Banh Mi sandwiches have become quite popular over the last couple of years, and with good reason. These delicious sandwiches are an amazing hybrid of Vietnamese and French cuisine, combining fresh Asian flavors like pickled daikon radish and spicy chilis, with a crispy and chewy baguette.
But, like so many other popular sandwiches, the traditional Banh Mi is made with a fatty meat, such as pork.
Not very vegan friendly.
Fortunately for us, it is very easy to “veganize” the Banh Mi sandwich by using tofu instead of meat, and vegan mayo in place of the usual dairy-based variety.
My first Banh Mi
I was first introduced to the Banh Mi through a local food truck called “Awaken” that, unfortunately, is no longer in service. The owner/chef was in the army reserves and was sent to Tennessee, leaving a serious void in our Thursday night dinner plan!
The Awaken food truck only had 4 items on the menu, 3 of which were vegan – and OH SO DELICIOUS!
I really looked forward to Thursday nights when Awaken was parked at a brewery near our house. I would stop by on my way home from work and order up one of each vegan sandwich – the Banh Mi and a Cuban-style – and some of their delicious and spicy tofu curry to take home to the family.
There was often a bit of a wait for the order because they were always busy, but it was worth it!
They served up their Banh Mi on a fresh, long, crispy baguette, the sandwiches were filled with a savory marinated tofu, and a delightfully tangy slaw that was unlike anything I had ever had before!
A sad event….
When they closed their food truck doors, I was devastated! Where would I ever find a sandwich like that again?!
I decided that I would just have to find the perfect Banh Mi recipe so that I could make it for myself and my family anytime.
I have been on a quest ever since.
The quest for the perfect vegan Banh Mi
So, I have begun experimenting with different recipes, but to tell you the truth, I haven’t found “the one” just yet. It has a lot to live up to!
That said, I thought I would go ahead and share my latest try with you, because although it’s not the perfect Banh Mi recipe yet, it was still pretty darn good!
Because I was going on a picnic with my family, I decided to make the Banh Mi sandwiches from a large loaf of french bread, instead of baguettes. But if you prefer to use a baguette, feel free! I know it will be delicious!
Next, I marinated the tofu in a special sauce, and made a “slaw” with pickled daikon radish and carrot, along with some spicy jalapenos, fresh cucumber, and savory and fresh cilantro. I also created a quick sriracha mayo to add some creamy and spicy goodness to the whole creation.
It was very flavorful, with a great mix of spicy, savory, sweet and pickly, creamy, and crispy fresh. The textures and flavors were pretty amazing if you ask me!
If you want to see how I made it, watch the video, and be sure to leave a like and a comment while you’re there!
Vegan Banh Mi Sandwiches
The popular and delicious Banh Mi sandwich has been veganized in this delightful recipe adapted from The Food Charlatan.
For the Marinated Tofu
- 2 14 oz blocks of tofu
- 1/2 large red onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp coconut sugar or other sugar
- 1 Tbsp agave syrup
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
For the pickled veggies
- 1 large daikon radish
- 3 large carrots
- 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 cup white or rice vinegar
- 1-2 Tbsp oil for frying the tofu
- 1 cup vegan mayo
- 1-2 Tbsp sriracha hot sauce
- 1 cucumber sliced
- 1 head romaine lettuce (optional) shredded
- 1-2 jalapenos (optional but highly recommended) sliced
- 1 bunch cilantro lightly chopped
- 1 large french bread loaf or baguette
To make the brine
I like to use a food processor with the shredding blade on it to shred the daikon radish and carrot. If you don't have a food processor, you can cut them up by hand into small matchstick sized pieces, or use a hand grater.
If you use a food processor, you will likely need to cut the daikon into halves or even quarters to fit into the shaft.
Place your shredded veggies into a bowl and sprinkle with the 1 1/2 Tbs each sugar and salt. Massage the veggies with the sugar and salt. This will help the veggies to release their own juices. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Rinse the veggies in a colander with cold water to wash off all of the sugar and salt.
You can make the brine in the same bowl. Just give it a rinse and then add 1 cup warm water and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the vinegar and a pinch of salt. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.
How to make the tofu marinade
Start by pressing your tofu. This step is optional but it will help the tofu soak up more of the marinade flavor because it won't be saturated with water.
To press the tofu, first remove it from the package, then wrap it in a clean dish towel or paper towels (personally, I use a combo of both)and place something heavy, like a cast iron pan, on top of the tofu. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, or at least a few minutes if you are in a hurry.
When the tofu is pressed, cut it into about 1/4 thick slices.
Meanwhile, place the red onion, garlic, sugar, agave, tamari or soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour about a third of the mixture into a flat dish or container with a lid. Place the slices of tofu in a layer on top of the sauce. You can move it around a little to get some of the marinade on top. Add more marinade and create more layers until you have used up all the tofu and the sauce. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or overnight.
After it has marinated and you are about to make your sandwiches, heat the oil in a large frying pan or skillet on medium heat. Place the tofu pieces in the oil, but don't crowd them. You may need to do this in batches.
Let the tofu cook on one side for about 5 minutes. Don't turn them too soon or they won't brown properly and may stick to the pan. Flip the tofu and brown on the other side. Place the tofu pieces on a paper towel until you are ready to assemble your sandwich.
Assembling the Banh Mi
Combine the vegan mayo and sriracha in a small bowl.
Cut the french bread loaf or baguette down the center lengthwise.
Spread the sriracha mayo on one or both sides.
Layer the marinated and fried tofu, lettuce (if desired), cucumbers, pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapenos (also optional).
Close up the sandwich and cut into about 4 pieces.
Place each sandwich in a reusable container or baggie to take to school, work, or on a picnic.
If you tried this recipe, please leave me a comment below and tell me what you thought!