Few things hit that perfect balance of crunch, crispiness, and flavor like well-made spring rolls. These staples of Chinese cooking are nearly impossible to resist, and they’re also easy to make and modify for anyone who is interested in learning to cook Chinese food at home.

There is something so satisfying about taking your favorite takeout dishes and figuring out how to recreate them in your own kitchen. And if spring rolls are one of those appetizers that you always make sure to include in your order, then why not give them a shot? They’re a cinch to make once you get the hang of it, and they have endless possibilities for fillings, so there’s lots of room to get creative. They’re also an excellent pairing alongside other Chinese dishes you can easily recreate on your own, such as fried rice, chow mein, or wonton soup.

Ready to dig in? Here’s what to know about making baked or fried spring rolls, including some of our favorite delicious filling ideas.

spring rolls
Source:Pixabay
A mainstay of Chinese cooking with a history that goes back thousands of years. 

What Are Spring Rolls?

Spring rolls are handheld Chinese appetizers consisting of a savory filling inside of a thinly-wrapped baked or fried pastry dough. You can also find sweet ones, which are traditionally filled with red bean paste.

Many countries have their own variations. For example, Vietnamese gỏi cuốn, also called summer rolls or salad rolls, feature cooked and raw ingredients wrapped in rice paper. (There’s also chả giò, which is the Vietnamese version of fried spring rolls.) And in Indonesia and the Philippines, lumpia is made using unique regional flavors.

You can find Chinese and Chinese-inspired spring rolls all over the globe. And while they vary quite a bit in ingredients and cooking preparation, all spring rolls will feature a cooked filling of vegetables or protein rolled inside of a thin flour wrapper. 

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can customize them however you choose—which is great when you’re trying to come up with the perfect appetizer for dinner or need to use up aging ingredients in your vegetable drawer.

The Origin of Spring Rolls

Spring rolls have been around for thousands of years, most likely since China’s Eastern Jin Dynasty (266 to 420 AD).

Long before you could find baked, fresh, and fried spring rolls on menus from Melbourne to Mexico City, these small appetizers were being enjoyed in China in the first weeks of spring to celebrate the return of fresh vegetables and as a welcome break from winter’s preserved foods. 

To this day, spring rolls have a strong connection with celebration and tradition in China. Fresh versions are enjoyed during the Hanshi festival (Cold Food Day festival) and the Qingming festival (Tomb Sweeping Day festival) in early April. Many households also fry spring rolls in February as part of Chinese New Year celebrations.

What is the Difference Between Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls?

Both egg rolls and spring rolls feature a filling (often cooked) inside of a wrapped dough. There are some notable differences, however. To start, spring roll wrappers are very thin and flaky and are made with a basic rice or flour dough. Egg roll wrappers, on the other hand, are a touch thicker and are made extra rich with the addition of an egg in the batter.

Other differences between egg and spring rolls include the filling itself—egg roll filling is always cooked, which spring roll filling may be raw, such as in the case of garden rolls—and cooking preparation. Egg rolls are usually deep fried, while spring rolls can be found baked, fried, or not cooked at all.

How to Make Spring Rolls

spring rolls fried
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So long as your technique is on point, you can go ahead and fill yours with whatever you’d like.

Whether for your own celebrations or just as a yummy side to a traditional Chinese meal, learn how to make spring rolls and put your own spin on these tasty wraps. To get you started, we’re going through each individual component for a quick but comprehensive look at how they come together and how you can cook them up on your own.  

Spring Roll Wrappers

What is spring roll wrapping made of? Just three simple ingredients: flour, salt, and water. Rice flour may be used to make sure that the spring rolls end up extra crispy when fried, but all-purpose flour is also a common choice.

If you buy your wrappers at the store, be sure to buy ones that are designated for spring rolls. Egg rolls wrappers will be too doughy, and wonton wrappers will be too small. You could buy rice paper for your spring rolls—especially if you’re going to be making a Vietnamese version—but you don’t want to cook a rice paper wrapper.

Likewise, you probably already have the ingredients for spring roll wrappers in your pantry, so you could just make them yourself.

