How could the classic mapo tofu be vegan? It’s real, not a dream. In my recent post, Shiitake Mushroom Chili Sauce, I promised that I’d put a vegan mapo tofu recipe on the blog soon. Here it is! This absolutely savory, addictive Vegan Mapo Tofu is going to blow you away.
I can’t tell you enough how much I love mapo tofu. It’s a special dish to me that brings back pleasant memories.
- It is the first dish I learned to cook and enjoy at the age of 12.
- It is the first dish I made for my boyfriend (now husband) while we were dating.
- It is the first spicy dish I introduced to my son.
This is an easy dish that can be prepared in a short amount of time. It came to my rescue more than once when I was short on time. With a bowl of fresh steamed rice, this bright red, hot and spicy dish will be gone in no time.
In traditional mapo tofu recipes, ground pork and chili bean paste (a.k.a. doubanjiang) are the two key ingredients. To completely convert the recipe to vegan, gluten-free, and preservative free without losing the pungent, meaty tasty, I used my homemade shiitake mushroom chili sauce. Adding this 2-in-1 sauce and some fresh Sichuan peppercorn will make this vegan mapo tofu shine.
Besides the replaced ingredients, I also modified some cooking methods that I used to make mapo tofu. If you have ever cooked tofu before, you probably know that getting tofu to absorb flavors is challenging. However, boiling the mapo tofu in a pot of brine water for a few minutes can enhance its flavor.
Instead of sautéing chopped garlic and ginger with Sichuan peppercorn at the beginning, I added the garlic and ginger right after the tofu was cooked and the stove was turned off. The remaining heat from the pan is far more than enough to infuse the pungency of garlic and ginger to the dish. Actually, I like the different pungent tastes from chili sauce, Sichuan peppercorn, garlic, and ginger.
If you are new to spicy foods or have young kids that can’t tolerate a hot chili sauce, reduce the amount of chili sauce you are using to make it suitable for your taste buds.
- 4½ cups water
- ¾ tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 pound (454 g) firm tofu, drain and cut into 1½” cubes
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, finely chopped
- ½ tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- ½ tablespoon paprika powder
- ¼ cup shiitake mushroom chili sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch + 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- ¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
- Bring 4½ cups of water and ¾ tablespoon kosher salt in a saucepan to a boil. Add tofu and cover the saucepan with lid. Bring the water to a boil again and then turn down to medium heat with gentle boiling. Approximately 4 minutes. Save the brine water for later.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium low and add ½ tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn. Stir continuously for 1 minute and let the flavor of the peppercorns become infused into the oil. Do not burn them, otherwise the dish will taste bitter.
- Use a ladle to scoop out the peppercorns and discard them. Add paprika powder into the hot oil. Wait for 30 seconds.
- Use a ladle to scoop out the boiled tofu and then add them to the hot oil with paprika powder. Gently stir for a few seconds. Add shiitake mushroom chili sauce and 11/3 cup of the brine water. Stir gently to combine. Cover the sauté pan with lid and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook under medium heat for approximately 3 minutes.
- Add the cornstarch and water mixture. Stir gently to combine. Turn off heat. Add garlic, ginger, and green onion.
- Transfer the cooked mapo tofu into a serving dish. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle Sichuan peppercorn powder and green onion on top. Serve with steamed rice.