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These flavor-packed winter rolls are a delightful twist on the traditional summer rolls, bringing a burst of flavor, freshness, and crunch that's tailor-made for the fall and winter seasons. Made with tender lemongrass meatballs, crisp carrot, vibrant red cabbage, chewy vermicelli noodles, savory umami-rich mushrooms, and fresh cilantro and served alongside a spicy vinegar dipping sauce.
These winter rolls are a lower-carb take on banh mi. They take inspiration from traditional Vietnamese summer rolls but are winterized with winter veggies and bite-sized lemongrass-infused meatballs. Rather than pickling the vegetables, embrace the freshness of raw, crunchy winter veggies. Serve the winter rolls with a vinegar-based dipping sauce, replicating the tangy essence of the pickles. It's a refreshing and wholesome take on the beloved banh mi, perfect for colder months.
This winter rolls recipe uses a handful of wholesome ingredients. This is what you'll need:
- Vietnamese lemongrass meatballs: Keep them petite so they perfectly fit into the rolls.
- Rice vermicelli: Adds a nice texture with chewiness.
- Vegetables: Carrot, red cabbage, and shimeji mushrooms bring flavor and crunch. You can substitute for shiitake mushrooms if they're available to you.
- Cilantro: For a little freshness to complement the savory elements.
- Rice paper wrappers: To roll it all together.
- Dipping sauce: Combine rice wine vinegar, sriracha, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, lime juice.
How to make winter rolls
Leave the oven off in this no-bake recipe. Once you have the meatballs made and your veggies chopped, these winter rolls are super simple to assemble. These are the instructions:
- Make meatballs: Make Vietnamese lemongrass meatballs and roll them into 48 mini meatballs. Then, pan-fry them until they're dark brown.
- Prep ingredients: Sauté the mushrooms while the rice vermicelli noodles soak in boiling water.
- Make dipping sauce: Whisk all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Assemble the rolls: Fill a large shallow bowl with hot tap water. Dip one rice paper wrapper in the water, letting it soften. Lay the wrapper on a flat surface and top it up with all of the roll ingredients before rolling it up like a burrito. Set it aside on parchment paper and repeat with the other rolls. Serve and enjoy!
Tips for handling rice paper wrappers
There's a fine balance between over-soaked, soggy rice paper that slips and slides everywhere – and under-soaked, sticky rice paper that glues itself to everything. Finding that happy medium usually takes a few tries! Here are some tips:
- Soaking time: Be mindful not to oversoak the rice paper – it continues to absorb water even after you take it out.
- Damp surface: Keep your surface lightly damp to prevent the rice paper from sticking.
- Placement: Place the ingredients in the center of the rice paper, leaving space at the edges to make it easier when you roll.
- Tight roll: Make sure your wrap them tightly to make a more compact and well-structured roll.
- Seam side down: When placing them on the parchment paper, place them seam side down to prevent unraveling.
How to serve winter rolls
These winter rolls are best plated seam side down (to prevent unraveling) and beside a bowl of vinegary dipping sauce. If you're serving these as an appetizer (maybe a game day Super Bowl appy?) we recommend cutting them in half so they'll be more snack-sized. They are a bit messy to eat, so make sure you have some napkins close by! They're surprisingly filling so they can work as a main course, too.
These are best if rolled reasonably close to the time you plan on serving them. If you need to make them ahead, wet a strong paper towel with water, ring it out, and then roll the winter roll in it. Use one damp paper towel per roll. Place all the paper towel rolled winter rolls into a resealable bag and keep them in your fridge for up to 8 hours. Unwrap (using a little water to loosen the paper towel if it becomes stuck in places) and let them come to room temperature before serving.
Can I make these dairy-free and gluten-free?
They already are! Just be careful of any additions and check the labels to see if they have any added ingredients that are outside of your dietary requirements.
Can I customize the fillings?
Sure, you can use any seasonal ingredients you wish to include, such as roasted squash or red bell peppers, sliced brussels sprouts, a piece of tofu, or a sprinkle of sesame seeds. You can use other herbs too, such as mint or Thai basil.
Can I serve these with another dipping sauce?
Sure! We enjoy this dipping sauce as it replicates the pickled vegetables you'd usually find in banh mi. If you want to try another dipping sauce, we recommend this satay sauce.
- 1 recipe Vietnamese Lemongrass Meatballs (48 meatballs)
- 5 ounces rice vermicelli
- 5 ounces shimeji mushrooms (or substitute a handful of shiitake mushrooms)
- 3 carrots (julienned on a mandolin)
- 2 cups red cabbage (thinly sliced on a mandolin)
- 12 stems cilantro
- 12 small rice paper wrappers
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon EACH: sriracha and sugar
- ½ teaspoon EACH: fish sauce, soy sauce, grated ginger
- 1 small garlic clove (very finely minced)
- Juice from ½ lime
- Make the recipe for the Vietnamese Lemongrass Meatballs. Roll into 48 mini meatballs and pan fry over medium-high heat in a little oil until they are dark brown and have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, about 10 minutes.
- Soak the rice vermicelli in boiling water until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.5 ounces rice vermicelli
- Saute the mushrooms in a little oil until cooked, about 3-4 minutes.5 ounces shimeji mushrooms
- Whisk all the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.¼ cup rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon EACH: sriracha and sugar, ½ teaspoon EACH: fish sauce, soy sauce, grated ginger, 1 small garlic clove, Juice from ½ lime
Assemble the winter rolls:
- Fill a large, shallow bowl with hot tap water. Dip one rice paper wrapper in the water and let it soften for about 30 seconds. Lay the wrapper on a flat surface and top with some rice vermicelli, carrots, cabbage, a stem of cilantro, four meatballs, and a few mushrooms.3 carrots, 2 cups red cabbage, 12 small rice paper wrappers, 12 stems cilantro
- Pull one end of the wrapper over the fillings. Fold the sides in then roll up like a burrito. Set aside on parchment paper (they will stick to most other surfaces!) and repeat with the remaining wrappers.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.