This Lemongrass Beef Banh Mi (Bánh mì bò nướng sả) features Vietnamese baguette with aromatic grilled beef, pickled vegetables, and a hoisin-based sauce. It offers so many interesting flavors and textures in one bite.
Bánh mì, which means bread made from wheat in Vietnamese, is a staple in Viet cuisine. In the old days, banh mi was traditionally stuffed with humble fillings such as cold cuts, fried eggs, and pork floss. It has evolved (quite dramatically, in my opinion), and more filling choices have been created along with new accompanying sauces.
This Lemongrass Beef Banh Mi is quite popular in the South of Vietnam, where it is called “bánh mì bò nướng sả“. Ground beef is mixed with a lot of lemongrass and seasonings, then formed into beef skewers and grilled until aromatic with an irresistible charred flavor. I think you will love the combination of crispy bread, savory fragrant beef, crunchy vegetables and a slightly sweet garlicky sauce.
Watch How to Make Beef Banh Mi
For the beef filling, the main ingredients are:
- ground beef: it’s best to use ground beef with a reasonable amount of fat (like 15-20%) so that the beef skewers will turn out juicy with a bouncy texture.
- aromatics: lemongrass, garlic and shallots. For this beef banh mi recipe, you should only use the white parts of lemongrass. The green parts are fibrous and not pleasant to eat directly. You can save the green parts to add to soups or make tea.
- flavorings: fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, and five-spice powder.
- cornstarch: a little bit of cornstarch will help to keep the meat juicy with a nice texture.
For the pickled vegetables, you will need crunchy veggies, typically carrots and daikon radish, vinegar (I recommend rice vinegar) and sugar. If you don’t like daikon radish, you can substitute with cucumber (seeds removed).
You can buy plain banh mi from almost any shops selling banh mi sandwich. If it isn’t an option, substitute with regular baguettes. Compared to regular baguettes, banh mi has a thinner and crispier crust and lighter and airier crumb. However, I’m sure the dish is still tasty with baguettes.
I recommend pickling the vegetables several hours in advance or even the night before. Generally, if you want to eat all of the pickled veggies fairly soon, you can increase the ratio of vinegar to water to reduce the pickling time. Vice versa, if you want to keep the pickled vegetables for a longer time, use a lower ratio of vinegar to water.
These lemongrass beef skewers are best when grilled. I cook them in my Staub grill pan for 2-3 minutes each side. They can also be broiled in the oven or cooked in the air fryer for 5-6 minutes in total. However they won’t be as aromatic and juicy as when grilled.
Also, it isn’t a must to form the meat mixture into skewers like I do here. You can shape them into small patties as well. Just do what works best for you.
Other Recipes to Try
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Vietnamese Beef Banh Mi
For the Beef Filling
- 1/2 cup pounded lemongrass, white parts only (from about 6 stalks)
- 2 teaspoons pounded/smashed or finely minced garlic (about 3-4 medium cloves)
- 1 tablespoon pounded/smashed or finely minced shallot (about 3 medium shallots)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- freshly-cracked black pepper
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce, optional
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 16 skewers, soaked in cold water for 15-30 minutes
For the Pickled Vegetables
- 6-8 oz julienned crunchy vegetables (such as carrot, daikon radish, cucumber with seeds removed)
- 3/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 2-3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Sauce
- olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 4 medium cloves)
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons water, divided
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 4-5 banh mi, lightly toasted (or substitute with regular baguettes)
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
To Make the Beef Skewers
- Thinly slice the white parts of lemongrass. Use a mortar and pestle to pound it as well as garlic and shallot. Alternatively, you can blitz all the aromatics in a food chopper into fine pieces.
- In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients under the "For the Beef Filling" section (except the skewers) and mix well to combine. Set aside for 15-30 minutes while preparing other ingredients (such as the pickled vegetables or the sauce).
- Use about 1½ tablespoons of the beef mixture to thread onto a skewer. Alternatively, you can just form them into small meat patties.
- Preheat your grill or heat your grill pan over medium heat and oil the grates. Once it is hot, place the beef skewers on a single layer. Grill for 2-3 minutes undisturbed, then flip and grill the other side for another 2-3 minutes or until cooked through.
- Alternatively, you can broil the beef skewers in the oven on High, about 2-3 minutes each side. Or sear them on the stove or cook them in the air fryer at 350°F (or 180°C) for 5-6 minutes. However, they taste best when grilled.
To Make the Pickled Vegetables
- To make the pickled vegetables, combine rice vinegar, filtered water, sugar and salt in a jar or a bowl. Add the julienned veggies. Cover and leave at room temperature if you plan to eat it with banh mi in 30-60 minutes. Otherwise, cover and refrigerate to pickle for several hours or overnight.
To Make the Sauce
- Place a small saucepan over medium heat and heat a small amount of olive oil. Then add 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and sauté briefly until fragrant.
- Add hoisin sauce to the saucepan, stir and heat it for 10-15 seconds. Then add 1/2 cup of water, stir and let the mixture simmer for 1 minute.
- Dissolve 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in 2 teaspoons of water. Drizzle the cornstarch slurry into the saucepan while stirring to thicken the sauce to your liking. Taste and check the consistency, then transfer to a clean bowl.
To Assemble the Banh Mi Sandwich
- Slice banh mi (or baguettes) open lengthwise. Place a layer of cucumber slices, then add the beef, pickled vegetables and cilantro. Drizzle with plenty of sauce and serve right away.