Spring Roll vs Egg Roll: Differences Wrapped Up

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Spring rolls come from a deep well of traditional Chinese cuisine, and egg rolls are yoked to some distinct American tweaks.

Let’s discover the most important differences and similarities between these two delicacies.

Egg Roll Wrappers vs Spring Roll Wrappers

You’re a lot more likely to find egg in egg roll wrappers than their spring roll cousins, although these days it’s not a given. With or without eggs, egg roll wrappers are usually thicker than spring roll wrappers, which lets them hold more filling.

Spring roll wrappers generally come from a wheat base, although they’re sometimes made of rice paper. Egg roll wrappers always start as wheat flour.

Egg Rolls

5 Egg Rolls

What’s in an Egg Roll

Egg rolls are an American Chinese food that spun out of the 1930’s New York food scene. They were first concocted by Chinese immigrants hungry to create a dish based on Chinese cuisine that Americans would eat.

Like most American adaptations, egg rolls in America are generally bigger, flashier, and stuffed fuller than their Chinese counterparts. The name is a literal translation of the Mandarin Chinese words “jīdàn juǎn,” which can also mean omelet.

Just like an omelet, you can put basically whatever you want in an egg roll. Most egg rolls are based around some kind of meat or fish. Pork is the Chinese chef’s meat of choice, but many also use chicken.

Egg rolls go heavy on the veggies. Most of the filling in a typical egg roll will be cooked cabbage, which has just the right amount of crunch to complement the crisp wrapper. You’ll also usually find carrots, mushrooms, bean shoots, and ginger. Pretty much any veggie is fair game as long as it’s finely chopped and fried.

The wrapper is what puts the roll in an egg roll. Egg roll shells are thick and covered in craters like a deep-fried moon. They’re yellow as if washed in a golden sunset glow, and only these wrappers are washed in an egg solution to give them their golden-brown finish.

Once they’re filled and folded, the deep-fried delights are about the size of an empty toilet paper roll.

Why Are Egg Rolls Called Egg Rolls?

Even though there aren’t usually eggs in the filling, traditional egg roll wrappers are made from a dough containing eggs.

That seems a bit unreasonable to us since most cakes and bread contain an egg or two, but we don’t feel the need to name drop random minor ingredients as if they were title characters.

Some egg roll etymologists believe eggs used to play a bigger role in this dish. It’s possible that the name was catchier than the eggs themselves.

Do Egg Rolls Have Egg?

Originally, the deep-fried egg roll shell was made out of flour and eggs. Eggs make the dough sturdier and thicker.

Today, many chefs make their egg rolls without eggs. Like an ice cream with no cream or a quesadilla without cheese, they omit the egg and roll up a wheat pastry for the wrapper.

If you have special dietary needs involving eggs, you should ask the chef or check the ingredients on the wrapper’s wrapper.

How Are Egg Rolls Prepared?

Egg rolls are one of the easiest Chinese dishes to make. The most difficult part is rolling out the wrappers and frying them just right, so they’re airy and crunchy.

The chef starts with hot oil in a frying pan. First up is the meat, which gets minced or ground then browned in high heat.

Next comes the vegetables. They get shredded as finely as possible then sautéd with sesame oil and soy sauce till they’re soft but still snappy.

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While the meat and vegetables are simmering, the wrappers begin to take shape. The chef mixes flour and salt with water and optional eggs. He kneads it and rolls it out into flat squares.

The chef will line these square wrappers with the hot filling, leaving space around the edges for the fold. The tight rolls will be brushed with a beaten egg varnish and deep-fried till they crackle and pop.

How Are Egg Rolls Served?

Egg rolls are usually served freshly cooked and warm, but we’ve also seen them served at room temperature with a dipping sauce.

If you go to a typical Chinese restaurant, you’ll generally get egg rolls as a side dish with your meal. If you really want to get rolling, there’s nothing to stop you from making a whole meal out of egg rolls and sauces like Chinese-style chicken wings and dip.

