Asian Recipes/ Dinner/ Japanese/ Lunch/ Pasta/ Recipes

Japanese Mapo Tofu Udon Noodles

10/09/2020

These spicy Japanese Mapo Tofu Udon Noodles are totally addictive, packed with flavour and ready in 10 minutes! A lighter take on the traditional Chinese version, it’s a super satisfying dish perfect for lunch or dinner.

A bowl of udon noodles with mapo tofu sauce

Why We Love This

With its savoury umami flavour and mouthwatering spices, mapo tofu is totally addictive! It makes for a delicious noodle bowl sauce but goes just as well with rice or steamed veggies.

It’s such a versatile recipe that you can enjoy for lunch or dinner. It’s easy to amp up the flavour for an extra spicy kick or tone it down to suit your preference.

Holding udon noodles with chopsticks.

What is Mapo Tofu? 

Mapo tofu (sometimes written as 麻婆豆腐, mabo tofu or ma po doufu) is a mouthwatering dish consisting of tofu and minced meat cooked in a spicy sauce. It originates from China in the Sichuan province, where the sauce is usually bright red, packed full of spicy heat and that deliciously “numbing” effect from Sichuan peppercorns.

Today’s recipe is for Japanese style mapo tofu, which is a little lighter and more subtle in flavour while being less oily than the Sichuan version.

Mapo tofu is usually served with rice and side dishes such as potsticker dumplings and steamed or sautéed greens (spinach, mustard greens or bok choy), but today we’ve rounded it out with fresh udon noodles to turn it into a filling and satisfying standalone dish, perfect for lunch or dinner.

It’s possible to buy ready-made mapo tofu sauce to save time, but we think homemade will always be better because:

  1. You know exactly what ingredients went into it.
  2. You’re in control of the heat level, so you can really spice it up or tone it down as you need.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need some staple Asian sauces for this recipe, as well as spicy doubanjiang to bring the heat!

  • Pork Mince – This recipe traditionally calls for pork mince, but you can substitute with any other kind of mince according to your preference. Why not try chicken or turkey for a lower calorie version, or fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, or plant-based mince “meat” for a vegan/vegetarian mapo tofu.
  • Tofu – Use firm or medium firm tofu which will hold its shape better than soft or silken tofu.
  • Udon Noodles – We use fresh homemade udon noodles, but you can use frozen or pre-packaged udon noodles if you prefer. Just cook them according to package directions before continuing with the recipe below.
  • Doubanjiang – This is a spicy fermented bean paste which gives mapo tofu its savoury, salty and spicy flavour. You can buy it online, from your nearest Asian grocer, or substitute with black bean paste.
  • Mirin – This is a sweet rice wine for cooking, if you can’t find it at your supermarket, you can omit or add in a 1/2 tsp of sugar instead. You can sometimes find this in regular supermarkets, otherwise head to your nearest Asian grocer or online.
  • White Miso Paste – White miso (aka shiro miso) is sweeter than yellow or red miso and has a more subtle flavour. This helps to balance the salty doubanjiang / black bean paste and soy sauce without subtracting from their umami flavour. Check out our miso guide for a full breakdown.
All the ingredients laid out to make mapo tofu with udon noodles.

How to make Mapo Tofu:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or wok over a high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until deliciously fragrant (about 1 min).
  2. Add the pork mince and continue to stir fry until browned.
  3. Now it’s time for the flavour! Add in your soy sauce, mirin, miso, doubanjiang (or black bean sauce if substituting), oyster sauce and sesame oil. Mix well until all the pork is evenly coated.
  4. Mix corn starch and cold water in a separate bowl, then add to pork and stir until the sauce thickens.
  5. Now it’s time to add the tofu and udon noodles. Mix them carefully through the pork sauce to avoid breaking the tofu. Once the noodles have softened (after around 30 seconds) transfer to serving bowls. Garnish with green onion and enjoy!

Wandercook’s Tips

  • For the best flavour and texture, make your own homemade udon noodles.
  • Alternatively, you can cook frozen udon noodles in bowling water for a minute, then drain and add to the bowl first and place the mapo tofu on top.

FAQs

Can I make this vegetarian or vegan?

Yes, the easiest way to make it vegetarian or vegan is to swap the pork mince for mushrooms or plant-based mince, and make sure to use a vegan oyster-style sauce instead of regular oyster sauce.

Can I freeze mapo tofu with noodles?

Yes this recipe freezes well. We recommend eating it within 1 month for the best flavour and texture of the noodles and tofu.

What should I serve with mapo tofu?

These are our favourite side dishes to serve with mapo tofu:
Gyoza / potsticker dumplings
Miso soup
– White rice sprinkled with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice blend)
– Sautéed greens (such as spinach, bok choy, mustard greens or stir fried watercress)

Variations & Substitutes

  • Doubanjiang – The easiest substitute for doubanjiang is black bean paste mixed with a sprinkling of red chilli flakes. In a pinch, you could use sambal oelek or Korean gochujang.
  • Udon – Try serving with white rice or ramen instead.
  • For extra flavour – Add freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns to taste. Start with a little at a time until you become familiar with the flavour and numbing effect!
Spicy mabo tofu sauce on top of udon noodles.

