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.
Thank you for posting this!!
I was surprised at first that the tofu didn’t need a long marinade, but it still tasted great. We especially liked the pickled vegetables that go on top–they really do add a lot to the sandwich
This recipe has been a family favourite for a few years now. So easy! So delicious!
I almost never leave reviews on recipes, but I keep coming back to this one- so I thought I should let people know how much my family and I all love this!
Made this for a Sunday lunch and started making the pickles first thing in the morning. Excellent and easy recipe, but definitely need to leave some time for prep to achieve all the wonderful flavors. Can’t wait to try the pickles (after a full day in the fridge) tomorrow!
THIS IS SO GOOD!!! My wife is very carnivorous and hates it when I go through a vegetarian phase, her one rule has been no tofu…. until I made these. She loves them! The only tofu recipe and one of the only vegetarian recipes she actually requests. This is so good!
Ha ha, I’m so glad she liked the tofu! 🙂
This was so good. I feel like since going vegetarian I really don’t eat many sandwiches anymore. But I will be now since this will be on regular rotation!
I’m so glad you loved it!
Absolutely delicious! So easy to make, I’ll definitely be making this again. I added some fresh mint leaves to mine.
If you’re one of those people who reads through comments to determine whether a recipe is worth making, please allow me to shout this immediately into your eyeballs: YES, YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY MAKE THESE!!!
I made these two days ago, and they came out so delicious!!! I did a few lil personalized tweaks to the recipe:
1) I pressed the tofu for about 30 minutes before I put it in the marinade.
2) I heated the brine to just under boiling and let it cool for 10 minutes, then put it on the veggies for pickling.
3) I added a little bit of sesame oil (like, maybe a teaspoon) and some thinly chopped scallions to the marinade and marinated the tofu in a baggie instead of a bowl.
4) I didn’t have sriracha, so I roasted a thai chili pepper, removed the seeds and skin, and put that in some mayo along with a little hot sauce.
These came out so freaking tasty, and the cooked tofu keeps really well in the fridge! I actually assembled an entire banh mi sandwich the night I made everything, wrapped it in foil, and ate it the next day for lunch—in my opinion, this was just as good as (if not better than!) the sandwich with the hot tofu. Maybe putting the whole thing in the fridge gave it time for the flavors to mingle?
This recipe is on point, and I just wanted to leave a comment and say thank you for sharing it! 🙂
Hahaha, I’m so glad you loved it so much! Thank you for coming back to let me know! You have me craving a banh mi now 🙂
Thank You for this recipe. I have been looking for a Banh Mi recipe since I tried this sandwich in LA last year! Your recipe looks yummy and can’t wait to try it out!
I hope you enjoy it!
Try 2 Asian Brothers in North Park! Great banh mi
This is one of the best/easiest ways’ I’ve ever cooked tofu! It was so flavorful, I’ve started just to make it this way for other dishes. My boyfriend also LOVED the pickled veg. All in all, a really really great recipe!
PS We used firm tofu that we smooshed(?) water out of for a bit and it worked just fine!
Hi Kayla, yay! I’m so glad you both loved these!
This recipe is great! I definitely recommend adding kimchi and a small amount of mixed greens. That took it to the next level for me.
Ooh, I love the idea of adding kimchi :). I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe!
Just made this! Ate it too quickly to take pics!!! Doubled liquid for pickling, and added mushrooms with tofu!! Awesome recipe!
oooh yummy, i want this
This recipe is delicious! I didn’t think I would like tofu (I’ve only had mock duck bahn mi in the past) but the texture and flavor worked very well.
My grocery store didn’t have daikon so I used red radishes and julienned them into teeny tiny pieces. It was a pain, but the flavor was good.
My two sons begged me to make these again. And my husband who’s not a vegetarian went in for seconds.
Thanks for the recipe! This will definitely be added to our regular meal rotation.
Ooh, I’m so happy you all loved the sandwiches! Thank you for sharing!
Doubled this to make for a group of friends tonight. Got a lot of compliments! The tofu marinade is amazing and the tofu turned out really flavorful. The pickled veggies are also superb.
Hi Anna, I’m so happy to hear that everyone loved these!
Literally salivating. I need these in my life STAT.
Hi! Not sure which part of Chicago you’re in but my favorite bahn mi is at Lotus Bahn Mi, 166 W Washington. It’s like a Subway or Chipotle but with Vietnamese food, and it’s consistently fresh and delish. Thanks for the recipe! 😀
Thanks Michele, I”m going to check it out!!
Love tofu and use it often and living in Australia banh mi is oft made, and, yes, for breakfast too! But have never made it vegetarian or put the two together: methinks a treat in store 🙂 !
Hi Eha, I hope you enjoy the sandwiches!
Funny, I’m not a vegetarian, but this banh mi is the first one that has gotten me excited about that sandwich. Thank you!
Hi Susan, I hope you love it!