Addicted: Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

August 7th, 2014 · 33 Comments · Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

I had such buyer’s remorse the other day. But sometimes, that’s a good thing.

I’ll start at the beginning. Instead of writing from home last week, I decided to set up shop at the Starbucks that was down the block from my daughter’s camp. That way, I wasn’t wasting any time in the car, I was maximizing my time working, and I was only ever ten feet away from re-caffeinating, should it come to that. (Note: It often comes to that.)

The only problem? I was also ten feet away from those delicious coffee cakes, the ones they offer to heat up for you? (Yes, please.) And the egg biscuit sandwiches. You know, those things are not awful. Neither are the blueberry lemon scones. I bought one to bring to Abby after camp, but ended up eating it myself as I cranked away at the laptop, too productive to leave, too lazy to walk outside to get something a little healthier. (Not to mention, too greedy to risk giving up my table near the coveted computer outlet.)

By Day 3, I had had it with the baked good bacchanalia. I needed something for lunch that included a vegetable. As usual, though, I was pressed for time, and starving, and the only thing I could find nearby was a Whole Foods in a strip mall. Against my better judgement, I headed to the prepared food department to see what I could grab quickly. Hmmm. Salad bar? Too complicated. Tandoori potato flatbread sandwiches? Too carby. Sushi? Too expensive. But next to the chopstick display was a container of vegetable spring rolls with spicy peanut sauce. Now that is what I am in the mood for, I thought. I looked at the price tag: Eight bucks. Not ideal, but I sucked it up, and bought them anyway.

I inhaled those things in the car like a wolf. Fresh and crunchy, light and spicy. I loved them. I loved them so much that I went back the next day, even when I wasn’t pressed for time. Even when I looked at the ingredient list — cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, avocado — and thought to myself “This should cost eight cents.” But the sauce. The sauce was so good! I wanted…I needed….

The whole next day I was like a junkie thinking about my spring rolls. But I didn’t think I could live with myself if I dropped eight dollars on them three days in a row. So instead, I picked up a pack of spring roll wraps, looked at the ingredients for the spicy peanut sauce on the label, realized I had everything I needed in my pantry, and headed home to make my own.

I had never made spring rolls before and I figured it was one of those things that was most likely better left to people who like detail work, like, you know, stop-motion animators or something. But after a quick youtube tutorial, I was on my way. I dipped the wraps in warm water, laid them down on a cutting board (smooth side down!), added avocado, cilantro, Bibb lettuce leaf, matchstick-cut carrots, and cukes in a small mound, then rolled away, much like a burrito. But when I got to the peanut sauce part, I hesitated. I’ve made variations of it before, and all of them involve a food processor. What if, I thought, what if I just mixed a few things in a measuring cup instead. Because I know myself, and I know that if I have to break out a major appliance to make something, the chance of making that thing again or with any kind of regularity was gonna be slim.

I heaped, I squeezed, I stirred like maniac. I nailed it. And best of all, I had leftover sauce, so I made my rolls three more days in a row. What can I say, when I like something, I like it.

Easy Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Makes enough for one hungry person’s lunch. I made them as a pre-dinner snack one night last week, and when Andy tried one, he not only went crazy for them, too, he couldn’t believe it wasn’t our entire dinner. (Classic “I-could-eat-like-this-every-night” moment.) They definitely could’ve been dinner — maybe I’ll try that next week. Also: I would not blame you if you added shrimp or did some experimenting with shredded kale.

spicy peanut sauce
2 heaping Tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha (a little more if you like more heat; you can also use sweet chili sauce, which was what the Whole Foods label mentioned, but I wasn’t about to drop five bucks on a bottle when I had Sriracha at home)
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
squeeze of lime
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
hot water (the hottest you can get from the sink is fine, no need to boil anything)

wraps
4 or 5 spring roll skins (see above, available at Asian grocers and the Asian aisle of most supermarkets)
bowl of warm water
1 Bibb lettuce leaf
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
a few strands of purple cabbage
1 bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed
1/2 avocado, cut into slices

Make sauce: Add all ingredients to a measuring cup and stir with a fork. Add a shot or two of hot water and stir vigorously until it reaches desired consistency, adding more water as you see fit. (I like my dipping sauce more on the drizzly side than the thick side.)

