The classic Vietnamese sandwich made vegan! Learn how to make rich and flavorful bánh mì with this in-depth guide! Filled with carrot and radish pickles, vegan sausage, tofu, paté, and plenty of fresh herbs, you are going to love this popular Vietnamese sandwich!
After trying countless types of bánh mì from different parts of Vietnam, and dissecting most of them, I wanted to share a guide on how to make the best bánh mì. This article will not only be a recipe but also an in-depth guide on which type of bread use, what are the best fillings, how to assemble it, etc.
There are many recipes available online for vegan bánh mì, unfortunately most are westernized and incredibly far from the authentic Vietnamese ones. In this guide, I will share the basics to create delicious and flavorful bánh mì, along with a few tips.
📘 What is Bánh Mì
Bánh mì is a type of Vietnamese sandwich that is said to have appeared during the French colonization, around 1880. French colonists brought baguette as well as paté, coffee, crème caramel, yogurt, and more, influencing Vietnamese cuisine. Vietnamese then tweaked the sandwich to their taste by adding pickles, fresh herbs, paté, grilled meat, etc.
"Bánh" could be translated to cake, while "Mì" simply means wheat.
Bánh mì is one of the most popular Vietnamese food and is now considered one of the best sandwiches in the world. It is usually consumed for breakfast, but can be found sold as a street food at any time of the day.
🥣 How to Make Vegan Bánh Mì
Making bánh mì from scratch requires many different types of preparations, from the paté and mayo to the filling, but most can be prepared ahead of time and keep very well in the refrigerator.
Examples of Vietnamese Bánh Mì
Before assembling our own bánh mì, let's take a look at what "authentic" bánh mì looks like. What you can see below are 2 types of vegan bánh mì from Viet Nam (more particularly from Ho Chi Minh city).
From left to right: 1) Bánh mì filled with vegan mortadella, pickles, cucumber, vegan meat floss, cucumber, and croutons. 2) Bánh mì filled with fresh tomatoes, red cabbage, vegan mortadella, cucumber, and pickles.
It all starts with the bread, and that's where many get it wrong. The type of bread used to prepare bánh mì is extremely important, it's one of the main component of this dish.
Vietnamese bread is very far from the French baguette, it is much lighter with a lot less crumb. It is usually around 8-inch long and weight approximately 55 grams. If you were about to weight a similar size of French bread, it would probably be around 1.5 to 1.8x the weight.
Preparing bánh mì with regular baguette would yield a much heavier sandwich and the ratio of filling to bread would be completely off. So please, do not use regular bread to make bánh mì!
You can learn how to make your own Vietnamese baguette by checking the recipe below, it's one that took me way too many trials to get right, but I can assure you the results are totally worth it! The crust and crumb are totally on point when compared to the baguettes from Vietnamese bakeries.
Next, comes the condiments. It usually consists of paté, mayo, and/or some kind of sauce. Sometimes, the paté is mixed with some vegan mayo, sometimes there is just a sauce, it really depends on the cook. In my opinion, the addition of paté really takes bánh mì to the next level by adding richness and creaminess.
Then, we have the sauce that not only brings a ton of flavor, but also makes the sandwich juicier.
I highly recommend trying to make your own from the recipe below, but if you are short on time simply add a drizzle of Maggi soy sauce and store-bought sweet chili sauce (or sriracha) for some spiciness. Sometimes, saté is also used to add a citrusy lemongrass flavor.
Now that we have built the foundation of our bánh mì, it's time to fill it!
Most bánh mì will include some kind of protein. You can use fried tofu slices, vegan sausage, TVP slices, or even vegan roast pork. I recommend going with about 2-3 different types of protein for a mix of textures and flavor.
If using tofu, I recommend you first marinate it with some chopped garlic, shallots, soy sauce, and some sugar before sautéeing it until it has absorbed most of the marinade.
You can find below some recipes for plant-based meats that are perfect additions to bánh mì!
- Cucumber - Preferably Persian cucumbers, since this variety has almost no bitterness and a very thin skin. Usually, cucumbers are sliced lengthwise into thick matchsticks.
- Mushrooms - I personally love using oyster mushrooms for their tender and meaty texture. You can also use shredded king oyster mushrooms like in this Pulled Mushroom Bánh Mì. Simply sauté sliced mushrooms for a few minutes and deglaze with a drizzle of soy sauce.
