Tofu Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
These vegan spring rolls are filled with seasoned, fried tofu, herbs and greens but the sky’s the limit with possibilities. Create your own protein, vegetable and herb combination.
My husband was away last week on a boys’ trip. To welcome him home I prepared these vegan spring rolls as they have been his favorite item to order during our lunch outings. Our experience has been hit-and-miss over the years but the two Asian restaurants we’ve tried this year have gotten their spring rolls right each time.
I had never made them before because, until recently, I never cared for soaked rice paper wrappers. Fried rolls have always been my preference. I always ate the filling and left behind the soft, translucent wrapper on my plate. But something’s changed recently and I don’t mind the soft wrapper as much.
Spring Roll Fillings
While classic spring rolls use pork or shrimp (or prawns) for the protein component instead of tofu, it’s not uncommon to see the latter as a vegan option. For this recipe I gave the tofu a flavor boost with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) but other seasonings like soy sauce or hoisin sauce would work well too. The vegetables and herbs are not just an afterthought here. You want a leafy green along with carrots and cucumber for the crunch factor and herbs like cilantro and mint for brightness. Basil would be another traditional ingredient. Vermicelli noodles, lettuce and sprouts round out my list of fillings but I can see jicama, bell peppers or beets being nice additions, too.
Speaking of tradition, I’d like to say that these spring rolls lean more Thai but our local Vietnamese restaurant serves a nearly identical roll. The choice of dipping sauce is what might anchor the rolls as one or the other, the Vietnamese rolls usually served with a fish sauce- or hoisin-based sauce and the Thai, peanut-based which is what I’ve done here.
Precision is not required here. In fact, I suggest using my recipe as starting point. To the peanut butter I added soy sauce, lime juice and chili sauce by the tablespoon until it was right for me. I will note that water is most commonly used to loosen the peanut base but since I had an open container of light coconut milk, this is what I used, giving the sauce a richer quality, enhancing the peanut notes rather than diluting them. You can leave out the spicy component but if you like a little heat, sambal oelek is a wonderful contrast to the creamy peanut butter and while you’re at it, drizzle chili-garlic crisp on top to give the sauce even more punch.
These spring rolls were waiting for my husband when he returned home last weekend and he’s been raving about them since. He’s already asked me to make them again and we’re now looking forward to playing around with different protein and vegetable combinations.
My Recipe Notes and Tips
- Don’t skip the herbs–mint, cilantro and basil, any combination of the three add a lot to the finished product.
- Use a julienne peeler like this one to make prepping the vegetables much easier.
- Larger wrappers are better. I bought 16 cm wrappers, not knowing any better, and after this first go I would recommend using larger wrappers. They would be easier to handle and you can be more generous with fillings.
Tofu Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
These vegan spring rolls are filled with seasoned, fried tofu, herbs and greens but the sky's the limit with possibilities.
Spring Rolls (Amounts are approximate for roughly 12 4-inch rolls)
- 1 package rice paper wrappers (See note)
- 2-3 ounces rice stick noodles (See note)
- 1 block firm tofu, drained and sliced into strips (1 cm wide)
- romaine or butter lettuce, few leaves, trimmed
- cucumber, julienned
- carrot, julienned
- mint leaves
- sprouts, optional
- kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil for frying the tofu
- kosher salt, to taste
Peanut Dipping Sauce (you can start with the smaller amounts here and add by the tablespoon, to taste)
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek (or your favorite chili sauce)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup light coconut milk (or water or stock)
- 1 lime
- 1-2 tablespoons honey
- drizzle sesame oil (or neutral oil)(optional)
- chili-garlic crisp (optional)
Prepare the Tofu
Brush the tofu strips with kecap manis. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the tofu, flipping until all sides are golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes. Set aside.
Prepare the Vermicelli Noodles
Soak the dried vermicelli noodles in hot water for ten minutes and drain (or the time indicated on the noodle packaging.)Trim the noodles using scissors so they're easier to handle.
Spring Roll Assembly
Pour some warm water in a shallow bowl large enough to be able to soak the rice paper wrappers.
Wet the surface of a cutting board. Soak one dried rice paper wrapper in the bowl of warm water for a few seconds. Once softened (it's okay if it's still a little stiff) lay it on the wet cutting board. Begin layering the filling ingredients starting with the lettuce followed by the remaining ingredients–tofu, cucumber, carrots, sprouts, mint, cilantro, noodles–leaving some room at the edges. Fold the bottom flap of the wrapper over the filling tofu and vegetables, tucking the filling as tightly as possible. Fold in each side of the wrapper and finish rolling. Arrange on a plate. Repeat until done. For serving, you can slice each spring roll in half to reveal the colorful filling.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
Start with the smaller amounts in range for each ingredient. Combine the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and add more of each ingredient until it's to your liking.
Rice paper wrappers: I used smaller wrappers, 16 cm in diameter, to make smaller rolls. Larger wrappers might be easier to handle.
Vermicelli noodles: I used Dynasty brand Maifun Rice Stick Noodles. The package contains six ounces of noodles but I used only a portion of it.