Come summer, there's really nothing I want more in my meal plan than simple, light dinners that come together with a very minimal amount of cooking and taste like they're bursting at the seams with freshness. I can't think of anything that fits the bill better than summer rolls. Packed with juicy seared chicken, ribbons of lightly pickled veggies, creamy avocado, and a layer of fresh herbs all rolled up in a chewy wrapper, these summer rolls call for more prep and assembly than actual cooking. They know how to hit the spot for a totally satisfying summer supper.
Make Summer Rolls a Meal
Perhaps you're most familiar with summer rolls as the light appetizer option at your favorite Vietnamese or Thai restaurant. But add a few key ingredients and you can make this a truly hearty dinner option.
Making summer rolls a meal all comes down to three things: the filling, portion size, and dipping sauce. Along with some crisp vegetables and cellophane noodles, this version is stuffed with strips of seared chicken breast and slices of cool avocado. This pairing of protein and wholesome fats guarantees a satisfying meal.
Summer rolls, of course, are not complete without a dipping sauce, and when making them a meal, I always opt for peanut sauce since it adds just a little bit more heft to the meal. When plating these rolls up for dinner, plan on four to six summer rolls per person, and slightly less for little ones.
Chicken Summer Rolls
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
Juice 1/2 medium lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1 medium seedless cucumber, julienned
1 medium carrot, peeled and shaved into ribbons
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
4 ounces dried cellophane noodles (also called bean threads)
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
16 (8 1/2-inch) dried rice paper wrappers
32 fresh basil or mint leaves
2 medium avocados, thinly sliced
Peanut sauce, for serving
Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken and cook undisturbed until browned on the bottom, 6 to 9 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is browned and the internal temperature registers 165°F, 6 to 9 minutes more. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Once cool, slice the chicken crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Whisk the vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice together in a large bowl. Add the cucumber, carrot, and scallions, and toss to combine; set aside.
If the noodles are very long, break them into smaller bits. Cook according to package instructions. Drain the noodles, transfer them to a bowl, add the sesame oil, and toss to combine; set aside.
Fill a pie plate halfway with room-temperature water. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Immerse 1 wrapper in the water until it softens, about 30 seconds. Use both hands to pull it up out of the water, being careful so it doesn't collapse on itself, and immediately lay it flat on the towel.
Place 3 basil or mint leaves down the wrapper, just slightly to the left of center. Place 2 to 3 strips of chicken on the herbs. Top with about 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture and 1 to 2 tablespoons of noodles. Place 2 slices of avocado over the noodles.
Fold the top and bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold the left side over the filling and continue rolling tightly to the right until it's closed and snug. Place it on a baking sheet seam-side down and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling, adding more water to the pie dish as needed. Keep the summer rolls covered until ready to serve.
- Make ahead: The chicken can be cooked up to 1 day ahead and stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. The summer rolls can be made up to 2 hours in advance. Keep tightly covered in plastic wrap at room temperature.