Spring rolls have got to be one of my favorite things to make and eat.
Note: Are you looking for crispy crunchy deep fried (aka imperial) rolls? If so, please check out this post! If you’re looking for fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, also known as summer rolls, salad rolls, Vietnamese rice paper rolls, rice paper rolls, cold rolls, or gỏi cuốn, please read on!
What are spring rolls?
Super healthy and easy to make Vietnamese spring rolls, or gỏi cuốn, are a traditional dish that usually contains pork, prawns, vegetables, and vermicelli wrapped up into a roll made with rice paper. There are literally thousands of variations and they’re completely adaptable and customizable. They’re served fresh with a sauce for dipping, either a mixed fish sauce or a peanut sauce. You can have them for lunch, dinner, snacks, or as appetizers.
Spring rolls go by many names: gỏi cuốn (which means salad rolls) and nem cuốn (which means meat rolls), rice paper rolls, summer rolls, Vietnamese rolls, crystal rolls, soft rolls, cold rolls, and fresh rolls.
Why make spring rolls at home?
There are so many reasons you should make spring rolls at home instead of ordering them at restaurants, and the best one is freshness! Honestly nothing beats a freshly made spring roll. Trust me when I say that there is a huge difference in the way a freshly rolled spring roll tastes. The rice paper is soft and chewy, the meat is warm, and the vegetables are crisp and crunchy.
Plus, when you make spring rolls at home, you get to customize them exactly how you want with your personal favorite fillings and dips. Restaurant spring rolls tend to be a generic, please-everyone recipe, but making them at home means your roll is suited to you and you alone. The ratio of veggies and which protein your roll is filled with is up to you. Even the size/thickness of the roll is up to you. And, there’s just something nice about a long, slow, communal DIY meal. It brings people closer.
How to have a spring roll party
If you’re never made them before, it might seem intimidating, but making spring rolls is one of the easiest, healthiest meals you can make at home. Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Gather your ingredients
You’ll need: rice paper, vegetables, protein (this is optional), and sauce ingredients. The best thing to do is make a list, go shopping if you need to, and have everything ready to go. Here’s a sample grocery list of what you’ll need to make chicken spring rolls:
1 lb chicken, 1 knob ginger, 1 stalk lemongrass, fish sauce, oyster sauce, rice paper, lettuce cucumber, cilantro, mint, Thai basil or basil, rice vermicelli noodles, and a lime.
For pantry ingredients, make sure you have: sugar, garlic, and oil.
Step 2: Make the sauce
Start off by making a simple fish sauce vinaigrette for dipping. Mince 1 clove garlic and lightly mash with 1-2 tbsp sugar. Stir in 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp fresh lime juice, and 2 tbsp fish sauce. Mix together until the sugar dissolves, then set aside.
Step 3: Prep the vegetables and vermicelli
Wash and dry the lettuce, cilantro, mint, and basil. Slice or julienne the cucumber. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the vermicelli according to the package, then drain, rinse, and drain well.
Step 4: Prep the protein
Slice the chicken (or whatever protein you prefer, you can go with pork shoulder, sirloin, shrimp, or tofu) into strips. Add the chicken to a bowl with sugar, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce, oyster sauce, and oil. Let marinate for 15 minutes minimum. If you’re good at planning ahead, marinating overnight is both tastier and so much less work. After the meat has marinated, pan fry it until lightly charred over medium high heat. Remove the cooked meat from the pan. (In our family, we bring it raw to the table and fry it à la minute on an electric griddle or butane grill).
Step 5: Lay out the table
If you are so inclined, set up a heat source in the middle of your table to cook your meats, otherwise, precook them just before setting the table so they’re as hot as possible. Arrange your meat, vegetables, and rice paper on communal plates as in the image below. Fill a wide bowl or two with warm water to dip the rice paper in. Find enough sauce bowls for everyone to have their own sauce. Grab a plate for each person, some drinks, and roll the night away.
