How to make Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce – a healthy vegan version with shredded veggies, mint, basil, and baked tofu. A light nutritious meal or appetizer that can be made ahead and stored!
The other day I got a hankering for Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce, the ones we had at our former restaurant, Mizuna back in the day.
By now, most of you know how to make spring rolls, so this is mainly here to inspire you to whip some up this week and to show you how to make them ahead and store them if need be.
For those of you who have never tried rolling your own spring rolls, here is a step-by-step “guide” on how to do it. They are easier than you think!
How to make fresh spring rolls | 40-sec video!
The nice thing is they actually can be made ahead, and keep for several days in the fridge if stored properly (scroll down for our catering secret!) – and it’s so nice to have them on hand for snacking or lunching.
What is the difference between a Spring Roll and an Eggroll?
Spring Rolls are fresh, raw and wrapped in rice paper wrapper, served chilled typically with peanut sauce, while eggrolls are deep-fried, served hot, wrapped in a flour/egg dough wrapper served with sweet and sour sauce.
What are fresh Spring Rolls wrapped in?
Rice paper is what fresh Spring Rolls are wrapped in. Typically found in the Asian aisle at most grocery stores (not refrigerated) Store-bought Rice Paper comes in different sizes, shapes and thicknesses.
Smaller sizes (6-8 inches) are perfect for appetizers. Larger ones like 10-12 inch diameter rice papers are perfect for entree-sized rolls. Be careful to select packages where the rice paper is unbroken and free of cracks. There is nothing more frustrating than working with cracked or torn rice paper!
Rice paper needs to be soaked in a bowl of lukewarm water in order to become soft and pliable allowing it to roll without tearing.
Do spring roll wrappers need to be cooked?
No. Spring Roll wrappers (or rice paper) does NOT need to be cooked. It needs to be soaked in a bowl of water to soften.
What is usually in a Spring Roll?
- Fresh veggies: thinly sliced cucumber, cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, avocado, bean sprouts or daikon. Any crunchy veggie, cut into thin strips. Think about color, you want these vibrant!
- A Leaf of lettuce placed at the base of the spring rolls help prevent the little veggies from poking out.
- Baked Tofu ( or Cooked Shrimp). You can also use store bought baked tofu, cut into strips, or even smoked tofu- all delicious! Feel free to substitute cooked shrimp, avocado slices or even cooked vermicelli rice noodles for tofu. This Sesame Ginger baked tofu, is delicious here- best to make this ahead and chill.
- Fresh herbs, typically mint and *Thai basil. Cilantro and regular basil work too, but there is something especially refreshing about having the mint. So don’t leave it out if possible!
*Thai basil is often found at the farmers market as a potted herb. I often grab a few of these at the beginning of summer and tuck them into my planters, for uses like this. You can also purchase fresh Thai Basil at many Asian Markets.
If making the baked tofu, cut into long strips that are easily rollable.
How to make Fresh Spring Rolls:
Step one: Prep all your veggies, herbs, tofu or other fillings, and place on a work counter with ample room if possible.
Step two: Fill a bowl with lukewarm water.
Step three: Dip the rice paper in a large bowl of lukewarm water and submerge for just a few seconds. If using “thin” rice paper, a quick dip is long enough. If using thicker rice paper, 15-20 seconds may be required. Do a “tester” roll first.
Place it on a wet countertop, or over a thin, soaked kitchen towel that has been rung out. (If your counter is dry, rice paper will likely stick, so remember, wet surface!) The rice paper should feel slightly pliable (not completely soft) when you pull it out of the water and place it on the wet counter. It will soften up more as it sits on the wet towel or counter as you are filling it.
Note: If the rice paper breaks easily, it was probably soaked it too long. Just toss it and try it again, reusing the filling. I’ve found that each package of rice paper is slightly different and that’s why it becomes more of a “feel” thing.
Step four: Fill the rice paper in the center, placing a lettuce leaf on the bottom to prevent all the veggies from poking out.
Layer with veggies, tofu, and fresh herbs leaving 2-3 inches of space at the sides to fold sides up. Remember the herbs!
Step five: Wrap it up like you would a burrito, firmly pulling rice paper up and around, tucking in the sides as you go. The tester will tell you if you need to fill these less or fill them more!
The tighter you can make the spring rolls, without breaking the paper is the secret to spring rolls that hold their shape and don’t fall apart when cut in half. It just takes a little practice, like most things. 🙂
Step 6: Once you are happy with yoru tester, repeat and roll them up one at a time, and set aside, seam side down on a wet cutting board, wet counter or wet towel (not touching).
Step 7: If serving right away, cut in half and serve with the peanut sauce.
How to store Spring Rolls:
If serving later, layer the spring rolls between very damp (rung out) paper towels. You can even stack spring rolls as long as they are not touching.
