These vegan rice paper rolls make for a delicious appetiser, finger food, or light meal. They're healthy and gluten-free, so roll up a batch of these beauties and dip them into your favourite sauce.
Traditional Vietnamese spring rolls use crunchy fresh veg, but my twist on them is a little different. I use a mix of cooked soya mince, finely chopped mushrooms, and other veg to go along with the vermicelli noodles and classic South Asian flavours.
This is not a quick recipe, and rolling these things makes for a good team sport. But if you have time on your hands and fancy trying something new, these rice paper rolls offer up a tasty way to learn a new skill.
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What are rice paper rolls?
Rice paper rolls – also known as Vietnamese spring rolls, fresh spring rolls, summer rolls, or crystal rolls – are a popular appetiser or finger food across Vietnam and beyond.
The filling for Vietnamese rolls traditionally includes pork or shrimp, thin rice vermicelli noodles, lettuce, and julienned vegetables such as carrot and cucumber.
What is Vietnamese rice paper?
Vietnamese rice paper or bánh tráng is an edible wrapper that's usually made from rice flour, tapioca flour, salt, and water. It is often sold dried in thin, round, translucent sheets that are dipped in hot water to soften them, with one side smoother than the other.
Unlike Chinese spring rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls don't need to be cooked or fried. You simply soak them in water, wrap around a filling of your choice, and enjoy cold.
Are vegan rice paper rolls healthy?
Rice paper rolls make for a very healthy appetiser or snack. The filling usually comprises fresh or cooked vegetables, and if you don't use too many vermicelli rice noodles then they can be very low in calories.
This particular recipe uses finely chopped mushrooms and meat-free mince for some plant-based protein. If you really want to cut out the fat, you could reduce the amount of sesame oil or eliminate it altogether.
Making the filling
After soaking the vermicelli rice noodles, fry off the onion, peppers, garlic, ginger, and chilli. Once soft, add the finely chopped mushrooms and sweetcorn and cook until the mushrooms have started to soften.
Next, stir in the plant-based mince and cook for five minutes. If using frozen, it may need a few minutes longer to heat through.
Once the mince is cooked through, add the tamari/soy sauce, spring onions, lime zest, lime juice, chopped coriander, and the other tablespoon of sesame oil. If you want the rolls to look more decorative, save most of the coriander leaves and just add the chopped stems to the pan.
Cook everything for a couple of minutes then turn off the heat and allow the mix to cool (approx. 10 minutes). Adjust the seasoning to taste and stir in the vermicelli noodles.
Top tip: Cut the noodles into the pan using a pair of scissors, grabbing a small handful of noodles at a time. Chop them as short as you like – the shorter they are, the easier it will be to roll the filling in the rice paper.
Rolling the rice paper rolls
While the mix is cooling, you can get ready to roll. You'll want a clean chopping board or surface and a bowl filled with warm water (not boiling).
Once the filling is cool enough to work with, take a sheet of rice paper and submerge it in the water for 5 seconds or until it starts to soften. If you can't fit the entire sheet in the bowl, just do one side and then rotate.
The rice paper should be slightly soft but still holding its shape. Place it on the board or surface with the smooth side down.
Place two coriander leaves in the centre of the rice paper, followed by a heaped tablespoon of the filling. Make sure this is positioned neatly in the middle, with a clear gap to the edges of the rice paper.
Fold the bottom of the rice paper up and over the mix, then press it down to seal. Next, fold the left and right sides of the rice paper in towards the middle.
Finally, roll the whole lot over towards the top edge, keeping the sides tucked in as you do so. Press down slightly to make it stick, although the rice paper should do a good job of sealing itself.
Repeat this process until you have used up all of the mixture.
These vegan rice paper rolls are great as they are, or with a simple dipping sauce such as the peanut sauce I've added in this recipe.
To make the peanut dipping sauce, simply whisk the ingredients together in a jug or bowl and thin out with water as required.
Other good dipping sauces include sweet chilli, sriracha, hoisin, 'honey' sesame (using agave syrup), or simply tamari/soy sauce on its own.
Other filling ideas
The filling in this recipe is not a classic Vietnamese version, it's just the way I love to make them vegan. Examples of other vegan fillings for rice paper rolls include:
- Thinly sliced tofu
- Fried king oyster mushroom slices
- Stir-fried cucumber after it's cooled down
- Julienned peppers
- Sliced avocado
- Sliced red or white cabbage
- Other fresh herbs like basil, mint, or chives
- Any edible flowers for bonus decorative points
You're likely to find them at a local international supermarket, but I'm sure I've seen some of the larger supermarkets selling them (at least here in the UK). Failing that, there's always the online option.
I used 16 cm (6 inch) rice paper discs, which made around 32 small-ish rice paper rolls. The rice paper is available in a variety of sizes, so the larger your discs, the fewer you will need (and the quicker it will be to make your rolls).
Rice paper is usually made from a mix of rice starch and tapioca starch, making it naturally gluten-free. If you're wanting to make your rolls 100% gluten-free, you'll want to use tamari or GF soy sauce, as well as GF plant-based mince.
If the rolls are falling apart or not sticking together, you may be overfilling them. It's also a good idea to change the water when you notice that they're not sticking together as well.
If the rice paper is sticking to the surface and difficult to peel off, it may be over-soaked. It might help to roll on top of a damp towel instead of a solid surface. The mix might also be too hot, in which case you should leave it to cool for a little while longer.
