Spring Roll vs. Egg Roll: What’s the Difference?
The basic idea is similar but these two iconic foods are definitely not the same. Here are the differences when it comes to spring rolls vs. egg rolls.
If you think about the difference between egg rolls and spring rolls, you might not be able to come up with anything off the top of your head. They’re both delicious wrapped appetizers served with bright, flavorful dipping sauces. But, if you were to look at the two side by side, the difference would become apparent immediately: One is flaky and light while the other is dense, crunchy and chewy.
What Is a Spring Roll?
Spring rolls originated in China but there are several regional variations, each with its own specific characteristics. The original spring rolls were likely thin pancakes rolled around spring vegetables, but the dish morphed over time to become a thin disc of dough rolled around a filling made with vegetables and sometimes meat. This paper-thin wrapper crisps up as it bakes, but it’s not as dense or chewy as egg roll wrappers. Spring rolls usually feature minimal ingredients, and they often don’t contain meat, so they’re also thinner and lighter than egg rolls.
To make a crispy spring roll, look for spring roll wrappers made without eggs (the ones with eggs are likely egg roll wrappers). Prepare a filling of cooked meat (chicken and pork are common, though shrimp work well here, too) and fresh, shredded vegetables tossed with a little sesame oil and soy sauce. Spoon two tablespoons of the filling down the center of each wrapper. Roll the wrapper tightly around the filling to form a long cylinder and moisten the wrapper’s edges with water before sealing. Deep fry the rolls in 375°F oil for 6 to 8 minutes, turning occasionally.
Regional variations on spring rolls
In Vietnam and Thailand, spring rolls are often made with rice flour instead of wheat flour. These rice paper wrappers don’t need to be cooked; they just need to be soaked in hot water until they’re soft enough to roll. Thai and Vietnamese spring rolls usually contain rice noodles, cooked shrimp, raw vegetables (like cucumber and carrot), fresh herbs and peanuts. The rolls are served chilled with a dipping sauce, like a savory peanut sauce or nuoc cham, a sweet and tangy Vietnamese sauce made with fish sauce. Here’s more on how to make spring rolls with rice paper wrappers.
In the Philippines, spring rolls are called lumpia. They’re usually filled with pork and vegetables like cabbage and carrots, although some lumpia contain seafood. The wrappers are thinner than spring roll wrappers, and they’re pan-fried in hot oil until they’re crispy and flaky.
The regional variations don’t end there. Taiwan is famous for making popiah, which are wrapped in wheat flour wrappers but are often not fried, making them reminiscent of a burrito. In Malaysia, popiah are made with a crepe-like wrapper and filled to the brim with lettuce, sauce and other seasoned fillings. Vietnam also has a fried version of spring rolls, cha gio, where the rice paper-wrapped rolls are deep-fried until crispy.
What Is an Egg Roll?
Although you’ll find egg rolls at almost every Chinese restaurant in the U.S., they’re not from China. There are several egg roll origin stories floating around, but most of them agree that egg rolls were likely created at Chinese-American restaurants to appeal to American diners.
Unlike spring rolls, egg rolls are made with thick, doughy wrappers made with wheat flour and eggs. They blister up and become pocketed with delightful, oil-filled bubbles when deep-fried, making them simultaneously crunchy and chewy. They’re stuffed to the brim with fillings, which are traditionally made from cabbage and pork, although several filling variations exist.
To make an egg roll, pick up a package of egg roll wrappers, shredded cabbage and carrots (or coleslaw mix, if you’re looking for a shortcut), green onions, soy sauce and spices. Most homemade recipes use seasoned ground pork or bulk pork sausage, but you can swap-in chopped or shredded char siu pork if you can find it. Cook the filling until the cabbage is wilted and soft, then add 1/4 cup of filling to each wrapper. Roll the wrapper tightly around the filling and seal the edges with a lightly beaten egg. Deep fry the rolls in 375° degree oil for about 2 minutes per side.
Regional variations on egg rolls
There are a ton of regional variations to egg rolls in the U.S. Try making southwestern egg rolls filled with black beans, corn and rice, or southern-style egg rolls with turnip greens, black-eyed peas and pepperjack cheese. For a taco-inspired egg roll, use ground beef, cheddar cheese and picante sauce. You can even make cheesy breakfast egg rolls stuffed with eggs.
Really, the possibilities are endless—Philly cheesesteak, buffalo chicken and cream cheese, corned beef and cabbage—so have some fun with it!
Ready to make egg rolls at home? Try any of these creative egg roll recipes.