Vegan Summer Rolls

These vegan summer rolls are filled with smoked tofu, fresh crunchy veggies, thin rice noodles, and fresh herbs. These rolls are a delicious and easy side dish, appetizer, or light meal.

Once you have all fillings ready, summer rolls are easy and fun to make. So, if you are hesitant to make summer rolls, this post might be helpful as I will walk you through the process with a video and step-by-step photos so you can enjoy your summer rolls too.

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{this post was updated April 2022}

SPRING ROLLS OR SUMMER ROLLS?

The correct name can be confusing. Are they spring rolls, summer rolls, cold rolls, or salad rolls? There are a few more names for summer rolls, such as gỏi cuốn or nem cuốn, fresh spring roll, or rice paper rolls.

Let’s keep it simple. The difference between spring rolls and summer rolls is that spring rolls are fried, and summer rolls are wrapped in translucent rice paper and served cold. The term cold rolls or salad rolls refer to the same; cold rolls made with rice paper.

There are many variations possible, and I could dive further into that, but this is all you need to know for this vegan summer rolls recipe. If they are not fried and served cold, they are summer rolls. However, you might see a cold roll named a spring roll. Technically speaking, that would not be correct, but there is no set rule when it comes to spring rolls. Generally, spring rolls and summer rolls are different depending on the region or culture.

This summer roll recipe is inspired by Vietnamese cuisine (Vietnamese fresh summer rolls, or salad rolls). These rolls typically consist of rice noodles, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, herbs, and shrimp or pork wrapped in a rice-paper wrapper. I substituted the pork or shrimp for smoked tofu for these vegan summer rolls.

Whatever you want to call these rolls: they are delicious.

A blue plate with three summer rolls in the middle with the filling visible

VEGAN SUMMER ROLLS INGREDIENTS

These summer rolls are light, vibrant, delicious, and easy to make.

This recipe is so fun because you can decide what the filling is. This recipe contains the more traditional Vietnamese summer roll fillings, but feel free to adjust this to whatever you like or have on hand.

Bowl with fresh veggies, lettuce, herbs, tofu on a white backdrop with rice paper and cooked rice vermicelli

Protein:
I use smoked tofu to replace the shrimp or pork, but any other (not liquid) protein is a good option, such as tempeh. Anything marinated or smoked is good, as plain tofu can be bland.
Fresh vegetables:
Carrot, cucumber, red bell pepper, green onion, butter lettuce are the classic filling options.
Fresh herbs:
Use whatever you have on hand. I used mint and cilantro.
Thin rice noodles:
The thin rice noodles in this recipe (also known as vermicelli noodles) add an extra layer of filling and bite to these rolls.
Rice paper:
This is an essential ingredient. You can find Vietnamese rice paper in most grocery stores, online or have a look in a local Asian market.

There are many different options, so feel free to omit or replace a vegetable or herb.

SUBSTITUTIONS

The main ingredient for this recipe is rice paper. Feel free to substitute and use different veggies, extras, noodles, or herbs for all the other ingredients. Here are a few possible substitutions.

Instead of red bell pepper, try shredded red cabbage. Basil and parsley are also excellent herbs to use in this recipe when mint or cilantro is not your thing. The possibilities are endless. I once used endive, spinach, avocado, and lentils in this recipe and loved it.

HOW TO WRAP SUMMER ROLLS

While the recipe is not complicated, the wrapping can be tricky though. But with a few simple and easy steps, you will be able to make perfect rolls. If you know how to fold a burrito, you know how to make a summer roll. The full recipe is below and the video will also show you how to make summer rolls.

Step 1 – Prepare the ingredients
This step is crucial. Once the rice paper is wet, you will need to move quickly and start filling the rice paper.

Get all your ingredients ready. So, wash and cut the veggies and herbs. Cook the rice noodles, set aside, and keep a tray of lukewarm water ready for the rice paper.


