This Vegan Banh Mi with lemongrass roasted tofu is the rockstar of Vietnamese sandwiches! I used to serve a version of this sandwich on our food truck, but over the years I have made some major improvements to the recipe, and now it belongs in a darn museum! The museum of your face, that is!
Whether you're a Vietnamese food fanatic or a newbie looking to spice up your vegan game, this is the moment to jump on the bánh mì bandwagon. Obviously it goes great with vegan Vietnamese classics like Goi Cuon, and Banh Trang Tron, but it’s also great alongside non-Vietnamese bangers, like miso roasted eggplant, and stir-fried rice noodles.
Stop mucking about with the saddest sandwiches in the galaxy made out of drop ceiling tiles and puppy dog tears. Let’s get this killer vegan sammy made!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
✊ Vegan AF: Like all of my plant-based Vietnamese recipes, this sandwich is made without any animal-based ingredients and has no cholesterol. No liver pate, or pork to be found in this vegan version of the classic! If made on GF bread, this can also be one of the best gluten-free recipes to grace your sandwich collection!
👩🍳 Perfect Seasonings: The secret to this bánh mì brilliance? The blend of lemongrass, ginger, and garlic in the tofu marinade, the quick flavorful pickled veggies, fresh herbs, and the flavored mayo make this sandwich 100% less boring than all the other vegan banh mi recipes you have tried.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all of the vegan recipes on my blog, this popular Vietnamese sandwich isn't just something I made up while half asleep in the bathtub! After refining the sandwich over many years, and serving literally thousands of them on my popular food truck, I then shared the recipe with a huge team of recipe testers to make sure it worked flawlessly in kitchens all around the world. You are gonna be psyched with how reliably this recipe works!
🥒Notable ingredients and substitutions
The “meat” of this sammy is the extra firm tofu, drained and pressed to achieve a hearty texture when roasted. Tofu, or đậu hủ in Vietnamese, serves as an excellent source of plant-based protein. I am sorta obsessed with really nice firm tofu, which is why I use it in everything from ketoprak (Indonesian vermicelli salad) to Filipino long beans with tofu and jackfruit “pork.”
WOT? You hate tofu? I mean, this recipe is probably gonna take you to the tofu dark side, but feel free to substitute tempeh or even homemade seitan if you please.
Lemongrass Powder (Cây Xả)
This aromatic spice, is a shortcut that makes imparting lemongrass’s heavenly aroma on the tofu easy. If you have made recipes like mee rebus, or sambal goreng tempeh, you know fresh lemongrass is super fibrous and hard to mince by hand. That’s why it’s really convenient to use the powdered stuff in this sandwich recipe, and also in recipes where you need the lemongrass to be dry, like in bakwan sayur and tempeh mendoan. Can’t find powdered lemongrass at your local Asian Market? A couple of drops of lemongrass oil fill in great, or you can substitute it with lime zest.
Freshly grated ginger, or gừng in Vietnamese, brings warmth and depth to the marinade. You can also make this recipe using dried ginger powder (the Buffalo ginger from Burlap and Barrel is my fave for this), or fresh grated galangal, which I am all about for recipes like sayur lodeh and Indonesian coconut rice.
Tamari is a form of soy sauce brewed without wheat, which makes this recipe easy to make gluten-free simply by making it on gluten-free bread. If gluten is of no concern to you, this recipe will work well with any soy sauce, coconut aminos, or shoyu you might have on hand.
Tiêu trắng, or white pepper is an essential flavor in classic Vietnamese cuisine, and it’s also found in Indonesian recipes like homemade tom yum paste and Indonesian turmeric rice. If unavailable, black pepper can step in, ensuring the marinade retains its signature warmth.
Vegetarian Oyster Sauce
An umami powerhouse, vegetarian oyster sauce contributes depth and richness to our tofu. Often made from mushrooms, it mirrors the Vietnamese mắm nêm's essence. If you have some leftover after making this, you should whip up some vegan tom yum fried rice, or chee cheong fun.
