Spring Roll vs Egg Roll: What’s the Difference?

If you were a picky eater like I was growing up, Chinese food could pose something of a problem. It seems ridiculous to me in retrospect, but I would turn up my nose at things as basic as chicken or beef just because they were made with slightly different sauces and seasonings than I was used to. But, no matter how picky you are, it’s hard to turn down something deep fried and soaked in soy sauce. So, suffice it to say, egg rolls and spring rolls were two dishes I became extremely familiar with in my formative years, along with a lot of white rice and maybe a piece of chicken if I was feeling extra brave. And yet, it’s easy to mix up these two tubular staples. They’re both fried and crunchy rolls often served as appetizers. So, what are the differences between spring rolls and egg rolls? Let’s bite into some answers. 

Spring Roll vs Egg Roll: Origins

It’s something of an open secret at this point that a lot of what Americans consider to be “Chinese food” is not actually food that originated in China. It was largely created by Asian-American chefs looking to make something more familiar to American palates. For example, fortune cookies were created in San Francisco. Crab rangoon was almost certainly created in Los Angeles. And Chef Andy Kao invented orange chicken in Hawaii in 1987. 

This leads us to a major difference between spring roll and egg roll. The spring roll was indeed invented in China—Shanghai to be specific. Meanwhile, the egg roll was invented in the U.S., most likely in New York’s Chinatown in the 1930s or ‘40s. As we previously wrote in our article about what’s in egg rolls, chefs who had immigrated from China created an Americanized version of the spring roll with the ingredients they had available to them.

Spring Roll vs Egg Roll: Ingredients

That brings us to another key difference between egg rolls and spring rolls: the ingredients. Spring rolls are most often vegetarian—they usually contain cabbage, scallions, mushrooms, and carrots. On the other hand, egg rolls often contain meat such as pork or shrimp along with cabbage. 

Spring Roll vs Egg Roll: Wrapper

The third difference between these two delicious fried appetizers is the wrapper. In terms of egg roll wrappers vs spring roll wrappers, the former are significantly larger and made out of a wonton or thick flour wrapper while the latter are smaller and have a more delicate, thin skin. Thus, egg rolls can feel more heavy and almost dough-forward, whereas spring rolls are a little lighter, crispier, and flakier. 

Incidentally, despite their name, egg rolls do not typically contain eggs. The wrapper is egg free, and generally the ingredients inside don’t contain egg either, though that can vary. If you have an egg allergy or aversion, you should be okay with egg rolls. But you should always double check the ingredients. 

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not mention the Vietnamese spring roll. It’s not much like an egg roll or spring roll of the Chinese variety because it is not fried. Instead, Vietnamese spring rolls (also known as gỏi cuốn, summer rolls, salad rolls, or rice paper rolls) are made with vegetables, rice vermicelli, and sometimes prawns and/or pork, wrapped in rice paper. It is also very delicious, but may not be what you have in mind if you’ve only ever sampled spring rolls at a Chinese restaurant.

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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