Banh Mi Sandwiches

This Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe (Vietnamese Sandwich) is the most explosively flavorful, sensational sandwich the world!  And They’re easier to make than you think!

The Banh Mi Sandwich is a rewarding symphony of complex, exciting, exotic flavors and textures and my favorite sandwich out there – so if you’ve never tried them, let me introduce you! This recipe starts with a toasted, crusty baguette smeared with chili mayo and optional pate, piled high with tender slices of full-flavored lemongrass pork, tangy pickled vegetables, crisp cucumbers, spicy jalapenos and fistfuls of fresh, zesty cilantro.  It’s a harmonious explosion of sweet, sour, spicy, savory goodness that’s light and fresh yet incredibly satisfying at the same time. These Vietnamese Sandwiches are a marinate-and-cook recipe that comes together astonishingly quickly once it’s time to sear the pork.  While this Banh Mi Sandwich recipe is for pork, I’ve also included how to make it with chicken as well!

Calling all sandwich lovers! I love to recreate my favorite restaurant style sandwich recipes at home, so if you love sandwiches, you’ll love: Reuben Sandwiches, Monte Cristo Sandwiches, French Dip SandwichesPhilly Cheesesteak Sandwiches, Italian Beef SandwichesBeef Brisket SandwichesBBQ Pulled Pork SandwichesCuban SandwichesGourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, and of course, this sensational Banh Mi Sandwich recipe!

HOW TO MAKE BANH MI recipe VIDEo

top view of banh mi sandwich recipe with pork, showing how to layer the sandwiches
a banh mi sandwich layered with banh mi sauce, pate, grilled pork, cucumber slices, pickled vegetables, jalapenos and cilantro

vietnamese BREAD (Banh Mi)

The best option for your Banh Mi recipe is a Vietnamese baguette (which literally means “Banh Mi”).  It is similar to a French baguette but is short, with a crispier crust and softer, airier inside because it’s made with rice flour or rice and wheat flour.  Alternatively, you can use any baguette or roll with a crusty exterior and soft interior.  In a bind, you can use two long baguettes and slice them into smaller sandwiches after assembling.  I purchased my baguettes at Sprouts as “Bake and Take” and they were perfect.

The Spread Ingredients

  • Pâté: Optional, but traditionally found on Banh Mi Sandwiches. Pâté is a paste that’s made from ground meat (usually pork) and vegetables. It’s often served as a spread for crackers and bread. In these sandwiches, it adds a rich, umami, creamy depth.  You should be able to purchase pate at any grocery store.
  • Chili Garlic Mayonnaise: Regular mayonnaise, lite mayo, avocado mayo or vegan mayo like Vegainase will all work.  I like to combine it with a few teaspoons of Asian chili garlic paste like Sambal Oelek but you may use your favorite chili sauce or omit it altogether. You can also add some softened butter to the mayonnaise as sometimes done in Vietnam.
banh mi sandwich recipe lined on a cutting board showing which bread to use for the Vietnamese sandwiches

Pork Marinade Ingredients

The marinade ingredient list is lengthy, but once you gather the ingredients, it takes minutes to whip up in your blender.  You will need:

  • Lemongrass: This is a perennial grass that grows in tropical climates with a pungent, lemony taste. It is widely used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine and as a medicinal herb in India. A stalk of lemongrass consists of a few layers of tough outer husks which you will discard to reveal the softer white core layers, which is what we want for this recipe. You can find lemongrass at Sprouts and Whole Foods either whole or in sectioned into smaller pieces with the herbs.  If you can’t find it – make sure to ask!  I’ve included more details with how to work with lemongrass below.
  • Shallots: These have a delicate, sweet flavor that blends well with the other aromatics in the marinade.  You may use half a yellow onion in a bind.
  • Fish sauce: I promise fish sauce will not be detectable or make your Vietnamese Sandwich taste fishy – even though it smells super fishy!  It is critical to infuse the pork with its nutty, rich, savory, salty flavor. If you’ve never used fish sauce before, it can be found in the Asian section of any grocery store.  Red Boat Fish Sauce is a great brand.
  • Oyster sauce: Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce with a balance between sweet and salty with an earthy undertone, due to the oyster extracts. You can find oyster sauce in the Asian aisle of any supermarket for only a few dollars. Please use QUALITY oyster sauce such as Lee Kum Kee or Kikkoman. You truly can taste the difference and will be sorely disappointed with less quality brands.
  • Lime juice: You’ll need 3 tablespoons of fresh or bottled lime juice.
  • Sweeteners:  Both maple syrup and brown sugar are requisite to balance the salty fish sauce and tangy citrus notes.  Please use pure maple syrup and not the imitation kind.  You may substitute with all brown sugar if needed.
  • Ginger: You may use fresh or ground ginger in the marinade, but fresh is always best! If using fresh, no need to grate, just peel and add to the blender.
  • Garlic:  5 cloves of garlic infuse the marinade with a subtle garlic flavor. You may substitute with one teaspoon garlic powder in a bind.
  • Toasted sesame oil:  Please use toasted sesame oil, also known as dark, black, or Asian sesame oil.  Toasted sesame oil boasts a strong nutty aroma and flavor verses light/plain sesame oil which is a low-flavor oil.
  • Chili paste: Use your favorite chili sauce like Sambal Oelek or sriracha.
  • Spices: Ground coriander and Chinese 5 spice round out the marinade.  Chinese 5 Spice is commonly found in pate, so if you skip the pate on the sandwich, it’s more important to not skip the 5 spice in the marinade.
  • Oil: We need additional oil/fat in the marinade to transfer fat-soluble flavors into the meat; it also helps the meat stay juicy. Use neutral-flavored, high smoking point oil like canola or vegetable oil. 
showing how juicy the thinly sliced grilled pork tenderloin is for Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich

Pickled Vegetable Ingredients 

  • Carrots:  You can use store-bought matchstick carrots or cut your own matchsticks, about 3 carrots worth. 
  • Daikon radish:  These can be found at Sprouts, Whole Foods and possibly your grocery store.  Daikon look like a long, thin white tuber, are slightly tangy and boast an excellent crunch.  Daikon is milder in flavor/less peppery than traditional radishes but you may substitute with regular radishes, keeping that in mind.
  • Rice vinegar: Make sure to use unseasoned rice vinegar.
  • Sugar:  A couple tablespoons is required to balance out the acidity of the rice vinegar.  Use granulated sugar for a neutral sweetness.
  • Salt: Just 1 teaspoon salt flavors the pickled vegetables.

fresh Vegetable Ingredients 

  • Cucumber: The cucumber, jalapenos and cilantro bring the fresh spicy depth we all know and love about our favorite Vietnamese Sandwich. Use an English cucumber and slice it lengthwise so it fits snugly in the baguettes.  If you slice the cucumber into rounds, they easily slide off the sandwich.
  • Jalapeños: Slice the jalapeños very thinly so the sandwiches aren’t too spicy.  If you’re sensitive to heat, then add less, remove the seeds or omit them altogether.  
  • Fresh cilantro: Do not skip the fresh cilantro! The bright, zesty pops of freshness round out all the flavors.

Banh Mi Sauce  

Finish your Vietnamese Sandwich off with Banh Mi sauce and/or chili sauce. Some Vietnamese vendors make their own Banh Mi Sauce using a combination of soy, fish sauce, garlic and sugar, but many simply use Maggi Sauce, which is like an Asian Worcestershire sauce. You can find it at any Asian markets and possibly your grocery store.

Honestly the sandwiches are fabulous without any finishing touches or Maggi Sauce, but – we also love finishing touches 😉.