Dầu mè, or sesame oil, imparts a nutty aroma to the marinade. It’s wonderful smell is especially potent in my favey Korean recipes like Sundubu Jigae, and Korean cucumber salad. Some people (like my lovely, but sesame-hating wife) sorta can’t stand sesame oil’s lovely fragrance. So, if you are like her, feel free to swap it out for olive oil in this recipe.
Hoisin sauce, a sweet-savory gem, enhances the spicy mayo in this recipe. It’s originally from China, but you will find it all over Vietnamese cuisine, served alongside vegan pho or added to Vietnamese vegetable steamed buns. In a pinch, plum sauce, kecap manis (which you can learn how to make from scratch in my mie goreng recipe), or sweet soy sauce can be substitutes, maintaining the balance of sweetness and umami.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
Korean Banh Mi: I ran this style of bánh mì on our food truck in 2014, and people still beg me for the recipe today. I added arugula to the sandwich, char-grilled the tofu in Korean bbq sauce instead of baking it, and added pickled burdock, and house-made vegan kimchi. While it’s not a traditional Vietnamese sandwich made this way, it is quite yummy indeed!
Banh Mi Chay: Chay means vegetables in Vietnamese, and sometimes it’s nice to step up the veggies in the sandwich by adding some pickled chilies, and some eggplant grilled in sriracha with nam jim jaew. I love veggies, and sneak ‘em in anywhere I can like some kind of vegetable freak! Face it, this is a great way to get more veggies into those picky eaters out there.
📖 How to make a perfect vegan banh mi sandwich
Nail this perfectly the first time by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Heat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Slice pressed tofu into ½-inch ( 1 ¼ cm.) pieces. In a bowl, combine lemongrass powder, grated ginger, minced garlic, tamari, lime juice, white pepper, vegetarian oyster sauce, and sesame oil.
Brush the tofu slices generously with the marinade and lay them out on a parchment paper-lined baking tray.
Wake Wakey, Tofu Bakey
Roast the tofu for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
✅More flavor with marinated tofu: if you aren't pressed for time, allow the tofu to sit in a container with the marinade ingredients overnight to absorb flavor before being roasted the next day.
Sexy up the Mayo
While tofu roasts, mix vegan mayonnaise, hoisin sauce, and sriracha. Set aside this seasoned mayountil you are ready to form the sandwiches.
Brine Before you Dine
Boil salt, sugar, rice vinegar, and water in a saucepan.
Quick Pickled Veggies
Pour the hot brine over shredded carrot, sliced Persian cucumbers, and daikon radish. Let them marinate and cool for at least 15 minutes.
Dealing With Your Bread Lifestyle
Slice an 18-inch baguette horizontally. Optionally, toast the cut side for a few minutes in a large skillet or griddle pan.
Assemble the Banh Mi
Spread a generous layer of Spicy Bánh Mì Mayo on the bottom half. Top with roasted tofu and pickled carrots, cucumber and daikon. Garnish with fresh cilantro and jalapeño pepper slices. Optionally add some very thinly sliced red onion or shallot if that's your thing.
Seal the Deal and Slice
Close the sandwich with the top baguette half. Slice into individual portions, and get ready to savor this delectable Vietnamese tofu banh mi sandwich!
This vegan tofu banh mi is great with a whole vegan Vietnamese meal built around it. Start with the freshness of Banh Trang Cuon (fresh Vietnamese spring rolls) or fried Thai spring rolls dipped in Vietnamese peanut sauce. A side of Mi Xao Xi Dau or a drizzle of spicy vegan nước chấm could be just the thing to make the meal even more radically flavorful!
Finish the meal with a classic Vietnamese dessert like Kem Chuoi (Vegan Banana Coconut Ice Cream Bars), Che Ba Mau, or Banh Flan (Vietnamese Vegan Crème Caramel). Your sweet tooth will thank you later.
