This pickled vegetable and smoky tofu sandwich is high protein and full of smoky and briny flavors. The sandwich includes crisp layers of pickled cucumber slices and carrot ribbons, baked tofu, and creamy, homemade plant-based mayonnaise with cashews. You can make all of the components ahead of time and assemble the sandwiches when you’re ready for a nutritious and satisfying lunch!
Two days ago, I shared a recipe for homemade, baked smoky tofu.
That tofu is a versatile vegan protein option. You can add it to a vegan lunch bowl, toss it into a salad, cut it into pieces and use it to top a hearty soup (like croutons!), or serve it alongside a grain and a vegetable side dish.
I’ve enjoyed the tofu in all of those ways. But my favorite use for it is to put it into sandwiches.
Specifically, this pickled vegetable and smoky tofu sandwich.
The story of a sandwich
One goal I’ve had for myself for a long time is to travel more. I was lucky to make a start on that goal this year.
I ate a lot of delicious food on my trips. Simple food, fancy food, and everything in between.
The meals I remember most fondly and vividly aren’t necessarily the ones that I expected to cherish.
Here’s an example: when I was in Amsterdam this past winter, after a long morning of sightseeing by foot in damp, bone-chilling drizzle, I wandered into a little cafe called Koffie ende Koeck.
It wasn’t the most unusual meal of my trip, and it certainly wasn’t the most extravagant. But may have been the most valuable in that it inspired two recipes that I’ve come to cherish.
The first was a baked chickpea frittata, which has become one of my go-to meal prep breakfast components. It’s also one of my favorite savory snacks.
The other is this sandwich, which is inspired by a vegetable + vegan mayo + tofu sandwich that I had at the cafe.
The vegetables were marinated and pickled, while the tofu was firm and chewy. It was a great combination of textures. The mayonnaise gave it creaminess and also helped to keep all of the bold, salty flavors in balance. The combination of ingredients reminded me a little of bánh mì.
The sandwich was exactly the nourishment that I needed as I warmed myself up with some tea. I decided then that I’d want to create something like it when I got home.
Since I’ve been on a pickled vegetable kick this year, routinely making and storing quick pickled onions, cucumber slices, and carrot ribbons, the timing was perfect.
Pickled vegetable and smoky tofu sandwich ingredients
My favorite sandwiches feature simple combinations.
Overly crowded sandwiches are sort of messy and difficult to eat. And I think you end up losing the taste and texture of each ingredient when there’s one ingredient too many.
This pickled veggie and smoky tofu sandwich has just enough flavor complexity while also being wonderfully uncomplicated.
I think pickled cucumber slices and carrot ribbons are perfect in this sandwich.
Sometimes I add pickled onions, too.
If you have another vegetable that you love to pickle and want to add it to the sandwich, you can. It’ll be easiest if it’s a veggie that can be easily layered.
Also: part of the point of adding pickled vegetables here is to give the sandwich briny notes. So, you could also add roasted red peppers from the jar.
Butter lettuce adds a little extra green to the sandwich. Extra green, extra freshness, and tender crunch.
In its place, you could use romaine lettuce leaves, a little handful of arugula, or even some crunchy, marinated kale.
Baked, smoky tofu
Quick head’s up that you’ll need a half batch (around 8 ounces) of the baked, smoky tofu for this recipe.
You can use more tofu if you like, but I find that one even layer of slices is enough. It allows the tofu and veggies to be in balance. And a half batch is usually enough to give me four sandwiches that are stacked that way.
I really love the flavor contrast of smoky tofu with tangy vegetables. But if smoky flavors aren’t for you, you could take a different tofu (or protein) direction here.
Some alternatives to try:
- Baked balsamic tofu (try cutting it into slabs or slices rather than cubes before baking)
- Lemon pepper baked tempeh (same tip as above)
- Baked, crispy tempeh bacon
- Balsamic mustard baked tempeh
- Homemade, folded vegan liquid egg
- Store-bought, seasoned and baked tofu (Wildwood and Nasoya both make versions of this)
- Smoked tofu from the SoyBoy brand
- Tofurky slices
I’ve been a devoted fan of the Follow Your Heart Vegenaise since early in my vegan journey.
I always used to claim that vegan mayonnaise was one of those condiments that I preferred to buy, rather than make, because no homemade version I made could possibly be better than my beloved Vegenaise.
Then I made this surprisingly simple vegan mayo with cashews, and I changed my tune.
It is so good. And it’s so easy. Five ingredients, not including water.
You can use that recipe or store-bought vegan mayo, such as Vegenaise, in the sandwich.
I like a toasted white sandwich bread or white sourdough sandwich bread for this particular recipe. But you can use multigrain bread, a favorite sprouted grain bread, or really any sandwich bread that you love.
Assembling your sandwich
Assembling the pickled veggie and tofu sandwich couldn’t be easier.
First, spread two slices of toasted bread with the vegan mayo. Layer one slice with your pieces of baked tofu.
Next, gently pile your veggies on top of the tofu. I fold the carrots and do an even layer of the cucumber slices.
Finish with some pieces of butter lettuce.
Finally, top the sandwich with its second piece of bread. Cut it in half, and get ready to enjoy it.
There are plenty of additional sandwich ingredients and garnishes that you could add to the base recipe. Here are a few ideas:
- Fresh cilantro or parsley
- Sauerkraut or ruby kraut
- Quick pickled onions
- A squeeze of sriracha
- Chili crisp
- Roasted red bell pepper pieces
Meal prep options
The beauty of this sandwich is that all of the filling ingredients can be stored for a while.
The tofu and mayo will keep in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 5 days. The pickled vegetables can be stored for a couple weeks.
The Vegan Week
Embrace the joy of eating homemade food every day with the hearty and wholesome recipes in The Vegan Week.
Whether you have three, two, or even just one hour of time to spare, The Vegan Week will show you how to batch cook varied, colorful, and comforting dishes over the weekend.
If you’ve got a vegan meal prep routine, then the tofu sandwich can absolutely be a part of it.
I love going to bed on Sunday night knowing that I can easily assemble killer lunchtime sandwiches over the next few work days.
More simple & wholesome vegan sandwiches
Sandwiches are one of my favorite types of meals, and they always will be.
If you like this one and are looking for more ideas, I have some for you:
- Vegan BLT sandwich with homemade mayo
- Miso tahini vegetable sandwich
- Vegan grilled cheese (with tomato soup!)
- Green goddess club
- Tofu egg salad
- Avocado and kabocha squash
And here’s the recipe.
- 8 slices classic white sandwich bread (substitute easy vegan multigrain bread, Pullman style sourdough, or sandwich bread of choice)
- 1 cup quick pickled cucumber slices
- 1 heaping cup quick pickled carrot ribbons
- 3/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (180ml; substitute store-bought vegan mayonnaise of choice)
- 1/2 batch baked smoky tofu (8 ounces / 225g; substitute 8 ounces store-bought smoked tofu or seasoned tofu)
- 12 large butter lettuce, oak lettuce, or green lettuce leaves
- Use tea towels or paper towels to pat the pickled vegetables dry (this is so that they don’t make the sandwiches soggy).
- Toast the bread slices to your liking. Spread the vegan mayonnaise on all of them.
- Layer each slice with a quarter of the smoked tofu slices, cucumber slices, carrot ribbons, and lettuce. Top each sandwich base with the other slice of toasted bread, cut the sandwiches in half, and enjoy.
There are so many different types of lunches that I like to meal prep. But in the end, there’s nothing like a good sandwich.
This is a really good one, I think, and I hope that you’ll feel the same way.