Mapo Tofu with Pork and Red Miso

This Japanese style Mapo Tofu wants to be your next meal. Yes. It does!! If mapo tofu could talk, it would say eat me!! This complex mix of flavors of textures is founded on a base of ginger and garlic with a bit of sesame oil. Soft tofu takes that base and molds it into an edible pillow that brings rich, dark, spicy flavor straight to your mouth. Combine with hot steamed rice and you’ve got a complete meal that you’ll be craving again and again. That is, as long as you eat this in moderation!!

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

This recipe is a Japanese style mapo tofu.

It’s THE bomb.

I’m telling you.

If you want something fast, delicious, and relatively healthy, this is it.

Mapo tofu, if you’ve never heard of it, is made by sauteing a base of garlic and ginger.

Then you add in a savory sauce made with sake, soy sauce, oyster sauce, miso, and tobanjian.

Finally you add in your tofu.

Like the Beatles song, All You Need is Love.

For this mapo tofu. All You Need is Rice.

And like the Beatles song, “There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done”

Right?! Right!!


How I make my Mapo Tofu

When using soft tofu, I like to make the tofu blocks bigger.

About one inch square in size.

But if using firm tofu, I like little blocks, roughly 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares.

The small blocks have a better mouth feel with firm tofu.

Big firm blocks of tofu is just too much.

Imagine looking at a hamster that’s stuffed its cheeks with food.

That’s how I think big blocks of firm tofu would be.

Especially since it doesn’t fall apart as easily as soft tofu.

Thus, soft tofu is my favorite! Personal preference.


Thickening the Mapo Tofu Sauce

Depending on the recipe, the starch (thickener) may not be added on until the end.

But I’ve found just adding it at the same time as the sauce works just fine.

If you do it this way and you are using soft tofu, there is less risk of breaking the soft tofu apart.

Let the tofu take a bath! No rubber duckies please.

Also there’s less risk of inadvertently getting starch clumps if you don’t mix quick enough.

You can adjust the sauce thickness to your liking by increasing the amount of cornstarch or potato starch.

Always make sure to dissolve in water first. If you add directly to the pan it will clump.

The most I’ve used for one block of tofu was 2 Tablespoons of corn starch. That was very very thick. Blehh!!

And after that I’ve made sure to stay well below that amount

I like my mapo tofu to be saucy.

Not a gelatinous goop that you sometimes see at restaurants.

So I use 1-2 tsps at most per block of tofu.


Japanese versus Chinese Mapo Tofu

Flavor and ingredient wise, Japanese style mapo tofu is different from the traditional Chinese version.

Especially if we are talking about the one from the Szechuan province which uses Szechuan peppercorns.

The heat from those peppercorns is numbingly unique and way hotter than any Japanese mapo tofu I’ve tasted.

I’ve outlined some of the main differences in ingredients below:

  • use of broad bean / black bean paste (Chinese)
  • use of Szechuan peppercorn (Chinese)
  • use of red vinegar (Chinese)
  • use of miso (Japanese)
  • use of Chicken stock, or absence of
  • Japanese vs Chinese soy sauce
  • Japanese vs Chinese oyster sauce, or absence of
  • Japanese tobanjian (chile paste) vs Chinese tobanjian
  • Japanese sake vs Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing)
  • addition of vegetables, Wood ear mushrooms etc

I like both Japanese and Chinese styles and make whichever I am in the mood for.

If you haven’t tried a Szechuan recipe here are several that I’ve had success with:

They’re a good way to keep this dish fresh.

Remember! If you’ve never had the Szechuan peppercorns before, stay conservative! They are super potent!!

Anyways, back to this mapo tofu recipe. Here is a video I put together showing how to make it. Let me know what you think!


Print Recipe
Mapo Tofu with Pork and Akadashi BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list Yum
Mapo Tofu with Pork and Akadashi
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Ginger-garlic base
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Ginger-garlic base
Mapo Tofu with Pork and Akadashi
  1. Using a fork or whisk, mix all the ingredients listed under sauce together in a small bowl and set aside
Ginger-garlic base
  1. Heat a large skillet on high heat. Add sesame oil, ginger, and garlic and saute for 30-45 seconds. Add in ground pork, break into small pieces, and cook until well browned stirring frequently.
  2. Once the pork is cooked, reduce heat to medium and add in the sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes mixing once or twice. The sauce should thicken up noticeably with a minute or so.
  1. Once the sauce has thickened, add the tofu and fold sauce into tofu. Garnish with green onions and serve with steamed rice +/- sansho pepper.

Yo! I'm Pat, a self-taught cook, who travels for music, food, and adventure. Here I share my knowledge of Japanese cooking with a weekly video and recipe.

I'm going to publish my first Japanese cookbook in July! If you'd like to stay in touch, sign up for more Japanese cooking tips + recipes!


8 thoughts on “Mapo Tofu with Pork and Red Miso

  • October 7, 2017 at 6:04 am

    Yum! Your mapo dofu really is calling to me! 🙂 Thanks for sharing and all the useful info. Going to make this one day!

  • October 5, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    I love mapo tofu though I usually use firm tofu because it stands up under freezing and rethawing. I’m think I’m going to have try silken tofu and make just a small batch. 🙂

    I like to throw in some veggies too, like leeks or broccoli florettes.

    • October 5, 2017 at 9:39 pm

      i didnt know you could freeze tofu. does that alter the texture for the firm tofu?

      • October 5, 2017 at 10:14 pm

        Yes, it’s gets more crumbly. I’ve never tried freezing silken tofu. I’ve bought extra firm, pressed is as dry as possible and sliced or cubed it and then froze it so I could add portions to miso soup as the leftover miso goes bad in a short period. I add the frozen pieces to the hot soup and it thaws in the broth.


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