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Take your bánh mì game to the next level with this amazing Vietnamese-inspired tomato sauce! Infused with garlic, green onions, chili sauce, and five-spice, this sauce is thick, spicy, and so flavorful!

Pouring tomato sauce into a Bánh Mì sandwich.

In my book, there is no good bánh mì without a tasty sauce. Really, the sauce can make or break a bánh mì.

My recipe for this sauce draws its inspiration from my favorite bánh mì shop in Saigon. I have ordered from the same place hundreds of times, that’s to say how good their bánh mì is. The good thing when you order is that they will usually give you the sauce apart, in a small packet, so you can pour it into the bánh mì right before eating it. That allowed me to taste the sauce on its own and compare it side-by-side as I was trying to replicate it.

After checking some authentic Vietnamese recipes and several tests later, I finally came about 90% close to the one they use at my favorite bánh mì place. It’s not exactly the same as it’s very hard to replicate a sauce without knowing exactly the ingredients, but I have to say that it’s pretty darn close.

⭐️ Why You Should Try It

The sauce that will take your bánh mì game to the next level.

Crafting the best bánh mì is not an easy task and each component of this fantastic sandwich plays a crucial role. One of them is the sauce.

This sauce is based on fresh tomatoes for a tangy flavor and infused with aromatics such as garlic, shallots, and scallions that are sautéed until fragrant. Then, we have chili sauce for a kick of heat, and oyster sauce and soy sauce for a rich savoriness. An aromatic blend of spices adds the final touch by bringing a delicate char siu flavor.

We make bánh mì very regularly at home, and I can assure you that when we don’t add the sauce, it lacks something. This sauce makes the sandwich juicier and infuses it with beautiful flavors – it’s sweet, salty, spicy, and slightly tangy.

I’m confident this sauce is going to be your next secret ingredient to make amazing bánh mì!

Quick, easy, and made in one pot.

There is nothing complicated about this sauce – it’s as easy as making a simple tomato sauce. First, fresh tomatoes are pulsed in a blender until smooth (or chunky – that’s up to you!) and then simmered with aromatics for a few minutes. The final step consists of adding a slurry to thicken the sauce. The whole process will take you just a bit more than 20 minutes!

Versatile.

This sauce doesn’t have to be used only for bánh mì! I personally like to use leftovers in wraps, sandwiches, or burgers. Oh, and one more use for this fantastic sauce: pasta! You can replace your regular tomato sauce with this spicy alternative. Actually, this might be my favorite way to use leftover sauce!

Ingredients like tomatoes, five-spice powder, green onions, oyster sauce, and sugar.

🍅 Ingredient Notes

Here are a few extra tips on some of the ingredients you will be using:

Tomatoes

Although any ripe tomato will work, summer tomatoes yield the best flavor as they tend to be less acidic and sweeter compared to regular tomatoes. I used 3 medium tomatoes, which weighed a total of about 11 ounces (300g).

Note: You can replace the fresh tomatoes with canned tomatoes, either whole and peeled or diced (you should use about 1 cup of puréed tomatoes to replace 3 fresh tomatoes). If you go that route, please use a high-quality brand. Cheap brands of canned tomatoes tend to be more acidic and less tasty.

Garlic, shallot, and scallions

To infuse the sauce with plenty of flavor, I rely on a combination of three aromatics: garlic, shallots, and scallions, also known as green onions (they’re the same thing). All of these add sharpness and a peppery flavor to the sauce.

Oyster sauce

Oyster sauce (or stir-fry sauce) is a thick, sweet, and salty sauce typically made with oyster extract, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. I use it here to add a deep savoriness and a bit of extra sweetness. Although this sauce has Chinese origins, it’s used very often in Vietnamese cooking.

While the original oyster sauce is not plant-based, vegan alternatives exist! You can use store-bought vegan oyster sauce, or learn how to make your own oyster sauce here!

Soy sauce

For more saltiness and umami. Use regular soy sauce, not the light (reduced salt) one.

Substitute: You can easily make this sauce gluten-free by using coconut aminos or tamari in place of the soy sauce.

Sweet chili sauce

Vietnamese love their food spicy! Hence, I added a couple of tablespoons of sweet chili sauce for spiciness and extra sweetness. Most Vietnamese will use the brand Cholimex or Chin Su, but feel free to use what you have on hand. Sriracha works, too, but you might have to use only half of the amount as it tends to be spicier than Vietnamese chili sauce.

Looking for a homemade chili sauce recipe? I have got you covered! Check out my homemade sweet chili sauce recipe.

Note: This sauce is mildly spicy, but you can omit the chili sauce altogether if you are very sensitive to spicy foods.

Five-spice powder

I do not use a lot of five-spice powder, but just enough to add a hint of anise and cinnamon to the sauce. It doesn’t overpower the flavors of the other aromatics but adds a little extra that makes the sauce taste much better, in my opinion. I advise against omitting it.

Where to find it: Five-spice powder can be found in most supermarkets nowadays, or you can order it online. It’s also available in almost every Asian supermarket as it’s a spice used in many Chinese dishes.

Tapioca starch

To make a slurry and thicken the sauce. You can use cornstarch instead of tapioca starch.

Cilantro

I like to finish the sauce with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro for freshness and brightness. Only add the cilantro at the end of the cooking, off the heat to preserve its flavor.

