It’s not quite summer yet but these vegan meatball banh mi are so fresh they taste like summer in your mouth. That’s right, these babies are entirely plant-based, almost fooled you, didn’t I?
Don’t know banh mi? What, do you live under a rock? They’re a mash-up of Vietnamese herbs and veggies with a French baguette. Thanks to colonialism for bringing us what might be the world’s tastiest sandwich.
Like most things Vietnamese, this vegan meatball banh mi has got all the contrasts of flavor and texture that you need: warm, savory meatballs, fresh cucumber and cilantro, sweet and sour carrot and radish, and spicy mayonnaise all served between a crispy baguette.
You can see why the banh mi has become an international sandwich sensation.
The non-vegetarian variety of banh mi could contain a variety of different kinds of meat, but seem most often to be made with pork. A quick search of the interwebs turned up a handful of vegetarian banh mi, mostly containing tofu.
A couple that jumped out at me were veggie meatball banh mi, and it just so happens that I’ve been sitting on this amazeballs meatball recipe for a few months now not knowing what to do with it.
Finally! My vegan meatballs have met their sandwich!
Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients, most steps can be done concurrently – the carrots pickle themselves while you prepare the meatballs, and the mayo can be done while the meatballs are frying.
Most banh mi recipes use daikon radish, but we don’t have that in our supermarkets so I’ve used regular red radishes. If you can get your hands on a daikon, by all means use it.
We also can’t get jalapeños (weird, right?) so if you want to kick up the spiciness factor, throw a couple of those babies on top too. And if you like this kind of spicy street food sandwich, check out my recipe for vegan gorditas.
Vegan Meatball Banh Mi
Yield: Makes 3 sandwiches, depending on the size of your baguette
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
These vegan meatball banh mi are so fresh they taste like summer in your mouth.
For the carrot and radish pickle
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
10 red radishes, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons rice or white wine vinegar
For the vegan meatballs
1 1/2 cups (175 grams) cooked lentils
1 tablespoon oil, plus more for deep frying
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
half a green pepper, diced
12 button mushrooms, diced
2 tablespoons red wine
3/4 cup (250 grams) breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (65 grams) crushed walnuts
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoons red pepper flakes or chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
For the sriracha mayonnaise
3 tablespoons aquafaba (the liquid from a can of garbanzo beans)
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup vegetable, canola or sunflower oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce (start with a little and adjust to taste)
For the vegan meatball banh mi
1 baguette, cut into sandwich lengths
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
A large bunch of cilantro
Carrot and radish pickle
Combine all the ingredients for the carrot and radish pickle in a small bowl and set aside for 1 hour, stirring from time to time, while you prepare the meatballs.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Sautee the onion, garlic and green pepper until soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and fry until soft and brown. Add in the red wine and simmer for a minute to evaporate the alcohol. While the vegetables are frying, puree the lentils in a food processor and transfer to a large bowl.
When the vegetables are soft, transfer to the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Don’t puree them completely, you want to keep a bit of texture. Add the veggies to bowl with the lentils along with the remaining meatball ingredients and mix well.
Heat about 5 cm of oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Use your hands to form the meatballs and fry them 4 or 5 at a time, turning them over to brown on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Make the sriracha mayonnaise by blending the aquafaba and garlic in a tall container with an immersion blender. Mix together the two oils and slowly pour it into the aquafaba, running the blender the whole time until the mayo is thick. Add in sriracha or hot sauce to taste.
Assemble the vegan meatball banh mi. If your bread is really thick, you can take out some of the soft centre, leaving the crispy crust. Slather some sriracha mayonnaise on the bread, sprinkle over a bit of soy sauce and fill with the cilantro, cucumber slices, meatballs and carrot and radish pickle.