Bean Curd Szechuan Style

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Szechuan-Style Bean Curd – the popular Chinese stir fry made with Sichuan peppercorn powder for that tongue-tingling heat. Also called Mapo Tofu, it’s all about the perfect balance of spiciness, numbing sensation, and bold flavors. If you like heat, you’re gonna love this one!

Szechuan-Style Bean Curd - the popular Chinese stir fry made with Sichuan peppercorn powder for that tongue-tingling heat. It’s all about the perfect balance of heat, numbing sensation, and bold flavors. If you like heat you’re gonna love this one!
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This recipe truly stacks up to the authentic taste WITHOUT the complicated (and unnecessary) steps! Bonus – It tastes better the next day, so great to make it ahead!

Bean Curd Szechuan Style: Mapo Tofu

Szechuan cuisine is known for its spicy dishes. Szechuan-style bean curd, also known as Mapo Tofu, is a spicy stir-fry flavored with traditional Szechuan spices like Sichuan peppercorn powder and doubanjiang

Making a great Szechuan-style Bean Curd comes down to ONE thing: the right ingredients! (BTW, they’re all easily available online or at Chinese grocery stores.)

  • The numbing sensation comes from Szechuan peppercorn powder
  • The spicy, umami, and savory flavors come from doubanjiang (Chinese spicy bean sauce)
Szechuan style bean curd served in a bowl

Sichuan Peppercorn Powder: The Secret to the Numbing Taste

Most recipes online will instruct you to buy whole Szechuan peppercorns and grind them at home. This is an unnecessary step that’s not required even by the traditional recipe. 

The trick? Simply buy Szechuan peppercorn powder (花椒粉)! It saves a lot of effort and time! Trust me, I’ve eaten enough Mapo Tofu at Szechuan restaurants in China to assure you that there is no compromise on flavor! You can buy it at local Asian grocery stores or order from Amazon.

The Sichuan peppercorn powder is a ground spice made from the dried husks of Szechuan peppercorns. It’s the most unique ingredient in this Szechuan-style bean curd. They’re actually NOT spicy, but instead, they create a numbing or tingling sensation on the tongue (known as “mala”). See the photos of both below:

On the left is the whole szechuan peppercorns, and on the right is szechuan peppercorn powder


Doubanjiang is a salty paste made from fermented broad beans, soybeans, rice, salt, and other spices. It has a deep and complex umami profile that brings spice and complexity to dishes.

On the left is Doubanjiang in the package, and on the right is showing the look and texture

It’s tricky to buy the right Doubanjiang, as there are many varieties in the market. Some are very spicy, and some are not spicy at all. In this recipe, we’ll need one that’s quite spicy.

In addition, most brands are not labeled as Doubanjiang. They are under different names, such as soy bean paste, broad bean paste, or chili bean sauce. I used many brands, and this one is my favorite and the one I used in this recipe. If you cannot find it at your Chinese grocery, you can easily order it on Amazon. 

What Else Do You Need for an Authentic Taste?

Mapo Tofu ingredients on the counter

Authentic Szechuan-style bean curd has a distinct and bold flavor. Besides the signature Szechuan peppercorn powder and Doubanjiang, you’ll also need:

  • Ground beef: You may see many recipes call for ground pork, but the authentic mapo tofu uses ground beef, NOT ground pork! The bold and beefy flavor balances out the spicy and umami tofu perfectly!
  • Bean curd: Silken tofu or soft tofu works the best. They have a delicate texture and will easily absorb the flavors of the sauce. You can find it in most grocery stores.
  • Fermented black beans (豆豉): It’s completely optional as doubanjiang is made of fermented black beans.

How to Make Bean Curd Szechuan-Style

Prepare all your ingredients in advance, as this stir-fry cooks quickly:

1️⃣ Blanch bean curd: Cut tofu into small cubes using a sharp knife, and blanch it in boiling water for 1 minute. 

2️⃣ Cook ground beef and make Mapo sauce: Cook ground beef. Then make Mapo sauce by briefly cooking doubanjiang fermented black beans, garlic, and ginger. Add chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorn powder. 

3️⃣ Add Tofu and Thicken the Sauce: Add the blanched tofu to the pan, simmering for 2-3 minutes. Thicken the mixture by adding cornstarch slurry. 

Freshly cooked mapo tofu in a pan

4️⃣ Add Back Cooked Meat: Add cooked beef to the tofu mixture, and toss everything together. Adjust the taste, drizzle with sesame oil, and sprinkle green onions on top.

Mapo Tofu Problems

Tofu Breaking Apart: Silken tofu is extremely soft and tends to break during cooking.

