Whether you call them spring rolls or summer rolls, these little vegetable-filled rice paper wraps are perfect for hot summer days. Make them as appetizers, for snacking or as a side dish to grilled seafood, chicken or meat. It’s a fun way to get more fresh vegetables into your diet. Make them yourself, or have everyone build their own.
Learning to Make Spring Rolls
It was a chef from Singapore who taught me to make spring rolls. The months I spent delving into Asian cooking with him were a blast. Digging through an old notebook, I came across my notes for spring rolls. They are fresh, cool, and brightly colored from all of the crunchy raw veggies and herbs.
When I found brown rice spring roll wrappers at the store, I knew I had to make some. They do look a little different that the traditional white rice spring roll wrappers because of their color. Use what you can find. The brown rice wrappers are pretty new to the market. Find spring roll wrappers in the Asian section of grocery stores and in Asian markets.
You may feel like you are all thumbs when rolling your first spring rolls, but don’t give up. They are kind of sticky. You will get the hang of it. If you mess up the first ones, dump out the filling and start over with a new wrapper. If your wrap tears, wrap it in a second rice paper. They are fun to make and delicious to eat.
Dip the wrappers in warm water briefly, just a few seconds to soften them. Place wrapper on a cutting board. Working quickly, layer herbs and vegetables on the 1/3 closest to you, and start to roll. The wrapper will be sticky. Work with it. Roll part of the way, fold sides in like you are rolling a burrito, then finish the roll.
What to Include, or Not
For this recipe, I used a non-traditional combination of carrots, red bell pepper, kale sprouts, zucchini, red lettuce leaves, fresh herbs (mint, basil, cilantro), and red cabbage. Many traditional recipes add small shrimp and rice vermicelli (bean thread) noodles. You can add small bites of whatever meat or seafood you like to vary the flavors, or keep them vegetarian. For the sprouts, see what your produce section offers. Micro-greens would work too. That is part of the fun of spring rolls – playing with a variety of ingredients.
For a creamy dipping sauce, whisk together Chinese Hoisin with sesame oil, tamari, lime juice, almond butter, garlic, ginger and rice vinegar.
Tools to Speed Prep Time
There are a couple of inexpensive tools that make prepping your vegetables much faster. A julienne peeler and a mandoline slicer. Once you use these tools you will find many more things to do with them as you cook. I used the julienne peeler to cut the carrots and zucchini, and the handheld mandoline slicer to shred the cabbage. You can do this with a sharp knife, but it’s faster and easier with the tools. Find them at local cooking supply stores or online. I’ve included links.
Rainbow Vegetable Spring Rolls
- 1/2 cup organic Hoisin (look for no high fructose corn syrup brand)
- juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons low sodium tamari (or low sodium soy sauce)
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped, grated or pureed ginger
- 1 tablespoon creamy raw almond butter
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated (use a microplane zester)
Vegetable Spring Rolls
- 12 brown rice or white rice spring roll wrappers
- 1 large zucchini
- 3 large carrots
- 1 large red or yellow bell pepper
- 1 package kale sprouts (or other sprouts you enjoy)
- 1/2 of a small red cabbage
- 1 bunch each, assorted fresh herbs of your choice, washed (mint, basil, cilantro)
- 1 small head red lettuce, washed and dried
- Lime wedges (optional)
- For the sauce, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Prep vegetables and herbs:
- Cut zucchini and carrots into long, fine strips with a julienne peeler for the fastest, easiest cutting, then cut the fine strips into pieces about 4″ long.
- Cut the bell pepper into long, fine strips by hand with a sharp knife.
- Finely shred the cabbage with a small handheld mandoline slicer, lager mandoline set to fine, or with a sharp knife.
- Remove the leaves from herb stems. No need to chop them. Tear lettuce leave into small pieces.
- Place all vegetables on a rimmed baking sheet, large casserole or into small bowls
- To assemble the spring rolls, fill a large bowl half way with warm water. Working on a cutting board or plate, dip one rice wrapper into the water briefly, just a few seconds. The wrapper will be a bit stiff at first and soften as you work. They get a little sticky. Just go with it and you will get the hang of it. Place the wrapper on a cutting board or plate. Starting at the end closest to you, lay a few herbs down in 1/3 of the wrapper, then top with a few strips of each vegetable. Don’t go all of the way to the edges as you will fold the sides in like a burrito. Start rolling the vegetables and wrap snugly until you get about half way, then fold in sides and continue rolling to complete a roll. Place the finished spring roll on a plate. Now make more!
- To eat, cut the finished spring rolls in half and serve with dipping sauce.
Note – for another dipping sauce recipe, try this Asian Almond Butter Sauce.
Helpful Links and More Information
For Hoisin sauce, I currently buy organic Whole Foods 365 store brand. Unfortunately it is not gluten-free, because they use soy sauce. On my recipe list is a note to create my own recipe for Hoisin so I can control it to be lower in sodium and not use caramel coloring, which is a controversial ingredient. I also want to make it GF. Stay tuned. I love the flavor of Hoisin, so I guess I better get busy. IF you can find a gluten-free Hoisin, make this totally gluten-free and let me know what brand you buy.
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