1 ounce of dried ones. In this recipe, I used dried shiitake mushrooms.
Since my mother cooks Mapo Tofu without fermented black beans and fermented spicy broadbean paste (doubanjiang), she made a secret ingredient for it and it’s been used in so many of her signature dishes. The secret ingredient is Hot Chili Oil with pepper solids. If you haven’t made some yet, I’d highly recommend you do. It only takes 5 minutes and requires 2 ingredients. Here’s how to make hot chili oil at home. The store-bought one will not work because you will need not only the oil but the peppers solids as well.
As there’s no marinating involved, compare to making Mapo Tofu with meat, this vegan Mapo Tofu is even easier to whip up, in my opinion. And it tastes SO GOOD! I am not vegan, but I like this vegan Mapo Tofu better. (Shhhhhh….)
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Don’t forget to make the hot chili oil because there are going to be many mom’s signature Chinese recipes to come. I am practically making the month of November a Chinese food month until Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!
Vegan Mapo Tofu
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 2 servings 1x
- Category: Vegan, Gluten-Free
- Cuisine: Chinese
Made with 5-min home-made hot chili oil and pepper solids and simmered in a shiitake mushroom broth.
- 1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms or 8 ounces fresh ones
- 2 cups water
- 1 (16-ounce) block soft tofu
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 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
- In a medium saucepan, simmer mushrooms in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes.
- Cut tofu into half-inch cubes.
- In another 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.
- Strain the mushroom water and reserve 1 1/2 cups. Drain the mushrooms on paper towels, remove stems and chop into small bits.
- In a large wok or sauté pan, heat up oil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add ginger and garlic, cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chopped mushrooms and a pinch of salt, sauté for another minute.
- Pour the reserved mushroom water into the wok. Turn the heat up to high and bring it to a boil.
- Add tofu cubes, hot chili oil with pepper solids and Sichuan pepper into the mixture. 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. 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.
3. For finely ground Sichuan numbing pepper, toast the peppercorns over high heat until fragrant, then process them in a food processor.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 482
- Sugar: 2.8g
- Sodium: 31mg
- Fat: 40.1g
- Carbohydrates: 20.9g
- Protein: 16.5g
Keywords: vegan mapo tofu
Years ago my wife and I used to eat Vegan Mapo Tofu at a local restaurant and loved it! This past week I decided to make a recipe I found online. I used the traditional fermented black beans and the fermented broadbean paste. The paste stunk up our kitchen! In the end, the dish was ok, but not something I would want to make again. I threw away these two “smelly” traditional ingredients!
I then found your recipe… At first, I wasn’t sure the simple chili oil would replace two strong ingredients usually used in Mapo Tofu, but I gave it a try. (I already had Korean Pepper Flakes and also Sichuan “numbing” Pepper). Anyway, my wife and I LOVED your version!
I did make a few changes:
I used a Veggie Ground Meat in place of the mushrooms (although the mushrooms would be just as good).
I used a veggie “chicken” broth instead of straight water.
I used two Scallions for garnish, but I cooked the white parts of the Scallions along with the garlic and ginger.
I also added 1 tsp. of Sesame Oil – which you have in your gluten-free (meat) version of this dish.
I have to say that your recipe is Excellent! Thank you for your Mom’s chili-oil replacement of these two “traditional” ingredients. To us, your recipe is so much better! Thank you, and God bless you!
Hi Paul, thank you for sharing your experience. I am very glad to hear that you and your wife enjoyed my vegan Mapo tofu recipe. Those changes that you made sound wonderful. I am going to try it your way next time I cook it. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment!
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So simple and delicious!!!! Definitely adding this one to my meal prep 😋
Great post! I love it. Thanks for sharing… YUMMY
i just sent this to a few vegan friends. this looks delicious!
Thank you for sharing, Chanel. Hope your friends enjoy it! 🙂
I’ve never tried this but it sounds really yummy!
Hope you get a chance to give it a try. 🙂