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Ma Po Tofu
with sesame green beans / rice

Active: 35 min Total: 35 min
To celebrate Chinese New Year this week, we're making this tofu poached in a rich sauce and served with crisp stir-fried green beans on the side. Smarts: Ma Po Tofu gets heat and its red hue from spicy chili paste and Szechuan peppercorns, but you can transform it from its spicy original by using a mild black bean sauce or by substituting peanut butter for a creamy peanut sauce (both options in the ingredient list).


Ma Po Tofu:
  • Rice, uncooked white or brown (enough for 2 nights) - 1 1/2 cups
  • Stock, vegetable - 1 1/2 cups
  • Soy sauce, low-sodium - 2 tsp
  • Oil, toasted sesame - 1 tsp
  • Chinese black bean sauce (in the international aisle as regular, black bean garlic, or a spicy version called doubanjiang; sub creamy peanut butter) - 3 Tbsp
  • Tomato paste - 3 Tbsp
  • Sugar - 2 tsp
  • Cornstarch - 1 Tbsp
  • Szechuan peppercorns, ground (opt; sub hot sauce of choice) - 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic - 2 cloves , chopped
  • Ginger, fresh - 2 tsp , grated
  • Green onions - 2 stalks , chopped, white and green parts separate
  • Mushrooms, shiitake, fresh - 6 oz , chopped
  • Tofu, soft (labeled soft not silken; sub medium or firm tofu) - 18 oz , 1" / 2.5 cm cubes
  • Oil, cooking - 1 Tbsp
Sesame Green Beans:
  • Green beans - 1 lb , trimmed and cut into 1" / 2.5 cm pieces
  • Oil, cooking - 1 Tbsp
  • Oil, toasted sesame - 1 tsp
  • Sesame seeds, white - 2 tsp
  • Lemons - 1/2 , juice of


  1. Rice - This makes enough rice for two nights. For white rice, rinse until clear. Fill a saucepan or Dutch oven (or rice cooker) with rice, water (use 2:1 ratio for water to rice), and some salt. Cover with lid and bring to a boil. Once water boils, stir, lower heat to a low-medium, and cover. Check white rice after ~20 min; brown at ~45 min. Rice is done when it's absorbed all the water. If it's not done, leave the cover on until all water has been absorbed. Take cover off to release steam and fluff with a wooden spoon after 5 minutes. Reserve half the rice for Thursday. (Can be done up to 5 days ahead)
  2. Sauce - Combine stock, soy sauce, sesame oil (the portion for the tofu), Chinese black bean sauce, tomato paste, sugar and cornstarch. Taste and add ground Szechuan peppercorns or hot sauce to reach your desired level of spice (or skip adding any additional spice at all). (Can be done up to 4 days ahead)
  3. Green beans / Garlic / Ginger - Prep as directed. Combine garlic and ginger in one bowl. (Can be done up to 4 days ahead)
  4. Green onions / Mushrooms - Prep as directed. (Can be done 1 day ahead)
  5. Tofu - Gently drain off liquid (no need to press this tofu as is often done with firmer varieties). Slice into 1” / 2.5 cm cubes.

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  1. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add cooking oil (the portion for the green beans) and when it begins to shimmer, add green beans. Saute green beans until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sesame oil (the portion for the beans), white sesame seeds and some salt and pepper. Saute for 1 minute more and then transfer green beans to a bowl and cover with foil or a plate to keep warm.
  2. Return the wok to heat and add oil (the portion for the tofu). Add mushrooms and saute until deep golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and white parts of green onions and saute until fragrant, ~1 minute. Add sauce and simmer until it begins to thicken, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce heat to a low simmer and add tofu. Simmer gently until tofu is warmed through, ~3 minutes.
  4. If made ahead, reheat rice in the microwave just until warm. (Remember to reserve half the rice for Thursday.)
  5. Squeeze lemon juice over green beans. Top tofu with green parts of green onions. Serve tofu over rice with green beans on the side and enjoy!



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