Tofu Banh Mi Lettuce Wraps

Tofu Banh Mi Lettuce Wraps | Food & Nutrition | Stone Soup
Photo by Leanne Ray, MS, RDN

Tell me you’ve been exposed to the beauty that is a banh mi sandwich. It might be one of the most complex, flavorful meals in existence. If there’s a banh mi inspired item on a restaurant menu, there’s a 99% chance I’m ordering it. But then again I’m a sucker for anything that involves a spicy mayo finish, so there’s that.

What are the Components of a Traditional Banh Mi?

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, a traditional banh mi involves the following, typically layered on a soft crusty baguette-style bun:

  • Pork + Pork Paté
  • Pickled daikon & carrot
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Jalapeño
  • Cucumber slices
  • Mayo
  • Chile sauce

What’s not to like?

I wanted to create something that was inspired by the original, while being easier and more budget-friendly to make because 1) I knew the bread would be a challenge to find, and 2) The meat would be pricey. By the way, where can I get some paté?

I actually did check out the ground pork at my grocery store but it was 8x more expensive than the tofu so I made a last minute swap. I am SO glad I did because these turned out perfect.

Enter: tofu banh mi lettuce wraps.

Here’s What You Need:

Quick-Pickled Vegetables
Something a little fun and non-traditional about this recipe: you “quick pickle” the vegetables. I swear it’s not as complicated as you would think and this small extra step adds another big layer of flavor, so don’t skip it.

In staying true to tradition, I used daikon radish (that purple root vegetable pictured below), carrots and cucumber. Using a julienne chop will ensure the vegetables fit well in a mason jar while also making them easier to layer on your wraps later. Check out this tutorial for how to julienne. To make it really easy, you can also use this tool.

Simply add them to your jar and then add in a vinegar/water/sugar/salt solution and let them hang out and do their thang. The best part is, they’ll be ready by the time you finish prepping the rest of the meal.

Pan-Seared and Crumbled Tofu
I know some of you are probably far from seasoned tofu chefs (pardon the pun). I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to cook with at first. The more I’ve experimented with tofu though, the easier it gets and now I will confidently say that I can make really delicious tofu in a short amount of time.

Here are a few reasons why I love it:

  • Tofu is insanely budget-friendly (like I mentioned earlier). A 15-oz package was less than $2 or just $0.50/serving
  • Tofu has a neutral flavor so it takes on the flavors of whatever you add to it. For this reason you can easily customize based on preference. I tend to stick with sweet/salty sauces and pan sear to get it nice and crispy on the outside, but the options really are endless.
  • Tofu is nutrient-dense. One 4 oz serving contains 10 grams of heart-healthy protein, 88 grams of calcium, and is also one of richer sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. [p.s. there’s a lot of misconception about soy and health. If you’ve heard scary things about soy consumption, I encourage you read this article to learn more about the science on this topic!]

Tofu Banh Mi Lettuce Wraps

Once I married all of these awesome flavors, I didn’t miss the pork one bit and the result was a beautiful plant-powered summer dinner that I’ll be making on repeat over the next few months.

The crispy tofu paired with sour pickled vegetables, bright herbs and creamy sauce covers all of the bases here. If you like these flavors as much as I do, give this one a try.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 daikon radish, julienned
  • 1/2 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1, 14-oz block extra firm tofu
  • Butter lettuce (or “living lettuce”)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped (plus extra leaves for garnish)
  • 10 mint leaves, torn (plus extra for garnish)
  • Jalapeño, sliced thin
  • Spicy Mayo: 1/3 cup mayonnaise + 1 Tbsp sriracha

Instructions

Pickled Vegetables:

  1. Add all of your julienned vegetables (or as many as you can fit!) to a 16 oz wide mouth mason jar.
  2. Whisk the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a liquid measuring cup and pour over the vegetables until your jar is full. Cover, shake and refrigerate while you prep the rest of the meal.

Tofu Crumbles:

  1. Use paper towels to gently press water out of the tofu block. Flip onto its side, then halve to get two full-size (but shallow) rectangles. Slice each of these pieces into thirds (see photo above). Press more water out as able – the more dry, the more crispy it will get!
  2. Heat canola oil over medium high in a cast iron skillet. Add tofu in a single layer, working in multiple batches if necessary. Fry until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Once tofu is done, transfer from skillet to a cutting board and chop into small crumbly pieces, turning heat down to medium. Add the crumbles back to the skillet and let sit to get a little bit more crispy.

Building the Wraps:

  • Lay out your butter lettuce leaves and add: tofu crumbles, pickled vegetables, cilantro, mint, sliced jalapeño and spicy mayo

Notes

  • I was able to find the daikon radish in my grocery store, but if you can’t find it you could sub regular red or Easter egg radishes
  • If you’re spice averse, feel free to omit the fresh jalapeños
  • Any type of lettuce will work as a vehicle. Try romaine or iceberg cups.
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Leanne Ray
Leanne Ray, MS, RDN, is a virtual nutrition coach and the founder of
LeanneRay.com. Her blog is aimed at making cooking and nutrition
practical for busy people with an intuitive eating focus. Connect with
Leanne on her blog, Leanne Ray Nutrition, and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.