What Makes Egg Rolls Different Than Spring Rolls?

When discussing Asian cuisine, it's hard to leave egg rolls and spring rolls out of the conversation. Small but mighty, these crispy rolls pack a flavor punch with every bite. Whether buying takeout or cooking them right in your kitchen, they never fail to bring a wholesome warmth and utter delight that make for a satisfying meal.

Despite the similar appearance, however, egg rolls and spring rolls are not the same thing. Although they're both deeply rooted in Chinese cuisine, they have slightly different histories. There are competing theories about the origin of egg rolls; while some suggest they were invented by a Chinese-American immigrant chef in the 1930s, others believe they came directly from Southern China. Meanwhile, spring rolls trace their origin back to the Tang Dynasty, during which they were commonly made for a Chinese New Year banquet called "the Spring Festival," hence the name. You can also find versions of spring rolls in other countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, and Indonesia. Beyond history, quite a few other things separate these two dishes, such as the textures, main ingredients, and cooking methods. 

A more detailed look into the differences

Put them side by side, and you'll notice that egg rolls and spring rolls look quite different. Egg roll wrappers are made from wheat flour, water, and eggs that, when fried, give them that coarse and bubbled exterior, making for a very crunchy bite. Spring rolls' surface, however, is perfectly smooth with a thin crackly shell because rice paper is used to wrap the insides.

As far as fillings are concerned, there are some subtle distinctions between the two. Egg rolls typically contain a combination of shredded cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and seasoned meat, resulting in a robust, savory taste. Spring rolls, on the other hand, showcase a lighter and fresher flavor profile with vegetables as the main ingredients, although they can also include seafood or ground meat if you prefer.

Another thing that these Asian staples differ in is their preparation method. Spring rolls can be made in various ways, such as steamed, fried, baked, or even served cold alongside a dipping sauce. Egg rolls, however, are deep fried (traditionally in a wok to golden, crispy perfection), baked, or, if you're trying to cut back on the oil used, air-fried.