Food Feature: Refreshing Rice Paper Rolls

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I love serving delicious, delightfully pretty rice paper rolls on a hot summer day. These rolls are especially suitable for entertaining on the patio or packing into a picnic basket and “eating out of hand.” Rooted in Vietnamese cuisine, they are light, gluten-free, and super healthy to boot! Best of all, these versatile wraps are so easy on the budget, you can afford to serve them to friends and family all summer long.

To me, rice paper is an amazing creation. No matter what kind of fillings are stuffed into it, you get an appetizing glimpse of what’s inside before you even sink your teeth into the roll. (The translucent appearance is definitely one of rice paper’s most appealing features.)

There are various types of rice paper on the market today, the most authentic of which is made only of rice. There’s also a sheet made from a combination of rice and tapioca starch, which produces a thinner, more pliable rice paper. The taste is subtle and will not clash with, or overpower, the flavours of the delicious fillings inside.

Finally, rice paper has a most interesting, slightly “chewy” texture. However, if you don’t fancy the al dente texture as much as I do, substitutes can be used for rice paper in the recipes below, such as iceberg or other large lettuce leaves, or steamed cabbage leaves. Fresh or canned grape leaves also make interesting wraps, as do nori sheets, which have a more prominent flavour than the other options.

Rice paper, or banh trang in Vietnamese, is inexpensive and can be found in health food stores, Asian shops, and supermarkets in the ethnic food aisles. When shopping for rice paper, keep in mind that the more rice the paper contains, the thicker the paper sheet will be. I do not recommend using the ultra thin, see-through papers made completely out of tapioca starch because they tear easily, making them difficult to work with.

So next time you have some company coming over for a summer brunch, try passing a platter of rice paper rolls around! You’ll be surprised at how much fun they are to make and how fast they disappear! I usually count on about two rolls per person when offering them as appetizers, but if I am serving them as the main course I will double the recipe or make several different batches for exciting variety and eye-catching appeal.

A Few Tips

Rice paper is hard and brittle when you take a sheet out of the package, so handle it gently. It must be moistened with water before using to make it pliable for wrapping, so be sure to assemble all your chosen fillings ahead of time, before dipping the rice paper in water. I find it best to make one roll at a time. Each sheet of rice paper should be ready to roll as soon as it is moistened, for if it stands wet too long it tends to become fragile and much more prone to rupturing upon filling.

If you find that your rice paper is tearing too easily, you can do as some restaurant chefs do – use two sheets, one atop another. I prefer not to use two sheets, though, because it makes a “heavier” roll that has less see-through appeal.

The biggest secret to success when using rice paper is to not over-stuff the rolls. After you have made a few batches of rolls, you will develop a knack for knowing how much you can fit into a roll before it will “pop at the seams.” My motto: better to have a less plump roll that holds together than one that cannot be picked up without spilling over!

Preparing the Rice Paper and Stuffing the Roll

Soak the rice paper in warm water for about five seconds. Make sure to choose a large flat dish that will allow you to dip the entire sheet at one time. After it has been dipped, shake off excess water and lay the rice paper out on the work surface for a few seconds to allow it to become soft and pliable. The rice paper is now ready to use.

Rolling trick: I try to place the most colourful ingredients – vegetables, beans, corn, lentils, fruits – across the centre of the sheet. Always leave a border on all sides, as shown in the photos. If you place your fillings properly, the colourful ones will end up on top of the roll, with the less colourful ingredients peeking out underneath and along the sides of the roll, and the seam will be on the bottom of the roll, tucked securely into place. A little practice makes perfect, so don’t get discouraged if at first you don’t succeed.

One sheet of rice paper makes one roll. The paper circles I use measure 8-1/2 inches around. It’s hard to give exact ingredient measurements because you may wish to use more or less of a particular filling, so I have given a rough estimate for making four rolls.

Place the finished rolls on a platter, keeping each one separate to prevent them from sticking together. Cover with wax paper, parchment paper, or a clean tea towel and store in the fridge until serving time. Slice them in half upon serving, if you wish.

Sweet or Savoury Dipping Sauces

Below are three of my favourite dipping sauces. Be sure to make them well in advance of serving and store in the fridge in order for the flavours to mingle. Check each rice roll recipe below for advice on which sauce goes best with which roll.

Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce

Here’s an easy-to-make peanut dipping sauce that is super tasty! Put 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter into a bowl along with 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tsp water, 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce, 3 Tbsp maple syrup or liquid honey, 1 tsp grated ginger, 3 cloves mashed garlic, and red pepper flakes to suit taste. Whisk until blended. If too thick, add a little more water or vinegar to achieve desired consistency.

Sweet Chilli Sauce

Put 1 cup water, 1 cup rice vinegar, and 1 cup honey into a saucepan. Add 2 tsp grated ginger, 5 cloves minced garlic, 2 minced chilli peppers, 2 Tbsp ketchup. Bring to a boil, cook 5 minutes.

Blend 1 Tbsp cornstarch into 2 Tbsp water. Add to the mixture and cook until thick and clear. Taste and adjust sweetness by adding more honey, tartness by adding more vinegar. Sprinkle with chilli flakes upon serving.

Homemade “Raw” Salsa

This “raw” or uncooked salsa is always a big hit – so refreshing on a hot summer day! In a bowl, combine 4 cups juicy chopped tomatoes, 1 diced sweet red pepper, 1 diced sweet green pepper, 2 diced jalapenos, 1 diced sweet onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup fresh minced cilantro, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1/2 tsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander, sea salt and black pepper to taste. Mix well.

Colourful Quinoa Rice Paper Rolls

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These are as amazing to look at as they are to eat! They are light, tasty, and sure to be a big hit at your next party.


  • 4 sheets rice paper
  • 1 cup red quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • Squirt of lemon juice
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large carrot, sliced thin
  • 8 spears steamed or pickled asparagus, cut to fit on the rice paper
  • 1 sweet green pepper, julienned
  • 1 raw white turnip or daikon, julienned
  • 1 thinly sliced red onion

Veggie and Vermicelli Rolls

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These are beautiful to look at and even better to eat! I like to serve these rolls with peanut dipping sauce.


  • 4 sheets rice paper
  • 4 oz vermicelli (bean thread noodles made from green beans and peas)
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1 sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1/4 English cucumber, julienned (fermented cucumber slices add more zip)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage or sprouts of choice
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp hot chilli oil
  • 1/2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Black pepper and sea salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Baby spinach leaves (or basil leaves, or other herb leaf)

Black Bean and Sweet Corn Rolls

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These rolls carry a hint of “Tex-Mex” flavour. I like to use freshly cooked beans but you can use canned beans for convenience. This is one way to put leftover cooked beans to tasty use, which is why I often cook more beans in a batch than needed for any one recipe! For more variety and colour, use pinto, red, kidney or mixed beans. My pick of dip for these rolls is the Homemade “Raw” Salsa (see recipe below).


  • 4 sheets rice paper
  • 3/4 cup cooked, drained black beans
  • 1 cup cooked corn kernels*
  • Chopped cilantro/parsley
  • 1 clove mashed garlic
  • Squirt of lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Pinch of dried marjoram
  • Black pepper and sea salt to taste
  • 1 sweet red pepper, julienned
  • 1 firm but ripe avocado, cut in half, scooped out of shell and sliced thinly

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So pretty and versatile, these rolls can also be made with other colourful cooked lentils or dried cooked split green or yellow peas. They go great with the Sweet Chilli Sauce recipe.


  • 4 sheets rice paper
  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 sweet green pepper, julienned
  • 1 minced chilli pepper (optional)
  • Several slices of red onion or shredded red cabbage

Fruity Rice Paper Breakfast Rolls

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Here’s something a little different! These rice paper rolls are delightfully pretty to serve as breakfast or brunch fare. Try them and see how wonderful your morning meal can be when you have a package of rice paper in the pantry.  These are delicious when served with plain or flavoured yogurt as the dipping sauce.


  • 4 sheets rice paper and a handful of nuts
  • 1 cup cooked steel cut oats (or other cooked grain of choice – barley is nice, as is black rice or even tapioca)
  • Maple syrup or honey to suit taste
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 2 cups of any fruit of choice – use a single fruit or mix and match for amazing colour and taste (sliced strawberries, kiwi, banana, tangerine wedges, peaches, pears, whole raspberries, blueberries,
  • Coarsely chopped walnuts or other nuts of choice, or coconut flakes (optional)

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