You can walk into any Chinese restaurant in the United States and find egg rolls listed on the menu. The savoury wraps are often served as an “all-vegetable” wrap but can also contain meat as well.
While the pork egg rolls are clearly non-vegan, there’s a lot of debate about the vegetable egg rolls.
So, are egg rolls vegan?
Egg rolls can be vegan. However, the majority of egg rolls are NOT vegan. Even if you’re eating a meat-free egg roll (veggie egg roll), there’s still a good chance that eggs were used to make the egg roll wrapper. This is actually the reason they’re called “egg rolls.”
Today’s post is going to be all about egg rolls. I’ll show you all of the ingredients used to make egg rolls, show you the difference between egg rolls and spring rolls, and show you a great recipe for making your own homemade vegan egg rolls!
Do Egg Rolls Have Eggs In Them?
I still remember the first time that I sat down and actually thought about what an egg roll actually is. I was in high school and it was long before I committed to being vegan, so I ate Chinese food on a semi-regular basis. Egg rolls were always my favourite appetizer.
One afternoon, after biting into my piping-hot fresh egg roll, I noticed that there weren’t any eggs in the roll. I always ate my egg rolls so fast that I never took the time to look at what was really inside of my rolls.
I asked the lady at the counter if my egg roll was supposed to have egg in it. She politely laughed and explained to me that they’re called “egg rolls” because of the eggs used in the egg roll wrapper dough.
Most egg rolls are wrapped with egg wraps. These egg wraps are made with flour, water, salt, eggs, and often a couple of other baking additives.
Overall, egg roll wraps are very similar to the Chinese egg noodles that are popular in dishes like lo mein and chow mein. Sometimes, Chinese-style ramen is also made with egg noodles.
However, egg rolls don’t have to have eggs in them. Many of the more processed wraps use more shelf-stable emulsifiers, such as soy lecithin or xanthan gum.
Once I went to a vegan Chinese restaurant that used a vegan egg substitute to make their own homemade egg roll wraps. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference compared to a typical egg-containing egg roll.
Are Vegetable Egg Rolls Vegan?
One of the biggest misconceptions I’ve run into when eating out with my friends is that vegetable egg rolls are vegan.
I can’t count how many times that I’ve had a friend order veggie egg rolls for me as a treat, only to have to tell them that I can’t eat them (even though I certainly appreciate the gesture).
For the most part, veggie egg rolls are NOT vegan-friendly. Even though the stuffing may be plant-based, the egg roll wrap likely contains eggs.
For those of you who are unaware of why eggs are so anti-vegan, I suggest reading my post on why eggs aren’t vegan. This will give you a good idea of the ethical implications of the egg industry, so you understand the argument better.
Are Egg Rolls Vegetarian?
One of the main reasons why everybody assumes that egg rolls are vegan is because they’re commonly touted as vegetarian food. Unfortunately, vegans and vegetarians have very different dietary restrictions.
Even though both diets are centred around plant-based eating, the vegetarian diet allows more room for animal-derived food products like cheese, milk, honey, and eggs. The only thing prohibited for vegetarians is the actual meat itself.
As long as they don’t contain any meat, egg rolls are vegetarian.
Vegans, on the other hand, don’t eat any animal-derived products whatsoever. We believe that all animal products are the result of cruelty and exploitation.
Spring Rolls vs. Egg Rolls: What’s The Difference?
People are always getting spring rolls confused with egg rolls. They’re about the same size, taste very similar, feature the same stuffing, and are both sold at Chinese restaurants.
While they may appear to be similar, there are actually a few key differences:
|Egg Rolls||Spring Rolls|
|Usually not vegan||Usually vegan|
|Made with thick egg wrapper||Made with thin wheat or rice wrapper|
|Typically deep-fried||Typically steamed|
|Often features meat alongside veggies||Usually plant-based, but may contain meat|
The biggest difference between spring rolls and egg rolls is that spring rolls are usually made with a thinner wrapper. Spring roll wrappers are typically made from flour, water, and salt, which means they’re lighter-tasting and usually egg-free.
Comparing spring rolls and egg rolls side-by-side, there’s a higher chance that the spring rolls will be vegan.
What Are Egg Rolls Made Of? Common Ingredients
Not many people actually take the time to take their egg rolls apart and see what’s inside. So, I figured that this would be the perfect opportunity to break down all of the main ingredients used to make egg rolls, so we can both learn together.
Here’s a brief example of what to expect from a processed frozen egg roll. This is the ingredients list for Pagoda Pork Egg Rolls, which are one of the more popular store-bought brands:
While the store-bought egg rolls are popular, they do contain a lot more artificial ingredients and preservatives than homemade egg rolls. That being said, your average Chinese restaurant isn’t making homemade egg rolls; they’re using pre-made, frozen egg rolls.
Without getting into too much detail, here’s a quick rundown of the main ingredients used to make egg rolls.
1) Egg Roll Wrapper
The egg roll wrapper is the main thing that differentiates egg rolls from spring rolls. Egg roll wrappers are typically made from a thick wheat-based dough that contains vegetable oil, eggs, and wheat gluten (a concentrated protein found in wheat).
2) Pork or Another Meat
The most popular variety of egg rolls is pork egg rolls. However, I’ve also seen beef, shrimp, chicken, and even tofu egg rolls. Obviously, if you’re on a vegan diet, you’ll want to stay away from anything with meat in it.
3) Vegetable Blend
The three most common veggies used for egg rolls are cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions. These are all nutritious, affordable veggies that provide a really nice crunch and a fresh flavour to the egg rolls.
4) Brown Rice
Most egg rolls also contain brown or white rice. This makes the egg rolls more filling and helps to balance out all of the fibre in the vegetables.
Garlic, onion, and paprika are the three most commonly used spices to season egg rolls with. However, this can vary from one brand to another.
6) Vegetable Oil
Most egg rolls are deep-fried in vegetable oil. Some of this oil is absorbed into the egg roll shell, which increases the fat content of the egg rolls.
Most pre-made egg rolls are going to contain some type of preservative. The most common (and natural) preservative is citric acid.
Can You Make Vegan Egg Rolls?
Vegan egg rolls are 100% possible! You just have to make them without meat and use a wrapper that’s egg-free. Here’s one of my favourite vegan egg roll recipes:
The Verdict – Can Vegans Eat Egg Rolls?
If you’re eating out, vegans should generally avoid egg rolls. Most restaurants make egg rolls that use an egg wrapper, which is non-vegan. However, vegan egg rolls are easy to cook at home, so that’s always a good option if you’re having some strong cravings.
If you’re looking for some awesome sauces to pair with your homemade vegan egg rolls, then keep on reading to see my favourite vegan sauces!