This tempeh banh mi features quick-pickled vegetables, paper-thin cucumbers, and cilantro. It’s the perfect vegan sandwich! (This recipe has been updated from its original 2017 version.)
A satisfying all-in-one combo of “meaty”, crunchy, tangy, and fresh, this sandwich is the handheld meal of my dreams. For lunch or dinner, in summer or winter, it’s impossible not to fall in love with this tempeh banh mi. It’s got all the flavors and textures you could want in a complete meal – without the need for utensils. (Or even a plate, if we’re being totally honest.) Let’s dive in!
What is Banh Mi?
Technically, bánh mì is the Vietnamese word for bread. But sometime in the 1900’s, the term evolved to refer to a popular street food consisting of barbecued meat, pâté, herbs, and pickled vegetables, all encased in a crusty baguette. The banh mi sandwich is a cross-cultural lovechild, born thanks to colonization and migration. The baguette made its way to Vietnam via French colonists in the 1800’s. While char siu – the style of barbecued pork commonly found in the sandwich – migrated over from China.
What’s In This Tempeh Banh Mi
The star of this vegetarian banh mi is the BBQ glazed tempeh, which makes the perfect substitute for the pork or chicken typically found in this Vietnamese sandwich. The sweet-savory tempeh is complemented by crunchy quick-pickled carrots and onions, raw cucumbers, cilantro, and a swipe of mayo. A warm, toasted baguette holds it all together, creating the perfect handheld meal.
Make the Quick-Pickled Veg: In a bowl or mason jar, combine seasoned rice vinegar (substitution ideas below) and water. Add the carrots and onions, and make sure they’re fully submerged (adding more water, if needed). Set aside for 30 to 60 minutes at room temp.
Marinade the Tempeh: In another dish, whisk together soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil, garlic powder, seasoned rice vinegar, and a bit of water. Add the sliced tempeh and toss to coat. Set aside for about 15 minutes – tossing again about halfway through to make sure it’s marinating evenly.
Cook the Tempeh: Pull the tempeh out of the marinade and cook in a non-stick skillet until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Meanwhile, whisk a bit of arrowroot starch or cornstarch (optional) into the leftover marinate. When the tempeh is cooked, add the marinade to the skillet and gently toss to coat.
Assemble the Sandwiches: To serve, spread some mayo on a toasted baguette and layer in sliced cucumbers, the glazed tempeh, the pickled veg, and lots of cilantro.
The glazed tempeh will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, while the pickled veg can be stored for up to 2 weeks – which means this tempeh banh mi is perfect for meal prep and work-from-home lunches. Just make the two elements in advance and assemble into sandwiches throughout the week.
Yes! Banh mi sandwiches traditionally have pickled carrots and daikon – a type of white radish. Daikon can be challenging to find so I recommend carrots and onions. You can also quick-pickle regular red radishes, cucumbers, or jalapeños. Alternatively, sub the veg with kimchi.
Seasoned rice vinegar is the perfect pre-mixed pickling liquid because it already contains sugar and salt. If you don’t have it, substitute with plain rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or wine vinegar – and be sure to stir about 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar or maple syrup into the brine to make up the difference.
Arrowroot is a thickening starch, much like cornstarch. Adding it to this marinade makes the glaze shiny and thick, and helps it coat the tempeh. If you don’t have it, sub with cornstarch or use double the amount of all-purpose flour. (You can also skip it entirely.)
More vegan sandwiches…
- Roasted Eggplant Sandwich with Romesco Sauce
- Tempeh ‘Bacon’ BLT’s with Spicy Mayo
- Creamy Mushroom Tartine
- Balsamic Portobello Sandwich with Artichoke Mayo
Let me know if you try this recipe! Give it a rating below and leave a comment, and don’t forget to tag your creation with @thenewbaguette on Instagram.Print
This tempeh banh mi features quick-pickled vegetables, cucumbers, and cilantro. It’s the perfect vegan sandwich!
For the Quick-Pickled Vegetables
- 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar* (substitution notes below)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
- 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into thin rings
For the Tempeh and Assembly
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- One 8-ounce package of tempeh, cut into 1/3-inch-thick strips
- About 2 tablespoons avocado, organic canola, or refined coconut oil, for frying
- 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch*
- 1 baguette, cut into 4 pieces, halved lengthwise, and lightly toasted
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 generous handfuls of cilantro
- Start by pickling the vegetables. In a bowl or mason jar, combine 3/4 cup rice vinegar with 1/2 cup water. Toss in the carrots and onions, making sure they’re fully submerged. Cover and set aside at room temp for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Meanwhile, marinade the tempeh. In a medium shallow dish, combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder with 2 tablespoons water. Stir to combine. Add the tempeh and toss to coat. Set aside at room temp for 15 minutes, tossing again halfway through to make sure it’s marinating evenly.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Add the tempeh in a single layer (reserving the marinade!) and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side.
- While the tempeh cooks, whisk 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot to the reserved marinade, if using. When the tempeh is ready, add the reserved marinade and cook just until it thickens a bit, about 30 seconds.
- To assemble, spread 1 tablespoon of mayo on each quarter of the baguette. Top with 4-5 tempeh strips, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, and cilantro.
- If you don’t have seasoned rice vinegar, substitute with plain rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or wine vinegar – and be sure to stir about 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar or maple syrup into the brine to make up the difference.
- Adding arrowroot or cornstarch to the reserved marinade makes it thick and shiny, and helps it stick to the tempeh. If you don’t have any, use double the amount of all-purpose flour. (You can also skip it entirely.)
- Serving Size: 1 sandwich
- Calories: 440
- Carbohydrates: 52.9 g
- Fiber: 1.6 g
- Protein: 16.8 g
Keywords: tempeh, banh mi, vietnamese, sandwich, quick pickled vegetables