Tips & Techniques

How to Make Fresh Spring Rolls at Home

July 29, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: DIY takeout has never been easier -- it’s time to spring (roll) into action.

Fresh Spring Rolls

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It’s easy to buy pre-made fresh spring rolls from your favorite takeout joint or highfalutin grocery store. Yes, it’s a fast meal that you can feel good about eating, but every time you grab them in their overpriced, oversized plastic coffins, you have to convince yourself that this is a better option than making them yourself. You’re worried it’ll be too hard: that you won’t be able to to seal them properly, or you’ll have little stacks of julienned vegetables falling out of both ends, or you’ll end up with misshapen amoeba-like rolls that threaten to take over your countertop.

Don’t be nervous. You can, and should, make spring rolls at home. For starters, it’s fun -- you get to customize them with whatever fillings your heart desires. Use as many different vegetables as you want. Add tofu, shrimp, or even pork. Think about adding noodles, like rice vermicelli or soba noodles. Eschew cilantro in favor of mint. It’s your roll; make it your own. Wrapping fresh spring rolls is easier than you'd think, and it's fine if the first couple wrappers rip or the finished rolls are a little lumpy. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be churning them out by the dozen. 

A linguistic note: These also moonlight as summer rolls, rice paper rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls, salad rolls -- the list goes on. Spring rolls can be fried too, but then they are no longer called fresh spring rolls, and are referred to as fried spring rolls, or simply, spring rolls. The one thing these are not: egg rolls. Egg rolls are generally fried and made with flour-based wrappers. 

There are a number of different methods for working with rice paper wrappers, but here's how we make a closed-end roll:

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

The value of mise en place is not to be underestimated when dealing with wet spring roll wrappers. So get all of your ingredients prepped -- wash and slice your vegetables, pick the leaves from your herbs, slice your tofu into soldiers -- and arrange them all in little piles or bowls. If you're using meat, seafood, or noodles, cook them. Now is also the time to prepare your dipping sauce and set it aside -- try a peanut sauce, a soy-based sauce, or one of these suggestions from the community.

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

Clear a space for wrapping the rolls: The easiest option is a cutting board or clean countertop, but you can also use a large plate. Add warm water to a large, shallow bowl or pie plate -- or any vessel you have that is larger than your wrappers. Standard-size rice paper wrappers are 8 1/2-inch circles, so you should be able to find something that works. If you have extra-large rice paper wrappers, and don’t have a big enough dish, not to worry: You can soften them up by holding them under warm running water in your sink. 

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

Put one wrapper in the warm water, submerge it, and rub it with your hand, flip it, and rub the other side, leaving it in the water just long enough to make sure the whole thing gets wet. It will still feel slightly firm when you pull it out of the water, but it will continue to soften -- it might take some practice to figure out what the right amount of firmness feels like. Leave the wrapper in the water for too long, and it will start sticking to itself and get too soft for you to work with. (If you know you'll be making a lot of rolls, Food52er boulangere recommends working with cold water, and letting the rice paper wrappers soak longer.)

More: Not convinced? Skip the rice paper and make these summer rolls with leftover fish and crisp leafy greens

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

Lay the rice paper wrapper out flat and place ingredients in the bottom third of the wrapper. Aim for placing them in the shape you want the spring roll to be -- long and thin.

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

Treat each roll like a burrito: Distribute the ingredients evenly, so you don’t have all of one ingredient at one end; and layer the ingredients so you get a little of every flavor in each bite. Don’t overstuff the roll -- leave enough space on all sides to wrap it up. The rice paper wrapper takes a minute or two to soften up once it's out of the water, so by the time you’ve got all of your ingredients on the wrapper, it should be pliable enough to roll.

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

Pull the bottom (the part closest to you) of the rice paper wrapper up and over the filling, tucking it under a little bit to pull the ingredients closer together. Gently pull the left side of the wrapper over the middle, and then the right, to close up the ends of the roll. 

How to Wrap Fresh Spring Rolls

Roll it up away from you, continuing to gently tuck the filling in tighter as you go. The tucking helps the roll keep a nice shape, and guards against loose, unraveling rolls. For extra insurance, follow Sagegreen’s lead, and build rolls with two wrappers each -- she recommends soaking two wrappers in hot water for less than a minute. Layering two wrappers together at first (or wrapping a finished roll in a second wrapper as Sagegreen does) will make a sturdier roll, so you’ll have fewer missteps (and fewer ingredients breaking through) as you gain confidence with your wrapping technique.