For example, we would layer two to three layers of uncut spring rolls in a catering “hotel pan” (basically like a giant deep baking dish) using damp paper towels to keep each layer separate. Then cover the entire thing with damp paper towels and plastic wrap.
Store the fresh spring rolls in the refrigerator until ready to use. They are best served within 24 hours, but for home use, I often keep them on hand for snacking for up to 3-4 days, stored this way.
In our catering business, I would make them the morning of our event and they stayed perfectly fresh when served that night.
How to serve Fresh Spring Rolls:
For a pretty way to serve up your fresh spring rolls for a gathering or party, layer a platter with the remaining fresh lettuce leaves, leaving room for the Peanut Sauce Bowl. The leaves will prevent spring rolls from sticking to the platter itself!
Cut spring rolls in half (at a diagonal is nice) and with wet hands, place them over the lettuce just barely overlapping, or loosely stacked, just right before serving. They are easy to ply apart if just touching only a little.
You can also tuck lettuce between them, especially if mounding high.
And there you go, fresh, delicious, vegan Spring Rolls that can be made ahead and stored for healthy lunches during the week, or packed up for potlucks and gatherings!
TIP: Serve the peanut sauce with a spoon, so guests are not tempted to dip the rolls directly into the sauce which will result in the veggies falling out into the sauce. 😉
Ok friends, make these fresh spring rolls and let us know what you think. Share your adaptions below, because I know how creative you are!!!
How to make fresh Spring Rolls with the BEST EVER Peanut Sauce! These vegan spring rolls can be made ahead and stored for healthy lunches or potlucks and gatherings.
- 1 recipe for Baked Tofu (sesame ginger- see notes) cut into strips
- 1 recipe for BEST EVER Thai Peanut Sauce
- 8–10 Rice paper wrappers ( 10 inches in diameter) or see notes
- 1 head green leaf lettuce (or red leaf)
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced into strips (or sub grated radishes)
- 1 1/2 cups finely shredded purple cabbage
- 1 ½ cups shredded carrots ( or use match stick)
- ½ an English cucumber, thinly sliced into long strips – leave peels on
- ¼ cup fresh Thai basil leaves, torn (or regular basil)
- ¼ cup fresh mint leaves, torn (or cilantro, but mint is best!)
- optional additions or substitutions: daikon radish strips, avocado, grated radishes, grated turnips, grated beets, spicy greens like watercress or arugula, sprouts (sunflower or daikon sprouts are nice), or cooked vermicelli rice noodles.
If using the Baked Tofu, make this first, see note for cutting into strips. (This can be made ahead and chilled)
Make the BEST EVER Peanut Sauce!
Prep all your filling ingredients. Cut the veggies, gather the herbs. Gather all the fillings near you. I like to place these all on a cutting board near my spring roll rolling area. Mise en place. 😉
Fill a large bowl ( large enough to dip rice paper) with lukewarm water and place it behind your rolling area.
Wet the counter in front of you. (Or drench a thin kitchen towel with water, wring it out and lay it on the counter, rolling the spring rolls on top of the towel. (This is great if making a ton of spring rolls! )
Do a “tester” roll. Dip the rice paper in the water. If using “thin” rice paper (package should say) just a quick dip is all you need. Otherwise, dip for 5-15 seconds. Pull when slightly pliable (not too soft) and place it on the wet counter or towel. If rice paper still feels overly stiff, dip your hand in the water bowl and wet the rice paper a little, it will soften up.
Place a 1/4 leaf of lettuce down first in the front center of the rice paper (to prevent shredded veggies from poking out of rice paper) leaving 2-3 inches of space on the sides. See the photo.
Top the leaf with shredded veggies, tofu and torn herbs. Then firmly wrap up, tucking in the sides as you go. Place seam side down on a wet cutting board, cover with a damp paper towel.
Remember, this is your tester!
Do you like the size? Fill more or less to your preference. (Smaller rolls are good for appetizers, larger for lunch.) Did your roll fall apart? If so, too long soaking time. Adjust the time. If your roll was not pliable enough to roll, then not enough soaking time. Simply adjust. Remember, each rice paper brand is slightly different and this is a “feel” thing. 🙂
Roll each spring roll one at a time. The more you do this, the easier it will get. 🙂
Serve over top a lettuce-lined platter (this will prevent them from sticking to the platter) cut in half with room for the sauce. See photos!
To store fresh Spring Rolls for later: layer whole ( uncut) spring rolls between damp paper towels (dripping wet and then wrung out) in a large baking dish, not touching. Cover with damp paper towels and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate.
To serve for a gathering, best served within 12- 24 hours. I’ll often make these the morning of an event, store them whole, then cut and platter them right before serving them in the evening.
For home use, these will keep up to 3-4 days!
The finer you slice and cut cabbage, bell pepper and carrots, the easier to eat.
Feel free to leave tofu out and sub more veggies, or sub shrimp or cooked vermicelli noodles. You can also use store-bought, baked tofu, or smoked tofu!
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