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A healthy, gluten-free twist on the traditional Vietnamese street food, Banh Mi Salad with pork meatballs is the ideal combination of tenderness and crunch. The rich flavor of the meat is balanced by the bright taste of fresh greens and the playful bite of jalapeño and pickled radish.
Fresh Vietnamese Salad With Spicy Pork Meatballs
This salad is a healthy, low-carb twist on the original banh mi recipe with pork meatballs. While classic banh mi is a classic for a reason, ditching the bread lets all the subtle and complex flavors really pop. Piled on a bed of fresh greens with quick-pickled veggies, the meatballs are a tender source of protein while the cucumbers and jalapeños add a crunch and a kick.
It’s all brought together by a bright and flavorful sriracha lime dressing. The addition of the Maggi sauce is what really makes this dressing shine. It adds to the flavor profile while highlighting the savory tenderness of the meatballs and the tangy crunch of the pickles.
What Is Banh Mi?
Banh Mi is a popular street food from Vietnam that gets its name from the Vietnamese word for bread. This is because the meatballs that star in this salad are traditionally sold as the filling in a sandwich.
Though banh mi can contain any meat and any style of veggie, the pork sausage and pickled vegetable combination that inspired this salad is one of the most common. At stalls and restaurants all across Vietnam, savory pork belly is served on a short French-style baguette with fresh greens and pickled veggies. This deconstruction of the banh mi sandwich ditches the bread and highlights the complex and varied flavors inside.
Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need for this fresh and flavorful banh mi salad. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for exact amounts.
For the Meatballs
- Ground Pork
- Cilantro: Chop finely.
- Green Onion: Chopped.
- Garlic: Minced or chopped very finely.
- Fish Sauce
- Sriracha Hot Sauce
- Salt and Pepper
- Ginger: Freshly grated is best, but you can also use ground dry.
- Cornstarch: To hold the meatballs together while cooking them.
- Vegetable Oil: For cooking.
For the Pickled Carrots and Daikon Radish
- Carrots: Julienned (cut into short, thin strips).
- Daikon Radish: Skinned and julienned.
- Sesame Oil
- Rice Wine Vinegar: If you substitute with another vinegar, the daikon will taste bitter.
- Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed.
For the Sriracha Lime Dressing
- Maggi Sauce: If you can’t find this or want a gluten-free substitute, use equal parts soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce, or just use tamari.
- Fish Sauce
- Lime Juice: Freshly squeezed.
- Rice Wine Vinegar
- Vegetable Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Sriracha Hot Sauce
For the Salad
- Spring Mix: Or other mixed greens of your choice.
- Jalapeño: Slice before adding. You can choose to remove the seeds, or keep them for the extra kick.
- Cucumber: Sliced or julienned.
How to Make Banh Mi Salad
This banh mi salad is easy as can be, with quick-pickled veggies and tender pork meatballs that are simple to make. Follow these steps for a healthy, flavorful and stress-free lunch.
Make the Meatballs
Mix: In a bowl, combine the ground pork, cilantro, green onion, garlic, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, ginger, salt and pepper until they reach a paste-like consistency.
Roll: Form the meat mixture into around 16 balls (each should contain about 1 ounce of meat). Roll the meatballs in cornstarch until they are covered completely. Refrigerate them in a covered bowl for about 20 minutes.
Cook: Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a pan on medium-high heat and fry the meatballs for about 5 minutes each, or until they are cooked through to 160°F according to a food thermometer. Make sure not to place them too close together in the oil. Set the meatballs on a couple of paper towels over a plate to drain.
Pickle the Veggies and Prepare the Dressing
Pickle: Using a jar or other sealable container, combine the julienned carrots and daikon radish with the sesame oil, vinegar, lime juice and sugar.
Chill: Refrigerate the jar for at least 30 minutes.
Combine the Dressing: Mix together the Maggi sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, vegetable oil, sesame oil, sriracha and sugar. You can use a bowl and a whisk or put the ingredients in a tightly sealed mason jar and shake it.
Assemble the Salad
Make a Bed of Greens: Fill each bowl or plate with roughly 1/4 of the spring mix.
Add the Meat and Pickles: Top the greens with 1/4 of the banh mi ingredients you’ve made. The pork meatballs and the pickled carrot and radish can be tossed together or kept separate.
Add Some Crunch: Add 1/4 of the sliced cucumber and jalapeños to each plate.
Serve: Drizzle the dressing evenly over everything and serve.
Can I Prep This in Advance?
This salad is really easy to prepare in advance! All of the components can be made ahead of time and combined when you’re ready to eat. This makes it a really good picnic, barbecue or potluck item. Just make sure to use the meatballs within 3-4 days after making them.
The pork meatballs in banh mi salad will last for up to 4 days in the fridge when kept in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap. They can also be kept the same way in the freezer for up to 4 months. The veggies will last a bit longer in the fridge, with whole vegetables staying fresh for up to two weeks. Loose lettuce or sliced cucumbers and peppers will last for about a week. The pickles and dressing can be kept refrigerated for much longer, though both should be eaten within a month to be safe.
Tips for Success
This salad is so fresh and simple, but putting just a little extra time into a few of the steps can make it even better. Follow these quick tips to make the pork meatballs, pickles and dressing on your banh mi salad pop.
- Chill the Meatballs: Since the meatballs don’t have any breadcrumbs to bind them, letting them firm up a bit in the fridge before sauteeing helps them hold their shape.
- Let the Pickles Marinate: The pickled daikon and carrots can be ready just 30 minutes after going in the fridge. Still, the longer in advance you make them, the more flavorful they get. For maximum tanginess and zest, keep them in the fridge for at least an hour, or even let them sit overnight.