Step 5: Roll
Dip a piece of rice paper into a bowl of warm tap water and lay out on a large cutting board. Add a leaf or two of lettuce, then add 1-2 strips of charred chicken, 1 tbsp vermicelli, 3-6 strips of cucumber, 1 sprig of cilantro, 1-2 leaves of mint, and 1-2 leaves of basil. Fold the bottom of the rice paper up and over the filling and hold it down. Fold both sides of the rice paper towards the center, covering the filling, then roll up. That’s it, roll, dip into sauce, eat and repeat.
Tips, tricks and frequently asked questions
What is rice paper?
Rice paper, known as bánh tráng in in Vietnamese, is a edible wrapper made from rice (and sometimes tapioca) flour. They’re sold dehydrated and you rehydrate them at home in water before using them. They’re used for spring rolls, imperial rolls, in salads, and grilled as rice crackers. They come in all different sizes and as well as the common round ones they sell squares, triangles, and half circles too. We like to keep them in the package and only take a few out at a time since they curl when exposed to air.
Our favorite brands of rice paper are: Three Ladies, Rose Brand, and May.
How to prepare rice paper
The best way to prepare rice paper is to have a large shallow bowl of hot tap water. Take a sheet of rice paper and dip it in the water so it’s completely submerged and remove it immediately. Lay it to a plate or cutting board and let it sit for 5-10 seconds where it will rehydrate and become pliable and soft.
Tips for soaking rice paper
- Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to soak your rice paper or it will become soggy and disintegrate or become very fragile making it extremely difficult to roll.
- Dip. All you need to do is take the sheet of rice paper, dip it in, making sure the rice paper is submerged and then take it out and lay it flat. The water that clings to the rice paper will rehydrate it completely. Don’t listen to the blog posts out there that tell you to soak rice paper for 10-15 seconds – you’ll end up with a soggy mess!
- You don’t need boiling hot water. Use hot tap water or even just warm water. If your water is too hot the rice paper will become too soft.
- Look at the ingredients. If you’re having trouble with wrapping up your spring rolls, look at the ingredients on your rice paper package. Rice paper with tapioca in it has more give and chewiness (like boba!) so it’s easier to wrap. Rice paper make from 100% rice is a little bit more difficult for beginners to work with.
- Use a large shallow bowl or rimmed baking sheet. It’s easier to slide rice paper into a shallow bowl of water as opposed to a regular bowl, so hold the rice paper and just turn to dip it in the water. Alternatively, you can get one of these rice paper holders/water dipping bowls. They’re upright so all you do is dip the rice paper in and rotate it in the water.
How to roll spring rolls
Rolling a spring roll is super similar to rolling a burrito so if you’ve done that before you’re going to be great at it. The tighter your roll (without tearing the paper), the better!
- Dip. Take your sheet of rice paper and dip it into water, then immediately remove and place on a flat surface, either a plate or cutting board. The rice paper won’t be completely soft yet, but will rehydrate as you arrange your ingredients.
- Arrange. Place your fillings on the bottom third of the rice paper. Pro tip, what you put down first will be visible on the outside of the roll.
- Fold. Fold the bottom up and over the filling, holding it down then fold the sides in towards the center, covering the filling.
- Roll. Roll up from the bottom to the top, tucking and rolling, dip and enjoy!
Fun fact! Did you know which way you roll your salad rolls says something about your personality? According to Mike’s parents, if you roll your rolls towards you, it means you’re more selfish and if you roll your rolls away from you you’re more giving.
Spring roll ingredients
The best thing to do for protein is marinate it and fry it. Lots of spring roll recipes out there are just boiled/pan-fried protein but the way to layer flavors is to marinate your protein before cooking it. Our favorite is a classic sweet and spicy marinade. It works great on all proteins and tastes absolutely amazing! Make the marinade, add your protein (seafood, chicken, pork, beef, tofu), marinate for 1 hour minimum, then simply pan fry or grill.
