Instead of stuffing this banh mi sandwich with meat, I fill it with zesty marinated tofu. Pickled veggies and cilantro leaves take it over the top.
When I lived in Austin, I got a tofu banh mi sandwich from two different Vietnamese restaurants as often as I could. Stuffed with sweet and tangy pickles, herbs, creamy mayo, and more, the sandwiches were hearty and comforting, but still refreshing. My mouth is watering just thinking about them! Since we’ve moved, I’m still searching for a great banh mi in Chicago (let me know if any of you have suggestions!). Until I find one, I’ll be making this yummy banh mi recipe to curb my cravings at home.
What is banh mi?
Banh mi sandwiches are a Vietnamese street food that originated in Saigon. Served on soft French baguettes, they’re a delicious hybrid of French and Vietnamese cuisine. Typically, they contain pickled carrots, daikon, chiles, cucumber slices, cilantro, mayo, and a protein. Popular proteins include marinated pork, chicken, and paté, but I use tofu in this recipe to make it vegetarian.
Banh Mi Sandwich Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Baguette – Look for soft baguette with a lightly crisp exterior. If it’s too chewy or crusty, the fillings will squish out of the sandwich!
- Seared marinated tofu – The “meat” of this sandwich. I marinate firm tofu in a blend of tamari or soy sauce, lime juice and zest, garlic, ginger, and black pepper. It’s super savory and bright. Yum!
- Pickled vegetables – These guys are key for giving a banh mi its signature sweet and tangy flavor. I pickle a combination of carrots, cucumber, jalapeño, and daikon in white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. If you can’t find daikon, red radishes taste great here too. And if you’re sensitive to spice, go easy on the jalapeño.
- Spicy mayo – A banh mi essential! This sauce, made from mayo, sriracha, lime juice, and sesame oil, adds delicious richness and heat to this fresh sandwich. To make this recipe vegan, substitute your favorite store bought vegan mayo, or make your own.
- Cilantro – The perfect fresh finishing touch!
After the tofu marinates, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and sear the tofu on both sides. When it’s golden brown and caramelized, stuff it into the baguette with the pickled veggies, cilantro, and a slather of spicy mayo. Enjoy!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
Banh Mi Recipe Tips
- Plan ahead. For the best sweet and tangy flavor, you need to make the pickles ahead of time. They’ll taste good after an hour in the fridge, but they get better by the day. If you can, prep them a day or two before you make this recipe!
- Press your tofu. This simple, hands-off step only takes an extra 20 to 30 minutes, and it will give your tofu an amazing chewy texture! I love the Tofuture Tofu Press, which is easy to use and captures the excess water from the tofu, making cleanup a breeze. You can get it on Amazon for $25.95. Want to look at some other options? Check out my guide to the best tofu presses!
- Don’t let the pickled veggies go to waste! You’ll likely end up with leftover pickles from making this recipe. Store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Make more sandwiches later on, or pile them onto rice bowls, top them onto avocado toast, or stuff them into spring rolls!
- Change it up. This vegetarian banh mi recipe is fantastic as written, but feel free to play with it. Avocado and sautéed shiitake mushrooms would both be excellent here, as would extra cucumber slices. Let me know what variations you try!
More Favorite Tofu Recipes
If you love this tofu banh mi sandwich, check out this post for my best tofu-cooking tips! Then, try one of these delicious tofu recipes next:
- Crispy Sesame Tofu
- Best Vegetarian Lasagna
- Avocado Summer Rolls
- Vegan Egg Salad
- Sesame Noodle Bowl
- Ginger Miso Soup
Banh Mi Sandwich
- 1 (14-ounce) package extra firm tofu (see notes)
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
- 4 baguette pieces, sliced in half
- Spicy Mayo
- A few sprigs of cilantro per sandwich
- 1 small daikon, sliced into matchsticks
- 2 small carrots, sliced into matchsticks
- ½ small cucumber, seeded & sliced into matchsticks
- ½ jalapeño, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup white wine vinegar, more as needed
- ¼ cup rice vinegar, more as needed
- Pinches of sugar
- Pinches of salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- Juice of ½ lime + a little zest
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Make the pickles ahead: Place the daikon, carrots, cucumbers, and jalapeños in a medium jar with the white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. If the liquids don’t cover the veggies, add about 2 tablespoons water and more vinegar if necessary. Let chill for at least an hour, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
- Drain the tofu and slice it into ½-inch slices. Place it on a towel and gently pat dry to remove excess water.
- Make the marinade: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, tamari, lime juice and zest, garlic, ginger, and pepper.
