10 Tips for Mastering Summer Rolls

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Mar)

Summer rolls are as fun to eat as they are to make, and can be filled with your heart’s desire. Less heavy than traditional sandwiches but more substantial than salads, we’ve dubbed them the sandwich for salad-lovers. Summer rolls actually taste better with more vegetables and they are way easier to eat on the go (say, at a picnic or party) than even the best salads.

Here’s our guide to making the most of summer rolls now. These 10 tips will take you from beginner to master and give you our favorite inside secrets for rolling them up like a pro.

1. Set yourself up for success.

Preparation is king when it comes to spring and summer rolls. Before you get rolling (literally), make sure all your proteins and rice noodles are cooked and cooled, and your fruits and vegetables are chopped.

2. Don’t limit yourself to traditional fillings.

Prawns and pork belly are traditional fillings for Vietnamese summer rolls, but you can fill them with anything from pickled vegetables to fresh fruit to deli turkey.

3. Use cool water to soften the rice paper rolls.

Many recipes suggest soaking the rice paper wrappers in warm water to quickly soften them, but this makes the paper more fragile and more sticky. Instead use cool water and give the wrappers just a little more time — I’m talking seconds — to soften before rolling.

4. Keep your work surface wet.

Rice paper wrappers are sticky. The easiest way to keep them from sticking to your work surface and themselves it to keep them wet. Working on a damp towel also helps prevent sticking and aids rolling.

(Image credit: Jeff Roffman)

5. Use lettuce to hold fillings together.

My favorite summer roll trick? Wrap tiny shredded vegetables, slippery noodles, and flyway herbs in a piece of lettuce before wrapping them in the rice paper. The lettuce corrals the filling, making the rice paper easier to roll and the summer roll easier to eat.

6. Make a two-tier filling situation.

Instead of stacking all your fillings into a mound, make two distinct filling stations on each rice paper wrapper. One can be split shrimp or sliced strawberries, and the other can be the lettuce-wrapped loose vegetables. Set the lettuce roll closer to you and roll that up first; the result is a tighter wrap with a pretty layer of shingled shrimp or fruit showing.

7. Don’t overfill.

More filling does not make for a tighter, neater roll. In fact, you’re more likely to tear the rice paper wrapper if you have too much filling. Filling amounts will vary depending on the size of the wrapper, so err on the side of underfilling when you are just learning to roll summer rolls.

8. Wrap like a burrito.

Start rolling the rice paper wrapper up at one end and then stop and fold in both sides. This holds the filling in and makes it easier to pick up and eat the summer rolls.

(Image credit: Jeff Roffman)

9. Dipping sauce is required.

Unlike sandwiches, which can be slathered with mayo or mustard on the inside, summer rolls should be relatively dry inside the wrapper (it helps them last longer). All you need is a delicious dipping sauce!

Our tried-and-true sauce: How To Make Easy Creamy Peanut Sauce

10. Roll, eat, repeat.

The more summer rolls you make and eat, the better you’ll get at making and eating them. That’s as good a reason as any to go and make some now.

(Image credit: Jeff Roffman)

Our cooking lesson will walk you through making your best summer rolls yet. From preparing the filling to prepping the rice paper wrap, here’s how to master this summer favorite.