Make Ahead Mapo Tofu

A wildly popular and cherished dish that is often paired with rice, Mapo Tofu contains smooth tofu and savory ground beef immersed in a spicy doubanjiang, fermented black bean and peppercorn flavored sauce. This favorite can be made with minced meat other than beef, as well as Chinese eggplant, Shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts and more. It is eaten so often that we devised a freezer-ready Make Ahead Mapo Tofu version that can be be made into a meal instantly!

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes – Cooking Time: 15 minutes/batch – Total Time: 25 minutes

Helpful equipment

  • Wok or deep, medium-sized pot


  • 30-40 whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1 lb. soft tofu, cut into 1”x1” cubes
  • 2-3 tbsp. doubanjiang
  • ½ tbsp. fermented black beans
  • 3 green onions (scallions), diced, white and green parts separated
  • 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, minced
  • ½ lb. ground pork or beef
  • 1-2 tbsp. chili powdered or more to taste
  • 1 tbsp. Shaoxing wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • cornstarch slurry: 1 tbsp. cornstarch + 1 tbsp. water


Step 1
In a wok warmed over low heat without oil, toast Sichuan peppercorns for 5 minutes until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Set the peppercorns aside to cool, if necessary. Grind peppercorns into a powder using a spice grinder, mortar and pestle or similar instrument.

Step 2
Prepare the paste. Mash and chop up the doubanjiang and fermented black beans on a cutting board.

Step 3
Heat the wok over medium-high heat with oil. Fry the ground beef, breaking it up (discard any fats, juices and impurities that arise).

Step 4
Add the doubanjiang and fermented black bean mixture to the wok. Fry for about a minute. Add the garlic, white parts of scallions and ginger. Stir-fry another minute. Add ground chili powder, Shaoxing cooking wine and sugar if using.

Step 5
Allow the meat mixture to cool before transferring to a freezer safe-bag or container. Store in the freezer until needed. 

Step 6
To make the Mapo tofu, warm up the wok with a bit of oil and empty the contents of the frozen, make-head meat mixture into the wok. Fry until warmed. 

Step 7
Meanwhile, pour enough water into a pot to cover the tofu. Bring water to a boil and add a pinch of salt to the water. Carefully lower tofu into the water. Without stirring cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes. Remove and drain. 

Step 8
Next, pour water into the wok along with soy sauce and dark soy sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Stir in cornstarch slurry to slightly thicken the sauce.

Step 9
Gently lower the tofu cubes into the  wok. Simmer for 10-15 minutes to let the stew infuse into the tofu. 

Step 10
Garnish with green parts of scallions and reserved, toasted peppercorn powder.


  • As a time-saving alternative, skip step 7 altogether and simply simmer the tofu directly in the wok instead of boiling it separately beforehand.
  • While ground beef is traditionally associated with Mapo Tofu, ground pork adds even more flavor; and we highly recommend it. Ground turkey is also an acceptable substitute.
  • When adding water to the wok, make sure the the tofu is just covered with water. 
  • Although chicken bouillon is not an authentic ingredient, and omitted from the recipe, we add a touch of bouillon to the wok ingredients before pouring in water.
  • Use any preferred chili powder spices. Options might include: regular chili powder, Korean chili powder or Sichuan red chili powder.
  • This recipe makes more peppercorn powder than needed. The remaining powder can be stored away for future uses.
  • This dish is a milder version of Mapo Tofu, which can be very spicy. So tailor the amount of chili powder and doubanjiang to suit your taste!

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