Tell us: What are your tricks for wrapping rice paper rolls?

Photos by Linda Pugliese

17 Comments

Elizabeth M. January 11, 2018
Spring rolls have become my go-to lunch lately. I just love how light and fresh they are. I use Star Anise Foods brown rice wrappers for mine, and I always double wrap. I just can't seem to keep things from trying to break free with one wrap (what can I say, my eyes are bigger than my rice wrapper). Usually I lay some pieces of lettuce down first, to create a smooth barrier between my wrap and the jagged edges of things like purple cabbage and pea shoots. However I still find that doing a second wrap after the first helps prevent everything from falling out later, when there is nothing left to do but desperately try to hold your crumbling lunch together. Plus you get the extra chewiness of the rice paper, which I personally love.
 
Gj October 17, 2017
Just tried deep frying them. It didn't work, contents kept rupturing out. Sorry, but rice paper is only suited for the trashcan. Such a disappointment.
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. October 18, 2017
Yup, rice paper rolls definitely aren't intended to be deep fried, but rice paper is perfect for the fresh rolls outlined here. For deep-fried rolls you'll want egg roll wraps or wonton wrappers (for mini rolls).
 
daisybrain July 31, 2014
In my house we do in kind of like a taco or falafel bar. It works out great.
 
Rose July 30, 2014
LOVE these rolls and just made some yesterday!<br />My trick is to place the wet rice paper on a clean tea towel and then construct from there. This dries off the water a little and then makes the roll stick together better.<br />To keep the production "rolling", once you remove one rice paper from the hot water put the next one in so it's ready to go once you complete one.
 
Jo July 29, 2014
I have dinner parties where everyone makes their own rolls. To make it easier to fill, I make a filling of a tossed salad of glass noodles (bean thread noodles) or rice vermicelli, finely shredded salad vegetables and herbs, and shrimp or chicken. Each dinner guest then has to place a heap of the filling on their wrapper, wrap it up and eat. <br />It can be tricky to eat the rolls without having them fall apart - so these are my tips for eating. I find that wrapping up the rolls as tightly as possible helps to hold it all together. I also serve each guest with a little saucer of dipping sauce and a teaspoon, so that they can place a dollop of sauce on their roll before taking a bite. Doing it this way means you don't end up with dipping sauce with bits of filling that's fallen out of the rolls. Another way of dealing with the dipping sauce is to spread it on the wrapper itself, before filling it. But this can only be done for rolls that are eaten immediately.
 
Susan W. July 29, 2014
You know..it's so timely that you posted this. I made a kale, cabbage, carrot and orange bell pepper slaw type salad today. I used the dipping sauce for dressing. I was thinking it would make a great salad roll filling. Grabbing rice paper sheets tomorrow.
 
Susan W. July 29, 2014
I love roasting shrimp, chill and then slice in half lengthwise a.d placing it on the outside so the pink shows through. My favorite dipping sauce is almond butter, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, soy, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, lemon grass and a little water and light tasting oil (to loosen it up). Buzz it up in a blender until smooth. Add cilantro and buzz again until it's finely chopped. So good!!
 
aargersi July 29, 2014
I am making them your way, with your sauce next time!
 
Susan W. July 29, 2014
Oops...forgot that I swapped toasted sesame oil for the light tasting oil. I like it way better. :0)
 
Susan W. July 29, 2014
Abbie, I am adding shiso to my rolls next time. :)
 
louise July 29, 2014
Can the spring rolls be made in advance, kept for a few hours? Thanks!<br />
 
Susan W. July 29, 2014
Louise, I often make them ahead of time. Just wrap them well so they don't dry out.
 
louise July 29, 2014
Thank you so much Susan, I was hoping I could! Absolutely going to try this!
 
aargersi July 29, 2014
I planted shiso pretty much specifically for spring rolls - I like to lay whole leaves (of whatever herb) along that upper bit of the wrapper so that it shows through and looks pretty in the finished roll. I also like to bake my tofu in the peanut sauce and loads of rooster then slice-n-roll
 
Lauren K. July 29, 2014
Ooh, nice call with shiso as an addition! I always stockpile thai basil, cilantro and mint for these, but I'm going to add shiso for my next batch. Yum.
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. July 29, 2014
I love shiso in my rolls too! (with an ume plum based dipping sauce)