A vegetarian take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. This vegan bánh mi is made with a punchy marinated tempeh. It’s stuffed inside a crusty baguette alongside pickled vegetables, mayonnaise and fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves. It’s both filling and delicious.
Sandwiches are such a useful lunch item, it’s no wonder they’re a firm favourite with so many of us. But sometimes you want more than a straight forward egg mayonnaise or cheese and pickle sandwich. Cue bánh mi.
What Is Bánh Mi
Modern bánh mi is a baguette sandwich made with slices of cold meat cuts, pickled veggies, sliced cucumbers and herbs. It’s a Vietnamese adaptation of a filled French baguette and is now a common breakfast street food in Vietnam.
This wasn’t always the case though. When bánh mi first became a filled sandwich in the 1950s, most Vietnamese couldn’t afford meat, so it was stuffed with vegetables or cheap cheese instead.
Bánh means baked and mi means wheat, so bánh mi was originally a term for wheat bread. This was introduced by the French in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Vietnamese baguettes, though, are often made with a mix of wheat and rice flours, which gives a lighter crustier bread.
When Vietnamese communities emigrated to western countries in the 1970s, they brought their bánh mi sandwich with them. It’s now one of the most popular sandwiches you can buy, especially in the US. We tend to eat it as a substantial lunch sandwich though, rather than for breakfast.
Tempeh Bánh Mi
This vegan tempeh bánh mi makes for a delicious lunchtime or suppertime treat. It carries a wonderful mix of flavours and textures. Vibrant sweet and sour crunchy pickles, zippy umami flavours from the marinated tempeh, fresh herbs and creamy mayonnaise. And it’s all held together by a crunchy crusty bread container.
You only need four items to make the sandwich: a baguette, marinated tempeh, carrot pickles and coriander (cilantro) leaves.
But you do need a few ingredients for the tempeh marinade. You can see the ingredients for this in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
The tempeh also requires a bit of time, both for the marinade and for cooking. Having said that, you can put the whole thing together in well under half an hour.
Tempeh makes an excellent substitute for meat. It’s substantial, chewy and healthy. But above all, it has the perfect consistency for soaking up punchy marinades. And punchy is just what you want in this vegan bánh mi sandwich.
Be generous with the pickles, they are an essential bánh mi component. Without them, the sandwich runs the risk of losing its wow factor.
Either cut off chunks from a standard baguette, or for two opt for a demi baguette. You’re looking for a length of twenty to twenty three centimetres (eight to nine inches) per sandwich.
To Toast Or Not To Toast?
Some people like to toast their baguettes before filling. I think this really comes down to the quality and freshness of whatever baguette you’ve managed to get hold of.
If the baguette is still crisp and crusty on the outside, then I think it’s good to go. Though I wouldn’t necessarily rule out warming it up in the oven. It all depends on the time of year really.
If, on the other hand, your baguette is a bit soft and past its best, slice in half and lightly toast both sides under the grill.
Vegan Bánh Mi: Step-by-Step
Creating a báhn mi vegan sandwich isn’t in the least bit complicated, but if you’ve not made one before, here’s a step-by-step guide you might find useful.
Step 1. Marinade Tempeh.
Stir the marinade ingredients together in a large flat bowl. Then cut the tempeh into six to eight even slices. This will depend on the shape of your tempeh, but you want the slices to be fairly thick – about half a centimetre (a fifth of an inch).
Tempeh slices in marinadeLay the slices in the bowl and move them gently around so that you cover the underside in the marinade. Turn the slices over and do the same thing again, ensuring the whole slice is covered.
Leave to marinade for ten minutes.
Step 2. Fry Tempeh
Pour the oil into a nonstick frying pan and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, transfer the tempeh slices to the pan and fry on one side for three minutes, or until they’re nicely bronzed and starting to caramelise around the edges.
Frying marinated tempeh slicesFlip them over and do the same for the other side.
Step 3. Prepare Baguette
Meanwhile, halve the baguette and slice each piece lengthways so that you keep a “hinge” on one side. It doesn’t really matter if you slice through the whole thing, but it makes it easier to eat if one side is closed.
Slice baguettes lengthways, but keep one side in tactStep 4. Assemble Bánh Mi
Spread the mayonnaise liberally over the bottom part of the baguette. Lay three to four hot tempeh slices over the mayonnaise. Then layer on the pickles, cucumber slices (if using) and coriander leaves. Eat straight aways whilst the báhn mi is fresh, crunchy and warm.
Bánh mi layers with coriander leaves on top
Vegan Bánh Mi: Ramp It Up
Whether vegan or vegetarian, it’s nice to make this bánh mi sandwich your own. It’s easy to swap different items in or out to either ramp up the flavours or tone them down. Here are a few suggestions.
Sliced cucumbers are traditional in a bánh mi sandwich. I didn’t have any cucumber to hand when I made the sandwich you can see in the images here. But I would have added some if I’d had any. They act as a cooling contrast to the hot chilli.
Although pickled carrots are a must in bánh mi, pickled daikon radish is quite common too. Essentially you can use whatever pickled veg you like. Both cabbage and onions are good.
It’s easy to make your own quick pickles. But unlike the chunky carrot pickles you can see in my sandwich, it’s best to shred your chosen vegetables as finely as possible. I usually do.
