I traveled to Vietnam with my family in 2019 and it was one of the culinary highlights of my life.

At one point, I found myself running the food line in a tiny shop in a Ho Chi Minh City food court during a steamy lunch rush as the owner and his construction-worker customers looked on in amusement.

One of our favorite Vietnamese foods is goi cuon, the much-loved spring roll. In the Southeast Asian country, summertime temperatures can be very — and I mean VERY — hot. To cool down, many locals eat foods that are filled with fresh and colorful veggies.

These rolls are usually made with vermicelli noodles, some sort of a protein (pork, chicken, shrimp, tofu) and lots of gorgeous veggies wrapped together in a piece of translucent rice paper. Spring rolls are incredibly versatile and super easy to make right at home.

I decided to share a vegan recipe, so this version leaves out the protein. But it adds in a bevy of herbs and flavors that will make your homemade rolls as good as any you have ordered in a restaurant.

Vegetarian/Vegan Springy Spring Rolls

Large pot for boiling water
Shallow pan (pie pan or round cake pan)
Clean kitchen towel
Small bowl for sauce

For the spring rolls:
2 ounces rice noodles
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter lettuce, torn
1 cup red cabbage, very thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks or sliced into strips
2 Persian cucumbers (or 1 small cucumber), sliced into strips
2 medium jalapeños, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
¼ cup green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
8 sheets rice paper (spring roll wrappers)

For the peanut sauce:
⅓ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 to 3 tablespoons water, as needed

Let’s get going!

  1. Cook the rice noodles in a large pot of boiling water following the directions on the package. Drain the noodles and rinse them with cold water and return them to the pot. Add sesame oil and salt and coat them well.
  2. Create your roll station: Pour about an inch of water into a shallow pan. Arrange all the fillings for your rolls nearby. Fold a clean kitchen towel in half and place it next to the dish. Make sure your prepared fillings are within reach. In a small bowl, mix together the green onion, cilantro and mint.
  3. Place one piece of rice paper in the water. Let it absorb some of the water, about 20 seconds or so, until the paper is flexible but not completely soaked. Remove the sheet and place it on your towel.
  4. Lay a few pieces of butter lettuce down on the lower part of the sheet (about a third), then layer on some rice noodles, cabbage and a small handful of carrot, cucumber and jalapeño. Be sure to leave about 1 inch of open rice paper around the edges. Then sprinkle your herb mix over everything.
  5. Roll up the lower edge over your fillings, until the fillings are completely covered. Then fold over the other sides like a burrito. Then roll up entire paper with fillings.
  6. Repeat with each paper.
  7. For the sauce, mix together peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil and garlic in a small bowl. Whisk in 2 to 3 tablespoons water, depending on how thick you’d like your dipping sauce. Cut the rolls in half on a bias so you can see the vibrant insides and dip into your delicious peanut sauce.