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!

Vegan Mapo Tofu

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.

Vegan Mapo Tofu - soft tofu

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.

Vegan Mapo Tofu - 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.

Vegan Mapo Tofu

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!

Classic Mapo Tofu made gluten free and vegan. It's made with a home-made chili oil and simmered in shiitake mushroom broth. Very tasty and healthy!
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Vegan Mapo Tofu

Vegan Mapo Tofu

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Sharon Chen
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Category: Vegan, Gluten-Free
  • Cuisine: Chinese
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Made with 5-min home-made hot chili oil and pepper solids and simmered in a shiitake mushroom broth.


Units Scale
  • 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


  1. In a medium saucepan, simmer mushrooms in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut tofu into half-inch cubes.
  3. 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.
  4. Strain the mushroom water and reserve 1 1/2 cups. Drain the mushrooms on paper towels, remove stems and chop into small bits.
  5. 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.
  6. Pour the reserved mushroom water into the wok. Turn the heat up to high and bring it to a boil.
  7. 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.
  8. In the meantime, dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons cold water.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

About the Author

Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and author of the Complete Sous Vide Cookbook. She believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she aims to make meal prep easier than ever and help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.