Although coriander leaves, also known as cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a firm favourite for adding to bánh mi, other herbs are also good. Mint, for example, is an excellent addition. You can use this with coriander or on its own.
Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) is an obvious contender. Of course, not everyone like coriander. Recent research shows that a significant number of people find it has a soapy taste. That’s fine, just use parsley leaves instead.
Whilst I prefer to fill my bánh mi with tempeh, there are plenty of other vegetarian protein foods you can use instead. Tofu is the obvious one and it too takes well to marinades and will soak up the flavours with gusto. You can use it as a direct swap and go with the same marinade I’ve used for the tempeh.
Alternatively try frying slices of smoked tofu instead. You don’t need to marinade this, though you might want to add some hot chilli sauce to your sandwich.
Homemade bean pâtés are another option. This aduki bean dip is a good one as is this mushroom, walnut and butter bean pâté. You can even use hummus, though that might be taking the fusion food concept a bit far.
If you’re vegetarian, cheese is an obvious substitute. Go for something flavoursome, then there’s no need to add much else other than a slug of hot chilli sauce.
You can use any mayonnaise you like. If you’re vegan or making this bánh mi for a vegan, do check that it doesn’t contain eggs. It’s ever so easy to make your own vegan mayonnaise and miraculously quick too.
A good squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice is a really nice addition to the mayonnaise. As is some finely grated zest. This is particularly true if you’re not using either marinaded tempeh or tofu in your sandwich.
There are lots of other ways to pimp up your mayonnaise. Try stirring in some hot chilli sauce, mustard or wild garlic paste.
In a typical bánh mi, hot chilli sauce is usually slathered over the top of the other ingredients. However, in my recipe, it’s a key component of the marinade ingredients.
If you’re a chilli head you might like to drizzle some over the top anyway. On the other hand, if you don’t like too much heat, you might want to use a mild chilli sauce for the marinade rather than a hot one. I use my own homemade chilli sauce.
Other Sandwich Recipes You Might Like
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Vegan Tempeh Bánh Mi. PIN IT.
Vegan Tempeh Bánh Mi – The Recipe
Vegan Bánh Mi
A vegetarian take on the classic Vietnamese sandwich. This vegan bánh mi is made with a punchy marinated tempeh. It’s stuffed inside a crusty baguette alongside pickled vegetables, mayonnaise and fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves. It’s both filling and delicious.Prep Time10 minsCook Time6 minsMarinading Time10 minsTotal Time26 minsCourse: Lunch, SupperCuisine: Souteast Asia, VietnameseKeyword: pickles, sandwich, tempeh, veganServings: 2 peopleCalories: 551kcalAuthor: Choclette @ Tin and ThymeIngredients200 g tempeh1 tbsp sesame oil (can use peanut oil or sunflower instead)1 demi baguette* (see notes below)2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise80 g carrot pickles* (see notes below)small bunch coriander leaves (cilantro)¼ cucumber sliced (optional)Tempeh Marinade1 tsp toasted sesame oil1 tbsp tamari (or swap for your favourite soy sauce)2 tsp vegan fish sauce (optional, but good if you can get it)2 tsp hot chilli sauce I use my homemade chilli sauce½ lime juicedthumb ginger minced1 garlic clove mincedInstructionsMix all the marinade ingredients together in a large flat bottomed bowl. Cut the tempeh into six or eight even slices, depending on the shape of your tempeh block. Slices should be about ½ a centimetre (1/5 of an inch) thick. 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, 1 tbsp tamari, 2 tsp vegan fish sauce, 2 tsp hot chilli sauce, ½ lime, thumb ginger, 1 garlic clovePlace the tempeh slices in the bowl and coat with the marinade. Turn the slices over and ensure that everything is covered. Leave to marinade for ten minutes.200 g tempehPour the oil into a large nonstick frying pan and place over a moderate heat. I use my cast iron skillet for this.1 tbsp sesame oilLay the tempeh slices down and fry for three minutes or until they’re bronzed and slightly caramelised at the edges. Turn the slices over and fry for a further three minutes.Meanwhile, halve the baguette and slice each piece so that you keep a «hinge» on one side. It doesn’t really matter if you slice through the whole thing, but it makes it easier to eat if one side is closed.1 demi baguetteIf you’re baguette isn’t nice and crunchy on the outside, then toast the bread pieces lightly under the grill.Spread the bottom of each baguette piece with a liberal amount of mayonnaise. Top with the hot tempeh, then layer on the pickles, cucumber slices (if using) and coriander leaves.2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise, 80 g carrot pickles, small bunch coriander leaves, ¼ cucumberFold the tops over and tuck in whilst the sandwiches are still warm.Notes* Either cut off chunks from a full length baguette or if there are just two of you, a demi baguette is probably big enough. You want a length of twenty to twenty three centimetres (eight to nine inches) per sandwich.* Carrot pickles are traditional, but you can use any type of pickles you like. Daikon radish and cabbage are both particularly good as are a mix of all three.Please note: calories and other nutritional information are per serving. They’re approximate and will depend on exact ingredients used.NutritionCalories: 551kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Sodium: 1881mg | Potassium: 679mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 386IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 219mg | Iron: 6mg Share on Facebook
I’m sharing this recipe for wild garlic oil paste with #CookBlogShare, which is hosted by nomss.com this week.