Vegetarian Banh Mi With Lemongrass Eggplant

This Vegetarian Banh Mi sandwich recipe puts a twist on the classic by replacing the traditional meat fillings with aromatic lemongrass fried eggplant. Paired with fresh coriander, pickled carrots, crunchy vegetables and mayonnaise (optional), this Banh Mi with fried eggplant is sure to satisfy your cravings for a tasty and satisfying sandwich. Don’t eat bread? Try the eggplant banh mi bowl instead!


Vegetarian Banh Mi Eggplant Sandwich

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What Is Banh Mi?

Banh mi is a wild ride of a sandwich! It’s like a flavour explosion in your mouth, all wrapped up in a crispy baguette. This Vietnamese delicacy is the perfect mashup of French and Vietnamese cuisine, with fillings ranging from classic roasted meats to modern twists like tofu and avocado. Each bite is a balance of textures, flavours, and aromas that’ll leave you wanting more.

This iconic street food has taken the world by storm and is now a staple in Vietnamese restaurants everywhere.

Vegetarian Banh Mi With Fried Lemongrass Eggplant

Are you tired of the same old sandwich fillings? Look no further, because I’ve got a sizzling twist on the classic Banh Mi!

Instead of the usual meats, I’m stuffing the baguette with golden-fried, delicious eggplant that’s been fried with lemongrass, garlic and ginger, and a splash of soy sauce (or Tamari).

This veggie twist on the popular Vietnamese sandwich is sure to tantalize your taste buds with every bite. Soft, caramelised eggplant is paired with zesty pickled carrots, crunchy salad vegetables of choice, fresh coriander (cilantro), a kick of chilli, and a creamy mayonnaise (can be vegan-friendly).

Get ready to take your sandwich game to the next level with this delicious vegetarian Banh Mi with fried eggplant!

Don’t eat bread? I got you covered with an alternative eggplant banh mi bowl! Read on to find out more.

Vegetarian Banh Mi Eggplant Sandwich

Typical Banh Mi Fillings

When it comes to banh mi fillings, the options are endless and oh-so-delicious! Here’s a rundown of the typical ingredients that’ll have your taste buds dancing, which you can use with the eggplant or instead.

  • If you’re an omnivore, try grilled, roast or BBQ pork, chicken or beef, tuna spread or even deli meat.
  • For a vegetarian protein, go for marinated tofu, grilled tempeh or fried mushrooms.
  • Pickled veggies? Absolutely! Carrots, daikon radish, and cucumber bring a tangy crunch to the party.
  • Fresh herbs? Of course! Coriander, basil, and mint add a pop of fresh flavour.
  • Sauces? You bet! Mayonnaise, chilli sauce, and soy sauce bring the heat and creaminess. 
  • Pâté – this is a secret ingredient in a good banh mi if you’re not vegetarian. It adds a lot so umami and creamy richness to the mix. Mushroom pate could be a great alternative here.
  • And let’s not forget about lettuce, jalapenos, and avocado for that extra crunch and creaminess.

In other words, banh mi fillings are a veritable smorgasbord of flavour that’ll leave you feeling satisfied and craving more!


How To Make Banh Mi With Fried Eggplant

The full recipe card with ingredients and a nutritional breakdown are below. Here are some step-by-step photos to guide you along.

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

  • Step 1Pickle the carrots. Dissolve salt and sugar in the warm water, then add rice vinegar. Add carrots and garlic and stir through; let stand for at least 1 hour – carrot should be a bit tangy, but it’s best to make it a day before. These will last for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Pickled carrot for banh mi
  • Step 2Prepare the eggplant. Cut eggplant into circles, about 0.5-0.7cm thick, and then cut those in half circles. Layer on a plate or a board and sprinkle lightly with salt to draw out some of the moisture. This helps to reduce the amount of oil needed to fry the eggplant (note, you will still need a lot!).
  • Step 3 – Prepare aromatics. While eggplant is doing its thing, dice and mince garlic, ginger and lemongrass and set aside. You can also prepare some of the other ingredients, although I do that while the eggplant is cooking.
  • Step 4Cook eggplant. Heat a thin layer of olive oil (about 5 tablespoons) in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add the eggplant slices (in batches or use two frying pans) and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. You may need to drizzle extra olive oil as the eggplant will absorb what was in the pan instantly. Turn over and cook for about 2 minutes on the opposite side. You may need a little extra oil but not as much. 
  • Remove pre-cooked eggplant to a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining eggplant until it’s all cooked. Roughly cut the eggplant.
  • Step 5 – Cook the aromatics. Add lemongrass, garlic and ginger to the same frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Cook for a minute, stirring a few times until it starts to get golden.
  • Step 6 – Finish the eggplant. Add the cut-up eggplant, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper and drizzle 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over the top. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring a few times. Remove eggplant to a bowl and set aside.
  • Step 7 – Prepare the chili. Chop the chili and mix with a little rice wine vinegar in a bowl, set aside. You can also use fresh chili without pickling.
  • Step 8 – Make the rolls. Split rolls down the centre and spread apart. Spread 1.5 tbsp of mayo on one side and arrange the iceberg lettuce on the other. Layer cucumber slices and pickled carrots over the mayo and spread about 1/4 cup of the eggplant on top of the lettuce (or as much as you like). 

Sprinkle with chilli, plenty of coriander and green onions. Finish with a tablespoon or so of fried shallots for texture. You can drizzle some of the pickling brine from carrots over the top. 

Close the roll and bite in! You can cut it in halves for easier consumption.