- Jicama - Jicama, called "củ sắn" in Vietnamese, is a vegetable that is very often used as a filling. It is usually shredded and pan-fried until golden brown. It brings a natural sweetness and a subtle crunch. If you have access to it, I highly recommend trying it!
- Tomatoes - Not very common, but you can add a few tomato slices for some juiciness.
- Chili - If you like your food spicy, add finely chopped Thai chili to taste.
- Carrot and daikon pickles - Last but not least, the pickles! Carrot and daikon pickles are a must for freshness and tanginess. You can learn how to make your own Vietnamese pickles here.
3. Fresh Herbs
- Cilantro - Mandatory! Use whole fresh cilantro, including the stems.
- Thai basil - Optional, but it's the second most used herb in bánh mì.
- Green onions - While less common, you can add sautéed green onions for extra flavor.
🥣 Assembling Bánh Mì
I am sharing below my favorite way to make bánh mì, feel free to tweak it to your taste. Bánh mì is super versatile!
- Start by cutting the baguette. Use a dented knife or a pair of scissors to slice the bread lengthwise.
- Spread a generous amount of paté mixed with mayo on the bottom on the bread (or start with the paté and then top with mayo). I usually go with 2-3 tablespoons of paté and one tablespoon of mayo.
- Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of the bánh mì sauce (or sweet chili sauce and Maggi soy sauce) on the other open-side of the bread.
- Add the protein of your choice. Here I went with some fried tofu and meat floss.
- Next, add the vegetables: carrot and daikon pickles, cucumber, sautéed oyster mushrooms, and/or sautéed jicama if using.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro, Thai basil leaves, a few slices of chili if you want more heat, and enjoy!
And there you have it! A delicious, flavor-packed bánh mì that has nothing to envy to the authentic ones!
- Do not overfill: We are not making a Subway sandwich here, bánh mì contains many different add-ins, but each one is used sparingly.
- Prepare bánh mì just before serving: For the best texture, serve bánh mì immediately after assembling.
- Use fresh bread: No one wants stale bread that is either too hard or too soft. Use fresh loaves of bread for a crispy crust and tender crumb!
- Use room temperature ingredients: I recommend taking the paté, sauce, and pickles out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before using. Bánh mì is always served with room temperature ingredients.
- Can I use French baguette to make bánh mì? As mentioned above, if you want the true bánh mì experience, I will advise against using regular baguette. It is much heavier and has more crumb than bánh mì bread.
- Where to find Vietnamese baguettes? I'm not going to lie, it's not an easy task, that's why I recommend making your own. A few options would be to check the Vietnamese restaurants around you to see if they have some to sell, or check your local bakery or supermarket and try to find light and hollow bread.
- Is this recipe authentic? There is not one authentic bánh mì recipe, however this recipe is based on the many vegan bánh mì I tried in Vietnam. So I would say it's probably one of the most authentic recipe for a vegetarian bánh mì you will find!
- How long does bánh mì keep? Bánh mì is best served immediately. It will stay good for 3-4 hours, but after that the texture won't be as good.
I hope you enjoyed this guide on how to make delicious vegan bánh mì! It's loaded with flavor and textures, and has the perfect balance of sweet-salty-spicy! Definitely my most favorite sandwich!
How to Make The Best Vegan Bánh Mì
- 1 loaf of bánh mì bread
- ¼ cup carrot and daikon pickles
- 2-3 slices fried tofu
- 2-3 sautéed oyster mushrooms*
- ¼ small cucumber cut into long strips
- fresh cilantro, Thai basil
- Start by slicing the bread. Use a dented knife or a pair of scissors to slice the bread in half lengthwise.
- Add the condiments. Spread the paté on one half of the bread followed by the vegan mayo. Drizzle the banh mi sauce on the other half of the bread.
- Add the filling. Arrange the carrot and daikon radish pickles inside the bread. Add the sliced fried tofu and the sautéed mushrooms. If using, add the sausage slices, shredded jicama, and meat floss as well.
- Garnish with the cucumber strips, fresh cilantro, and a few leaves of Thai basil. Add some finely chopped chili if you want some heat. Close the sandwich and serve immediately!