- Let the Dressing Sit: Making the dressing first can help the flavors really integrate. Set it aside while you follow the other steps, then shake or whisk it again right before using it. You can even make extra dressing and keep it in the fridge for your next quick salad day.
Traditional banh me comes in many variations, so it’s easy to tweak this recipe too! Here are some ideas for how to shake things up.
- Mix up the Meat: While banh mi is most famously made with pork, it really can include any kind of meat. Try making it with beef meatballs, turkey meatballs, or even tofu! Just swap out the pork for your favorite protein.
- Pack in the Pickles: While daikon radish and sliced carrot are the classic pickled veggies most often associated with banh mi, there’s no law against adding something else. Try pickling some of your favorite vegetables along with them in similar-sized strips.
- Switch Up the Spice: Add more sriracha or take some away to personalize the amount of spice you get in each bite.
- Go Traditional: If you want the true banh mi experience, try popping these ingredients in the middle of a fresh gluten free baguette! The crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside texture of the bread is a perfect match for this salad’s tender pork and crunchy vegetables.
Make it a Meal
With a complete protein and plenty of veggies, this salad can be a full lunch on its own. Serve it with one of the appetizers below, or pair it as a side dish with one of the main courses for a filling and flavorful dinner.
Banh Mi Salad
For the Pork Meatballs
- 1 lb ground pork
- 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup cornstarch for dredging
- Vegetable oil for frying
For the Carrot Daikon Pickles
- 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons lime juice, about 1/2 lime
- 1/3 cup carrot julienned
- 1/3 cup daikon radish julienned
For the Salad Dressing
- 1/2 teaspoon maggi sauce (can substitute with tamari or equal parts soy sauce and Wrocesterahire sauce)
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons lime juice, about 1/2 lime
- 1 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoons vegetable or avocado oil
- 1 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoons sriracha hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
For the Salad
- 5 oz salad greens, such as Spring Mix
- 1 Jalapeño, sliced
- 1 Cucumber, sliced or julienned
- Combine all the meatball ingredients, except cornstarch, in a bowl.
- Roll into approximately 16 balls (1 ounce each) and roll in cornstarch to completely cover the surface. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan or a large pot over medium-high heat. Add meatballs into the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes. Don’t crowd them.
- Remove the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Set the meat mixture aside.
- Combine all pickle ingredients in a jar and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients, shake, and set aside.
- Add 1/4 of the salad greens to your plate and top with 1/4 each of the jalapeño, cucumber, pickles and meatballs. Drizzle salad dressing evenly over everything.
- Meatballs: Store up to 4 days in the fridge and 4 months in the freezer when kept in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic wrap.
- Vegetables: Stay fresh up to 2 weeks in fridge when whole. Loose lettuce or sliced cucumbers and peppers last 1 week in fridge.
- Pickles and Dressing: Can be kept refrigerated for up to 1 month.
All the family members loved the delicious meatballs ( this is the first time they said my meatballs were soooo yummy so juicy ) and the carrot is so good as well
Perfect asian style salad !! I already shared the recipe to friends
Are You Kidding ME???? This is seriously, the best “dinner” salad I’ve ever had…HANDS DOWN!!! The flavors are fantastic, and just keep on coming, with an explosion of Asian taste in my mouth! The ONLY change I made was to cut the sugar in the salad dressing by half…perfect! Oh, and I made that crazy ramen noodle salad topping to put on top…extra crunch! Totally awesome recipe! 10 gold stars! Thank You. Oh, my husband loved it too! LOL!
Did you tried this with ground chicken?
I have not, but I would expect it to work fine. You might just want to check for doneness a little sooner since ground chicken can dry out faster since it is leaner than pork.
Chicken would work fine. I made mine with ground turkey. I bake my balls off in the oven instead of frying. Works great!
Made this last night. One of my absolute favorite foods is the northern Vietnamese Bun Cha. This is very similar, without the fried spring roll. I used a little less of the Sriracha, but it was soooo good!! I also used kale b/c that is what I happened to have on hand. My family normally doesn’t like kale, but they all said this was really good 😀
I’m so happy you enjoyed the recipe, Amy, and I love your use of kale in the salad!
Delicious! Eager to make this. How many servings does this recipe make?
Bethany, the recipe uses a pound of meat, so if you’re serving it as a main dish, you’ll get 4-5 servings from it. I hope you enjoy it!
This was outstanding! I love love love Bahn Mi but am trying to eat less bread/carbs so this was right up my alley. The meatballs were seriously out of this world! My fiance is still raving about it. Thank you for sharing such an incredible dish! My only add-ons were quinoa and a spicy mayo (mayo + sriracha) to dollop on the meatballs but other than that I followed the recipe verbatim. Thank you!
Emily, I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed the Banh Mi salad recipe! Thank you for coming back to let me know.
I love this. My kind of food.
Thanks for sharing at Wake Up Wednesday,
I’m a huge fan of salads and healthier options are always the better options! Thanks for linking up at delicious dishes recipe party!
Oh my…I’ve pinned this and can’t wait to make it. Looks just delicious. This is one of my most favorite kind of meals…kind of a deconstructed kind of thing on a bed of lettuce. Can’t go wrong.
This looks so good! Pinned! Thanks for sharing at Merry Monday, hope to see you again next week!
My husband is going to LOVE this! I can’t wait to make it for him!
Now this is my kind of salad- I’m loving the addition for a jalapenos- spicy is always a good thing! Pinning!
I love making banh mi but never thought I would make this into a salad. I love to try this out!
It’s such a great idea! Love finding ways to enjoy things I like to eat but make them lighter.