This Easy (Ridiculously Good) Cauliflower Bánh Mì Starts on the Grill

(Image Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn)

Every time I eat a vegetarian bánh mì, I’m surprised and delighted by how much flavor is packed into every bite. Living in New York City has opened my eyes to the variety of interesting and delicious ways to make one, including using seared tofu, silky eggplant, planks of sweet potato, and, my favorite, spicy cauliflower.

I’d never thought to make a bánh mì at home — unsure I could re-create the salty-spicy-tangy flavor combo — until recently, when I started spending more time at the grill. One of the first things I realized was how easily the grill adds bold, smoky flavor to veggies without any extra work at all. As I slathered charred baguette quarters with spicy mayo, piled on the grilled cauliflower florets (which I tossed in a simple soy-Sriracha marinade), and topped each sandwich off with a colorful mix of quick-pickled veggies, my fear of making a bland bánh mì quickly faded.

(Image Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn)

My Favorite Way to Make a Bánh Mì Sandwich at Home (It’s Also the Easiest)

I like to start with the pickles, because they benefit from sitting as you prepare the rest of the sandwiches. There’s no need to heat the pickling liquid — simply toss the carrot, cucumbers, radishes, and the fresh chile with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. You have a lot of leeway here: Feel free to slice the veggies however you like, use a daikon radish instead of the small round red ones, or opt for an English cucumber instead of Persian.

Then, I brush a split baguette with olive oil, toss cauliflower florets in a simple marinade, and throw them both on the grill until charred to my liking. And then comes the fun part: assembly. Bread, mayo, cauliflower, pickles, fresh cilantro — I like to keep these open-faced so that the bread doesn’t overpower the veggies, but I’ll admit they’re a little messy to eat. If you like, you can cut the baguette quarters in half or thirds to make them a bit easier to handle.

Want to experiment with other ingredients and flavors? Here are eight expert tips for building the perfect banh mi sandwich — and plenty of suggestions for how to customize it.

11 Ratings

Grilled Open-Faced Cauliflower Banh Mi

Serves4

Prep time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes to 10 minutes

Ingredients

For the pickled veggies (makes 4 cups):

  • 1

    medium carrot, peeled and shaved into ribbons with a Y-shaped peeler

  • 2

    medium Persian or mini cucumbers (6 ounces), thinly sliced

  • 4

    medium radishes, thinly sliced

  • 1

    medium red Fresno chile, thinly sliced (optional)

  • 1/2 cup

    rice vinegar

  • 2 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the cauliflower:

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons

    tamari or low-sodium soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon

    rice vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    Sriracha sauce

  • 1

    medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into bite-size florets (4 cups florets)

For the sandwiches:

  • 1

    baguette, split in half lengthwise, then cut in half crosswise

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    mayonnaise

  • 1 teaspoon

    Sriracha sauce

  • Fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Instructions

  1. Pickle the veggies: Toss the carrot, cucumber, radishes, chili if desired, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

  2. Prepare the cauliflower: Whisk the olive oil, tamari, rice vinegar, and Sriracha together in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower and toss to coat.

  3. Heat an outdoor grill for medium-high, direct heat (400°F to 450°F). Meanwhile, brush the cut side of the baguette with the olive oil. Stir the mayonnaise and Sriracha together in a small bowl and set aside.

  4. Place the cauliflower florets in a single layer in a grill basket or perforated grill pan, then place on the grill. Place baguette cut-side down directly on the grill grates. Cover and grill, tossing the florets and flipping the bread once, until the cauliflower is tender and charred in spots and bread is lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes per side for the bread and 8 to 10 minutes total grilling time for the cauliflower.

  5. Drain the pickled veggies. Spread the Sriracha mayonnaise onto the grilled baguette halves. Top with the grilled cauliflower, pickled veg, and fresh cilantro.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pickled vegetables and Sriracha mayonnaise can be made and refrigerated up to 2 days ahead.

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