If you walk into virtually any Chinese or Asian-inspired restaurant in the world, you’ll find spring rolls listed as one of the appetizers or starters.
They’re a popular dish that can be found in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Filipino cuisine alike and is often sold at Asian fusion restaurants as well. You may even find them sold frozen at your local grocery store!
However, are spring rolls vegan?
By themselves, spring rolls are sometimes vegan. They’re made with a wheat-based wrap and filled with a mixture of protein, beans, and veggies.
Then, the rolls are either steamed or deep-fried, depending on the restaurant you’re visiting. The problem almost always resides with what type of protein is used, as spring rolls often contain meat.
In today’s post, I’m going to do my best to shine some light on this topic and clarify exactly what spring rolls are actually made of. I’ll also answer some of the most common questions that I’ve been getting about these delicious fried rolls.
Are you ready to get a crash course in spring rolls and find out what makes them vegan?
Are Spring Roll Wrappers Vegan?
The main thing that makes spring rolls a “roll” is the fact that they’re rolled in a wrapper prior to being cooked.
Depending on where you’re eating, you may find some spring rolls that are wrapped in a thicker, more doughy wrap while others are wrapped in a lighter, more transparent wrap.
Most spring roll wrappers are 100% vegan. They’re made from a combination of wheat flour, water, and salt. Some wrappers are also made from rice flour and thinly rolled, giving them a more transparent appearance.
That being said, it’s never a good idea to assume anything. Some spring roll wrappers may contain whole eggs or egg whites, neither of which are vegan.
If you’re purchasing pre-made spring rolls at the grocery store, then you should be able to tell by simply reading the ingredients list. However, if you’re eating out at a restaurant (especially if it’s a non-vegan restaurant), be sure to ask your server if the spring rolls are vegan before buying any.
Do Spring Rolls Have Egg In Them?
Traditionally, spring rolls aren’t supposed to contain any eggs, either within or as part of the wrapper dough. That being said, some spring roll recipes use wraps that contain eggs. It all depends on where you’re buying your food from.
What’s The Difference Between Spring Rolls & Egg Rolls?
The main difference between spring and egg rolls lies in the fact that egg roll dough is supposed to contain eggs. The added egg in the wrapper dough gives the rolls a thicker, softer texture and makes egg rolls slightly more filling than spring rolls.
This means that most egg rolls are non-vegan, as they contain eggs.
Despite tradition, though, some egg roll recipes no longer contain eggs at all. This is especially true when it comes to store-bought egg rolls, as these often use cheaper, less-natural ingredients to increase their profit margins.
The best way to tell for sure if your spring or egg rolls actually contain any egg is to look at the ingredients list or speak to the server at the restaurant you’re buying them from.
Do Spring Rolls Have Meat In Them?
Traditionally, spring rolls are made with meat. The most common meats that you may find in spring rolls are:
Obviously, if the spring rolls you’re looking at have meat in them, then they’re non-vegan and shouldn’t be eaten by vegans or vegetarians. However, many restaurants may also offer vegan-friendly spring rolls that are meat-free or contain a vegan protein, such as seitan, tempeh, or tofu.
Some of the best-tasting spring rolls I’ve ever had were made with vegan shrimp, a type of soy-based seafood that has the same texture and consistency as real shrimp.
If you want the best vegan spring rolls, I definitely recommend checking out one of those fancy all-vegan Asian restaurants sometimes!
Ingredients To Look Out For In Spring Rolls
To help you better understand what to look out for, here’s a brief look at the problem ingredients that you may find in some spring rolls:
|Non-Vegan Ingredients In Spring Rolls||Why They’re Problematic|
|Eggs||Eggs are sometimes used in spring roll wrappers. Although it’s not common, some restaurants use pre-formed rolls that may contain eggs.|
|Meat||Traditionally, spring rolls almost always contain some type of protein like shrimp or pork. If the spring rolls contain meat, then you’ll know that they’re off-limits.|
|Palm oil||Some spring rolls are deep-fried in palm oil. While palm oil is plant-based, many vegans try to stay away from it, as it’s one of the biggest contributors to deforestation. It’s also pushing many smaller species to the brink of extinction by encroaching on their natural territory!|
What Are Spring Rolls Made Of? A Look At The Ingredients
Now that you have a better idea of what to expect from your spring rolls, here’s a quick look at all of the main ingredients that you’ll find in traditional homemade recipes.