Make wraps: Dip one spring roll skin into warm water for about two seconds. Remove and lay, smooth-side down, on a cutting board. Act fast because the roll gets stickier the longer you wait. Lay down one lettuce leaf in the bottom center of the wrap. (If the wrap is a clock, then think between 8:00 and 4:00) Add a small bunch of vegetables and carefully roll bottom side over filling. Fold in each side of the wrap and continue to roll until it’s all bundled up. (The video I linked to in the post shows exactly how to do this if you’re not sure.)

Continue with remaining spring roll skins and vegetables. Serve with peanut sauce.

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33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ollie // Aug 7, 2014 at 7:55 am

    If you go for mint+cilantro you get the ultimate flavour combination of ultimate freshness.

  • 2 Awads // Aug 7, 2014 at 8:09 am

    i would do this IF it were all i had to make…but getting these beauties on the table and a full meal (plus, i’m always packing up the next day’s lunches), does not seem doable. and my husband requires more for a meal…. i think i might have to do this as an app with some cocktails (still ruminating over the basil-infused syrup over gin!).

  • 3 Gretchen // Aug 7, 2014 at 8:32 am

    I’ve been wanting to make spring rolls, but I was intimidated by those wrappers. Thanks for explaining how to use them–I can’t wait to try this!

  • 4 aprilshowers // Aug 7, 2014 at 8:36 am

    We love spring rolls here! My kids are the kind who are more likely to eat if they get to make their portion themselves and spring rolls are perfect for that. For a full dinner, I like to add marinated tofu to mine. Heidi Swanson has a great recipe: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/wintery-spring-rolls-recipe.html

  • 5 Nancy // Aug 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Spring rolls are so much fun! Trader Joe’s Wild Pink Shrimp are a perfect addition.

  • 6 Terita @ Kid Can Eat // Aug 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Yum! I make something similar with brown rice wrappers (they sell them at Whole Foods) veggies, and torn-up chicken inside. Lots of cilantro is key!

  • 7 Margit Van Schaick // Aug 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

    I would probably experiment by adding different kinds of protein, veggies, whatever caught my fancy. Some hard-boiled egg or slices of fried egg, thin-sliced turkey breast or roast beef, cheese, other herbs, thin radish slices, cubes of roasted beets, or cooked and picked, same for small bunching onions or scallions, roasted garlic, etc. thanks for posting this—it’s the kind of recipe that works for all kinds of variations, especially for lunch and snacks, whenever hunger strikes.

  • 8 Ingrid // Aug 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

    JR – I love you for so many things – but particularly this: “I know myself, and I know that if I have to break out a major appliance to make something, the chance of making that thing again or with any kind of regularity was gonna be slim.”

  • 9 Meghan // Aug 7, 2014 at 11:35 am

    thoughts on how old a kid would have to be to make their own spring roll? like aprilshowers, we have the most success with meals requiring deconstruction & assembly, but I’m worried spring roll wrapping may surpass my 5-year-olds skill set…

  • 10 Britt // Aug 7, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    OMG these are my favorite thing from Whole Foods, THANKS for recreating the recipe, will be making ASAP

  • 11 Catherine @ Chocolate & Vegetables // Aug 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Mmmmm, I *love* spring rolls. So easy and perfect for summer!

  • 12 Molly // Aug 7, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Whole Foods chicken wings are amazing, and I NEVER order chicken wings.

  • 13 jenny // Aug 7, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Ollie – Yes, mint is a great idea, and Gretchen, I was intimidated by the wrappers, too, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. And Audrey, I hear you. But the assembly isn’t much more than normal dinner assembly, and the best thing about it is you don’t have to turn on the oven. But yes, if it’s not the only thing on the plate, you’re right, too involved! Thanks everyone!

  • 14 A Life From Scratch // Aug 7, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    My mom makes a similar version of these but incorporates fresh shrimp. I DIE. Also? That sauce? Totally have eaten it with a spoon.

  • 15 Amielle // Aug 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Apparently spring rolls and peanut sauce has been on everyone’s minds these last few weeks! I think this is the third recipe I’ve seen. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just means I know what I should be making for dinner!

  • 16 Kendra // Aug 7, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Bless you for deconstructing the spring rolls! I love those things so much and feel like I could live on them if only they didn’t cost $8 a pair. Now I can fulfill my dream.

  • 17 confused // Aug 7, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Wait, what? You don’t cook these?

  • 18 Laura // Aug 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    We had these during our family beach vacation and included crab meat. The crab we used comes in “sticks” and looks gross but it’s yummy in the spring rolls!

  • 19 jenny // Aug 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Dear Confused ( :) ) NO COOKING!