Want more Japanese noodle recipes? Here are some of our favourites:

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

A close up image of Japanese mapo tofu udon noodles.

Japanese Mapo Tofu Udon Noodles

These spicy Japanese Mapo Tofu Udon Noodles are totally addictive, packed with flavour and ready in 10 minutes! A lighter take on the traditional Chinese version, it's a super satisfying dish perfect for lunch or dinner.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Lunch
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 2
Calories: 804kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $10

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan or wok over a high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until deliciously fragrant (about 1 min).
  • Add the pork mince and continue to stir fry until browned.
  • Now it’s time for the flavour! Add in your soy sauce, mirin, miso, doubanjiang (or black bean sauce if substituting), oyster sauce and sesame oil. Mix well until all the pork is evenly coated.
  • Mix corn starch and cold water in a separate bowl, then add to pork and stir until the sauce thickens.
  • Now it’s time to add the tofu and udon noodles. Mix them carefully through the pork sauce to avoid breaking the tofu. Once the noodles have softened (after around 30 seconds) transfer to serving bowls. Garnish with green onion and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Tips to get this recipe just right:
  • Pork Mince – This recipe traditionally calls for pork mince, but you can substitute with any other kind of mince according to your preference. Why not try chicken or turkey for a lower calorie version, or fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, or plant-based mince “meat” for a vegan/vegetarian mapo tofu.
  • Tofu – Use firm or medium firm tofu which will hold its shape better than soft or silken tofu.
  • Udon Noodles – We use fresh homemade udon noodles, but you can use frozen or pre-packaged udon noodles if you prefer. Just cook them according to package directions before continuing with the recipe below.
  • Doubanjiang – This is a spicy fermented bean paste which gives mapo tofu its savoury, salty and spicy flavour. You can buy it online, from your nearest Asian grocer, or substitute with black bean paste mixed with a sprinkling of red chilli flakes. In a pinch, you could use sambal oelek or Korean gochujang instead.
  • Mirin – This is a sweet rice wine for cooking, if you can’t find it at your supermarket, you can omit or add in a 1/2 tsp of sugar instead. You can sometimes find this in regular supermarkets, otherwise head to your nearest Asian grocer or online.
  • White Miso Paste – White miso (aka shiro miso) is sweeter than yellow or red miso and has a more subtle flavour. This helps to balance the salty doubanjiang / black bean paste and soy sauce without subtracting from their umami flavour. Check out our miso guide for a full breakdown.
  • For Extra Flavour – Add freshly ground Sichuan peppercorns to taste. Start with a little at a time until you become familiar with the flavour and numbing effect!

Nutrition

Calories: 804kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 3428mg | Potassium: 523mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 60IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 3mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Japanese Mapo Tofu Udon Noodles

11 Comments

  • Reply
    Kathryn @ FoodieGirlChicago
    16/02/2016 at 4:21 am

    I love Udon noodles too, and noodles bowls are such a great option for a quick meal. I cannot believe you can make this one in 10 minutes!!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      16/02/2016 at 7:43 pm

      Yep, it helps when you can find the fresh udon at the Asian grocer which is precooked – it only needs a couple of minutes in the pan to soften up and you’re good to go. Of course, you could always make your own udon noodles and keep them in the freezer for recipes like this!

  • Reply
    Amy @ Accidental Happy Baker
    15/02/2016 at 9:25 am

    5 stars
    Amazing meal in under 10 minutes? What’s not to love! I have a cold right now and I can tell you that a big bowl of these noodles sounds like just the ticket to perk me back up. Yum.

  • Reply
    Michelle @ Giraffes Can Bake
    15/02/2016 at 3:35 am

    5 stars
    I can’t believe this takes less than 10 minutes to make, it looks soooo amazing!
    I love Japanese food, but never made it at home – this is going to the top of the “to make” list!!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/02/2016 at 1:47 pm

      Super quick hey, we love making this for a weekend lunch, or quick weeknight meal. This would be a great recipe to start with at home as it has all the basic Japanese ingredients to get your pantry stocked ready for the next recipe! 🙂

  • Reply
    Noel
    15/02/2016 at 2:07 am

    3 stars
    Isn’t it wonderful how some noodles will soak up the sauce and become some kind of food that is close to heaven?

    yummed!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/02/2016 at 1:45 pm

      We’re still wondering why they aren’t served with halos. 😛

  • Reply
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    14/02/2016 at 10:52 pm

    5 stars
    I could quite easily faceplant myself in this right now.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      14/02/2016 at 11:09 pm

      Bahaha! You’re a crack up. Also. We’re totally with you on that. These bowls are sickeningly moreish. 😛

  • Reply
    Hannah
    27/01/2016 at 12:40 pm

    Salty and noodle-y always wins me over! I’ve never seen fresh udon at my grocery store though – do you think cooking the dry type then adding to the other ingredients would work?

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      27/01/2016 at 1:09 pm

      Yep! They should work a treat. Probably most kinds of noodle would work with Mapo Tofu, but udon noodles are our all-time fave. You could always try making your own homemade udon noodles too… 😉 Enjoy!

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