A tried and tested recipe for Chinese spring rolls. You don’t need to precook the filling. Two frying methods are provided. It also includes top tips to avoid a greasy taste.
What are Chinese spring rolls
A traditional food popular in many regions of China, spring rolls (Chun Juan, 春卷), aka egg rolls in American English, are one of the most sought after dishes in overseas Chinese restaurants. Essentially, they’re deep fried, cylinder-shaped parcels made of golden, crispy wrappers and a tasty filling of various ingredients.
Since I learnt how to make them efficiently, I’ve never ordered this dish in a restaurant. They don’t require a complicated procedure or advanced skills to prepare. More importantly, they taste so good and are healthier than most bought versions.
Top tips for non-greasy spring rolls
Before I explain the procedure for making spring rolls, I’d like to point out a few important tips to avoid them being overly greasy.
- Make sure the filling isn’t too wet. Otherwise, the wrappers might tear allowing excess oil to go inside.
- Wrap the filling as tight as possible when shaping the rolls so that there aren’t any air pockets trapped in.
- Deep fry when the oil reaches the right temperature. If too low, the rolls will soak up too much oil. If too high, the out layer will brown too quickly while the inside remains uncooked.
- Use an air fryer if you wish to reduce oil usage. The result isn’t exactly the same but definitely good enough.
How to choose the wrappers
Although I love making dumpling wrappers from scratch, when it comes to spring rolls I always buy ready-made wrappers. They’re handy, reliable and create a much better result than homemade ones.
Labeled as Spring Roll Pastry (春卷皮), they’re available in the frozen section of most Chinese/Asian stores. For this recipe, I use large ones measuring 250×250mm (10×10 inches). One package contains 30 sheets and the filling I made is enough for stuffing half of them.
Spring roll wrappers also come in other sizes, for example, 21.5×21.5cm (8.5×8.5 inches), 20×20cm (8×8 inches), etc. If using them, please reduce the filling volume and frying time accordingly.
Please be aware that Chinese spring roll sheets are square and made of wheat flour. They’re different from the Vietnamese version which is round and rice flour-based. They aren’t interchangeable for this recipe.
The night before you plan to make spring rolls, don’t forget to defrost the frozen wrappers in the fridge (do not open the package). Once the filling is mixed, gently separate the sheets one by one. As they’re very thin and have a low water content, make sure you cover the separated wrappers under a clean damp cloth. Otherwise, they might dry out and tear easily.
How to make the filling
Many ingredients can go into Chinese spring rolls. The filling formulas vary depending on the regions and families’ preferences. However, they share a few characteristics:
- They’re mostly savory although sweet ones also exist, e.g. Shanghai red bean paste spring rolls.
- Unlike dumpling fillings, the ingredients aren’t chopped very finely. Vegetables are usually grated or julienned so that their crunchy texture remains after cooking.
- The mixture isn’t too wet as the thin wrappers aren’t very moisture tolerant. A leaky spring roll will bring you trouble while deep frying.
The filling I’m introducing today is a mixture of pork, shrimp, various vegetables and vermicelli noodles. It’s a tasty, balanced combination but by no means do you have to follow my formula to the letter. Substitute or omit some of them if unavailable.
- Pork, minced. It can be replaced by chicken, beef, or pressed tofu (smoked or five-spice flavored)
- Shrimp, shelled and cut into cubes
- Carrot, grated or finely julienned
- Bean sprouts
- Chinese chives, cut into sections. It can be replaced by finely shredded cabbage
- Shiitake mushrooms. Rehydrate beforehand if using dried ones
- Scallions, finely chopped
- Mung bean vermicelli (Fensi, 粉丝), rehydrated and cut into short sections
- Eggs. They’re to help combine all the ingredients above
- Seasonings: Oyster sauce, sesame oil, white or black pepper, salt and sugar
To make them vegetarian, simply skip the pork and shrimp and increase the volume of other ingredients.
Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and mix until everything is evenly distributed. This filling goes into the wrappers uncooked, just like dumpling fillings. You might be a little doubtful since many recipes suggest you stir fry them before assembly. Here are the reasons why I do it differently:
- These raw ingredients will be perfectly cooked (but not overcooked) if you fry the spring rolls properly. This way the proteins remain tender and the vegetables stay crunchy.
- You don’t have to use extra oil for stir-frying.
- This method saves you lots of time! This includes time for stir-frying, cooling and washing an extra wok/pan.
How to fold and assemble
Now let’s move on to the next step: stuffing spring roll wrappers with the filling and folding them into neatly sealed cylinders. Apart from the aesthetic purpose, assembling properly also prevents leakage during cooking. It’s an easier job than folding dumplings but it also requires your attention to detail.
Here is how you do it (please refer to the video tutorial in the recipe card below):
On a flat surface, place a wrapper with one of the four corners facing towards you. Put the filling above the closest corner. Use a spoon to shape it into a rectangle.
Lift the closest corner to wrap the filling then roll it to the half-line of the wrapper. Try your best to wrap it as tight as possible without leaving any air pockets inside.
Press two ends of the filling, then fold the left and right corners of the wrapper towards the middle.
Roll the cylinder again until only a triangle is left at the top. Brush a layer of egg yolk over the triangle. Roll again to seal completely.
Freeze for later use
Like dumplings, uncooked spring rolls freeze well so I often make a big batch and store some in the freezer for later use. Do so right after assembly.
It’s not recommended to refrigerate uncooked spring rolls (or leave them on the counter for a long period) as the filling might wet the wrappers over time.
Two ways to fry spring rolls
Option 1: Deep frying
Traditionally, Chinese spring rolls are deep-fried. This process creates crispy wrappers that make this dish very attractive. You’ll need an oil that has a neutral flavor and a high smoking point, e.g. sunflower, rapeseeds, canola, peanut, soybean, vegetable oil, etc.