  • 20 Kate // Aug 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm

    Ditto what Ollie said about the mint/cilantro. I wanted to add, too, that this is a great kid dinner–everyone can decide exactly what should go inside. I think we started eating these (with leftover steak, shrimp, or even chicken wrapped inside) when my youngest was four, and though we had to wrap his for him, he definitely had an opinion about what should be inside.

  • 21 Janet // Aug 7, 2014 at 11:51 pm

    Just remember to dip only one wrapper at a time in the warm water. I remember a friend describing the mess she had when she put the entire package in the water to soften at once!

  • 22 Judy // Aug 8, 2014 at 1:12 am

    include some sticky rice or rice noodles and this totally constitutes dinner!

  • 23 Sian // Aug 8, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I know nobody wants to think about school lunches in August, but these are my daughter’s favourite. Her school won’t allow peanut sauce so she opts for just the sweet chili sauce or a lime vinaigrette left over from salad the night before.

  • 24 Kaely // Aug 8, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    I saw these this morning and immediately had to have them. I used fresh basil from my garden instead of cilantro (because cilantro is the devil) and broccoli slaw because I all I had was tiny baby carrots and wasn’t about to try and julienne those.

    The sauce was wonderful!

  • 25 Ariane Marsh // Aug 8, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I am so psyched to make these. I love your blog so much, and it’s such a treat when you share a vegan recipe. You and Andy are so funny!

  • 26 barb // Aug 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    I buy wonton wrappers about every three months with the intention of doing something like this, and end up tossing them when I see they’ve expired. I love the idea of filled somethings and I do it all the time with omelets and tortillas (mac n cheese omelet? leftover chorizo omelet? grilled eggplant quesadilla? Yup.)– but so far I haven’t been able to stop being intimidated by Asian wrappings. So this is great– not sure the family will dig the skins so I might try the same in egg roll wraps (maybe shallowly fried on the stovetop)– thanks for breaking it down!

  • 27 Maggie // Aug 9, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    You’d love this too…. Peanut Butter/Sesame Noodles Peanut butter noodles are SOOOOOO easy… mix about 1/2 cup PB, 1/4 cup soy, a couple tablespoons sugar, some hot chili oil (or hot pepper flakes), couple tablespoons ground fresh ginger root, couple tablespoons vinegar, a couple tablespoons sesame oil, about 1/2 cup of veggie broth, a couple cloves of garlic minced. Mix it all together and pour over 3/4 pound cooked pasta. Throw in a couple tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds add some sliced scallions or onion thinly chopped and that is it. If it is too thick add more veggie broth.

  • 28 Maggie // Aug 9, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Thinly sliced napa cabbage adds a great crunch to the above.

  • 29 Heather // Aug 14, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I have the wrappers in my pantry right now and have been looking for an excuse to use them. This looks amazing!

  • 30 Lee // Aug 23, 2014 at 12:21 am

    We do these sometimes; they are easy and even if a small(isn) child can’t quite cope with the wrapping, it’s fun. Because the rice paper wrappers stick to themselves it’s even easier than rolling up a burrito. We put out lots of little bowls of things and everyone customizes their rolls, so they’re not exactly conventional sometimes but hey! fusion cuisine! a roll with black beans + chicken + shredded cabbage dipped into guacamole is still awfully tasty.

    Bonus: this is a good way to use up those little containers of leftovers that I know Jenny’s family likes to keep. *g*

  • 31 RG // Aug 27, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    You can go a step further in ease by making peanut sauce in a glass mason jar/ jam jar. I throw the ingredients in, including some water and lemon juice, microwave for a minute (lid off, spatter cover) which let’s everything soften enough to mix thoroughly. repeat the microwave process as needed, add water to thin. lasts as sauce in the frig for month, maybe less. thin it for salad dressing, thicker on hard boiled eggs, toast, noodles, veg.

    Another trick, besides the obvious shrimp, is that I skip the rice paper and make them in a large lettuce leaf (romaine e.g.). this makes the dish easily a weeknight meal, though I’m not sure how old the kids have to be to be onboard for this. basil, mint, and cilantro are ideal, but I’ve made do with mint chutney or pesto.

  • 32 Cay // Sep 4, 2014 at 7:00 am

    How far ahead do you think you could make these and have them still taste nice and fresh? Thinking of making the night before for a Saturday picnic…

  • 33 C.C. // Sep 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

    How do you think the sauce would work for a pasta salad? I’m looking for an easy-to-make peanut sauce to make a Thai-ish pasta salad my daughter can bring for lunch.

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