Vegan bánh mì are an inspired, plant-based take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. They're healthy, filling, easy to make, and full of flavor! With crisp and vibrant pickled vegetables, marinated tempeh, fresh cilantro, and spicy vegan mayo on crusty baguette, this is a sandwich worth craving!
There's a popular vegetarian restaurant here in Asheville called Laughing Seed, and they used to have an amazing tempeh banh mi on their menu. In fact, my husband loved it SO much he never could bring himself to try anything else. Paired with their spicy jalapeño onion fries.... it was so good!
When the banh mi disappeared from Laughing Seed's menu I knew I wanted to try to recreate it at home. Though it's been a while since we've tasted their version, we both agree this one hits the spot!
Imagine cool-yet-spicy mayo, refreshing and zesty pickled vegetables, and marinated tempeh that strikes the perfect balance of salty and garlicky with a hint of sweetness and spice. It has all of the elements you crave.
And the best part is that these sandwiches are ridiculously easy to make. Including marinating time, your vegan banh mi will be ready to eat in 45 minutes! I hope you enjoy this Vietnamese-inspired sandwich as much as we do.
What is banh mi?
Bánh mì is a popular Vietnamese sandwich comprised of a crusty, short roll usually filled with meat, pickled vegetables, green onion, cilantro, spicy chilies, pâté and mayo. It's kind of like the Vietnamese version of what we call a sub sandwich here in the U.S.
The vegan version I'm sharing today uses a savory marinated tempeh to replace the Asian ham and other meats often used. We're also omitting the pâté, of course, and adding a bit of spicy kick to our mayo for extra flavor.
So while this recipe isn't authentic, it's a delicious homemade version that you can prepare anytime. Trip to Saigon (or a local Vietnamese restaurant) not required!
Another great thing about this sandwich is there's no need to track down specialty ingredients. Your regular grocery store should have everything you need!
- tempeh - one standard 8 ounce package of tempeh is enough for two hearty sandwiches, or three for lighter appetites.
- marinade - you'll need soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup, lime juice or rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes.
- veggies - feel free to add or omit; I used carrot, cucumber, radishes (use daikon if you can find it), jalapeno, and red onion. For a spicier sandwich use serrano peppers instead of jalapeno.
- mayo - use any mayonnaise you like; for an oil-free vegan option try my homemade aquafaba mayo.
- bread - Sometimes you have to do the best you can with what's available, and the special Vietnamese rolls used for banh mi aren't common here in the US. French baguette is usually easy to find in most stores. However, if the baguette seems too tough and crusty you may want to select a different type of roll. Ideally the bread should be crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. But since we're already straying from tradition, don't fret too much! Ciabatta rolls also work.
See the recipe card below for quantities and full instructions.
How to Make Vegan Banh Mi
Making the components for a bánh mì sandwich breaks down into 4 simple steps.
- Pickle the veggies.
Wash and cut the vegetables. Place in a bowl and add about ⅓ cup rice vinegar and a generous pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Marinate the tempeh.
Slice the tempeh and place in a shallow dish. Whisk together the marinade and pour over the tempeh. Set aside for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through to make sure all pieces are covered and soaking up the flavors.
- Cook the tempeh.
Arrange tempeh in a preheated pan, leaving most of the garlic and marinade in the bowl. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden. Pour the reserved marinade, with the bits of garlic and ginger, into the pan. Cook for 1 minute.
- Assemble the sandwiches.
Stir together the vegan mayonnaise and sriracha, if using. Spread on both pieces of bread. Add tempeh, pickled veggies, and cilantro. Serve with extra mayo and pickled vegetables on the side.
The beauty of the banh mi sandwich is that it's a complete meal unto itself. You have bread, protein, sauce, AND fresh vegetables!
But if you want something extra, a side salad is always great with a sandwich. Try one of these healthy salad dressing recipes. This zesty ginger-turmeric dressing also tastes amazing with the flavors of banh mi!
You'll likely have some pickled vegetables leftover after assembling the banh mi, so you can add some to the salad, as well.
This sandwich also tastes great with potatoes. Serve with potato chips, or put french fries or potato wedges into the oven before preparing the sandwiches.
- Tempeh - not into tempeh? Tofu banh mi is also amazing. Press a block of extra-firm tofu then marinate it and bake or pan fry over medium-high heat until golden. See the FAQs below for more ideas.
- Gluten-free - use any gluten-free bread you love. This is your meal and there are no rules! Also make sure your tempeh is 100% soybean, not one that includes grains. And for the marinade, be sure to use certified gluten-free tamari instead of soy sauce.
- Spicy - don't discard the jalapeno seeds, and add a squeeze of sriracha when assembling the sandwiches. Or use spicy serrano chilies instead of jalapeño.
- Bowl or Salad - not in the mood for bread? Pair the tempeh, veggies, and cilantro with your favorite lettuce greens and/or cooked grain. Add a squeeze of lime to the sriracha mayo and use it as a dressing!
Don't stress over finding the perfect bread because an authentic Vietnamese-style baguette probably won't be easy to find. Long French baguette can be cut into shape. Or use hoagie rolls. Look for bread with an exterior crust since that crunch is a large part of the banh mi experience. However, bread that is too tough will be difficult to eat. Ciabatta is another option. For homemade try this Vietnamese baguette recipe.
Keep in mind that a traditional Vietnamese banh mi may include a variety of different meats. So any plant-based meat that you can marinate is a great sub for the tempeh, like tofu, soy curls, or seitan. Or skip the marinade and use store-bought vegan deli slices!
Store pickled vegetables in the refrigerator for up to a week and the cooked tempeh for up to 5 days.
I hope you enjoy this homemade vegan bánh mì. If you try the recipe be sure to comment below and let us know!
More Tempeh Recipes
Vegan Banh Mi With Tempeh
For the pickled veggies:
- 1 small carrot, peeled and julienned
- ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 medium jalapeno, seeded and julienned
- 2 small red radishes, thinly sliced, optional - or use daikon radish if you can find it
- 1 small pickling cucumber, thinly sliced - or regular slicing cucumber, peeled
- ⅓ to ½ cup rice vinegar
- pinch of sea salt
For the sandwiches:
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons lime juice - or 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- approx ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
- 2 to 3 servings baguette or other crusty roll, sliced lengthwise
- approx ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise, homemade or store-bought - tap for recipe
- 2 to 3 teaspoons sriracha, to taste - use as much as you like!
- fresh cilantro
- To make the pickled vegetables, place in a bowl or jar and add rice vinegar and a generous pinch of salt. Toss several times to coat, and set aside.
- Slice the tempeh and place in a shallow dish. Whisk together the marinade ingredients (soy sauce, maple syrup, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and red pepper). Pour over the tempeh. Set aside for 15 minutes (or longer), stirring after a few minutes to make sure all pieces are covered and soaking up the flavors.
- Preheat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add oil to the pan if desired. Arrange the tempeh in the pan, reserving the excess marinade and bits of garlic in the bowl. Cook tempeh for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until golden. Pour the reserved marinade into the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, carefully stirring so the garlic doesn't burn. Remove from heat.
- Stir together the vegan mayonnaise and sriracha, if using. Spread mayo on both pieces of bread. Add tempeh, pickled veggies, and cilantro. Serve with extra mayo and pickled vegetables on the side.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.