To reduce oil usage, choose a small-sized wok or pot and fry the rolls in several batches. The depth of the oil should be at least double a spring roll’s thickness.
Once the oil reaches 180°C/350°F, gently slide in the rolls one by one. Fry them over medium heat in a single layer (Do not overcrowd). Flip over a few times to ensure even browning.
Once golden, transfer out and place them over kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. The cooking time may vary depending on the performance of your burner (It took me about 3-4 minutes for a batch of 6).
To deep fry frozen spring rolls, put them in without defrosting when the oil reaches 190°C/375°F (a little higher than above).
Note: You can reuse the oil for once or twice. Make sure you dispose unwanted oil properly afterwards.
Option 2: Air frying
If you want to avoid deep-frying, use the air-frying method. It cooks the rolls nicely. The outside layer of the wrappers will become crispy but the inner layers won’t be as crunchy as the deep fried ones.
Preheat the air fryer at 200°C/390°F for 3 minutes. While waiting, brush a layer of oil all around the spring rolls.
Put the rolls over the crisper tray of the air fryer in a single layer. Leave to cook for 8-10 minutes. Then flip over and cook for a further 5 minutes until they become golden. You may need to adjust the cooking time as different devices perform differently. If unsure, pull out the drawer to check more often.
To air fry frozen spring rolls, follow the same instructions (without defrosting) and prolong the cooking time as needed.
Serve alone or with a sauce
Since the filling is well seasoned and has multi-layer flavors, you can enjoy these spring rolls on their own. Alternatively, make a simple dipping sauce to serve on the side. A tangy sauce would complement the dish well. Include an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar, fresh lemon/lime juice, and/or a spicy ingredient, such as chili garlic sauce, chili oil, etc.
The sauce I make often is influenced by Thai cuisine. It’s a mixture of white rice vinegar, light soy sauce, minced garlic, fresh chili and a little sugar. You may also find some inspiration in my post on Dumpling Sauces.
To reheat leftover spring rolls, put them in a preheated oven at 200°C/390°F for about 5 minutes, or in a preheated air fryer at 200°C/390°F for 3 minutes or so.
Chinese Spring Rolls (春卷), Deep-Fried or Air-Fried
BEFORE YOU START
For the wrappers
- 15 large flour-based spring roll wrappers - 25×25cm (10×10 inches), see note 1
For the filling
- 200 g minced pork (or chicken/beef) - 7oz
- 120 g shrimp, shelled and cubed - 4oz
- 120 g carrot, grated - about 2 cups
- 130 g bean sprouts - about 2 cups
- 100 g Chinese chives, cut into sections (or finely shredded cabbage) - about 2 cups
- 6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced - rehydrate beforehand if using dried ones
- 2 stalks scallions, finely chopped
- 100 g dried mung bean vermicelli, rehydrated and cut into sections - about 2 cups after soaking
- 2 eggs
For the seasoning
- 2 tablespoon oyster sauce - see note 2 for substitutes
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon ground white or black pepper
- Cooking oil for deep frying or air-frying - see note 3
For the dipping sauce (optional)
- 2 tablespoon white rice vinegar (or fresh lemon/lime juice)
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Fresh chili pepper, finely chopped - to taste
- Ready-made spring roll wrappers usually come frozen. Defrost in the fridge the night before.
Mix the filling
- Put all the ingredients for the filling into a large mixing bowl (NB: leave out one egg yolk for brushing the wrappers).
- Add all the seasonings. Mix until well combined (It’s best to do so with your hands. Wear kitchen gloves if available).
Assemble the rolls
- Gently separate the spring roll wrappers one by one. Remember to always cover them with a clean damp cloth as they dry out easily.
- Place one wrapper on a flat surface with one of the four corners facing towards you. Put about 3 tablespoon of the filling above the closest corner (Use a spoon to help shape it into a rectangle).
- Lift the closest corner to wrap the filling then roll it to the half-line of the wrapper. Try to wrap it as tight as possible without leaving any air pockets inside. But be gentle during this process to avoid tearing.
- Lightly press two ends of the filling then fold the left and right corners of the wrapper towards the middle.
- Roll the cylinder until only a triangle is left at the top. Brush a layer of egg yolk over the triangle. Roll again to seal completely. Repeat to assemble all the rolls.
Option 1: Deep fry the rolls
- Heat the oil for deep frying until it reaches 180°C/350°F. Gently slide in the rolls one by one (Do not overcrowd. Fry them in batches if necessary).
- Fry over medium heat. Flip over a few times to ensure even browning. When they become golden, transfer out to a tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
Option 2: Air fry the rolls
- Preheat the air fryer at 200°C/390°F for 3 minutes. While waiting, brush a layer of oil all around the spring rolls.
- Put the rolls over the crisper tray of the air fryer in a single layer. Leave to cook for 8-10 minutes. Then flip over and cook for a further 5 minutes until they become golden.
Serve and reheat
- Serve warm on their own or with the dipping sauce.
- To reheat leftover spring rolls, put them in a preheated oven at 200°C/390°F for about 5 minutes, or in an air-fryer at 200°C/390°F for 3 minutes or so.
- You may store uncooked spring rolls, right after they’re assembled, in the freezer for up to three months (Keep them in an air-tight bag/container).
- Cook as usual without defrosting. If deep frying, raise the temperature to 190°C/375°F. If air-frying, prolong the cooking time by 3-5 minutes.
NUTRITION DISCLOSURE: Nutritional information on this website is provided as a courtesy to readers. It should be considered estimates. Please use your own brand nutritional values or your preferred nutrition calculator to double check against our estimates.