🥣 How to Make It

  1. Sauté the aromatics. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic, shallot, and green onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  2. Blend the tomatoes. In the meantime, wash the tomatoes and slice them into quarters. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
Sautéed garlic, shallots, and green onions in a saucepan.
  1. Cook the tomatoes. Pour the tomato purée into the saucepan. Add the sugar, and let simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the tomato purée has darkened and no longer smells like raw tomatoes.
  2. Add the sauces and spices. Next, add the sweet chili sauce, vegan oyster sauce, soy sauce, five-spice powder, ground black pepper, and water. Let simmer for another 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly.
Preparing Bánh Mì sauce in a saucepan.
  1. Thicken the sauce. Dilute the tapioca starch in one tablespoon of water. Add the diluted tapioca to the saucepan and cook for one more minute or until the sauce has slightly thickened.
  2. Garnish with herbs. Finally, stir in the chopped cilantro and let cool for a few minutes before using it to make bánh mì!

📔 Tips

  • Sieve the blended tomatoes. If you want a very smooth sauce, pass the blended tomatoes through a fine sieve mesh to remove the seeds and pulp. Note that your sauce might be on the thinner side, so you may have to add a bit more tapioca starch.
  • Reheat it. Once chilled, the sauce will thicken even more. If you want to get a thinner consistency again, feel free to reheat it over low-medium heat.
  • Adjust the seasonings. Depending on the type of tomatoes, vegan oyster sauce, and chili sauce, you might have to adjust slightly the saltiness and sweetness. The sauce is supposed to be slightly sweet and quite salty (as it is used as a seasoning for bánh mì).
Bánh Mì sauce in a saucepan topped with cilantro.

🥖 Where to Use It

This sauce obviously shines in bánh mì sandwiches! Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce inside the bread to add a ton of flavor and make the sandwich juicier.

You can also use this sauce in regular sandwiches, tacos, burgers, or simply as a dip for taro fries, mushroom tempura, or even vegan chick’n nuggets. As I also mentioned in the beginning, it also makes a fantastic pasta sauce!

Bánh Mì sauce topped with green onions in a bowl.

❄️ Storing and Freezing

  • To store: You can keep this bánh mì sauce for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
  • To freeze: Transfer the sauce to a freezer bag or container and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

💬 FAQ

Is this recipe authentic?

There is not one authentic recipe. Each cook has his own way of making bánh mì sauce. It is, however, based on Vietnamese recipes.

I hope you are going to love this sauce! If you have ever wondered what makes those Vietnamese sandwiches so tasty, the sauce is definitely one of the key components!

⭐️ Did you like this recipe? Let us know in the comments below, and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!

Bánh Mì sauce topped with green onions in a bowl.
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Recipe

Bánh Mì Sauce

5 from 2 votes
Author: Thomas Pagot
A sweet and spicy tomato sauce that is perfect for adding a ton of flavor to your Bánh Mì sandwiches! Infused with garlic, five-spice, chili sauce, and green onions!
Prep Time : 10 minutes
Cook Time : 10 minutes
Total Time : 20 minutes
Servings 1.5 cup
Calories 18 kcal

Ingredients
 

Instructions
 

  • Sauté the aromatics. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the minced garlic, shallot, and green onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Blend the tomatoes. In the meantime, wash the tomatoes and slice them into quarters. Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Cook the tomatoes. Pour the tomato purée into the saucepan. Add the sugar, and let simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the tomato purée has darkened and no longer smells like raw tomatoes.
  • Add the sauces and spices. Next, add the sweet chili sauce, vegan oyster sauce, soy sauce, five-spice powder, ground black pepper, and water. Let simmer for another 5-7 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Thicken the sauce. Dilute the tapioca starch in one tablespoon of water. Add the diluted tapioca to the saucepan and cook for one more minute or until the sauce has slightly thickened.
  • Garnish with herbs. Finally, stir in the chopped cilantro and let cool for a few minutes before using it to make bánh mì!
  • You can keep this bánh mì sauce for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.

Notes

  • Sieve the blended tomatoes. If you want a very smooth sauce, pass the blended tomatoes through a fine sieve mesh to remove the seeds and pulp. Note that your sauce might be on the thinner side, so you may have to add a bit more tapioca starch.
  • Reheat it. Once chilled, the sauce will thicken even more. If you want to get a thinner consistency again, feel free to reheat it over low-medium heat.
  • Adjust the seasonings. Depending on the type of tomatoes, vegan oyster sauce, and chili sauce, you might have to adjust slightly the saltiness and sweetness. The sauce is supposed to be slightly sweet and quite salty (as it is used as a seasoning for bánh mì).

Nutrition

Serving: 1 tbsp | Calories: 18 kcal | Carbohydrates: 1.6 g | Protein: 0.2 g | Fat: 1.3 g | Saturated Fat: 0.2 g | Sodium: 49 mg | Potassium: 34 mg | Fiber: 0.2 g | Sugar: 0.8 g | Calcium: 2 mg
Course : Condiment
Cuisine : Vietnamese
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About the Author

Thomas Pagot is the founder, photographer, and recipe developer behind Full of Plants. He created the blog in 2016 as a personal cookbook for vegan recipes. Through years of recipe development, Thomas has successfully grown Full of Plants into a trusted resource for plant-based recipes.

Learn more ➜

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cant wait to make this soon for me i never had banh mi sauce before perfect for my snacks or your banh mi recipes love your recipes as always brightens up my day everyday after work

This sauce is so flavorful! We are having Bahn Mi sandwiches tomorrow for Easter and I think a good sandwich needs at least one or two good sauces. This is going to take our sandwiches over the top. Thanks so much for the recipe. 😁

5 stars
Wonderful sauce, I want to use it on everything! Will this sauce freeze? Maybe adding thickening agent after thawing?

5 stars
Excellent and very useful sauce. I can use it on everything. Thank you Thomas.