How to store rice paper rolls
Rice paper rolls are best consumed within a few hours of preparation. You can cover them with a damp cloth to retain some moisture and keep them fresh.
Refrigerate: Storing the rice paper rolls in the fridge will dry them out slightly, but they'll still taste great. Refrigerate within an hour of rolling and eat within a couple of days.
Freeze: I wouldn't recommend freezing the rice paper rolls.
Variations and tips
- Rice paper filling: This recipe is not an exact science, so feel free to throw in whatever you want or have lying around.
- Time: The total time it takes to make these will depend on how quickly you get into the swing of soaking and rolling the rice paper, and whether you have a helper on hand.
- Plant-based mince/tofu: I go with plant-based (soya) mince as I like the texture, but you could replace this with crumbled tofu pieces, fried tofu strips, or simply double the amount of finely chopped mushrooms. You can buy plant-based mince frozen, fresh, or in a dried form that’s easy to re-hydrate.
- Mushrooms: To turn these into 'mince', take a few minutes to chop through them until they become little pieces. Don’t worry if it looks like a lot – they’ll reduce in size in the pan. If you don't want to use mushrooms, you could simply double the amount of plant-based mince.
See recipe notes for more details.
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More vegan recipe ideas
If you liked this recipe, you may also enjoy:
- 5-Minute Peanut Noodles
- Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Steaks
- Rainbow Slaw with Sesame Ginger Dressing
- King Oyster Mushroom Steaks
- Grilled Teriyaki Aubergine
- Vegan Cucumber Salad
- Vegan Cucumber Sandwiches
- Teriyaki Tempeh Stir-Fry
You can also check out my full list of vegan appetisers.
Vegan Rice Paper Rolls (Vietnamese Spring Rolls)
Rice paper rolls
- 3.5 oz (100 g) vermicelli rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 yellow pepper, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
- 2 chillies, finely chopped
- 7 oz (200 g) mushrooms, sliced and finely chopped
- 1 cup (150 g) sweetcorn (tinned, frozen, or fresh – approx. one cob/ear)
- 9 oz (250 g) plant-based mince or tofu (see notes)
- 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- Large handful of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped (save half of the leaves intact for the rolling process)
- Approx. 32 rice paper discs (depending on size – see notes)
Dipping sauce (optional)
- 6 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 large garlic clove, grated or minced
- Small piece of ginger (similar size to the garlic clove), grated or minced
Rice paper rolls
- In a bowl or pan, soak the vermicelli rice noodles in boiling water for 3 minutes or according to package instructions. Don't heat over a flame – simply soak in the water. After 3 minutes, or once they are soft, drain well and set aside (I mix through a dash of sesame oil to prevent sticking).
- Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of sesame oil in a large pan and add the finely chopped onion. Soften for 3-4 minutes, before adding the diced peppers, garlic, ginger, and chilli. Soften these for a further 2-3 minutes, then add the finely chopped mushrooms and sweetcorn. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms have started to soften.
- Next, stir in the plant-based mince and cook for 5 minutes. If using frozen, it may need a few minutes longer to heat through.
- Once the mince has cooked through, add the tamari/soy sauce, spring onions, lime zest, lime juice, chopped coriander, and the other tablespoon of sesame oil. If you want the rolls to look more decorative, save most of the coriander leaves and just add the chopped stems to the pan. Cook everything for a further two minutes, then turn off the heat and allow the mix to cool (approx. 10 minutes).
- While the mix is cooling, stir in the vermicelli noodles. Top tip: Cut the noodles into the pan using a pair of scissors, grabbing a small handful of noodles at a time. Chop them as short as you like – the shorter they are, the easier it will be to roll the filling in the rice paper.
- At this point, you can adjust the seasoning to taste. You may want to add a pinch of salt, extra tamari/soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, or lime zest. While the mix is cooling, you can get ready to roll. You'll want a clean chopping board or surface and a bowl filled with warm water (not boiling).
- Once the filling is cool enough to work with, take a sheet of rice paper and submerge it in the water for 5 seconds or until it starts to soften. If you can't fit the entire sheet in the bowl, just do one side and then rotate. The rice paper should be slightly soft but still holding its shape. Place it on the board or surface with the smooth side down.
- Place two coriander leaves in the centre of the rice paper, followed by a heaped tablespoon of the filling. Make sure this is positioned neatly in the middle, with a clear gap to the edges of the rice paper (see photos).
- Fold the bottom of the rice paper up and over the mix, then press it down to seal. Next, fold the left and right sides of the rice paper in towards the middle.
- Finally, roll the whole lot over towards the top edge, keeping the sides tucked in as you do so. Press down slightly to make it stick, although the rice paper should do a good job of sealing itself.
- Repeat this process until you have used up all of the mixture. If it's getting difficult to make your rice paper rolls stick together, it's probably time to change the water. It can take some practice to get into the swing of things, but keep at it and you'll soon be a rice paper pro.
- Serve the rice paper rolls cold with peanut dipping sauce.
Peanut dipping sauce
- Whisk all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a jug or bowl.
- Add water, one tablespoon at a time, until you have the consistency you want. Two tablespoons is usually enough for me.
- Vegan Rice Noodle Salad
- Singapore Noodles with Tofu
- Chickpea Rice Noodle Stir-Fry
- Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Steaks
- King Oyster Mushroom Steaks
- Teriyaki Grilled Aubergine
- Crispy Baked Falafel
- Teriyaki Tempeh Stir-Fry
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