Learn how to make easy vegetarian egg rolls with our family recipe
What in the world does a Greek food blog know about making egg rolls? You might imagine, nothing, and in most cases, you might be right. But not in this case. In this case, our parents, who are the inspiration and source of most of the recipes here, have a fondness for egg rolls. A talent for them. Definitely not a food they had in the horio (Greek village), but during their egg roll phase, this was a recipe they made for every gathering.
You may be wondering how this vegetarian egg rolls recipe came to be. (Or perhaps you are not wondering at all. If so, skip this part 🙂 ). Growing up, we lived near a small family run grocery store called Anka. One day, our Ma and Ba were shopping there and they had a box of frozen egg rolls in their cart. This was not a typical purchase. However, they had learned that us kids liked Chinese food, and to please us they figured that egg rolls would make a great snack or meze. As they were walking around the store, finishing up their shopping, they were stopped by a
nosy well-meaning man who judged their choice of frozen snack.
He asked them if they realized how easy it was to make your own egg rolls. They said no. He explained that it was incredibly easy, and then directed them to a packet of frozen egg roll wrappers. Our parents rolled with the punches (do you see what we did there) and opted to try making homemade vegetarian egg rolls with a recipe they came up with, based on some of the advice they got. The rest, is egg roll history.
We’re not sure how that encounter in the grocery store impacted what happened next. There was a period of time when our parents, and every Greek aunt, koumbara, family friend and neighbour that hosted a gathering made egg rolls. Some were kept vegetarian, some included ground meat. The way they were rolled may have differed, but they all had one thing in common. They were all served with bottled plum sauce, and they all disappeared within minutes.
It may seem odd to picture a buffet table at our parents’ house full of spanakopita, horiatiki salad, souvlaki, Greek lemon potatoes...and vegetarian egg rolls. Odd, but sensible. This recipe is so easy, so economical, and so loved by everyone that it would be strange not to make them!
The egg roll phase in our parents’ and others’ homes has waned. This was a recipe made especially when entertaining. As our parents and others of that generation have gotten older, their entertaining has lessened. The need for platters piled high with food has lessened, but that doesn’t mean their love of vegetarian egg rolls has! When we got together with them to learn this recipe, they were overjoyed, and excited to make them again. When the egg rolls were ready, we sat around the table with a platter piled high with egg rolls, bowls of plum sauce (which was only for us kids – our parents never use the plum sauce!) and enjoyed tasting a bit of nostalgia.
What is an egg roll?
Egg rolls are made of a dough wrapped around a filling. The dough is made of egg and flour and does not tear easily. When fried, the dough crisps up and creates small bubbles across the surface of the egg roll. The filling is typically made with cabbage and other vegetables, and sometimes ground pork or other meat.
Can you make this vegetarian egg rolls recipe in advance?
Yes! In order to save time and make the work easier, you can make the filling ahead of time (even a few days ahead) and keep it in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it if you will be making your egg rolls much later on.
Can you freeze the egg rolls?
So, here is some advice that goes against some very common, and good, kitchen wisdom. We have always known that when something is frozen, and then thawed, it should not be refrozen in its uncooked state. So, let’s say you defrost some chicken thighs to make Greek marinated chicken thighs and then change your mind and make Biftekia with roasted lemon potatoes instead. You shouldn’t refreeze your thawed chicken thighs. Cook them instead and have them the next evening, or freeze them after they have been cooked. This is good and healthy practice.
Having said that, our parents have always frozen their uncooked vegetarian egg rolls. They do this even though they use egg roll wrappers that were previously frozen. They have been doing this forever. We have done this ourselves. It has always been fine. It seems that common Google advice also agrees; refreezing previously frozen egg roll wrappers is fine. It won’t even affect the flavour or texture of your egg rolls.
How to freeze vegetarian egg rolls
When using this recipe, you can freeze your prepared vegetarian egg rolls prior to cooking them. Simply arrange them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Allow enough space between egg rolls so that they are not touching. Cover with plastic wrap or more parchment paper. Freeze, and then store in a freezer bag.
How to cook frozen vegetarian egg rolls
Thaw the egg rolls for about 20 minutes at room temperature and then cook according to the recipe instructions. Even if they are not completely thawed they will cook up fine.
Can you refreeze egg roll wrappers?
Just as you can freeze the prepared (but uncooked) egg rolls, you can also refreeze any wrappers you have not used. We usually purchase a box of 50 eggroll wrappers. If you don’t want to use all of them at once you can carefully wrap and then refreeze the rest.
