Summer rolls are a colorful, creative, nutritious and delicious dish that originate from Vietnamese culture. Traditional Vietnamese culture is largely based on the agricultural lifestyle that makes up a large part of the country. Therefore, the diet of Vietnamese people is considered to be very healthy as most of their dishes emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of herbs, whole grains such as rice, small amounts of meat or fish, and limited amounts of fat [i].
This Vietnamese inspired recipe is a great way to sneak in a variety of beneficial nutrients and is vegan, gluten free, and dairy free. Summer rolls are super convenient as they can be enjoyed any time of day as a meal, snack, or even as a side dish!
Red cabbage: Red cabbage gets its beautiful, vibrant color from a pigment known as anthocyanin, which has great antioxidant properties. Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable rich in fiber, full of a variety of vitamins and minerals, and has been associated with decreasing the risk of certain types of cancers [ii].
Avocado: Avocado, although technically a fruit, is most well-known for being a fantastic source of healthy fat including both unsaturated fat and omega fatty acids, which have great anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, avocados are high in fiber and considered to be nutrient-dense as they pack an abundance of vitamins, minerals and calories into quite a small portion [iii].
Tofu: Tofu is an extremely common plant-based protein choice, especially in Asian cultures. Tofu is made out of soybeans, and is therefore a great source of plant-based protein, calcium, and iron. It is also associated with a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as for certain estrogen-related diseases such as specific types of breast cancer and osteoporosis [iv].
Tahini: Tahini is a beige colored paste made from ground sesame seeds, providing a good amount of plant protein, calcium, and iron, similarly to tofu, with the addition of healthy fat. Thanks to the abundance of healthy fat that tahini provides, it is associated with anti-inflammatory functions [v].
Vegan Tofu Summer Rolls with Tahini Sauce
Serves: 5, 10 rolls total
For the rolls:
- 10 rice paper sheets
- 1 block extra firm tofu sliced into strips
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce if not gluten free)
- 1 tsp avocado oil
- ¾ cup thinly slice carrot
- ¾ cup red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 avocado, sliced thin lengthwise
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
For the tahini sauce:
- 2 tbsp tahini (or any nut/seed butter of choice)
- 1 tsp avocado oil
- ½ tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce if not gluten free)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp cold water
- ¼ tsp ginger powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp sesame seeds (optional)
Cooking the tofu:
- Preheat the oven or air fryer to 400°F. Drain and blot the tofu with paper towels. Cut the block in half, then cut each half into 2. Then slice the tofu into thin strips (should have about 16 tofu strips in total).
- Sprinkle the spices and coconut aminos evenly over the tofu, careful not to break any of the strips. Spray or drizzle avocado oil over the top of the tofu and gently mix. Transfer the tofu to a baking sheet for oven use or to the air fryer.
- Bake for about 30 mins in oven or 15-20 min in air fryer, or until golden.
Making the sauce:
- Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl until the sauce gets to a creamy consistency (can add more or less water depending on desired consistency).
Assembling the summer rolls:
- Lay out all of the prepped ingredients to be placed inside of the summer rolls (cooked tofu, carrots, basil, mint, red cabbage, avocado, and tahini sauce).
- Fill a shallow bowl or large plate with warm water and dip a rice paper sheet in the water, turning once, until soft (only about 10 seconds – we don’t want it to fall apart when rolling!), and lay the rice paper sheet flat on a plate or cutting board.
- Just below the center of the rice paper, begin layering ingredients starting with a small amount of red cabbage, and then place a few of the mint and basil leaves on top. Then continue to layer with 2 strips of tofu, 2 carrot slices, 2-3 slices of avocado, and topping with 1 tablespoon of the tahini sauce.
- With all of the ingredients placed just below the center of the rice paper, fold all uncovered sides inward and then tightly, but carefully, roll.
- Repeat the process until all of the filling ingredients are used up.
- Serve with the tahini sauce on the side for dipping and enjoy!
- For optimal freshness, wrap each roll individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no longer than two days.
- If you’re looking to boost the calorie and protein content of the dish to make a more satiating meal, consider adding more tofu, avocado, and tahini sauce to each roll.
- To make prep easier, opt for a packaged coleslaw mix in place of the carrots and cabbage.
- Feel free to get creative with this dish and add, swap, or omit any ingredients. Some examples could include swapping the tofu for animal-based protein such as cooked shrimp or chicken, trading in the carrots or cabbage for bell peppers, adding a fruit like mango, and substituting the tahini for any other preferred nut or seed butter including peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower seed butter.
[i] Gordon S, Bernadett M, Evans D, Shapiro NB, Dang L. Vietnamese culture: influences and implications for health care. Molina Healthcare.
[ii] Rani S, Singh A, Kumar P. Evaluation of nutritional facts and health benefits of red cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. capitata f. rubra). The Journal of Rural and Agricultural Research. 2021;21(1):37-39.
[iii] Fonseca Duarte P, Alves Chaves M, Dellinghausen Borges C, Barboza Mendonca CR. Avocado: characteristics, health benefits and uses. Ciencia Rural. 2016;46(4):747-754. https://doi.org/10.1590/0103-8478cr20141516.
[iv] Pal M, Devrani M, Ayele Y. Tofu: a popular food with high nutritional and health benefits. Food & Beverages Processing.
[v] Sumaina G, Laban L. Tahini: the magical condiment in-depth look at its nutritional and health benefits. Journal of Food Processing and Technology. 2021;12(1). doi:10.1111/nyas.13308.