How to fix

  1. A very useful tip is to blanch the tofu before cooking. To firm up the tofu and prevent it from breaking apart, blanch it in boiling water after cutting.
  2. When cooking tofu, the trick is to push everything in the pan with the BACK of THE SPOON. Gently push the tofu and avoid stirring.

Too Watery: if your dish is too watery, you’ll need to simmer it longer to allow the sauce to thicken more. Note that the sauce will naturally thicken more as it starts to cool down.

Serving bean curd on top of my coconut rice

What to Serve it With

This bean curd dish is best enjoyed hot. As it has very strong flavors, the most popular way is to serve it with steamed rice. The above is the photo of Szechuan Style Bean Curd served with my Coconut Rice.

You can also serve it with noodles, along with some vegetables such as broccoli, gai lan, or green beans.

More Delicious Stir-Fry Recipes

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Szechuan-Style Bean Curd - the popular Chinese stir fry made with Sichuan peppercorn powder for that tongue-tingling heat. It’s all about the perfect balance of heat, numbing sensation, and bold flavors. If you like heat you’re gonna love this one!

Szechuan Style Bean Curd Recipe

By: Izzy
Bean curd gets a delicious kick of spicy and numbing flavor in this Szechuan-style dish. After getting the right ingredients, making this authentic recipe is easy! I'll share with you few tips on how to prevent tofu from breaking apart during cooking. Serve it over rice for a delicious weeknight meal.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 pound silken tofu, (or soft tofu, note 1)
  • salt, for blanching
  • 6 oz ground beef, (note 2)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mapo Tofu Sauce

  • 1 ½ tablespoons doubanjiang, (or spicy bean sauce, note 3)
  • 1 teaspoon fermented black beans, (optional, you don’t have to use fermented black beans, as they are a main ingredient in doubanjiang)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, finely minced
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth, or water
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce, (or more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorn powder, (start with 1 teaspoon. Taste and add more if needed, note 4)

Cornstarch Slurry (to Thicken the Sauce)

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons water

For Serving

  • 1 green onion, (chopped, note 5)
  • steamed rice


Blanch bean curd

  • Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes using a sharp knife. Be very gentle so you won’t break the tofu.
  • In a medium saucepan, add water and bring it to a boil. Add a pinch of salt.
  • Gently add sliced tofu cubes to the water and boil for 1 minute. This step will firm up your tofu and remove the raw soy flavor. Remove tofu from water, drain well, and set aside.

Cook ground beef

  • In a large skillet (or wok) over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add ground beef.
  • Break the meat with your spoon and stir often until fully cooked. It will take about 7-10 minutes.
  • Remove the meat and leave the oil in the pan.

Make Mapo Saue

  • In the same wok or skillet, add doubanjiang. Adjust the heat to low. Saute for about 1 minute until the color slightly brightens up.
  • Add optional chopped fermented black beans, garlic, and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Add chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorn powder. Bring it to a boil.

Add Tofu and Thicken the Sauce

  • Add the blanched tofu to the sauce, and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. The tofu will soak up all the delicious flavors from the mapo sauce during this process.
  • Make cornstarch slurry by whisking together cornstarch and water in a small mixing bowl. Add half of the slurry to the pan, and gently push the tofu and sauce to mix.
  • Wait for 1 minute and pour the rest of the slurry into the pan, and mix to combine.

Add Cooked Meat

  • Add cooked beef to the tofu mixture, and toss everything together. Taste and sprinkle more Szechuan peppercorn powder if you prefer an extra numbing sensation!
  • Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle chopped green onions. Mix everything gently.


  1. Use silken tofu for this recipe. It’s sometimes labeled as soft tofu.
  2. The authentic mapo tofu recipe calls for ground beef, which has a firmer texture and stronger flavor than ground pork. You can also make a vegetarian version by using minced mushrooms.
  3. Use spicy doubanjiang in this recipe. If you buy a non-spicy version, make sure to add chili powder or chili oil for the heat. You can also use Thai chili sauce Sambal Oelek or Korean Gochujiang as substitutes.
  4. Start with 1 teaspoon of Szechuan peppercorn powder, gradually add more to taste.
  5. Traditional mapo tofu uses garlic greens, which are not widely available at most local supermarkets. We substitute green onions in this recipe for the pop of the bright green color.
  6. How to prevent your tofu from breaking? Make sure to blanch your tofu in boiling water with salt to firm it up before cooking. In addition, gently push your spoon when cooking.


Calories: 429kcal | Carbohydrates: 43g | Net Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 494mg | Potassium: 392mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 31IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate only and will vary based on ingredient brands and cooking methods used.

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About Izzy

I'm Izzy, a food lover and photographer. Here you’ll find a collection of simple recipes that are perfect for busy people. My blog aims to help you make and enjoy delicious and healthy food at home.

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