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What is an Egg Roll?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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An egg roll is an Asian appetizer which includes meat and vegetables wrapped inside a rice or wheat dough and then steamed or deep fried. Many consumers associate deep fried egg rolls, especially those from China, with the concept, although a number of Asian nations make variations on the food. Many Asian restaurants offer these dishes as a starter. Since they are easy to make, they are often made by cooks who are first learning about Asian cuisine.

Several things characterize a true egg roll. Typically, it has a wheat dough which turns dense, puffy, and crunchy when fried. The roll is usually dipped or washed in egg before cooking, and the filling may include any combination of vegetables and meats. Frequently, bean threads or other noodles are included as well, for filler.

In most cases, an egg roll is entirely closed, resembling a small log of dough, and allowing the vegetables inside to steam slightly as the food is cooked. One variety is open on one or both ends, and has a more crunchy, deep fried flavor throughout. A variety of dipping sauces can accompany this food. Soy sauce is common, as are plum sauce and sweet and sour sauce. Typically, the dish is served hot, as it will start to taste oily and heavy as it cools down.

A well known cousin of the egg roll is the spring roll, a lighter version which may be made with a thinner wheat dough or a rice paper wrapper. In some cases, spring rolls are steamed, rather than fried, to make the flavor even more delicate. In many places, spring rolls are traditionally served on the first day of spring, and they also come with a variety of dipping sauces.

To make egg rolls, start by tracking down wrappers, which are available at many markets. Stir fry an assortment of vegetables and meats of your choice, seasoning with salt, pepper, and a small amount of soy sauce or oyster sauce. Garlic, ginger, cabbage, bok choy, carrots, green onions, celery, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and bean sprouts are all common vegetables, while pork, beef, and chicken are frequently chosen meats. Set the vegetables aside to cool, and lay out the wrappers alongside a dish of lightly beaten egg.

Orient the roll wrapper so that one corner points toward you. Spoon out a small amount of filling into the middle, and roll the egg roll up, folding in the sides as you do so. Brush a small amount of egg along the top edge to seal it before rolling it up all the way and brush the outside with egg, and set aside. Once you have rolled a sufficient number, you can either fry or steam the egg rolls, serving hot with sauces of choice.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By DylanB — On Dec 10, 2012

@StarJo – The first egg roll I ever ate was from a Japanese restaurant. The fillings may differ slightly, but it's true that both Japanese and Chinese places offer egg rolls.

I have noticed that Japanese restaurants tend to offer more spring rolls as part of a meal than regular egg rolls. Many lunch bento box deals come with fried rice, some sort of meat in teriyaki sauce, and spring rolls, along with a few pieces of sushi.

I like the light taste of the spring rolls. The are smaller and much easier to chew, and they tend to be a bit crispier, too. I love dipping them in the sweet plum sauce that comes in the middle section of the lunch box.

By StarJo — On Dec 09, 2012

Egg rolls are one item that I always pick up when I visit a Chinese buffet. They have so many unique fillings that I just don't see in many other foods. For example, I love bean sprouts, and egg rolls are just full of them.

Are egg rolls primarily a Chinese food? Do Japanese restaurants ever serve egg rolls?

By lighth0se33 — On Dec 09, 2012

@Perdido – All egg rolls are different, but I can give you the calorie count on the boxes of frozen egg rolls I have in my freezer. I have some good chicken egg rolls that contain about 230 calories each, while the vegetable version contains 190.

I will say that the chicken egg rolls are more filling. They only contain 40 calories more than the other kind, but if you eat two of them, you basically have your lunch right there. Alternately, if you don't want to consume that many calories at lunch, you could just eat one chicken egg roll along with some fruit or yogurt to fill you up.

By Perdido — On Dec 08, 2012

Is the egg roll calorie count high? How much of a difference is there between an egg roll made with meat like chicken and one made of vegetables only?

I'm trying to decide whether or not I can afford to include egg rolls in my diet. I love the flavor, but I would imagine they have to have a lot of calories.

By turquoise — On Dec 07, 2012

Egg roll wrappers are such a multi-purpose food. You can make egg rolls and spring rolls with them. You can also make various pastries and sweets. It's good to keep a couple of packages in the freezer. That's what I do and if I have guests come over suddenly, I can always make something with the wrappers.

By burcinc — On Dec 07, 2012

@fify-- I guess you could try baking them at home but I don't think they will be as good. It's the frying that gives egg rolls its crispiness. So I'm suspecting that in the oven, egg rolls will become too hard and not crispy.

You can make egg rolls healthier by frying them in less oil and using olive oil instead of vegetable oil. You can also set the egg rolls on paper towels to absorb some of the excess oil before eating. These should help.

By fify — On Dec 06, 2012
Egg rolls are really delicious, but I try to eat them only once in a while. Since they are fried, they have a lot of calories.

I wonder if there is a healthier version of egg rolls? Maybe baked egg rolls? Is that possible?

By accordion — On Jan 07, 2011

While egg roll recipes can be simple, I don't know if I agree that they can be taken on by very beginners, like this article suggests. For starters, someone wanting to make authentic egg rolls should be willing to either hunt down ingredients, like the dough used to wrap the rolls, or to take on making it themselves, as well as the ingredients that go inside. Also, different Asian cultures have different recipe traditions, and they are often very unlike what most people in the United States think of as egg rolls. I would recommend a beginner either try to find a very simple recipe, or get help from a friend who has made them before.

By vogueknit17 — On Jan 05, 2011

While it is relatively easy to make vegetarian egg rolls, I've found that many traditionalists plain refuse to do so. I once took a class in college with a group of Hmong people, and was invited to join them making their own version of egg rolls. It took a fair amount of begging to get them to grudgingly make some without the pork and chicken mixture. The end result was quite delicious, though, and probably would not be that hard to replicate.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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