This Tofu Banh Mi recipe is a vegetarian take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich traditionally filled with Vietnamese cold cuts, pork sausage, pork belly and/or pâté. Instead of any meat, we stuff crusty baguettes with crispy tofu steaks, pickled vegetables, a spicy mayo and of course fresh cilantro. Vegetarian of not, you’ve got to get in on this! 

Why We Love These Banh Mi Sandwiches

The beauty of any and all banh mi sandwiches is that each and every bite is loaded with texture and flavor. We especially love these tofu banh mi sandwiches because the crispy tofu soaks up some of the “maggi” sauce, a popular seasoning/sauce with roots in Switzerland but variations from all reaches of the world spanning from Mexico and the Philippines to China, Canada, Germany and even the US.

Our version uses a combination of fish sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire, but feel free to stop by any international market and you’re bound to find some kind of Maggi sauce. 

side view cut of a sandwich made with baguette, tofu slices, and vegetables

Make this Banh Mi Vegan / Vegetarian

There are a few things to note to make this strictly vegetarian and/or vegan.

  • Fish sauce: use a vegan fish sauce, or make a mushroom broth by simmering together 3 cups of water, ¼ ounce of dried sliced shiitake mushrooms, 3 tablespoons of kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over medium heat until reduced by half. Strain the mixture, cool to room temperature then store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. 
  • Worcestershire: simply leave this out since Worcestershire is made with anchovies.
  • Mayonnaise: opt for a vegan mayo, I love Sir Kensington’s.
  • Honey: use white sugar or agave syrup.

So why call for fish sauce and Worcestershire if the recipe uses tofu? Here at ZK we believe plant-based protein like tofu can be used in any kind of recipe, not just recipes that are strictly vegetarian.

Fish sauce and Worcestershire add a ton of flavor and make this meat-free sandwich a lot more savory. If you’re following a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet, this recipe can easily be modified to fit into either. Follow the ingredients swaps above, which are also noted in the recipe card.

tofu, spicy mayo, baguette pieces, honey, cucumber, carrot, daikon radish, lime, soy sauce, and olive oil measured out and set on a counter

Ingredients in Tofu Banh Mi

  • Pickled vegetables: we prefer a mixture of carrots, Daikon radish and English cucumber. These will get a quick pickled in a simple mix of water, vinegar, lime zest and juice, and honey (or sugar)
  • Crispy Tofu Steak: firm tofu is the perfect fitness here, any firmer and it will be too “rubbery.” The steaks get coated in cornstarch and fried in a shallow layer of olive oil.
  • Spicy Mayo: use whatever mayonnaise you like then mix in a dollop of chili garlic sauce or Sriracha—your choice. 
  • Maggi Sauce: you can use bottled Maggi Sauce, or make your own with a combo of fish sauce, soy sauce and Worcestershire. See notes above (also listed in recipe card) for how to make this sandwich vegetarian or vegan. 
  • Rolls: it’s traditional to use a baguette for Banh Mi sandwiches. Use a really good baguette that’s crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. 
  • Cilantro: a must for stuffing into the sandwiches! Feel free to add some scallions (green onions) and/or thinly sliced green chiles as well. 
large white bowl with three large sandwiches and a bowl of pickled vegetables set in it

How to Make Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches

  1. Slice the tofu into planks and press between paper towels to remove excess moisture. 
  2. Cut the veggies into matchsticks and mix with the pickling liquid. Let these sit so they have a chance to pickle and soften.
  3. Mix together the two sauces—the spicy mayo and homemade Maggi sauce.
  4. Coat the pressed tofu slices in cornstarch to coat. You may need to dredge them twice as the tofu will likely saturate the first layer of cornstarch. You should use all of the cornstarch.
  5. Cook the tofu planks in hot oil until golden brown and crispy all over.
  6. Then it’s time to assemble! Spread spicy mayo into each baguette piece, then stuff with crispy tofu, pickled carrots, radish and cucumbers, and cilantro. Spoon some of the Maggi sauce over top and enjoy. 

FAQs

Can these be made ahead of time?

We don’t recommend making these ahead of time or your risk the tofu softening and losing its crisp. Things you can do ahead of time: pickle the vegetables, press the tofu, make the spicy mayo and make the Maggi sauce.

Are these vegetarian banh mi also vegan?

As written they are not, but we’ve added notes to the recipe card for how you can make these Banh Mi sandwiches vegetarian or vegan.

side view cut of a sandwich made with baguette, tofu slices, and vegetables

Tofu Banh Mi Sandwiches

Print Recipe
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Yield 4 sandwiches
Category Main Course
Cuisine Asian

Description

A plant-based take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. Every bite is loaded with flavor!

Ingredients

Pickled Veggies

  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small Daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • ½ large English cucumber, thinly sliced (1½ cups)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • kosher salt

Crispy Tofu Steaks

  • 1 (16-ounce) package firm tofu, cut widthwise into ½-inch thick slabs
  • cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

To Assemble

  • ¼ cup olive oil mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce or Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or vegan fish sauce *
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire, optional*
  • 1 large French baguette, cut into 4 sub rolls
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves

Instructions

  • Line a baking sheet or plate with a double layer of paper towels. Arrange tofu on paper towels in an even layer and top with another double layer of paper towels. Place a smaller baking sheet or another plate over top and set a heavy pot or weight on top; set aside for 15 minutes.
    slices of tofu laid out on a paper towel-line baking sheet with another baking sheet set on top
  • Meanwhile, combine carrots, radish, cucumber, ½ water, vinegar, 1 teaspoon lime zest, 2 tablespoons lime juice, honey, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; let rest 15 minutes.
    matchstick carrots, matchstick radish and thinly sliced cucumber in a large glass bowl with pickling liquid
  • In a medium-small bowl, whisk together classic mayonnaise and chili garlic sauce; set aside.
  • For the maggi sauce, whisk together fish sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire in a small bowl; set aside.
  • Whisk together cornstarch and ½ teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Dredge tofu in cornstarch to coat; transfer to a baking sheet or plate.
    slices of tofu in a shallow bowl of cornstarch
  • (You may need to re-dredge as they sit, you will use all of the cornstarch.)
    cornstarch-coated tofu slices
  • Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tofu and cook until browned and crisp, 5–6 minutes per side; transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.
    slices of fried tofu in a large gray skillet
  • Cut each baguette piece in half, keeping one edge intact to hold it together.
  • Spread mayonnaise mixture on cut sides of rolls, Stuff each roll with two tofu steaks, pickled vegetables and a few cilantro leaves. Spoon 1–2 teaspoons magi sauce over filling of each sandwich. Serve immediately.

Notes

* Make these sandwiches vegetarian: 
  • Fish sauce: use a vegetarian fish sauce, or make a mushroom broth by simmering together 3 cups of water, ¼ ounce of dried sliced shiitake mushrooms, 3 tablespoons of kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over medium heat until reduced by half. Strain the mixture, cool to room temperature then store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
  • Worcestershire: simply leave this out.
* Make these sandwiches vegan:
  • Make the above-mentioned swaps in addition to the following:
  • Mayonnaise: opt for a vegan mayo, I love Sir Kensington’s.
  • Honey: use white sugar or agave syrup.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 sandwichCalories: 410kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 16gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 2gSodium: 1057mgFiber: 3gSugar: 7g
Keywords banh mi, tofu banh mi, vegetarian banh mi
Did you make this recipe?Leave a comment below and tag @ZestfulKitchen on Instagram and hashtag it #zestfulkitchen!
large white bowl with four large sandwiches set in it

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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