If you love mapo tofu but are looking for a less spicy, sweeter version of the dish, this Japanese style mapo tofu is a great option for you. It’s easy to make and is perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Ingredients for Mapo Tofu
Before making this recipe, make sure you have all the ingredients you need. Recommended swaps and alternatives are listed below.
- Yellow onion: You can also use white, red or sweet onions as an alternative.
- Green onion: This is optional, but adds a lot of great flavor and color to the dish.
- Tofu: I recommend using a soft or silken tofu for this recipe. If you can’t find either of these, use the least firm tofu you can find.
- Ground turkey, pork or chicken: I use 90% lean meat, but any variety will do.
- Garlic: The jarred kind is my favorite, but fresh is also great.
- Ginger: I use frozen crushed ginger, but the fresh stuff is even better.
- Miso paste: Miko Brand (affiliate link) miso paste is my favorite.
- Chili garlic sauce: You can omit this if you don’t want any spice to your dish.
- Soy sauce: I use low sodium, but the regular stuff is just fine.
- Brown sugar: Adds a pleasant sweetness to the dish without it being too overpowering.
- Cornstarch slurry: Thickens up the sauce. You can use arrowroot starch or potato starch as an alternative.
- Neutral oil: I use canola oil, but vegetable oil or avocado oil also works.
How to make Mapo Tofu
First, dice the onion and cut the green onion into diagonal, thin slices. Cut the tofu into half an inch to an inch sized cubes, based on preference.
In a pot over medium heat, add oil. Add diced onions, garlic and ginger. Saute until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add ground meat and cook until browned.
In a small bowl, combine miso, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch slurry. Whisk until well combined and add the pot. Stir until meat is evenly coated. Add tofu and gently toss together. Top with green onions and serve with hot rice.
What ethnicity is Mapo Tofu from?
Mapo tofu is traditionally a Chinese dish from Sichuan Province. It typically contains Sichuan Peppercorn, which makes the dish very spicy and bold.
While the dish is traditionally Chinese, maybe Japanese people enjoy it, but without the extra spice. In the Japanese version of the dish, sugar or mirin and miso paste are added and Sichuan Peppercorn is left out.
In my version of the recipe, I use chili garlic sauce as an alternative to Sichuan Peppercorn because it adds a nice flavor without too much spice. Also, some Japanese style mapo tofu recipes use doubanjiang, which is basically a spicy version of miso.
How spicy is this recipe?
This recipe would be considered mild to most. The chili garlic sauce adds some spice, but it won’t burn your mouth. Instead, it adds some subtle flavor and even a bit of color to the dish. If you want it more spicy, double the amount of chili garlic sauce in the recipe.
What kind of tofu works best for this dish
I would recommend using soft or silken tofu for this recipe. But, if you don’t have any available at the local grocery store, I would recommend getting the softest tofu available. I would avoid using extra firm or super firm tofu for this recipe.
Is this recipe vegetarian?
No, despite containing tofu this recipe is not vegetarian since it contains ground meat (turkey, pork or chicken). But, you can make this recipe vegetarian by using finely diced mushrooms instead of meat. This mimics the meaty taste and appearance without any of the flesh!
What to serve Mapo Tofu with
I highly recommend serving this dish with a side of hot white rice (ideally fresh out of the rice maker). If you want to make it a balanced meal, you can add a side of vegetables. I like having some kimchi, pickled vegetables, salad or steamed vegetables on the side.
Japanese Style Mapo Tofu
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 stalks green onion
- 1 block tofu
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 lb ground meat turkey, pork, chicken
- 1 tsp garlic minced
- 1 tsp ginger minced
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce low sodium
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch plus 2 tbsp water
- First, dice the onion and cut the green onion into diagonal, thin slices. Cut the tofu into half an inch to an inch sized cubes, based on preference.
- In a pot over medium heat, add oil. Add diced onions, garlic and ginger. Saute until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add ground meat and cook until browned.
- In a small bowl, combine miso, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch slurry.
- Whisk until well combined and add the pot. Stir until meat is evenly coated. Add tofu and gently toss together. Top with green onions and serve with hot rice.