Tangy Tofu Vegan Banh Mi Recipe
Tangy, sweet, salty and spicy, this recipe, inspired by Vietnamese tofu banh mi, has it all. I’ve packed this flavourful vegan sandwich with sweet and salty hoisin-glazed tofu, spicy quick-pickled veggies and lots of refreshing herbs. Enjoy!
When I was backpacking in Vietnam in the early 2000s, it wasn’t super easy to eat vegetarian, let alone vegan. There were two go-to meals I ate pretty much every day for the week I was there: a deep-fried tofu + tomato dish, and a Banh Mi stuffed with La Vache Qui Rit (Laughing Cow) cheese. So I’ve partnered with my friends at Silver Hills Bakery once again to give my own plant-based, nutrient-dense spin on this beloved sandwich. As a dietitian who LOVES to eat, I love creating healthy vegan recipes inspired by the foods I used to love before I went fully plant-based. Healthy, tasty, satisfying…zero compromise!
What is a Banh Mi?
Banh Mi sandwiches are a ubiquitous street food in Vietnam. They are typically served on baguettes, which is a clue to their French colonial origins…but the story isn’t quite what you might expect. In this excellent article on the history of the Banh Mi, I learned that the Banh Mi sandwich was born in response to the defeat of French rule, in the late 1950’s in Saigon.
When I ate Banh Mi in Vietnam, they simply didn’t add the meat or pate that is normally found in the sandwich. For my version, I’ve chosen tofu to add plant-based protein, calcium and iron along with fibre-rich sprouted grain bread to make this an incredibly nutrient-dense vegan sandwich.
Vegan Banh Mi Ingredients
A banh mi typically has the following components:
- Bread: traditionally a soft baguette is used, but I’m doubling down on filling fibre by using sprouted grain bread because that’s my everyday bread at home.
- Mayo: I have an amazing 3 minute mayo recipe in Eat More Plants Cookbook but any store-bought vegan mayo will do!
- Salty seasoning like soy sauce or Maggi is typical, I’m using hoisin for a sweet + salty vibe
- Pickled vegetables: you can do a quick pickle of any veggies you’d like, from carrot to cucumber to kohlrabi or radish.
- Cucumber: you could just add the cucumber to the pickle, but I love the fresh note that raw cucumber adds
- Herbs: I’m obsessed with all of the fresh herbs used in Vietnamese cooking. If you can get your hands on it, perilla (shiso) leaves are amazing, as is cilantro and mint
- A protein: You could do smashed chickpeas, marinated tempeh, or smoked tempeh or the hoisin tofu here!
In this vegan tofu banh mi recipe, I’m using protein + fibre rich Silver Hills Sprouted Grain bread to create a filling and nutrient-dense sandwich that will keep you energized for hours. Sprouted grain breads are made without flour, and sprouting helps improve digestibility of the plant-based minerals found in whole grain wheat.
We’re filling this sandwich with hoisin-glazed tofu for even more plant power. Calcium-set tofu is an excellent source of bone building calcium along with protein and iron to keep you feeling energized.
I also love using herbs in my cooking – cilantro and mint add a special flavour that really elevates the sandwich. However, if you don’t love them, just substitute for whatever you have on hand, such as flat leaf parsley or basil.
Andrea Nguyen literally wrote the book on Banh Mi – she talks about its traditional components in this piece if you want to learn more about what goes into these delicious sandwiches.
How to make a Vegan Banh Mi
This recipe is super simple and only takes about 10 minutes to make once the pickled veggies are ready, but there are a few steps, so let’s go through them:
- Make the pickled veggies: If you have a food processor, grating them is fastest and results in a soft pickle, almost like a relish. Slicing them on the finest setting of your mandolin gives a little texture and cutting into thin matchsticks will result in the crispest pickle. Place the veggies and jalapeño into a 500ml (pint) mason jar and pour over the rice vinegar, sugar and salt.
- Pan-fry the tofu: Brush both sides of the tofu with hoisin and fry for 3-4 minutes a side in a nonstick pan with a bit of avocado oil on medium heat until a bit crisp. If you want a more intense flavour, give it another brush with hoisin once it’s done!
- Assemble the sandwich: toast the bread and spread with mayo. Layer on pickled veggies, fresh cucumber, herbs, a slice of tofu and a bit of sriracha.
Banh Mi Recipe Tips
- Make the pickles and tofu ahead of time! The pickles keep well in the fridge for 5-7 days so make them on a Sunday and enjoy them all week long. The tofu will easily keep for 3-4 days in a resealable container in the fridge.
- Use only extra-firm or pressed tofu. Other tofu varieties – even firm – have a lot more water and won’t give you the chewy texture you’re looking for.
- Be sure to toast the bread! I know that banh mi are typically served on soft bread but I really think that toasting adds another layer of texture and crunch to the sandwich that I love.
- Want to make it even faster? Consider using sliced smoked tofu, which doesn’t require cooking.
- Make it gluten free! Most of the ingredients in this sandwich are already gluten free so it’s a simple swap. Use gluten free hoisin (San-J makes it) and swap in a gluten free bread like Little Northern Bakehouse.
More Yummy Vegan Sandwiches
- Smashed White Bean and Crispy Kale Sandwiches
- Mediterranean Hummus Toast
- Protein-Packed Vegan White Bean & Spinach Quesadilla
Tangy Tofu Vegan Banh Mi Recipe
- 8 slices Silver Hills Mack's Flax Sprouted Grain Bread, toasted
- 1 340g package extra firm tofu
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- 4 inch piece cucumber, finely sliced or shaved on a mandoline
- ½ cup mint leaves
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, gluten free if needed
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or avocado oil
- ¼ teaspoon five spice powder
- 2 cups firm veggies such as parsnip, carrot, daikon, kohlrabi, grated, mandolined, or cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 jalapeño, with or without seeds, sliced
- 2 teaspoons cane sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- vegan mayo
- Sriracha-style hot sauce
- Start by making the pickled veggies: pack the vegetables and jalapeño slices into a 500ml mason jar or resealable container. Sprinkle the sugar and salt over the veggies and then pour over the vinegar. Place the lid on the jar and shake up the mixture. If you can, let it sit for an hour – or you can make this in advance, it will keep well for five days in the fridge.
- Slice the tofu into two equal squares. Then, take each square and cut horizontally into 2 thinner squares. In a small bowl, mix the hoisin and five spice. Brush the tofu with the hoisin mixture on both sides.
- In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tbsp avocado oil over medium heat. Fry the tofu until it’s browned on both sides – about 3-4 min a side. If you want a more intense hoisin flavour, you can give the cooked slices an extra brush with hoisin once cooked – or add a bit to the bread!
- To assemble the sandwiches, spread both sides of the toast with a bit of mayo and a drizzle of sriracha. Add some pickled veggies, squeezing extra moisture out if you’ve grated them. Then add a slice of tofu, some cucumbers and a little handful of mint and cilantro.