Think leafy greens like green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, iceberg lettuce, cabbage, spinach, etc. Crunchy/firm vegetables work too, just make sure to cut them into sticks: cucumbers, carrots, peppers, radish, daikon.
Things like sliced mango, peaches, or avocado can add a light sweetness to your rolls. Crunchy fruits like julienned apples, pears, or apple pears are good too.
Herbs are absolutely essential. At the bare minimum you need cilantro and basil, preferably Thai basil. We also like mint and shiso. Scallions are good too. There are a whole other bunch of Vietnamese herbs you can get too – if you have a Vietnamese grocery store in your town, they should have a large selection.
When we’re making salad rolls at home we rarely use noodles, instead we prefer to fill our rolls with vegetables, but if you are going to be using noodles, thin rice vermicelli is what you want. Just cook it according to the package directions, drain and rinse well.
What to dip your salad rolls in
The dipping sauce is considered to be the most important part of spring rolls.
Fish sauce vinaigrette
This is our preferred dip of choice: sweet, sour, salty and full of flavor.
In a bowl or glass measuring cup, crush together 1 clove garlic, 1 Thai chili (optional), and 1-2 tbsp sugar. Stir in 1 cup water, the juice of 1/2 lime, and 2 tbsp fish sauce. Mix until the sugar dissolves. More on nuoc mam here.
Creamy and nutty, you can make this with peanut butter or like we do: almond butter.
In a small bowl, mix together 2 tbsp hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter (or other nut butter),1 tbsp lime juice, 1 minced clove garlic, and 1-2 tbsp water. If you want it spicy, stir in sambal oelak to taste.
Keep it simple and just serve up with some hoisin amped up with lime, garlic, and a bit of sugar.
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp sugar, the juice of 1/2 lime, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1-2 tbsp water.
Can you make spring rolls ahead of time?
You can but the rice paper won’t taste as fresh and they tend to get a bit firm. If you want to make them ahead of time, make sure you individually wrap each roll in plastic wrap otherwise they’ll dry out. If you try to leave them together they’ll stick together and tear so individually wrapping is the only way to go. They will keep in the fridge, individually wrapped and put in a covered container for up to 3 days.
That’s it, hope you have a wonderful, healthy, and delicious spring roll party!
Authentic super healthy and easy to make fresh Vietnamese spring rolls.
Serves 12 rolls
- 1 lb chicken thinly sliced, or other protein of choice such as sirloin, pork shoulder, whole shrimp, or firm tofu
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp ginger minced
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 stalk lemongrass minced
- 1 Thai bird’s eye chili sliced, optional
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp oil
- 12 rice paper round preferred
- 12-24 leaves lettuce red or green leaf preferred
- 1/2 English cucumber julienned
- 12 sprigs cilantro
- 24 leaves mint
- 24 leaves Thai basil optional
- 2 bundles rice vermicelli optional
At least 1 hour before (overnight is better), marinate the protein: crush 1 tablespoon of sugar, the ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and Thai chili (if using) in a mortar and pestle. Combine with your protein of choice with the fish sauce, oyster sauce, and oil. Mix well, then cover and store in the fridge.
Add a bit of oil to a skillet and fry your protein until well charred on both sides, in batches, depending on your skillet size. Remove from the pan.
One at a time, dip the rice paper into a bowl of warm tap water. Lay it out on a flat surface.
To the bottom third of the round, add a leaf or two of lettuce, then the protein, a small amount of vermicelli, vegetables, and herbs.
Fold up the bottom of the rice paper wrapper up and over the filling.
Fold in the two sides over the filling.
Roll up, from the bottom of the roll towards the top, tucking and rolling. Repeat as needed and enjoy dipped in your sauce of choice.
Estimated nutrition assumes chicken breast as the protein.
Amount Per Serving (1 roll)
Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 0.01g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.