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How to Reheat Mapo Tofu for Delicious Takeout Leftovers

How To Reheat Mapo Tofu and retain it's flavor.

Want to know how to reheat mapo tofu you got with your Chinese takeout? Mapo tofu is a unique Chinese dish with an interesting history. It’s a great choice from any Chinese restaurant. But some people may be unsure about how to handle the leftovers. This is especially true for those who are not used to eating tofu.

If you’re wondering whether you can really enjoy reheated tofu, the answer is: you absolutely can! This article will give you background on this delicious Chinese entree, then give you all the info you need on how best to reheat mapo tofu. (Looking for ways to reheat rice to go with your mapo tofu? Check out this article on how to reheat cooked rice.)

Tofu: More Than a Meat Substitute 

In the United States, tofu is often seen only as a meat substitute, eaten mostly by vegetarians and vegans. This lack of familiarity is one reason why many people are unsure if they can reheat tofu.

But in countries like China, tofu has a long history of being used as an ingredient in its own right, not just as a meat substitute. This is why in some Chinese dishes, like mapo tofu, it will actually be used alongside meat.

The process for making tofu is surprisingly similar to that of cheese. While cheese is made of fermented dairy milk, tofu is made of fermented soy. For those looking for a meat substitute, tofu can be a healthy and nutritious protein source. Along with being loaded with essential amino acids, tofu is also high in many nutrients and minerals. 

Mapo tofu, though, shows that tofu is not only for vegetarians. It can also be a great complement to meat dishes. 

What Is Mapo Tofu: A Unique Sichuan Dish

Not only is mapo tofu delicious, but it also has a fascinating history. Accounts differ about how long it has been around, with some tracing it all the way back to the 1200s. Others say it was first made about 200 years ago. Either way, it’s clear why this entree has had such staying power. 

The word “mapo” in Chinese refers to an older woman with pockmarks on her face. As unusual as this may seem, legend has it that the recipe was first created by a grandmother with a pockmarked face, giving rise to the name “mapo tofu”  for the dish. 

Mapo tofu originates from Sichuan province in China. Although it is possible to find vegetarian versions of this dish, most commonly, it is made with beef or pork, as well as ginger, garlic, scallions, green onions, and vegetables. Mapo tofu gets part of its distinctive flavor from doubanjiang, a spicy sauce from Sichuan containing both soy and chili. 

The other key ingredient to authentic mapo tofu is ground Sichuan peppercorn. Together, the doubanjiang and the Sichuan pepper make mapo tofu an especially spicy dish! But the Sichuan pepper also has a unique numbing effect on the tongue and mouth, which makes the overall spiciness easier to handle. 

Mapo tofu is most often eaten with steamed rice, which can help with the spiciness. It can also be eaten with noodles or Chinese steamed buns.

So you obviously loved the mapo tofu you got with your Chinese takeout, but you may be unsure of the best way to reheat it. Not to worry! It’s easy to reheat tofu! Keep reading for an explanation of the three best ways to reheat mapo tofu. Plus, these same instructions can be used to reheat many Chinese food dishes.

how to reheat Sichuan-style mapo tofu

How to Reheat Mapo Tofu

Reheating mapo tofu is easy. While there are some special considerations when reheating tofu on its own, mapo tofu’s flavorful sauce helps keep the tofu moist during the reheating process. This helps avoid some of the general problems that can arise when reheating tofu.

The three best ways to reheat mapo tofu are on the stove, in the microwave, or with an oven. Each method has its own advantages and drawbacks. Keep reading for all you need to know about how to reheat this delicious Chinese food dish.

Option 1: How to Reheat Mapo Tofu on a stovetop

Using a pan on a stove is a great option for reheating mapo tofu. This method is an easy way to evenly reheat the food without overcooking it. To reheat mapo tofu on the stove, follow the instructions below.

