Impossible Mapo Tofu

If you love mapo tofu but you’re looking for a healthier alternative with plant-based meat, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve been using plant-based meat for traditional Asian recipes lately, and I’ve been loving it! These meat alternatives have really been a game changer in my home, especially for recipes like this Impossible Meat mapo tofu!

Mapo tofu is notorious for being a rice killer so make sure to prepare extra servings of rice because you’ll be devouring this!

Just a quick warning – this recipe is spiced on all levels from start to finish so prepare your taste buds for a wild ride! It’s spiced with Thai chili peppers and dried red chili peppers, followed by ground Sichuan peppercorns, then finally finished off with my homemade Korean Chili Oil. There’s a lot of spice action going on but if you have a low spice tolerance, making a few adjustments is all that’s required to enjoy this meal 🙂

Why you’ll love this recipe

If you’re drawn by the vibrant red sauce and spices of this Impossible mapo tofu recipe, get your mouth and stomach ready for a journey of spicy delicious flavors. Since mapo tofu is traditionally known for its spicy sauce, I had to do it right by using a variety of chilis. This recipe is for all my spicy food lovers – I guarantee you’ll break a sweat after just one bite. As mentioned earlier, if you still want to enjoy the flavors of this dish but don’t want the same level of heat, feel free to adjust the amount of peppers and chili oil in the recipe.

Although this dish doesn’t contain any actual meat, the combination of silken tofu and Impossible meat is so good that you wouldn’t even notice. 

How do I prepare Impossible Mapo Tofu?

Impossible may be in its name, but making this Impossible mapo tofu isn’t difficult at all. To prepare this delectable dish, follow the step-by-step instructions below:

Step 1: Toast the peppercorns

Heat a wok or pan over low heat. Then, add the Sichuan peppercorns and toast for 2 to 3 minutes. Be sure to continuously stir the peppercorns so they don’t burn. Once they’re slightly toasted, remove them from the heat and transfer them to a mortar and pestle. Grind the peppercorns into a fine powder and set them aside. Alternatively, you can use a spice grinder to make your life a little easier. 

Step 2: Saute the ingredients 

In the same wok or pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-low heat. Then, add the Thai chili peppers and dried red chilies and stir to make sure they don’t burn.

After 2 to 3 minutes, add the ginger and stir. After 1 minute, add the garlic and saute until fragrant.

Step 3: Cook the Impossible meat

After 1 minute, the garlic should be golden brown and fragrant. Add the Impossible meat and ground Sichuan peppercorns into the wok. Use a spatula to break up the Impossible meat into smaller pieces.

Once the meat has been browned, add the vegetable broth and spicy bean sauce. Stir them together to mix well, and allow them to simmer for 1 minute.

Step 4: Prepare the cornstarch slurry

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the cornstarch slurry by combining cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Then, add the slurry to the sauce and mix well until it’s thickened.

Step 5: Cook the tofu

Once the thickness of the sauce is to your liking, add the chili oil and tofu to the wok. Allow the tofu to cook for about 3 minutes.

After 3 minutes, add the sesame oil, sugar, and scallions. Gently mix together making sure not to break the tofu.

Step 6: Serve!

Before removing the wok from the heat, take a final bite of the sauce to check for seasoning. Once you’re satisfied with the taste, serve the mapo tofu with a bowl of fresh rice. Enjoy!

Cooking tips for Impossible Mapo Tofu

Here are a couple of tips you’ll want to keep in mind to help you make the best mapo tofu every time:

  • Sichuan peppercorns can burn fairly easily so it’s important to constantly stir and keep an eye on them when you’re toasting them. They have an unpleasant bitter taste when burnt, which is not ideal. 
  • The numbing effect of Sichuan peppercorns will vary depending on their freshness and quality. The fresher they are, the more intense the tingling sensation will be. I recommend adding a small amount of the ground peppercorn to start and adding more if needed. 
  • To reduce the spiciness in this dish, I recommend omitting Thai chili peppers completely because they are VERY spicy. I would also reduce the amount of Sichuan peppercorns by half and taste for spiciness as you go. You have control of the spices in this dish so adjust it according to your spice tolerance and preferences!

Ingredient substitutions

Impossible meat: the taste of the impossible meat patty is almost identical to meat so this is a great meat alternative without sacrificing flavor. Feel free to use any plant-based meat for this recipe!

Thai chili peppers: don’t underestimate the size of these chilies because they are SPICY and add a ton of heat to this dish. You can substitute Thai chili peppers with serrano peppers, and jalapeno peppers, or just use an extra amount of dried red chilies. 

Dried red chilies: the dried red chilis are primarily used for their aroma and fragrance rather than their heat. It’s mild in spice while smoky at the same time. To substitute these dried red chilies, you can use any dried red chili that you have. 

Sichuan peppercorns: Not only are the Sichuan peppercorns used to create another layer of spice, but it also adds a numbing sensation to this dish. However, if you don’t like the numbing effect but still want to retain the flavor and spice, you can substitute it by combining black pepper and coriander seeds.