How to use egg roll wrappers
Egg roll wrappers can either be round or square. We used the square ones in this recipe. If you have purchased frozen egg roll wrappers you first have to thaw them. The best way to do this is to place them in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Then, allow them to come to room temperature before using them.
Carefully peel one egg roll wrapper at a time from the stack and use rather quickly. Any leftover egg roll wrappers should be wrapped well and placed back in the refrigerator or freezer.
Variations to our parents’ vegetarian egg rolls recipe
Our parent’s recipe is really quite basic, and that is the way they (and we) like it. However, you can totally change this basic recipe up to make it your own. Here are some suggestions:
- Add some additional vegetables to the filling. Good choices would be chopped celery, grated zucchini, or finely diced bell peppers. You could saute these along with the onion and mushrooms.
- Use aromatics like garlic and ginger, grated into the filling.
- Reduce the salt and add some soy sauce to the filling.
- Season your filling with a bit of rice wine vinegar and sesame oil.
- Serve the eggrolls with different dipping sauces, like a peanut dipping sauce.
Using an air fryer to cook these vegetarian egg rolls
We LOVE our air fryer, but for this recipe we still prefer frying the egg rolls in oil and a frying pan – old fashioned method! If you prefer to use the air fryer to cook your egg rolls however, you can do so. This is how you would do it.
- Preheat your air fryer to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Brush both sides of your eggrolls with some olive or vegetable oil.
- Place in air fryer basket; do not overcrowd.
- Cook for 7 minutes, flip over and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Re-heat your egg rolls in the air fryer
Even though we prefer to fry our egg rolls, the air fryer is amazing when it comes to reheating them. Egg rolls stored in the refrigerator get soggy and lose their nice crunch. The air fryer brings them back to their original crispiness.
- Preheat your air fryer to 320 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add your cooked egg rolls to the air fryer basket and cook for approximately 5 minutes, shaking them once or twice.
Looking for more delicious and easy recipes? Check these out:
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Vegetarian egg rolls
- 1 Mandoline slicer optional
- 1 Pot, medium
- Cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel
- 1 Frying pan, large
- 50 egg roll wrappers we buy these frozen and defrost them before using
- ½ green cabbage, medium size
- 2 carrots, medium
- 1 red onion
- 227 grams mushrooms
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
- ½ tbsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp pepper or to taste
- vegetable oil for frying
- Begin by preparing your vegetables. Use a mandolin or a knife to finely shred and chop your cabbage. Grate your carrots, finely chop your red onion, and chop your mushrooms. Your mushrooms will shrink as they cook therefore you can keep these pieces somewhat larger.½ green cabbage, medium size, 2 carrots, medium, 1 red onion, 227 grams mushrooms
- Place your cabbage and carrots in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, uncovered, for approximately 10 minutes. Drain the cabbage and carrots and allow to cool. Drain the excess liquid out by squeezing the vegetables in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a pan and saute the red onion for 3 - 5 minutes, until softened and slightly caramelized. Add in the chopped mushrooms. Cook until the liquid that was released from the mushrooms has evaporated. When there is no liquid left in the pan, remove the onions and mushrooms from the heat. Allow to cool1 tsp vegetable oil
- In a large bowl combine the cabbage and carrots, the onion and mushrooms, the parsley and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.2 tbsp parsley, chopped, ½ tbsp salt, 1 tsp pepper
To wrap your egg rolls
- Place one eggroll wrapper on a cutting board and brush all four sides with water. You can either use a pastry brush to do this, or your fingers.50 egg roll wrappers
- Place about 2 teaspoons worth of filling in the center of your egg roll wrapper and fold the lower half of the wrapper up, over the filling. What was originally the lower edge should now be covering a little more than half of the filling. Press along both sides to seal the wrapper. Next, fold over the top half of the wonton wrapper and press again on the sides to seal them. You can see the steps in the photos and video. Finally, when your egg roll is wrapped, use your finger to brush a little bit of water across the main seam to help seal it.
- Add about 1 inch of oil to the bottom of your large frying pan. Heat until a drop of water added to the water sizzles. Add egg roll to the pan, being careful not to overcrowd them (you will fry them in batches). Keep the seem side up and when the bottom of the eggrolls are golden brown use two forks to flip them over. Eggrolls fry quickly, so about a minute (or less) per side should do it. See video here.vegetable oil for frying
- Transfer egg rolls to a paper towel lined plate and continue until you have fried all your egg rolls. Serve with plum sauce and enjoy!