  1. Take a saucepan and place it on the stove. Add about two teaspoons of cooking oil. This will help prevent the food from sticking to the pan as it heats.
  2. Turn the stove on to medium heat.
  3. Once the pan has heated, add the mapo tofu. You may wish to add a little water, up to 1 tablespoon. This is not required, but it can help the food keep the original consistency, since some of the moisture will be lost as it’s reheated.
  4. Use a heatproof utensil like a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula to stir the food every 30 seconds or so. This helps make sure that the food at the bottom of the pan doesn’t overheat and stick to the pan.

Need a silicone spatula for reheating food on the stovetop? Check out StarPack Silicone Spatula Spoon!

  1. After 5 to 7 minutes of reheating, the mapo tofu should be ready! Just transfer it to a plate or bowl, and enjoy! 

The tofu in mapo tofu can be a little delicate. If you stir too strongly while reheating, the tofu may break apart. Stir gently to avoid this. But don’t worry too much if the tofu does break apart a little while reheating–it will still taste delicious!

The main advantage of reheating mapo tofu on the stove compared to the other methods is that you can reheat it very evenly. A disadvantage of using the stove for reheating is that it takes a little longer than the microwave. You also need to be more involved than with reheating in a microwave or oven, because you need to stir while reheating on the stove to avoid food sticking to the bottom of the pan.

But despite these small disadvantages, the stovetop is still a great option for reheating mapo tofu, or almost any other Chinese food dish.

Option 2: How to Reheat Mapo Tofu in a Microwave

The microwave is the go-to choose for reheating leftovers, and it’s a great choice for mapo tofu too! 

  1. Place the mapo tofu in a microwave-safe bowl or other container and put it in the microwave.

Check out this Glass Casserole Dish With Lid for a great option for microwave-safe reheating!

  1. If you’re reheating the food in the microwave without a lid, you may want to add a little water to it. This helps make up for moisture that gets lost through steam while reheating. If using a lid, you can skip this step.
  2. Set the microwave to 50% strength and set for 5 minutes. Because microwave strengths can vary, you will want to check the mapo tofu after about 3 minutes, to see if it is fully reheated. If it is, you can remove it as soon as it is ready.
  3. Once the food is fully reheated, give it a stir so that the heat is spread evenly, and enjoy!

An advantage of using a microwave to reheat mapo tofu is how easy it is. You just need to turn the microwave on and let it do the work! No need to stir frequently like with the stovetop method.

One possible downside of using a microwave to reheat Chinese food, and food in general, is that it may not heat it evenly. But if you give the mapo tofu a stir after reheating, this should help distribute the heat a little more evenly.

Some people wonder if you can reheat tofu in a microwave. There are some extra considerations when reheating tofu in a microwave. For example, tofu can turn chewy, or even rubbery, if heated too long in the microwave. The good news is this is less of a concern for mapo tofu. The sauce in this dish helps keep the tofu moist during reheating, which prevents it from changing texture much.

Reheat Mapo Tofu In Oven and keep it delicious!

Option 3: How to Reheat Mapo Tofu in the Oven

The final method for reheating mapo tofu is using an oven. Reheating Chinese food in the oven is a great option. This is especially true of toaster ovens, which take less time to preheat, but even a conventional oven will work fine. All standard oven safety measures should be used for this method, including using oven mitts when putting the dish in the oven and taking it out.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the mapo tofu in an oven-safe dish. Place the dish in the preheated oven.
  3. Let the food reheat in the oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, place in a bowl or plate, and enjoy!

A big advantage of reheating Chinese food in the oven is that it reheats evenly and you don’t need to stir while it’s reheating, like with the stovetop method. Reheating tofu in the oven also helps avoid any unwanted changes in its texture, which is a possibility with the microwave method.

The main downside of the oven reheating method is that preheating the oven can take a few minutes, and the overall cook time is a little longer than with the stove or the microwave. Nevertheless, reheating mapo tofu in the oven is an excellent option.

Now that you know how to reheat mapo tofu, you can get the most of your Chinese food leftovers!

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