Slow Cooker Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

published Sep 9, 2020

Typically made with ground pork, this plant-based version swaps in shiitake mushrooms for a lighter dinner option with just as much umami flavor.

Serves6

Prep15 minutes

Cook1 minute 45 seconds to 4 minutes 45 seconds

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Mapo tofu served over a bed of white rice.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

This vegetarian twist on mapo tofu is one of my favorite slow cooker dishes to make when I’m craving something spicy and comforting. (And when I say spicy, I mean it: This fiery dish will wake up your taste buds.) Typically made with ground pork, this plant-based version swaps in shiitake mushrooms for a lighter dinner option with just as much umami flavor. My family can’t get enough of it.

Making mapo tofu in the slow cooker means you don’t have to stand over a hot, bubbly pan for hours on end. In fact, this recipe requires just 15 minutes of hands-on prep — the slow cooker does the rest for you. Serve it with a side of your favorite vegetables and cooked Jasmine rice for a complete and satisfying meal.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

What Is Mapo Tofu?

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a popular Chinese dish that originated in the Sichuan Province. This classic recipe is perfect for spice fiends and typically made with soft cubes of silken tofu sautéed with ground pork, green onions, and Sichuan peppercorns simmered in a spicy and rich black bean sauce. You can find all the key ingredients to make this dish at most Asian markets such as 99Ranch, online on Amazon, or some international aisles of major grocery stores like Whole Foods or Walmart.

As I mentioned above, this vegetarian version swaps the pork for shiitake mushrooms. It also calls for for firm tofu rather than silken, which holds up better in the slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Mapo Tofu

Typically made with ground pork, this plant-based version swaps in shiitake mushrooms for a lighter dinner option with just as much umami flavor.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 1 minute 45 seconds to 4 minutes 45 seconds

Serves6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 (about 14-ounce) package

    firm tofu, drained, pressed (see Recipe Notes), and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 3 tablespoons

    low-sodium soy sauce

  • 2 tablespoons

    rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar

  • 3 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons

    black bean garlic sauce

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons

    red chili garlic paste, to taste

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground Sichuan pepper or red pepper chili flakes (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon

    packed brown sugar

  • 1 cup

    plus 2 tablespoons water, divided

  • 2 teaspoons

    cooking oil

  • 3 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 2 to 3 teaspoons

    grated peeled fresh ginger

  • 6

    dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked, drained, and sliced

  • 2 tablespoons

    cornstarch

  • 1/2 cup

    fresh or thawed frozen green peas

  • 1/2 cup

    fresh or thawed frozen cubed carrots

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    toasted sesame oil

  • Cooked rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Add the tofu to the bottom of the slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, garlic sauce, chili paste, Sichuan pepper, sugar and 1 cup of the water.

  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic, ginger and mushrooms for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture into the slow cooker, covering the tofu. Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours or on high for 1 to 2 hours.

  3. About 30 minutes before serving, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl and stir into the slow cooker along with the peas and carrots. Turn the heat to high and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

  4. Stir in the sesame oil and serve with cooked rice.

Recipe Notes

Pressing tofu: To press the tofu, remove the tofu from the packaging and drain the water. Place the block between paper towels or a kitchen towel. Wrap firmly around the block and transfer to a plate. Top with another plate and place a heavy object (book, cans) on top of the plate. Allow tofu to press for 30 minutes to an hour. Drain and cut into small cubes.

Reprinted with permission from The Asian Slow Cooker by Kelly Kwok, Page Street Publishing, Co. November 8, 2016.