Step-by-Step Guide for Making Banh Mi Sandwiches 

Here’s an illustrated step-by-step guide for how to make Banh Mi Sandwiches or you can watch the HOW-TO VIDEO in the recipe card (full instructions with measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

Step 1: SLICE the Meat

  • Slice the pork thinly into 1/4-inch slices lengthwise.  
  • Cover with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet to about 1/8-inch even thickness.
a collage showing how to banh mi sandwich recipe by thinly slicing the pork tenderloin and pounding with a meat mallet until thin and flat

STEP 2: MARINATE THE MEAT

  • Add all of the Banh Mi marinade ingredients to a high powered blender and blend until smooth. The picture below shows a food processor – but I discovered a blender works much better.
  • Add the sliced meat and marinade to a freezer size bag or shallow dish and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours (the longer the better)!  
a collage showing how to make banh mi sandwich recipe by 1) adding fish sauce, lemongrass, ginger, garlic oyster sauce, shallots, sesame oil to a blender, 2) blending until smooth, 3) adding the marinade to the pork in a bowl to marinate

Step 3: Make the Pickled Vegetables 

  • Add water, vinegar and sugar to a microwave-safe liquid measuring cup and microwave until boiling, about 60 seconds. Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt. 
  • Add the vegetables to a mason jar or bowl. 
  • Carefully pour the vinegar mixture over top. 
  • Press the vegetables down with a spoon to help submerge, then wait 10 minutes or so and repeat until they are all submerged in the solution. 
  • Let the mixture cool to room temperature for 30 minutes, then seal and refrigerate until ready to use. 
showing how to make banh mi sandwich recipe by pickling matchstick carrots and daikon in rice vinegar and sugar

Step 4: Cook the Pork 

  • After the pork has had time to sit in the marinade, remove it from the fridge and set out at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. 
  • Clean, grease, and preheat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to high heat.
  • Before cooking the pork, open the baguette rolls and grill the insides just until toasted. 
showing how to make banh mi sandwich recipe by toasting he baguettes on the grill before stuffing
  • Then, working in batches, add the pork slices in a single layer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side – don’t overcook! 
showing how to make banh mi sandwich recipe by grilling pork until deeply seared

Step 5: Assemble the Banh Mi Sandwiches 

  • Whisk the mayonnaise and Asian chili garlic sauce together. Spread the chili mayo in a thin layer on the top and bottom of each toasted role.  
  • Spread some pâté along the bottom of each roll (optional but HIGHLY recommended!).  
  • Layer the sandwiches with sliced pork, drained pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, jalapeño slices, and chopped cilantro.  
banh mi sandwich with pork layered on Vietnamese baguette
  • Use a long baguette. If you can’t find short baguettes, use long baguettes, assemble, then slice. 
  • Make it spicy. Add extra chili garlic paste to the chili mayo or marinade, leave the seeds inside the jalapeño peppers, pile on extra jalapeño slices and/or drizzle the Vietnamese Sandwiches with sriracha.
  • Omit the chilies.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are sensitive to heat, omit the chilies and/or the chili sauce in the mayonnaise.
  • Add extra vegetables. Feel free to add extra veggies such bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocados, pickled red onion, etc. – whatever sounds good to you. You can also substitute classic red radishes for the daikon radish, just be aware that they are more potent.
  • Add extra herbs.  In addition to cilantro, try fresh mint, green onions and/or Thai basil.
  • Go vegetarian:  Swap the pork for marinated tofu cut into strips or grilled tempeh cut into thin strips, or even mushrooms.  For vegan, you can also swap the mayonnaise for Vegenaise if you wanted to avoid eggs as well.
  • Chicken Banh Mi:  Marinate whole chicken breasts or thighs instead of the pork.  DO NOT thinly slice the chicken before marinating or it will dry out.  Instead, grill the chicken, rest for 10 minutes, then thinly slice.
  • Use Vietnamese cold cuts:  In addition to the pork or instead of, use Vietnamese “Brawn” (Thi Nguoi) and/or Cha Lua Vietnamese Pork Loaf.
  • Banh Mi pork meatballs:  These soft meatballs are gently poached in Vietnamese broth which makes them easy to “smash” into the baguette.
up close of banh mi sandwich with pork, pickled vegetables, cilantro, cucumber and jalapenos
showing how to serve Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich by slicing the sandwich in half

