Banh Mi Bowls with Lemongrass Meatballs

Banh Mi Bowls, you ask? That’s right: quinoa or rice topped with quick pickled carrots, herbs, peanuts, and easy lemongrass pork meatballs all covered with spicy mayo. <– this is a thing.

Banh mi bowl with a fork.

Guys. I am so digging the bowl lifestyle!

You probably had no idea though because I hardly ever post bowls. (I always post bowls.)

Today’s banh mi bowl is inspired by a banh mi (traditional sandwich style), which I’ve only ever eaten once, which makes me a banh mi loser. I acknowledge this fully.

While my one and only banh mi experience was really good (good enough obviously to inspire a re-make-bowl-version), I found that all that white bread got in the way of all that’s good in the banh mi. Do you know what I mean or do you hate me for my blasphemy?

Just gimme the stuff that has tons of flavor, so the meatballs, the pickled vegetable salad, the herbs, the spicy mayo, the pate – except no pate on this homemade bowl version, srsly WHO DO YOU THINK I AM? – all of these ingredients are mostly what I’m wanting to eat when I think about a banh mi. It’s not that I’m against white rice or white bread – have you even read this blog? AS IF, guys. It’s more just that I’m hungry for food that will kick my tastebuds awake which means bowl-form, heavy on all herbs and sauces, is the way to go.


Banh mi bowl with a drizzle of sauce.

Bowls in general are all about layers. So let’s start with the base layer to this banh mi bowl: you can choose to build your banh mi bowl on rice, quinoa, rice noodles, or I guess just lettuce if you want it to taste like heartbreak (but don’t do that). Some kind of basic carb situation would be my suggestion. I chose black/red quinoa – mostly because it’s all I happened to have on hand at the moment.

Exhibit A with the red quinoa stand-in: bowls are extremely versatile.

Next layer: on top of the quinoa base, we’re going for a pickled vegetable salad which sounds totally intimidating and really just means shredded or julienne cut vegetables soaked in rice vinegar and sugar for about an hour. That will do it, friends.

Close up of carrots.
Jar of organic coconut palm sugar.

I should mention that we are using coconut palm sugar in this recipe which is a big time bonus because it’s a delicious, unrefined brown sugar that doesn’t taste like coconut (that might get weird) – instead it has a deep caramel-lush-ous flavor that is just begging to be featured in Asian sauces of all sorts.

Also lovable: this sugar is actually made by the cooperative farmers in Indonesia who tap the nectar of the coconut palm trees, kind of like you might imagine a northwoodsian tapping a maple tree for syrup. The nectar gets heated over fire until it reduces down to granulated sugar, because OBVIOUSLY. It just had to be that cool.

Guys. I love Wholesome! I loved them before they were trendy and now – bonus – they’re trendy! so you can buy their organic, fair trade products at non-exotic locations, like, for example, Regular Person Target. THANK YOU LIFE.

Coconut palm sugar in a jar with a spoon.

Next layer: over the quinoa and pickled salad, let’s throw a handful of crushed peanuts and every possible herb that you could ever have in your fridge ever. I went crazytown with green onions, cilantro, basil, and mint. I did not regret it.


Next layer: now we come to the crown jewel of this recipe, the thing that carries most of the flavor: THE MEATBALLS.

Can I just tell you this? My sister, who used to be a vegetarian, is working with us this summer. On the day I made these, she sampled one out of the fridge after I left and she specifically sent me a text to tell me how good they were. Former vegetarian, guys. Loving the meatballs. These are really really good meatballs. They are little crispy gems of pork, lemongrass (I just buy that paste in a tube from the produce section – my life has no time for locating and deconstructing fresh lemongrass sorry not sorry), sugar, and fish sauce which sounds totally scary but it’s so utterly life-changingly delicious. Please try.

Hands holding a banh mi bowl with a fork.

Final layer: spicy mayo // mic drop.

I am totes making this for dinner club this month. Bring on the lemongrass meatball banh mi bowl party.

Close up of a banh mi bowl with meatballs.
Banh Mi Bowl in a bowl with fork.

Banh Mi Bowls

  • Author: Pinch of Yum
  • Prep Time: 1 hour (for pickling!)
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: enough meatballs / carrots for 4 bowls


Banh Mi Bowls! A quick and easy meal featuring quinoa or rice topped with quick pickled carrots, herbs, peanuts, and easy lemongrass pork meatballs, all covered with spicy mayo.


Quick Pickled Carrots

  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Wholesome! coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 68 carrots, cut into thin ribbons (I used a peeler to make those curls)


  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 12 tablespoons lemongrass paste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili paste (like Sriracha or Sambal Oelek)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Wholesome! coconut palm sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • quinoa, rice, or noodles
  • herbs: cilantro, basil, mint, green onions
  • crushed peanuts or sesame seeds
  • spicy mayo (just mayo with a hit of sriracha)


  1. Quick Pickled Carrots: Whisk the rice vinegar, palm sugar, sesame oil, and salt together. Soak the carrots in the mixture for one hour.
  2. Meatballs: Mix all ingredients. Roll into small meatballs with your hands (they might feel wet and heavy – pop them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to get them to hold their shape a bit better). Heat a little bit of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the meatballs and fry until golden brown on the outside and fully cooked (not pink) inside.
  3. Bowls: Layer the carrots and meatballs over quinoa, rice, or noodles. Top with herbs, peanuts, sesame seeds, and/or spicy mayo. I would feel happy for you if you also added an avocado.

Recipe Card powered by

Nutrition information is for 1 out of 4 bowls (meatballs, veggies, and rice using a total of 1 cup uncooked rice) and does not include spicy mayo sauce.

Thanks to Wholesome!® – makers of this Organic Coconut Palm Sugar – for partnering with us for this post! And for being a brand that we love and respect. 

And thanks to you, readers, for supporting the brands that do food right.

One more thing!

This recipe is part of our collection of best healthy bowls. Check it out!

The post Banh Mi Bowls with Lemongrass Meatballs appeared first on Pinch of Yum.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published