Vietnamese-style vegan summer rolls are the perfect light, yet satisfying summer dinner.
There are a handful of backpocket dishes I think of as “vegetable vehicles” – i.e. simple template recipes that can be packed with whatever vegetables I have on-hand or that are in season. Curries, tacos, stir-fry’s, and summer rolls being a few of my go-to’s.
I don’t need to remind you that vegetables are good for you and we should all be eating more of them. But nothing makes me sadder than when people attempt to meet their veggie quota with celery sticks, slimy baby carrots, or what I like to call the “sad salad”. I mean, there are just countless ways to eat vegetables in delicious ways and one should never resort to rabbit food.
If you take away just one thing from reading this blog, let it be this: incorporating more plants into your life should not feel like an obligation or sacrifice. Simply put, we should never not feel excited by the food on our plates – whether it’s something we think of as “healthy” or indulgent.
OK, just a second while I get off my soapbox…
So about these summer rolls. They are my riff on the beloved Vietnamese staple (gỏi cuốn). Also called “fresh spring rolls”, “rice paper rolls”, or “salad rolls”, this traditional appetizer consists of cold rice noodles, prawns, pork, herbs, and/or vegetables, wrapped in chewy rice paper and served with peanut or hoisin sauce.
Rene and I loved eating these so much at our local Vietnamese spot that we started making them at home (it’s truly annoying how much better he is at rolling them than me…). But instead of having them as a pre-dinner snack, we make a whole bunch and eat them with peanut sauce as the main meal. They’re the perfect light, yet satisfying dinner, ideal for hot summer nights when you’d rather eat nothing than eat something hot.
About Vietnamese Rice Papers
Vietnamese rice papers are a type of store-bought wrapper made of rice flour, water, and salt, and sometimes tapioca starch (author Andrea Nguyen has a great rice paper buying guide). These days, rice papers can be found in the Asian/international aisle of most supermarkets, in Asian speciality markets, or online. They’re initially stiff, but become soft, pliable, and seethrough after a quick soak in water.
Once a paper is softened and your roll is assembled, it will dry out pretty quickly, so it’s important to eat these right away. One way to prolong summer rolls’ life a little is to cover them with a damp kitchen towel.
Rice paper is also sticky – be sure to leave some space between your rolls so they don’t stick together.
Fillings and Variations
Although rice noodles are a standard part of the filling for traditional summer rolls, I don’t add them to mine because the rice paper is starchy enough for me.
I make my vegan summer rolls with batons of seared tofu. They add an umami note, as well as protein, and I love how their chewy-soft texture contrasts with the crunchy vegetables.
Here I’m using a combo of cucumber, bell pepper, and mango. You can also fill rice paper rolls with carrots, lettuce, cabbage, sprouts, celery, pineapple, avocado, thinly sliced radishes, and even roasted sweet potatoes in the colder months.Print
These Vietnamese-style vegan summer rolls with peanut sauce are a light, yet satisfying dinner – perfect for hot summer nights.
For the Rolls
- One 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado oil or organic canola oil, for frying
- 1 English cucumber, partially peeled leaving strips of skin
- 1 ripe mango, pitted and peeled
- 1 bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed
- 16 Vietnamese rice papers
- About 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, Thai basil, and/or mint
For the Sauce
- 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey, maple syrup, or date syrup
- 3–4 tablespoons water
- Start by pressing the tofu: Drain the tofu and place it on a plate, then top with another plate or cutting board and weigh it down with something heavy (like a couple of cans), to squeeze out as much water as possible. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, periodically draining off the excess water.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Slice the tofu lengthwise into 8 slabs, then slice lengthwise again to form 16 batons. Arrange the tofu in a single layer on the cutting board and season one side with half of the spice blend.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Arrange the tofu in the skillet in a single layer, seasoned-side down (if it doesn’t fit in a single layer, fry in batches). Season the other side with the remaining spice blend. Fry until the underside is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Then flip with tongs and cook for 5 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, cut the cucumber, mango, and pepper into 1/4-inch-thick matchsticks roughly the same length as the tofu.
- Make the sauce: in a small bowl, combine the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, and honey. Using a fork or whisk, stir until a smooth paste forms. Then gradually incorporate the water until you reach a creamy consistency.
- To assemble the rolls, arrange all the fillings near a work surface. Fill a pie plate or large bowl with warm water.
- Submerge a rice paper into the water for 15 to 30 seconds, until it becomes pliable but not fully soft. Place the paper on the work surface and arrange a few cilantro leaves in the center. Place a piece of tofu on top, followed by a few pieces of each vegetable. Carefully pull the bottom edge of the paper tightly over the fillings, then fold over the right and left sides. Continue rolling up tightly.
- Place the prepared rolls on a tray, making sure they’re not touching, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Continue rolling the remaining ingredients and serve the rolls immediately.
- Serving Size: 2 rolls
- Calories: 180
- Carbohydrates: 12.4 g
- Fiber: 2.2 g
- Protein: 8.1 g
Keywords: vietnamese, rice paper, summer rolls, tofu