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Banh Mi Sandwiches

The Banh Mi Sandwich is a rewarding symphony of complex, exciting, exotic flavors and textures and my favorite sandwich out there – so if you’ve never tried them, let me introduce you! This recipe starts with a toasted, crusty baguette smeared with chili mayo and optional pate, piled high with tender slices of full-flavored lemongrass pork, tangy pickled vegetables, crisp cucumbers, spicy jalapenos and fistfuls of fresh, zesty cilantro.  It’s a harmonious explosion of sweet, sour, spicy, savory goodness that’s light and fresh yet incredibly satisfying at the same time. These Vietnamese Sandwiches are a marinate-and-cook recipe that comes together astonishingly quickly once it’s time to sear the pork.  While this Banh Mi Sandwich recipe is for pork, I’ve also included how to make it with chicken as well!
Servings: 6 -8 sandwiches
Total Time: 7 hrs
Prep Time: 45 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins

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Ingredients

Meat Marinade

  • 1 pkg. pork tenderloin, trimmed (comes with 2 pieces, 2 – 2 ½ lbs. total)
  • 2 shallots peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass from white inner part of 3 stalks (see note)
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled (or 1 tsp ground)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled (or 1 teaspoons powder)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon Asian chili sauce (like Sambal Oelek or Sriracha)
  • 1 tsp EACH ground coriander, Chinese 5 spice

Pickled Vegetables

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots (2-3 carrots)
  • 1 cup daikon cut into matchsticks (may sub radishes)

Chili Garlic Mayonnaise

Sandwiches

  • 6-8 soft French baguettes, about 8-inches each, or use long crunchy rolls, or long baguettes cut sandwich size
  • pate, optional
  • 1 English cucumber thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 4-6 jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Maggi seasoning (optional, see notes for DIY)

Instructions

Pickle the vegetables

  • The pickled vegetables are best made 24 hours ahead of time, but you can also make them at the same time you marinate the pork.
  • Add vinegar, water and sugar to a microwave safe liquid measuring cup or bowl and microwave until boiling, about 60 seconds (you can also do this on the stovetop). Whisk to dissolve the sugar and salt.
  • Add the vegetables to a large mason jar or bowl. Carefully pour the mixture over top (I do this using a funnel). Press the vegetables down with a spoon to help submerge. Wait 10 minutes or so and repeat pushing down the vegetables until they are all covered in the brine. Let the mixture cool to room temperature for 30 minutes, then seal and refrigerate until ready to assemble the sandwiches (the longer the better).

Marinate the Meat

  • The pork is much easier to slice if partially frozen (freeze for 1-2 hours). Keep any pork you are not currently slicing in the freezer.
  • Slice each tenderloin in half through the equator, then slice the pork into long 1/4-inch slices lengthwise (long-ways). Cover with plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet to about 1/8-inch thickness (see photos in post).
  • Add all of the marinade ingredients to a high powered blender and blend until smooth. Combine the sliced meat and marinade in a freezer size bag or shallow dish and marinate in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours (the longer the better). Meanwhile prepare the rest of the toppings.

TOAST BUNS AND COOK PORK

  • Let the pork rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Clean, grease and heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan to high heat (get the vent going if cooking indoors!).
  • Toast Rolls: Open the rolls and grill the insides for 1-2 minutes—until toasted (you may also broil in the oven until toasted, 5 minutes or so); set aside.
  • Grilling pork: Working in batches, add the pork in a single layer and cook for about 2 minutes per side, just until cooked – don’t overcook! Transfer to a plate.
  • Indoors: Grease a grill pan with vegetable oil or add a thin layer of vegetable oil to a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven; heat to high heat. Working in batches, cook the pork just until cooked through, about 1-2 minutes per side – don’t overcook! Transfer to a plate.

Assemble

  • Whisk the mayonnaise and Asian chili garlic sauce together. Spread a thin layer on the top and bottom of each toasted role. Spread some pate along the bottom if desired.
  • Layer the sandwiches with sliced meat, drained pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, jalapeno slices and cilantro. Drizzle with Maggi Seasoning. Serve immediately.

