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 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
- 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.