Fresh, light and fun to make, try these Vietnamese-inspired vegan summer rolls or "salad rolls" with tofu, cucumber, lettuce, mint and cilantro with spicy peanut dipping sauce. Such a refreshing summer meal, you'll find you keep coming back for more.
Vietnamese summer rolls are usually served at room temperature, sometimes cold. The outside wrapping is made of rice paper briefly soaked in warm water.
According to Wikipedia, Gỏi cuốn or nem cuốn, salad roll, summer roll, fresh spring roll, spring roll, rice paper roll, is a Vietnamese dish traditionally consisting of pork, prawn, vegetables, bún (rice vermicelli), and other ingredients wrapped in Vietnamese bánh tráng (commonly known as rice paper or cold roll). Unlike other spring roll dishes which are believed to be originated from China, Vietnamese gỏi cuốn is the country's creation using rice paper.
The rice paper is filled with lettuce, herbs, veggies, a protein of some sort and then wrapped up like a mini burrito.
They are sometimes served with fish sauce, but they are delicious with a spicy peanut dipping sauce or sweet chili sauce.
We are going to make these summer rolls vegan and vegetarian by using tofu as our protein.
🧄 Ingredient notes
Vegan cold summer roll filling options I suggest are:
- Cooked rice vermicelli noodles
- Green leaf lettuce
- Carrot (you could also try quick pickled carrots)
- Bell pepper
- Fresh thai basil
- Fresh cilantro
- Fresh mint
- Tofu: Try it with Sweet Chili Air Fryer Tofu (pictured) or Baked ginger garlic tofu
That being said, you can get creative and adjust the filling to your liking. There are so many options!
To make the 3-ingredient peanut sauce to dip these spring rolls in, you'll need:
- peanut butter
- soy sauce (or tamari/coconut aminos for gluten-free)
- chopped peanuts (optional)
I like Persian (baby) cucumbers here because they are the perfect size.
They just need to be quartered lengthwise. But, you can use any type of cucumber. You'll need to just trim them to be the right length for the size rice paper you're using.
The rice paper I use is a standard round size. Not the mini ones, not the square ones, not the giant ones. They are about 10 inches across.
They carry them in most of the grocery stores I shop in. But, if you need to buy them online, the Three Ladies brand of rice paper is good.
The garlic ginger lime marinade works well in the baked tofu for this recipe.
As an alternative, give this sweet chili air fryer tofu recipe a try. The air fryer method for this tofu would work for the garlic ginger lime tofu, as well.
You can omit the tofu for soy-free spring rolls. The quartered spears of cucumber will serve as the "backbone" of your spring roll so they don't easily bend over.
Prepare all the fillings before you assemble
Mise in what? Mise en place (French pronunciation: [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) is a French culinary phrase which means "putting in place" or "everything in its place."
Basically, it means to cut and prepare everything you're going to use before you start working on rolling these babies.
So, julienne your carrots, wash, dry and trim your lettuce to a good size, julienne your bell pepper and bake your tofu, if you're using it.
Set everything within arms reach while you're rolling your fresh summer rolls. This works great for a party with friends! Put all the various ingredients on a big platter and start an assembly line.
You'll also need to have a clean, flat surface ready to lay the rice paper on when you pull it out of the water. And, you'll need a plate or serving dish to place them on as you finish rolling them.
How to roll fresh summer salad rolls
The most challenging part of this recipe is rolling your spring rolls. I've offered my top tips for rolling spring rolls down below in the post.
The water you use to soak your rice paper should not be boiling hot or cold - it should be warm, even hottish, like the temperature of water you would use to wash dishes.
I fill one of my wide 10 inch stainless steel skillets with hot water and use that to dunk the rice paper, because it is larger than the width of the paper.
This works well, because if the water starts to get too cold, I can turn the heat on for a minute and warm it back up.
You could also use a large bowl. My friend, Helen, runs the water from her faucet and holds the rice paper under the water until it softens.
They have a fancy rice paper soaker on Amazon that I have heard good things about, but I haven't tried it. Do what works best for you.
I typically soak them in the water until they are flexible, but still a little firm, about 10-20 seconds. As you fill them they will continue to soften. If you leave them in the water too long then they will get mushy.
How to make peanut sauce for Vietnamese fresh spring rolls
The spicy sriracha peanut dipping sauce is quick to make and can be adjusted to your spiciness preference.
It requires just 3 ingredients, plus water. You'll need peanut butter (or for a low-fat version, PB2 powder), sriracha hot sauce and soy sauce (or tamari, coconut aminos).
Have a lava tongue? Dump in the sriracha. Not into spicy? Just use a little.
