Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

Vietnamese spring rolls are fun to make and delicious to eat with your favorite dipping sauce. Use the assembly line method and you'll have 8 spring rolls ready in no time.

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Vietnamese spring rolls on a platter with sweet Thai chili sauce next to it.

Why make Fresh Spring Rolls?

Vietnamese fresh spring rolls are one of my favorite Asian appetizers. Although egg rolls and fried spring rolls might be more familiar and common in the USA, I’ll always pick a fresh spring roll over either of the other options. Fresh spring rolls are super tasty, leave you feeling refreshed and yet satisfied, they are better for you since they are fresh rather than deep-fried and … they are easily the pretties of all the rolls by far!

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ingredients on a marble counter - shrimp, vermicelli noodles, mint, carrot, pepper, cabbage, lettuce and sesame oil.

What’s in a Vietnamese Fresh Spring Roll?

A Vietnamese style fresh spring roll is a savory mixture of fresh vegetables and herbs, cold thin rice noodles and often a cooked protein (like shrimp), wrapped up in a rice paper wrapper. This recipe includes lettuce, cabbage, carrots, red pepper and cucumber as the vegetables, along with thin vermicelli rice noodles, but it’s the shrimp and especially the mint that make them something special to me. If you don’t like mint, you can substitute cilantro, but you have to use one or the other for the true effect. Fresh spring rolls are easy to make ahead, store for a few hours nicely and are best enjoyed with your favorite dip – peanut sauce, sweet Thai chili sauce, hosin sauce, a soy-based dipping sauce. I could make a meal out of fresh spring rolls in a heartbeat.

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two hands slicing cooked shrimp in half on a green cutting board.

Step 1: Prepare the Shrimp

Fresh spring rolls are not cooked – that’s why we call them “fresh”! So, whatever ingredients you put inside the roll must be edible in their raw state or cooked before you wrap it up. You can buy cooked shrimp, but they are super easy to prepare yourself (and cheaper too). I bring a skillet of salted water to a boil and then drop raw, peeled and deveined shrimp into the water for just about 2 minutes. Then drain, run under cold water to stop the cooking process and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel. You can learn how to peel and devein shrimp here. Once cooked, slice the shrimp in half horizontally. Snap – now you have twice as many shrimp!

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Ingredients for Vietnamese spring rolls - shrimp, rice wrappers, vegetables and cooked noodles.

Step 2: Prepare all the Ingredients

Once you have your shrimp cooked, you will just need to prepare the other ingredients for the roll. Cabbage, carrots, peppers and cucumber just need to be peeled and cut into pieces. Do try to slice the cabbage into thin strips and julienne the carrots, peppers and cucumber as thinly as possible – they are easier to eat that way. Cook the rice noodles by following the package directions or just pouring boiling water over the noodles and let them sit for 3 minutes before draining. I toss the cooked noodles with a tiny bit of sesame oil for just a hint of flavor and to help keep them from clumping. 

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A rice paper wrapper on a towel with three pieces of shrimp and three leaves of mint, surrounded with ingredients on plates.

Step 3: Set up your Rolling Station

Set yourself up for success when you start to build your rolls by setting everything out around you, including a skillet or cake pan of hot water. Dipping the rice wrapper into the water is the hardest part of the task. Actually – taking the rice paper OUT of the water is the hardest task. Just be patient with yourself and if it starts to stick on itself, just pop it back into the water. You’ll get the hang of it. 

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A step by step collage of how to build a Vietnamese spring roll.

How to Build a Fresh Spring Roll 

My biggest tip for you in building the rolls is to think about how they look from the outside. Whatever you put down first will be visible on the outside. That is why we start with the shrimp and mint leaves and give them a backdrop of lettuce. Place the shrimp with their pinkier exterior sides down and place the mint leaves with their greener upper surface down. This way you’ll have the prettiest rolls when you’re done. With the shrimp, mint and lettuce leaf down, you can add the remaining ingredients in any order you like. You’ll see what I’ve done in the images above. When you’re ready to roll, start by rolling the bottom of the wrapper over the ingredients first, then tuck in the sides and roll tightly over the rest of the filling. You’ll learn from experience, but try to use the right resistance. Too little and the roll will be floppy. Too much tension and you might tear the rice wrapper. 

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Vietnamese spring rolls on a platter with peanut sauce next to it.

What Dips to Serve with Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls

Here’s where you add your own preference to this easy appetizer – what dips do you like? I really love sweet Thai chili sauce and since it comes in a bottle, that’s definitely the easiest of dips to serve with these rolls. A homemade peanut sauce is super easy too, however, and so delicious. Add a little hoisin sauce to it if you like your sauce a little sweeter. You could also make a simple soy-based dipping sauce by combining equal parts soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, along with some grated fresh ginger, some crushed red pepper flakes and finely minced scallion (add a drip of honey if you want it sweeter). You could seriously dip these delicious fresh spring rolls into any favorite Asian dipping sauce and be perfectly happy… and refreshed!

Featured Recipe Techniques

More about the skills used in this recipe.

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Vietnamese Spring Rolls

  • Prep Time: 25 m
  • Total Time: 25 m
  • Servings:
    8

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 12 cooked large shrimp 31/40, peeled and deveined
  • 8 leaves butter lettuce
  • ½ cup thinly shredded red cabbage
  • ½ red pepper julienned
  • 1 carrot peeled and julienned
  • ½ English cucumber julienned
  • 16 small fresh mint leaves
For Serving:
  • peanut sauce See Recipe, sweet Thai chili sauce or soy dipping sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the vermicelli noodles according to package directions. If there are no directions, place the vermicelli noodles in a small bowl and pour hot water over the noodles to cover them. Let the noodles sit for 2 to 3 minutes until soft. Drain the water and toss the noodles with the sesame oil. Set aside.
  2. Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise by laying them on a cutting board and placing two fingers flat on the shrimp. Hold a paring knife parallel to the cutting board and carefully slice the shrimp in half. Set the halved shrimp aside.
  3. Cut and prepare all the vegetables.
  4. To assemble the spring rolls, line a platter or baking sheet with parchment paper (or lightly oil). Fill a pie plate or cake pan with hot water. Submerge the rice paper in the water for 15 to 20 seconds until it is soft and translucent. Carefully lift the wrapper out of the water and place it, smooth side down on a clean damp kitchen towel. (If the wrapper sticks together when laying it flat on the towel just dip it back in the water to smooth it out.)
  5. Place three halves of shrimp, cut side up, in the middle of the rice wrapper. Place two mint leaves in between the shrimp. Tear the lettuce leaf to fit on the over the row of shrimp. Top the lettuce with some shredded red cabbage and then a bundle of the vermicelli noodles. Then place some of the julienned carrots, red peppers and cucumbers on the noodle layer. Be sure to keep the filling about 1 inch from the edges of the wrapper. Roll the wrapper around the filling bundle starting at the bottom. Fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling bundle in the middle, fold in the sides and then tightly roll up the rice wrapper, like a burrito. The rice wrapper will stick shut. Place the spring roll on the parchment paper or oiled platter so they do not stick.
  6. Serve cold with peanut sauce, sweet Thai chili sauce or a soy dipping sauce.
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