Step 2 – Soften the rice paper
Dip a sheet of rice paper in a bowl (or tray) with lukewarm water. A few seconds will be enough, and then place on a slightly damp surface such as a plate or cutting board. If you keep the rice paper too long in the water, it will become too soft and one big sticky rice dough ball. 

Step 3 – Fill the rice paper
Whatever you place first will be visible on the outside. If you present your rolls halved, this will not matter so much, but if you want to show your rolls as a whole, this can be good to know. 

It is easier to start with lettuce because it makes the rice paper firmer. The width of the filling will be the width of the summer rolls. So, to avoid the summer rolls becoming too small and the vegetables sticking through the rice paper, don’t start with the harder vegetables, but with the softer leaves (lettuce or herbs).

Keep a little space open on the sides of the rice paper for easy wrapping/rolling. Then add the other ingredients as you like.


Step 4 – Fold the rice paper
Wet your fingers and the sides of the rice paper and gently pull the rice paper away from the surface. Pull the bottom up and over the bottom of the filling. Try to keep the filling together as you roll. Once you cover the filling, pull each side of the rice paper over the enclosed filling and keep on wrapping. If your fingers stick to the rice paper, slightly wet them and work quickly. 
 
The first roll might not be perfect, but practice makes perfect.

ROLLING TIPS

I hope the step-by-step visual explanation on how to wrap summer rolls is helpful, but here are a few extra tips which helped me a lot.

Hydration
A few drops of water or wet fingertips are key to preventing any rice paper from tearing. So, dip your fingers in water and wet the rice paper. And dip your fingers again in water if the rice paper gets sticky.

Double
Sometimes (especially when your summer rolls are a bit fuller), the rice paper can rip. You can still save the filling and rice paper using a second rice paper. A double layer of rice paper hardly rips.

Thinly sliced
The thinner you can slice the ingredients, the better. It doesn’t only make the rolling more manageable, it prevents the veggies from piercing through the rice paper, and the rolls taste better. I like to go for a Julienne. A.K.A matchstick cut veggies. This is a long, thin cut, looking like long match sticks.

Soften the rice paper
One thing that helped me a lot was to soak the rice paper in water only for a few seconds. When you soak the rice paper in water for too long, it can become hard to make rolls. However, it is not that big of a deal when you don’t soak the rice paper long enough in water. Since your fingers will be dipped in water this will further soften the rice paper. So take it easy on the water; otherwise, your rice paper might get stuck to the surface.

A bowl with summer rolls sliced open showing the inside with a small bowl of soy sauce in the bowl

HOW TO SERVE SUMMER ROLLS

They are delicious with a simple sauce or dip. I like to serve these rolls with soy sauce/tamari (just like sushi), but I also like a good sauce. The fillings are all dry, so a thicker sauce is delicious.

Vegan summer rolls are also delicious with nut butter (almond or peanut butter) mixed with lemon juice, garlic, and maple syrup or serve the rolls with this delicious Vietnamese peanut sauce.

A hand holding a bowl with summer rolls sliced open showing the inside with a small bowl of soy sauce in the bowl

CAN YOU KEEP THESE ROLLS FOR LATER?

These rolls are best when served right after rolling, but you can make a batch ahead. After making the rolls keep them in the fridge. When serving them, you will notice the rolls stick to each other. Hydrate the rice paper again with a bit of water (spray with water or cooking oil), so they are easy to separate.

You can also decide to store them separated in the fridge, so they don’t have the chance to stick to each other. You can use parchment paper for that (don’t use kitchen paper towel for this!), or if you have any big butter lettuce leaves left, use that. With this method, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days.

If you are pressed for time but still want to enjoy fresh summer rolls, you can prepare the veggies the day before and store them in an air-tight container.

All in all, summer rolls are best assembled shortly before serving.