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls On A Plate

What’s in a Spring Roll

Spring rolls started out as thin pancakes stuffed with fruits and vegetables. They sprung out of a Chinese gift-giving tradition tied to the first day of spring. People would welcome the new season by making large batches and handing them out to friends and family.

In typical, down-to-earth Chinese fashion, the name “spring roll” comes from the Mandarin words “chūn juǎn,” which literally means “spring” and “roll.” Today, there’s a large variety of ways to prepare spring rolls and all kinds of things you can fill them with.

When it comes to rolls, the main thing that separates spring from egg is the wrapper. The wrapper on a spring roll is light and much thinner than on an egg roll. Some are even translucent, and most are egg-free.

For the stuffing, spring rollers also lean hard into the vegetables. You’ll commonly see carrots, bell peppers, cabbage and bamboo shoots make appearances, either cooked or fresh. Noodles may also be added to fatten the rolls out a bit.

Spring rolls don’t always come with meat, but when they do, it’s usually pork, shrimp or chicken marinated in garlic and Shaoxing wine.

Related | Chop Suey vs Chow Mein

Meaty spring rolls tend to come wrapped in smooth, steamed rice paper with a ghostly, almost see-through sheen. Vegetarian spring rolls generally come in a crispy wheat shell.

Do Spring Rolls Have Meat?

Springs rolls are considered meat optional. They’re mainly stuffed with interesting combinations of spring vegetables to celebrate the end of winter.

Ground pork is the most popular meat used in spring rolls. It may be left to sit in wine and spices for a few hours before getting cooked with the veggies. If it’s been left out too long, here’s how to tell if pork is bad.

How Are Spring Rolls Prepared?

Like egg rolls, spring rolls start with the filling on a skillet and end with the fried wraps. The filling of marinated meat and assorted vegetables is first lightly sautéd in soy sauce and oil and then left to cool.

Next, the wrapper dough is prepared from flour and salt. Hot water is added to keep the dough pliable and make the finished texture nice and smooth.

The dough is then kneaded and rolled out into a series of 4-inch circles. Those circles are oiled up, stacked, and then re-rolled together to make them even thinner. Savvy chefs will cook the stack for around 20 seconds and peel individual layers off as needed.

Last of all, the barely-there wrappings get stuffed with filling and folded. Just a light frying will crisp up the outside, and you’ll be ready to rock and roll!

How Are Spring Rolls Served?

When spring rolls make their grand appearances at spring festivals across mainland China, they’re generally served warm and freshly made. They’re eaten as-is with no sauce.

Outside of these festivals, spring rolls can be served cold or hot and saucy or crunchy. Since they don’t need utensils, you can use them as finger food, which means they work great as party snacks.

A lot of Chinese restaurants serve spring rolls snipped in half as bite-sized appetizers. In the USA, they’re usually eaten with sweet-and-sour sauce, but many Cantonese consumers eat them with Worcestershire sauce.

Spring Roll vs Summer Roll

Summer rolls are a Vietnamese dish made from vegetables and rice paper. The filling is made of mostly fresh vegetables like carrots, cucumbers and lettuce. They may also contain rice noodles and bits of pork or shrimp. Unlike spring rolls, the veggies are usually raw.

Summer roll wrappers are made of a rice flour paste that dries into a brittle, delicate, and almost transparent shell. They’re generally served cold alongside a rich, savory peanut or bean sauce.

Final Thoughts

Egg rolls and spring rolls are generally filled with similar things, although egg rolls are usually filled fuller than spring rolls.

The main difference is in the wrapper. Egg rolls have a thicker, chewier wrapper that is usually brushed with an egg sauce to make it yellow. Spring roll wrappers are as light as spring itself with a flaky, crisp consistency and a pale gray, sometimes translucent color.

Written By Justin Micheal

Justin is not just the creator but also an author and editor for KitchenSanity. He does the majority of the cooking at home with his wife. His friends and family look forward to eating his delicious creations, which often leads to many questions about how they can replicate his meals at home. In his writing, he shares his passion and knowledge as a home chef from his kitchen to yours.