- Place the tofu in a shallow pan and pour the marinade on top. Flip the tofu to fully coat it, adding more tamari if necessary. Let the tofu marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- Heat a nonstick skillet to medium-high heat. Add a little oil to the pan and place the tofu pieces with enough space between each so that they’re not too crowded, working in batches if necessary. Without moving the tofu slices around too much, let them cook for a few minutes per side until they’re deeply golden brown and caramelized around the edges. Remove from heat and season to taste.
- Assemble sandwiches with the baguette, spicy mayo, tofu slices, pickled veggies, and cilantro.
If you ever come up to Milwaukee, Cloud Red in Shorewood has an amazing vegan tofu banh mi. Looking for a sauce recipe like theirs is what brought me to your website!
Made this today- ate without baguette.. was a test run for my sisters baby shower this weekend.. it’s our favorite and this easy recipe was a godsend THANK YOU I will be making this again and again!!!
I’m so glad you loved it!
If you ever get to Davenport Iowa, Miss Phay bistro On Brady Street, has a ridiculously delicious tofu bánh mì sandwich!
I was never much of a cook but I decided to start trying during Covid. There is no Vietnamese food near me and my boyfriend was craving a banh mi. So I started googling and found your recipe. So easy to make and so delicious. My boyfriend even told me to write it down in case it somehow disappears online 😂🥰 Thank you for sharing!
Ha, I’m so glad you both loved the recipe!
I am making this recipe tonight, but I do live in Austin and was wondering which 2 restaurants inspired you, so I could try them out. Thanks
Elizabeth Street (although I think it’s not as good as it used to be!) and a truck called Lulu B’s that isn’t there anymore :/
My favorite Vietnamese in town, currently, is Saigon Le Vendeur on East 7th – get the lemongrass tofu bowl and ask for extra sauce.
I loved Lulu B’s lemongrass tofu bahn mi when I lived in Austin too! And Elizabeth Street…..but I liked Lulu B’s slightly more!
I did too 🙂
I just had Mushroom
bahn mi at the Beetle in Ukrainian village if you are near that area. I thought it was spectacular. Chicago ave and western. I jumped online to find a recipe and yours is the first one that popped up. So I will give it a try
This recipe was good, and I’m definitely going to make more pickled veggies for various things in the future! However, the heavy amount of oil and vinegar in the recipe just didn’t sit well in my stomach. I think with a few substitutions this will be really tasty.
you could just baked the tofu for 25 min, at 400 degrees…instead of panfry….
Thanks so much for this amazing recipe – it’s a total flavour bomb!
So delicious! Highly recommend. My hubby who loves all Vietnamese food was thrilled.
I’ve made this recipe twice now, and they are so good. I’ve never made tofu that tasted this amazing, and all the flavors together… so delicious. Thank you!
These sandwiches amazing. We’re not even vegetarians and our whole family loves them. The pickled veggies are also good served with rice and a protein. Thank you!
I’m so glad these were a hit!
I can’t stop won’t stop making this. It’s so good. Can’t get enough. I made way more veggies than recommended. At some point, I’m not sure when, you can stop adding vinegars and just add water. I did about half water half vinegar, but I made enough pickled veggies for like 15 sandwiches.
This recipe kicks ass. I eat it every day. 5/6
I’m so glad you loved it!
Just looked this up again for the 5th time! I’ve been making it non stop.. keeping the pickled veggies on hand. LOVE THIS ONE! thanks
I’m so glad you’ve loved it!
If you still live in Chicago, Bon Bon Sandwiches in Wicker Park has an amazing vegan classic banh mi. It has all the elements of a traditional banh mi veganized — Vietnamese ham, mushroom-walnut pâté, mayo, picked daikon and radish, etc.
This recipe is BOMB. We absolutely loved it! There are so many bright and fresh flavors and I want to just keep a rotating jar of the pickles so that I can eat them all the time. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
I’ve made this recipe twice now, and I gotta say, I love it. It’s SO good. I skip the jalapenos because I don’t like cutting them, but it’s spot on. I used store bought vegan mayo and prepped everything ahead of time. Pre-match-sticked carrots are soooo convenient, and I threw the sliced pre-drained tofu in a bag to marinate in the fridge until it was time to eat. Heat up the skillet, add oil, add in the tofu, and while it’s cooking, assemble the sandwiches. SUCH a good prep-ahead recipe if you’re like me and have a ton of energy all day but then drop at dinner time and need something fast.
Pho Phu Linh 4741 Main St, Skokie, IL 60076 just east of Evanston has a great vegan banh mi
For me, any recipe that uses cilantro is a good recipe. Pair that with pickled veggies and you just took it to another level.