A bowl with summer rolls sliced open showing the inside with a small bowl of soy sauce in the bowl on a white backdrop

Craving more salad recipes? You’re going to love these:

Are you going to make these vegan summer rolls? If so, I would love to see them. Please tag me on Instagram #thegreencreator @thegreencreator so that I can enjoy your recreations.

A bowl with summer rolls sliced diagonally and presented to show the inside on a white backdrop with a hand dipping a roll in soy sauce
Print
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A bowl with summer rolls sliced diagonally and presented to show the inside on a white backdrop with a hand dipping a roll in soy sauce

Vegan Summer Rolls

  • Author: Bianca
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 10 summer rolls 1x 1x
  • Category: appetizer, main, side
  • Method: by hand
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

These vegan summer rolls are filled with smoked tofu, fresh crunchy veggies, thin rice noodles, and fresh herbs. These rolls are a delicious and easy side dish, appetizer, or light meal.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 handful (about 60 grams/2 oz) rice vermicelli noodles or whole grain brown rice noodles
  • 1 block of smoked tofu
  • 10 sheets of rice paper (summer roll wrappers)
  • 5 leaves butter lettuce, ribs removed, and cut in half
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced very thinly
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cucumber or one small cucumber, sliced into strips
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, parsley or (Thai) basil
  • ¼ cup fresh mint
  • optional: soy sauce or peanut sauce to dip

Instructions

Prepare the ingredients: 
Cook the rice vermicelli noodles according to the package directions and set them aside.
Wash and thinly slice all the herbs and vegetables, including the tofu. Set a bowl or baking sheet aside with an inch of lukewarm water. Keep the rice paper within reach. 
If your rice noodles are very sticky, mix in some sesame oil.

Soften the rice paper
Place a sheet of rice paper in the bowl (or baking sheet) with warm water for about 10 seconds. If the rice paper gets slightly soft, remove it from the water even if it only takes 5 seconds. Rotate the rice paper so all sides are immersed. The rice paper should be pliable but not very soft. 
Remove the rice paper from the water and place it on a damp surface, such as a plate or cutting board.

Fill the rice paper
Place any of the fillings you prepared into the center of the rice paper. But it’s easier to start with lettuce or a herb as this will strengthen the rice paper. The width of the filling will be the width of the summer rolls. So, to avoid making small rolls with veggies poking through the rice paper, don’t start with the harder vegetables, but with the softer leaves (lettuce or herbs). It’s best to proceed quickly here, as the rice paper will soon become sticky.

Try to leave a few inches open around the edges. Place the filling on the lower part of the paper and continue until you have placed all ingredients on the rice paper. 

Roll the rice paper:
Fold the lower edge of the rice paper up and over the filling. Roll upward until you have enclosed the filling completely. Then fold the side over the filling (just like a burrito). Keep rolling. It’s best to use both hands as you proceed to keep the filling together until the rice paper encloses it. 

Repeat with the other rice paper and ingredients. 
Wet your fingers in between if it’s too sticky or wet the rice paper. Carefully remove the rice paper from the surface, so the rice paper does not rip.

Serve:
Summer rolls can be served with soy sauce/tamari, a (peanut or sweet chili) sauce, or a thick dressing. These rolls can be served whole or sliced in half (diagonal) with a sharp knife (to avoid ripping the rice paper).


Notes

Noodles:
Any thin rice noodles are great for this summer rolls. You can find them as rice vermicelli noodles. But if you want to go for a whole grain option, look for brown rice noodles. 

Gluten-free:
If you are gluten-free, make sure the noodles are truly gluten-free (they should be). And as a dip, use tamari instead of soy sauce. Soy sauce typically contains gluten.

Any leftovers:
You can prepare the veggies the day before and store them in an air-tight container. Summer rolls are best assembled shortly before serving.

Substitute:
The main ingredient for this recipe is rice paper. Feel free to substitute and use different veggies, extras, noodles, or herbs for all the other ingredients.

Keywords: summer rolls, spring rolls, vietnamese, appetizer, main, side

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