Homemade Spring Roll Wrappers

The process for making homemade spring roll wrappers is quite similar to the process for making crepes. Make a bunch at once and, if you’re not planning to use them right away, refrigerate or freeze the leftovers until you’re ready to add your spring roll filling and wrap them up.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour or rice flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water

Directions: 

  • In a large mixing bowl, add flour and salt and whisk to combine. Then whisk in water to create a loose batter. 
  • Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and let sit for one hour to rest. 
  • When ready to cook your wrappers, grease a non-stick pan with cooking spray and set over medium-low heat. Once hot, turn heat down to low and add a tablespoon of batter to the center of the pan. Twirl the pan or use your spoon to spread the batter out thin—you want it to be about five inches in diameter. 
  • Cook for a minute or so, until edges start to curl and the bottom of the wrapper is fully cooked. Remove from heat and place onto a plate to cool.

Note: You want your batter to be loose enough to easily drip off of your spoon. If it thickens up too much as it sits, add a little water at a time and mix until you get it back to the right consistency.

Spring Roll Fillings

Your filling is where you can really start to have some fun.

You have a ton of options when it comes to spring roll fillings, from traditional Chinese ingredients to Westernized twists (Philly cheesesteak spring rolls, anyone?). You can even make dessert spring rolls, such as classic sweet spring rolls filled with red bean paste or an American version with apple or pumpkin pie filling.

We’re sharing our picks for some of the best spring roll fillings below, but feel free to get creative in the kitchen and see what else you can come up with.

Traditional Spring Roll Filling

If you ask “what is normally in a spring roll?” you will end up with some variation of the ingredients below. If you prefer a vegetarian or vegan version, nix the meat and either sub in tofu or just go heavier on the veggies.

  • Ground chicken or pork
  • Garlic
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Julienned carrot
  • Bean sprouts
  • Marinade: soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, white pepper, sugar

Shrimp Spring Rolls

  • Cooked shrimp, chopped
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Julienned carrots
  • Marinade: soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, salt, pepper, sesame oil

Sweet Chili Chicken Spring Rolls

  • Ground chicken
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Bean sprouts
  • Chopped water chestnuts
  • Marinade: soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, sambal oelek

Vegetarian Spring Rolls

  • Cooked and chopped shiitake mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Julienned carrots
  • Julienned red bell pepper
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Marinade: soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, white pepper, sugar

Spicy Tofu Spring Rolls

  • Pan-fried tofu, crumbled
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Shredded cabbage
  • Julienned carrot
  • Bean sprouts
  • Deseeded and chopped Tianjin pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes
  • Marinade: soy sauce, Shaoxing cooking wine, white pepper, sesame oil

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How to Roll Spring Rolls

With your wrappers and your filling ready to go, it’s time to work on how to roll spring rolls for cooking. This is an easy process once you get going, but it may take a couple of tries before you get the hang of it.

Most important is that you don’t leave any air pockets or gaps in the wrapper where the filling can leak out (or oil can seep in). Go slow to ensure your spring rolls are completely sealed, and use a gentle touch so as not to tear the delicate wrapper as you roll.

How to Wrap Spring Rolls in 5 Steps

Step 1: Place a wrapper on a flat surface in front of you with pointed edges on bottom and top so it looks like a diamond.

Step 2: Place about two tablespoons of filling on the bottom third portion of the diamond.

Step 3: Roll the bottom corner up and tuck it in under the filling. Flatten the wrapper on either side of the filling to remove air pockets.

Step 4: Fold the left side of the wrapper in toward the filling, followed by the right side of the wrapper.

Step 5: Make a cornstarch slurry by thoroughly mixing together one tablespoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon of water. This will be the glue that seals your wrapper. With your slurry ready to go, brush a thin layer on the top, unfolded part of the wrapper and then roll from the bottom, filled portion up to the top. Place the wrapped spring roll seam-side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and move on to your next one.

How to Bake or Fry Spring Rolls

Your rolls are almost ready! The last step is to cook them, provided you didn’t opt for rice paper and an uncooked roll. They can be baked or fried, both of which will give you a crunchy exterior. As is true with most things in life though, go ahead and deep fry for best results.

How to Fry Spring Rolls

Add three inches worth of canola or peanut oil to a heavy cast iron skillet or Dutch oven and heat to 325℉. Once hot, place a few in the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for two to three minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

How to Bake Spring Rolls

Preheat your oven to 425℉. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet and grease with cooking spray, then place your spring rolls on the rack and bake for 15 minutes or until tops are golden. Turn and bake for another eight to 10 minutes.

Are Spring Rolls Healthy?

That depends on how you make them. A deep-fried spring roll, especially one filled with meat, is more of an indulgence than a healthy snack. But if you stick with veggies and tofu, create a sodium-light marinade, and bake your spring rolls or keep them uncooked, they can absolutely be a healthy choice for an appetizer, side dish, or main meal.

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