How to make vegetarian banh mi with eggplant

Vegetarian Bani Mi Bowl Alternative

If you don’t eat bread or you simply want to cut down on bread or calories, you can turn this sandwich into a bowl. Serve the fried eggplant over a bowl of rice, noodles, cauliflower rice or a bed of salad. Top with all other fillings and a simple dressing like this homemade Nuoc Mam Cham Vietnamese dressing, which can also be store-bought. You can also top with some sweet chili sauce.

Can I Make This Ahead Of Time?

Yes, you can prepare all the fillings ahead of time and store them in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Simply assemble the banh mi sandwich when you’re ready to eat. If you want to make the whole sandwich say in the morning and take it to work for lunch, it will last a day max but the bread might get a little soggy from the sauces.

Eggplant Banh Mi Sandwich

More Eggplant Recipes


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Vegetarian Banh Mi Eggplant Sandwich

Vegetarian Banh Mi With Lemongrass Eggplant

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Author: Irena Macri
Servings: 4 servings
Course: Sandwich
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Print Pin Save
5 from 4 votes
Calories: 419kcal
Are you tired of the same old sandwich fillings? Look no further, because I’ve got a sizzling twist on the classic Banh Mi! Instead of the usual meats, I’m stuffing the baguette with golden-fried, delicious eggplant that’s been flavoured with lemongrass, garlic and ginger. This vegetarian Banh Mi is full of flavour and great textures. Don’t eat bread? Turn this dish into an eggplant Banh Mi bowl.

Ingredients 

For pickled carrots (for 4)

  • 1 large carrot or 2 medium, peeled and cut into thin batons
  • 1/4 cup warm or hot water water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar or palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove sliced

For lemongrass eggplant (for 4)

  • 1 large eggplant aubergine, cut into half circles
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stalk lemongrass thicker, pale part finely diced, ~2 tablespoons
  • 3 cloves garlic finely diced (about 1.5 tablespoons)
  • 2 circle slices of ginger finely diced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or Tamari
  • 6 tablespoons Olive oil for cooking for cooking

For rolls

  • 1 long red chili sliced thinly and chopped (e.g. banana chili, not too spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped coriander cilantro
  • 1/2 cup green onions 2-3 onions, both white and green parts, chopped
  • 1 large cucumber peeled into ribbons
  • 6 tablespoons mayonnaise I used the Japanese Kewpie mayo brand
  • 4 tablespoons fried dry Asian onions or shallots
  • 2-4 leaves iceberg lettuce
  • 4 baguette or crusty bread rolls, on the smaller side

Instructions

  • Pickle the carrots. Dissolve salt and sugar in the warm water, then add rice vinegar. Add carrots and garlic and stir through; let stand for at least 1 hour – carrot should be a bit tangy – but best to make it a day before. These will last for up to a week in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare the eggplant. Cut eggplant into circles, about 0.5-0.7cm thick, and then cut those in half circles. Layer on a plate or a board and sprinkle lightly with salt to draw out some of the moisture. This helps to reduce the amount of oil needed to fry the eggplant (note, you will still need a lot!).
  • Prepare aromatics. While eggplant is doing its thing, dice and mince garlic, ginger and lemongrass and set aside. You can also prepare some of the other ingredients, although I do that while the eggplant is cooking.
  • Cook eggplant. Heat a thin layer of olive oil (about 5 tablespoons) in a large frying pan over medium to high heat. Add the eggplant slices (in batches or use two frying pans) and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. You may need to drizzle extra olive oil as the eggplant will absorb what was in the pan instantly. Turn over and cook for about 2 minutes on the opposite side. You may need a little extra oil but not as much. 
  • Remove pre-cooked eggplant to a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining eggplant until it’s all cooked. 
  • Cook the aromatics. Add lemongrass, garlic and ginger to the same frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Cook for a minute, stirring a few times until it starts to get golden. In the meantime, roughly cut the eggplant.
  • Finish the eggplant. Add the cut-up eggplant, sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper and drizzle 2 tablespoons of soy sauce over the top. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring a few times. Remove eggplant to a bowl and set aside.
  • Prepare the chili. Chop the chili and mix with a little rice wine vinegar in a bowl, set aside.
  • Make the rolls. Split rolls down the centre and spread apart. 
  • Spread 1.5 tablespoons of mayo on one side and arrange the iceberg lettuce on the other. Layer cucumber slices and pickled carrots over the mayo and spread about 1/4 cup of the eggplant on top of the lettuce (or as much as you like). 
  • Sprinkle with chilli, plenty of coriander and green onions. Finish with a tablespoon of the fried shallots for texture. You can drizzle some of the pickling brine from carrots over the top. 
  • Close the roll and bite in! You can cut it in halves for easier consumption.

Notes

Don’t eat bread? Serve the lemongrass eggplant and all the fillings over some rice, noodles, cauliflower rice or a bed of salad. Top with sweet chilli sauce or some Vietnamese salad dressing.
Fresh lemongrass can be replaced with lemongrass paste/jarred lemongrass.

Nutrition

Calories: 419kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.04g | Cholesterol: 9mg | Sodium: 1824mg | Potassium: 609mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 3620IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 12mg
Keywords: Vegetarian recipe, Eggplant Recipe, Asian, Sandwich, Vietnamese recipes, Banh Mi Recipe
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Irena Macri
By Irena Macri

About the author: Hi, I’m Irena Macri. I share delicious recipes that I have cooked and loved. I am a published cookbook author, have been food blogging for over 10 years and have a Diploma in Nutrition. You will find many healthy recipes as well as my favourite comfort food. More about me here | Subscribe to my newsletter and freebies

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Comments

4 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I love banh mi sandwiches of all kinds, and I’m a big eggplant fan too, so this is definitely my kind of sandwich. Such tasty flavors!

  2. 5 stars
    This is such a fantastic recipe! I love how light it is while still being filling. The flavors are perfection, too.

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