This plant-based tofu bánh mì features charred 5-spice tofu slices and quick pickled vegetables piled high on a crunchy toasted baguette. Smear on a layer of creamy vegan mayo and top everything off with thinly sliced jalapeño and loads of cilantro for an easy, filling Vietnamese-inspired sandwich.
Originally Published: March 2021 | Updated: January 18, 2024
Why You’ll Love this Tofu Bánh Mì
Bánh mì sandwiches originated in Vietnam, where the baguette was introduced by French colonists. This plant-based take on the traditional Vietnamese sandwich swaps the pork for marinated, charred tofu. With fresh veggies and creamy vegan mayo, this vegan tofu bánh mì makes an easy plant-based lunch or dinner!
Here’s why you’ll love this easy yet flavor-packed Vietnamese-inspired sandwich:
- Super Flavorful Five-Spice Tofu: The tofu soaks up a bold marinade with garlic, maple syrup, and Chinese five-spice. Frying gives it a crispy texture and caramelized flavor.
- Quick Pickled Veggies: Bright carrots, cucumbers, and jalapeños are easily pickled in a sweet, tart rice vinegar mixture.
- Hearty Plant-Based Protein: The marinated tofu makes a hearty base for the sandwich with lots of plant-based protein.
- Warm, Crusty Baguette: A fresh baguette is warmed and spread with creamy vegan mayo. It’s so good paired with the crisp pickled veggies!
For the Sandwich
This easy charred tofu bánh mì is vegan and vegetarian friendly and is made from a handful of components. I highly recommend marinating the tofu and pickling the veggies ahead of time for a lunch or dinner that comes together in just a couple of minutes. For the sandwich you’ll need the following:
- Extra-firm Tofu
- Fresh Cilantro
- Vegan Mayo: I’m using Hellman’s vegan mayo
- High-quality Baguette
The Tofu Marinade
To make the tofu, you’ll want to slice a block of extra firm tofu into rectangles about 2 inches wide and 1/2 an inch thick. The key to getting super flavorful charred tofu here is making sure to marinate it for a good amount of time.
I marinate mine for at least 30 minutes. You could also prep this the night before and marinate it overnight. I don’t recommend leaving any of these out since each ingredient adds so much unique, smokey, and savory flavor. The key ingredients in the tofu marinade are:
- Chinese 5 spice
- Smoked Paprika
- Soy Sauce
- Vegan Worcestershire Sauce
- Agave Nectar or Maple Syrup
- Sesame Oil
- Fresh Garlic
NOTE: Make sure you drain the tofu to remove the excess water and gently press it with paper towels. This will help it char when cooked!
Quick Picked Vegetable Ingredients
In this recipe, I’m quick pickling the carrots and the cucumber to save time.
I like to mix up the ingredients below in a small, sealable jar and add the ribboned carrots and cucumber to it. If you’re a fan of spice, you can also add a few jalapeño slices! You can close up the jar, give it a shake, and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Luckily, the tofu also needs to marinate, so these veggies can chill out in the fridge at the same time as the tofu!
For the pickling liquid, you’ll need:
- Rice Vinegar / Rice Wine Vinegar
- Granulated Sugar
- Lime Zest, you could also add some lime juice
Substitutions & Add-Ins
If you’re missing one of the ingredients above, no worries! Below are a few substitutions (as well as a few ideas for other elements you could add to the sandwich):
- Red Onion: Thinly sliced red onion can be used in place of or in addition to the pickled vegetables.
- Garlic Powder: 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder can substitute for the 3 cloves of garlic in the marinade.
- Hoisin Sauce: For a sauce with more sweetness and thickness, swap the Worcestershire sauce for 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce in the tofu marinade.
- White Vinegar: This can be subbed for the rice vinegar.
- Brown Sugar: Replace the agave or maple syrup with 1 tablespoon brown sugar in the marinade for a deeper, molasses-like flavor.
- Vegan Sriracha Mayo: For a spicier sandwich, combine sriracha and vegan mayonnaise to make spicy mayo! This is a great option if you don’t have fresh jalapeños.
- Fresh Cilantro & Basil: Using a mix of these fresh herbs instead of only cilantro will create even more flavor!
- Radish: Thinly sliced radishes add peppery crunch to the pickled veggies.
- Bean Sprouts: For added crunch, add bean sprouts to the sandwich filling.
- Shallow Dish – For marinating the tofu
- Nonstick Pan or Large Skillet – For pan frying the marinated tofu
- Small Bowl or Mason Jar – For mixing and storing the pickled vegetables
- Toaster or Toaster Oven – For warming the baguette before assembling
Step By Step Instructions
STEP 1: Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a shallow dish. Drain and press the tofu (with either a tofu press or paper towels), then slice it into rectangles. Add the tofu to the marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, up to overnight.
STEP 2: In a jar, combine the pickling liquid ingredients. Add the vegetable ribbons, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
STEP 3: Remove the tofu from the marinade, letting excess drip off. Fry in a nonstick pan with oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side. Make sure the tofu is in a single layer and don’t overcrowd the pan. This is will help make crispy tofu!
STEP 4: Slice the baguette in half lengthwise. Toast until warmed through but still soft inside.
STEP 5: Spread vegan mayo on the baguette. Layer the tofu, pickled veggies, cilantro, and jalapeños to assemble the sandwich. Top with fresh cracked black pepper if you’d like! Enjoy!
Serving & Storage
What I love about this vegan bánh mì is how simple it is to make. Once all the components are prepped, everything comes together in about 10-15 minutes. Because of how fast it is, it’s great for lunch or a weeknight dinner. You can also use mini baguettes for smaller portions or you can slice up full-sized french bread baguettes!
The pickled vegetables and tofu can be prepped ahead and stored separately in airtight containers in the fridge. Assemble the sandwiches right before serving for the freshest taste and texture.
Tips & Tricks for the Best Tofu Bánh Mì
Traditionally, bánh mìs are made with baguette-styled bread. The word bánh mì in Vietnamese translates to bread. If you’d like to make your own Vietnamese baguette, check out TastyLittleDumping’s recipe.
In this recipe I’m using cucumber and carrots to keep the ingredients list simple and short. You can also add daikon if you’d like. It would add some more amazing crunchiness.
Traditional bánh mìs are sometimes flavored with lemongrass. If you can’t find fresh lemongrass at your local grocery store, you can order dried lemongrass online. Or you should be able to find it at your local Asian Market.
This sandwich is best served when the baguette and tofu are slightly warm, but the vegetables are raw and still crunchy. I recommend toasting your baguette in the toaster oven for just a few minutes prior to assembling.
Looking for more delicious vegan recipes and sandwiches?
- Vegan Sesame ‘Beef’ Udon Noodles
- Crispy Vegan Falafel Pita Sandwiches
- Hoisin Tofu Bao (Tofu Buns)
- Easy Miso Ramen with Tofu
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