- Perfies Tofu Texture: Achieve the best baked tofu ever by ensuring it's not just drained but also well-pressed. This crucial step eliminates excess moisture, allowing the tofu to absorb the lemongrass marinade. The tofu being dry will also help it achieve a nice caramelization on the outside while baking, where excess moisture in the tofu would otherwise cause the tofu to steam more as it roasts. Get the tofu dry by either using a tofu press or using the pressing method that I demonstrate in my tofu katsu recipe.
- Harmony in Your Spicy Mayo: Make sure your Bánh Mì Mayo is dialed in to your personal preference. Taste as you mix, adjusting the ratios to hit the sweet, spicy, and creamy notes as you like them.
- Pickling Precision: If your veggies and the bowl they are in are cold, it will zap the heat out of the small amount of brine you pour on almost instantly. Try to have your prepped veggies and the bowl at room temperature so they can get the maximum pickling effect quickly.
- Baguette Quality Makes a HUGE Difference: The fresh baguette used in banh mi is a great example of the influence on Vietnamese cooking brought to the country through the influence of French colonialism. Still to this day, there are better baguettes found in Vietnam than in some areas of France! Try to use a slightly crusty French baguette with a fluffy and soft interior, as it will cradle the banh mi's juicy and vibrant components without making the sandwich too chewy and hard to eat. If toasting, keep an eagle eye – a few minutes on a skillet or griddle pan is all you need to bring the baguette “back to life” without making it hard or crunchy.
🤷♀️ Recipe FAQs
Store the components separately – keep the tofu refrigerated, pickled veggies in an airtight container, and assemble the banh mi just before enjoying so that the sandwiches don't get soggy.
You can keep the mayo for up to a week, the pickles for up to ten days, and the tofu for up to four days if stored separately in clean dry containers with tight-fitting lids in the refrigerator.
As a baker, I’m a bit of a bread snob, and I strongly believe the baguette should always be used the day it is baked.
Swap it with mushroom soy sauce, or hoisin sauce for a similar, slightly sweet umami punch in your Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi.
Make sure to use wheat-free tamari instead of other soy sauce, choose a gluten-free hoisin sauce, and ensure you use a gluten-free baguette, or otherwise serve it on any type of bread you can find that is both gluten-free, and reasonably soft inside.
✌️This Vietnamese tofu sandwich goes great with:
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Vegan Banh Mi Recipe (Vietnamese Tofu Sandwich)
Quick Pickled Veggies
- 18 inch baguette
- Fresh cilantro sprigs
- 1 jalapeño cut into thin rings
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Cut the drained and pressed extra firm tofu into ½ inch (slightly larger than 1cm) slices. In a bowl, mix lemongrass powder, fresh grated ginger, minced garlic, tamari, lime juice, white pepper, vegetarian oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Coat the tofu slices evenly with the marinade. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
- While the tofu is roasting, prepare the spicy mayo by combining vegan mayonnaise, hoisin sauce, and sriracha in a bowl. Mix well using a small whisk or the tines of a fork and set aside.
- For the Quick Pickled Veggies, place the salt and sugar in rice vinegar and water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
- Pour the hot brine into a bowl over the shredded carrot, thinly sliced Persian cucumbers, and julienne-cut or shredded daikon. Let them marinate and cool for at least 15 minutes.
- To assemble the Vegan Bánh Mì, slice an 18-inch baguette horizontally. Optionally, you can toast the baguette’s cut side for a few minutes over medium heat in a skillet or griddle pan.
- Spread a generous amount of Spicy Bánh Mì Mayo on both halves of baguette. Place the roasted tofu on top, followed by the quick-pickled veggies. Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and thin rings of jalapeño.
- Close the sandwich with the top half of the baguette. Slice into individual portions and get ready to smash this delicious Vegan Bánh Mì!