What's The Difference Between A Spring Roll And An Egg Roll?

Picture it — you are sitting at a Chinese restaurant feeling pretty hungry, but not so confident about what to order. You study the menu and look for something that you recognize. The best place to start is the appetizers, so you read that section and notice that this restaurant has egg rolls. Your mouth starts watering, imagining their crispy texture and the cooked cabbage. But then you notice that the menu also has spring rolls and suddenly you feel a bit confused.

Aren't egg rolls and spring rolls the same thing? Not exactly, and knowing the differences between the two can make ordering your appetizers easier. Spring rolls and egg rolls are both popular types of fried or deep-fried foods, but they differ in their origin, the type of wrapper used, the filling inside each one, and the cooking method. It's these differences that create a flavor and texture profile for each roll variety to set them apart.

Understanding the spring roll

Spring rolls are a traditional Chinese dish that dates back to the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD), but they resembled a super thin pancake during this time. The name comes from the dish being served for Chinese New Year, which celebrates the beginning of the spring season. Now, spring rolls are typically made with a thin, translucent rice paper wrapper that is delicate and crispy when fried, but they aren't always fried. Some spring rolls are served fresh, which leaves the wrapper chewier, and closer to the texture of pasta. These are also known as summer rolls, yes those are a thing, and they have Vietnamese origins.

Spring rolls can also be baked or even cooked in the air fryer because the wrapper is conducive to various types of cooking. As for the filling, spring rolls are usually stuffed with a combination of fresh vegetables, such as carrots, bean sprouts, cucumbers, and lettuce, and they sometimes include cooked meat or seafood, but these rolls do come in vegetarian versions. 

Getting to know the egg roll

Egg rolls are a variation of spring rolls that were allegedly developed by a Chinese immigrant in New York in the 1920s. They are made with a thicker, egg-based wrapper that is more doughy and chewy when fried, and, unlike the spring roll, they are always fried. Egg rolls are typically filled with a mixture of shredded cabbage, carrots, and sometimes ground pork, which is often seasoned with soy sauce and other spices. While egg rolls are generally filled with pork, they can be made with other meat, like chicken, and they can even be made without meat. 

If you prefer a doughy, chewier, and more seasoned roll, the egg roll is your best bet for an appetizer. If you want something lighter, crispier, and fresher, then you should opt for the spring roll. Either way, both have fresh vegetable fillings and crispy wrappers that make them a great appetizer to accompany your next meal.