Freshly made summer rolls are best eaten freshly made. But, they will last for 1-3 days in the refrigerator, depending on the ingredients you use to make them. For produce that spoils quickly like avocado, those are better eaten fresh. But produce like carrots, bell pepper will stay fresh tasting longer.
If you make extra summer rolls, you'll want to wrap them individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate them to store them so they don't dry out or stick to each other and tear. You might want to refrain from using avocado if you're going to eat them the next day. The other ingredients will keep better.
A simple and easy recipe is combining peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha and water until you get the consistency you like. I have exact ingredients down below in the recipe card.
Summer rolls are typically rolled in rice paper, which has no egg in it and is vegan. However, sometimes, the filling may have animal products (meat, seafood or egg, usually) in it. So, be sure to check what's inside before assuming summer rolls are vegan.
Summer rolls are served cold or cool wrapped in rice paper. The filling is typically fresh herbs, thinly sliced raw vegetables and some type of protein like tofu, shrimp or meat. These are sometimes called spring rolls, as well. But, what most people think of when they say spring rolls is the fried version. They are similar to egg rolls, but wrapped in rice paper, then fried, instead of an egg and flour wrapper.
Top tips for rolling spring rolls
- Have all your ingredients in place before you get started
- Only soak your rice paper for 10-20 seconds or until it's just starting to become more pliable.
- Use a flat smooth surface that is plastic, sealed ceramic (like a large plate) or a stone cutting board. Do NOT use a wooden cutting board, they will stick like crazy!
- Lightly wet surface before rolling each spring roll.
- Don’t overfill your spring rolls, they will be too hard to roll and unwieldy to eat.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you like this Vietnamese fresh summer roll recipe, then check out my other Asian-inspired vegan recipes.
Vegan Summer Rolls with Tofu and Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
Sweet Chili Tofu
- 8 rice papers
- 4 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
- 8 leaves green leaf lettuce trimmed to fit rice paper
- 4 Persian or baby cucumbers sliced into thick long quarter slices
- 2 carrots julienned or grated
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
- 1 cup fresh cilantro stems on, cut into 4 inch pieces
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves stems removed
- ½ cup Thai basil leaves stems removed
Bake sweet chili tofu
- Prepare the extra firm tofu by pressing it gently in a clean dish cloth or paper towels. Cut the tofu into 16 long fingers, so they fit the shape and size of the spring rolls. You'll have 2 pieces per roll. Or, you can cut it into 8 larger rectangles, for one piece per roll.16 ounces extra firm tofu
- Mix soy sauce and sweet chili sauce in bowl.¼ cup soy sauce, ½ cup sweet chili sauce
- Spread a thin layer of sweet chili marinade on the bottom of a baking dish, then place your tofu pieces on top. Then, brush the rest of marinade on top. Marinate for at least 10 minutes, up to overnight.
- Line air fryer with parchment paper (if your air fryer basket is not non-stick and for easier cleanup) or spray with baking spray. Place tofu pieces in a single layer, not touching each other, in the air fryer basket or tray.
- Air fry at 400°F for 12 minutes, or until browned on the edges. Alternatively, you can bake these in the oven at 400 for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway through.
Make dipping sauce
- Prepare the spicy peanut dipping sauce by whisking ingredients together and adding a tablespoon of water at a time until you get the consistency you want. Reduce or increase sriracha, according to your tolerance to spice. Sprinkle top with minced peanuts.¼ cup peanut butter, 1 tablespoon mirin, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sriracha, 3-4 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon minced peanuts
Cook rice noodles
- Cook rice noodles according to package instructions, then rinse well in cold water, drain and set aside in a bowl.4 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
Assemble summer rolls
- Spread out all of your prepped vegetables, herbs, noodles and other ingredients in front of you, within arms reach.8 leaves green leaf lettuce, 4 Persian or baby cucumbers, 2 carrots, 1 avocado, 1 red bell pepper, 1 cup fresh cilantro, ½ cup fresh mint leaves, ½ cup Thai basil leaves
- Add an inch of warm water to a wide pan or bowl. Submerse rice paper in bowl for 10-20 seconds, twirling it to make sure the all areas of the rice paper get soaked with water.8 rice papers
- Then, transfer rice paper to flat working space (like a dinner plate) and layer ingredients in the center of the paper. Be careful to not overfill them! Then, gently pull up the bottom edge and place it over the filling. Then, fold in each side toward the center, so it touches the wrapper and sticks to it. Then, roll it away from you, tucking the filling in as you go, to seal it into a summer roll.
- Eat the spring roll whole or cut at a diagonal with a sharp knife for a pretty presentation. Serve with spicy peanut dipping sauce.