Ma Po Tofu Recipe

Ma Po Tofu Recipe

A spicy authentic Chinese classic. Savory brown sauce with sweet tofu and a mouth numbing spicy finish. This dish uses a unique type of chile that not only is spicy, but is also known for causing numbness. If you love spicy, this dish is for you! Tasting Guidelines: Taste is savory and very spicy. Weight is light. Texture is soft. Best categorized as authentic Chinese.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: chinese sausage, chinese sticky rice, ma po, ma po tofu, recipes, spicy soup, tofu
Servings: 6 people
Author: Chef Ryan Callahan
Cost: $15


  • 2 plates for pressing tofu
  • Rice cooker
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Large saute pan (high sided)
  • cooking utensil



  • 1 package soft tofu cut into small cubes
  • 1 lb. Portabella mushrooms sliced
  • 4 carrots diced small
  • 1 c. frozen green peas
  • 1 medium yellow onion chopped small
  • ¼ c. water
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 tbsp. garlic minced

Flavor Balancers

  • 1 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. sugar granulated


  • Remove tofu from packaging and place on a plate. Place another plate lightly on top of the tofu to force excess water to drain from the tofu.
  • Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add canola oil and allow to heat for 30 seconds. Add garlic, mushrooms, carrots, frozen peas, and yellow onion. Stir fry until onions are translucent.
  • Take all flavor balancers and mix in a measuring cup. Whisk in cornstarch and water. Add this mixture to sauté pan when onions are translucent. Allow sauce to come to a light boil and thicken. When sauce is sufficiently thick, cut tofu into ½ inch by ½ inch cubes and gently stir into sauté pan. Lightly toss sauce over tofu and allow to come to heat. About 5 minutes. After tofu is hot, dish is ready to serve.


Many people have a bad or negative association with tofu. I assure you it is both delicious and edible when cooked correctly. The key is to remove excess moisture by pressing, deep frying, or sauteing and then coating it with a flavorful sauce.
Tofu must be pressed before cooking, unless you are going to deep fry it. This pressing removes excess moisture that the tofu absorbs while sitting in the packaging. Removing excess liquid also makes it easier to cook with. Tofu is also extremely delicate and cannot be man-handled like animal proteins can. Treat tofu gentle and it will reward you with great flavor.
Tofu is very much like cheese in its construction. It is made by diluting soy bean solids into water, to which a congealing agent has been added. This agent allows the solids to form a curd-like substance. This curd is then placed into a mold and pressed to a desired moisture content. This moisture content whether it is a soft tofu (high moisture) or a firm tofu (low moisture). The remaining product is drained and then sold as soy milk. Just like soy milk, tofu has a naturally sweet flavor to it. This same tofu creation process is the same process by which cheese is made.
The highlight of this dish, for me, is the very unique Chinese red pepper. The correct red pepper for Ma Po Tofu has a numbing effect on the inside of your mouth. You can tell that you have applied this red pepper in sufficient quantity because the inside of your mouth will both be completely numb and on fire simultaneously.

Cooking for Chemo focuses on teaching you how to make your food taste good again during cancer and chemotherapy treatments. The flavor and cooking techniques contained within our easy to make recipes will help improve your quality of life as you go through cancer and chemotherapy treatments. Our cooking and flavor techniques can be integrated with any diet regimen. Talk with your dietitian to come up with a quality nutrition plan. This site is not to be taken as or used instead of professional medical advice. Please consult your doctor, oncologist, and dietitian before starting any new diet.

This recipe is taken from Cooking for Chemo …and After! By Chef Ryan Callahan -The Cancer Chef. For more cooking for chemotherapy recipes like this, you can pick up a copy on Amazon . Have specific questions? Email us at

About the Author:

Chef Ryan Callahan is a 2x Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winning Chef. He is also the author of "Cooking for Chemo ...and After!" Chef Ryan acted as his mother's primary caregiver while she herself went through chemotherapy treatments. He has dedicated his life to helping cancer fighters navigate the difficulty that eating related side-effect present to the cancer fighter.