Of course, each different may use a slightly different recipe, and most store-bought spring rolls contain a number of added preservatives and artificial flavors.
However, this should give you a good idea of what exactly you’re eating when you order a spring roll!
1) Meat or Vegan Protein
Although most Americans treat spring rolls as an appetizer, they can actually be quite filling as a meal all by themselves. This is because most spring rolls contain some type of protein, which makes them far more filling and nutritious.
Your typical non-vegan Asian restaurant will likely offer shrimp or pork spring rolls. However, some may also offer beef or chicken spring rolls as well. It all depends on the restaurant’s recipe and what’s available in your market.
As vegans, meat is clearly off-limits. However, some restaurants also offer spring rolls with vegan protein, such as soy-based tofu!
If the restaurant you’re at doesn’t offer any vegan protein selections, you may be able to ask them for a pure-veggie spring roll that’s only made with fresh vegetables and beans!
Sprouts are a common ingredient used in Asian cuisine and are often used in spring rolls. They’re incredibly nutritious and are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They’re also responsible for that awesome crunch that you get every time you bite into a fresh spring roll!
Some people don’t like sprouts because of their rather earthy flavor (they grow underground), but I really enjoy them. In fact, they’re one of my favorite toppings to put on my vegan deli sandwiches!
Carrots are another source of crunch in spring rolls. They also add a nice little flair of color to the roll that makes them look bright and cheery. Carrots, of course, are always vegan and are a great source of vitamin A and fiber. In short, they’re great for your eyes and digestion!
Beans are another common ingredient used in spring rolls. This not only makes them more filling but provides a softer texture that helps to balance out the crispy wrapper and the crunchy vegetables. Lentils are, by far, the most common type of bean added to spring rolls.
I’ve also seen peas used instead of beans.
Peas are a great source of plant-based protein, taste delicious, and are quite filling as well.
Cabbage is very common in Asian cuisine and, in fact, is one of the main vegetables you’ll find in traditional ramen noodle dishes. Cabbage doesn’t have a ton of nutritional value (as far as vitamins go) but it’s healthy, low-calorie, and filling. Plus, it gives the spring rolls even more “crunch-factor.”
Last but not least, all spring rolls are tightly wrapped in a wheat flour or rice flour-based wrapper. This is very similar to a tortilla or raw wrap. The completed spring roll is then either fried in oil or steamed like a dumpling before being served!
Are Spring Rolls Healthy?
For the most part, spring rolls can be considered healthy. Fried spring rolls aren’t nearly as healthy as steamed rolls, thanks to the extra fat and salt from the frying process. However, the vegetables are still healthy, filling, and full of vitamins.
Are Spring Rolls Fried In Palm Oil?
Many vegans try to avoid consuming palm oil, as it’s a huge contributor to rainforest deforestation and is very harmful to our planet, indigenous tribes, and the animal ecosystem.
Unfortunately, this is a bit of a hard question to answer. Palm oil is very common in Asian cooking and many restaurants use palm oil or blended vegetable oil that contains palm oil.
Your best bet is to ask your server so that you know for sure.
The Verdict – Are Spring Rolls Vegan-Friendly?
Spring rolls can be vegan if they don’t contain meat and aren’t fried in palm oil. Some of the vegan spring rolls I’ve had that are made with vegan meat are also some of the best-tasting vegan appetizers that I’ve ever had!
If you enjoyed this post, then be sure to read my latest post on the best vegan side dishes next!