Spicy bean sauce (la doubanjiang): this spicy bean sauce is commonly used in many Sichuan recipes like this mapo tofu dish. It’s spicy, salty, and savory, and an essential part of a good mapo tofu recipe. I don’t recommend substituting this ingredient. 

Vegetable broth: I prefer to use vegetable broth for this recipe to make the dish vegetarian-friendly, but you can also replace it with water or any broth of your choice, including chicken broth and beef broth.

Cornstarch: cornstarch and water is used to create a slurry to thicken up the sauce, but you can also use potato starch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do you toast the Sichuan peppercorns?

In Chinese cuisine, Sichuan peppercorns are usually toasted before being crushed or ground into a fine powder to tone down their citrusy and floral flavor while enhancing their woody taste. Although they look similar to black peppercorns, they’re actually the dried rinds of ash trees. When used in cooking, Sichuan peppercorns can cause a tingling sensation in your mouth and tongue – but don’t be alarmed because they can enhance the warmth and intensity of the flavors in the dish.  

What is doubanjiang?

‘Doubanjiang’ or sweet bean paste is a Chinese bean sauce that’s made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, rice, salt, and other spices. Because it’s fermented, it has a complexity of salty, umami, and earthy flavors. ‘La doubanjiang’ or spicy bean paste is the spicy version of the bean paste which is what I used for this recipe. The spicy bean paste is really salty and moderately spicy, so a little goes a long way!

Can you store and reheat mapo tofu?

Yes! If you have any leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. The tofu will actually be more flavorful as it sits because it will have time to slowly absorb the sauce. To reheat the mapo tofu, you can either microwave it until it’s thoroughly warm or reheat it over the stovetop. Transfer the mapo tofu to a pan or pot over medium heat. Cook until it’s warmed all the way through and enjoy with a bowl of rice!

Looking for more healthy vegetarian recipes? Check these out below!

The spiciness of this Impossible mapo tofu dish may be enough to satiate your appetite. But if you want to serve it with a couple of side dishes, here are a few recipes I can recommend:

1. Mushroom Baoif you’re a mushroom lover, this recipe is for you! The tender oyster mushrooms dressed in a delicious savory sauce make this a healthy and irresistible bao.

2. Air Fryer Salt and Pepper Tofuthis easy, delicious, and healthy salt and pepper tofu is cooked in the air fryer for a guilt-free meal. If you love ‘salt and pepper’ seasoning in Chinese cuisine, you’re going to love this!

3. Bok Choy with Garlic Saucea simple but delicious 10-minute vegetable dish that is great as a side dish or stands as a whole meal. All you need is a fresh bowl of rice!

4. Vegan Sausage Pastathis creamy sausage and spinach pasta is made with 100% plant-based ingredients but you’d never know because it tastes almost like the real thing! 
5. Baked Vegan Katsu with Eggplantif you looking for a healthy, hearty, and delicious vegetarian dish, I recommend giving this eggplant katsu recipe a try! Baking the eggplant cuts out all the grease that normally comes with deep-fried katsu and it’s just as delicious 🙂

5 from 2 votes

Impossible Mapo Tofu

Servings 4 people
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes


  • 4 oz Impossible Meat patty or your choice of plant-based meat
  • 1 lb silken tofu cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns toasted + ground
  • 1 Thai chili peppers sliced
  • 4 dried red chilies cut in half
  • 1 tbsp ginger minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 2/3 cup vegetable broth water
  • 1 tbsp spicy bean sauce (doubanjiang) adjust to taste
  • 1 tbsp chili oil
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 scallion chopped
  • 2 tbsp oil

Cornstarch Slurry

  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp water


  • Heat a wok over low heat. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and toast for 2-3 minutes. Make sure to stir the peppercorns so they don't burn on one side. Remove from heat and transfer to a mortar and pestle. Grind into a fine powder and set aside.
  • In the same wok, heat up 2 tbsp oil over medium-low heat. Add the Thai chili peppers and dried red chilies and stir, making sure the chilies don't burn
  • After 2-3 minutes, add the ginger. After 1 minute, add the garlic and stir.
  • Once the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute, add the Impossible meat and ground sichuan pepper. Use a spatula to break up into small pieces.
  • When the Impossible meat has browned, add the vegetable broth and spicy bean sauce. Stir to mix well. Allow this to simmer for 1 minute.
  • In the meantime, prepare the cornstarch slurry by combining cornstarch and water. Add the slurry to the sauce and mix well until thickened.
  • When the sauce has thickened to your liking, add chili oil and tofu. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  • After 3 minutes, add sesame oil, sugar, and scallions. Gently mix without breaking the tofu.
  • Serve immediately with rice.
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese

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*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that where I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. *

Join the Conversation

  1. 5 stars
    At what point do you add the ground Sichuan pepper?

    1. 5 stars
      Hi Nicky! The ground Sichuan pepper is added right after the Impossible meat is added 🙂

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