Video

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • Lemongrass: Chop off the bottom of the stalk, peel off the few outer tough husk layers to reveal the more pliable inside core layers, then chop the stalks into a few pieces to fit into your blender.  You can find lemongrass at Sprouts and Whole Foods either whole or in sectioned into smaller pieces with the herbs.  If you can’t find it – make sure to ask! 
  • Lemongrass paste: Substitute the lemongrass with 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste.
  • Chinese Five-spice: If you are not using pate, then I highly recommend using Chinese 5-Spice in the marinade.  Many pates are seasoned with Chinese 5 Spice and really elevate the sandwich. 
  • Daikon radish:  These can be found at Sprouts, Whole Foods and possibly your grocery store.  Daikon look like a long, thin white tuber, are slightly tangy and boast an excellent crunch.  Daikon is milder in flavor/less peppery than traditional radishes but you may substitute with regular radishes, keeping that in mind.
  • DIY Maggi Sauce: Mix together 2 tablespoons soy sauce + 2 tablespoons fish sauce + 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce + ½ teaspoon sugar.
  • Don’t overcook the pork: DO NOT wait to remove the pork until the second side is deeply seared too if the pork is already cooked.  Keep in mind that the grill make cook the pork unevenly, so remove the pork slices as needed. 
  • Chicken Banh Mi:  Marinate whole chicken breasts or thighs instead of the pork.  DO NOT thinly slice the chicken before marinating or it will dry out.  Instead, grill the chicken, rest for 10 minutes, then thinly slice.
  • Vietnamese cold cuts:  In addition to the pork or instead of, you can add Vietnamese “Brawn” (Thi Nguoi) and/or Cha Lua Vietnamese Pork Loaf.
  • Vegetarian Banh Mi:  Swap the pork for marinated tofu cut into strips or grilled tempeh cut into thin strips, or even mushrooms.  For vegan, you can also swap the mayonnaise for Vegenaise if you wanted to avoid eggs as well.

Prep ahead

For company and the freshest experience, the very best Vietnamese Sandwiches are served fresh but you make all of the components ahead of time: 
  • Marinade: Can be blended up and stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Pork: Can be sliced and pounded thinly up to 24 hours in advance, or placed in the marinade up to 8 hours in advance.
  • Pickled vegetables: Can be stored in the pickling liquid up to 1 week in advance.
  • Chili mayo: Will last up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

How to Store

  • Planned leftovers: Store the sandwich fixings, bread, and pork in separate containers and assemble your sandwiches throughout the week.
  • Pre-Assembled: Assembled sandwiches should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Once assembled, the sandwiches are best eaten within three days.  The bread won’t be as crusty, but still delicious!    
     

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6 Comments

  1. Jean says

    We had these Banh Mi tonight with a pack of Asian coleslaw from the grocery. They were very good. Fair warning, though – you have to have some time on your hands to make these. I made the pickled vegetables the day before and the marinade in the morning. I followed the recipe, including the pate and maggi sauce, but had to sub red radishes, lemongrass from a tube and powdered ginger. Such a nice mix of flavors and the radishes turn a pretty pink! I would have uploaded a photo, but I couldn’t see a way to do that. Thank you for another great recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making my recipes Jean – I’m so glad this was worth the time and effort! If you’re on IG, you can post it and tag me on there 😉

  2. TKay says

    These were remarkably delicious! We love them! I left out the fish sauce and oyster sauce as we don’t like the over powering flavors.

    • Jen says

      I’m so pleased they were a hit, thank you!

  3. Heather Burger says

    Ya’all!!! You have got to make these, they are fantastic! K. Any still tartare then! They are the perfect combination of sweet, heat and little sour. The meat is so tender, oh the taste, yummmmm. The pickled veggies. Like over the top good and just what the sandwich h needs. Add the jalapeños they add a whole other dimension!

    Thank you for another fabulous recipe.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for the rave review Heather! I’m thrilled you made and loved these sandwiches – you have excellent taste ;)!

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