Answer: It depends.
Are you deciding to go vegan and see if your favorite foods are safe to eat now? Egg rolls are among the most popular quick bites. If they are your favorite fast food to enjoy, you might be wondering, are egg rolls vegan? The answer to this is a bit ambiguous.
Egg rolls can be vegan, vegetarian, and non-vegetarian too. One important thing to note is that the ‘egg’ in egg rolls does not mean that it is the main ingredient. It is dubious how the name egg roll came into existence. In most cases, egg rolls contain an egg wash in their wrapper, making them unsuitable for vegans.
However, it is very much possible to find entirely vegan-friendly egg rolls. If you are moderately decent at cooking, you can even make yourself some vegan egg rolls at home. On the other hand, there are many variations of an egg roll.
In this article, we will discuss the most popular ingredients used in preparing egg rolls in detail. You will also find a breakdown of the ingredients used by renowned restaurant chains and commercial brands to make their egg rolls!
How Are Egg Rolls Made?
Egg rolls are deep-fried rolls with an egg filling. We will come to the question of the filler and the wrapper later. The main issue that many vegans have with deep-fried foods is the type of oil used for frying.
It is also tough to be sure while eating out at a random joint. While the food itself might not contain any animal products, the cooking oil may be non-vegan.
This is a significant problem that you might face while opting for egg rolls in a restaurant. Your egg rolls may be oil-fried made from animal fat, making the rolls instantly non-vegan.
Also, most American restaurants have deep-fried meat items on their menu. It is possible that your rolls are being fried in a typical oil also used for frying meat-based fast food.
It is a matter of debate among vegans whether vegan items fried in a standard oil (non-vegan) used for cooking meat are considered non-vegan. It is always wise to ask the restaurant about the oil and cooking process, even if their menu offers vegan egg rolls.
Now let’s move on to the essential components of an egg roll and discuss how you can make them vegan.
Ingredients Of An Egg Roll: How Vegan Is It?
As we discussed earlier, egg rolls do not necessarily contain eggs in them. The fillings are most definitely not egg-based. Let’s talk about the various elements of an egg roll and the ingredients used to prepare them.
How the egg roll came to be named is a matter of debate and deliberation. It is an absolute no-brainer that this food item has a Chinese origin. Food historians have noted that the Chinese word for “spring” is phonetically similar to the Chinese word for “egg.” Hence, the American consumer might have confused between the two names.
Whatever may be the case, inevitably, egg rolls do not generally contain egg in their fillings. The only traces of egg that you may find in an egg roll will be in the wrapper. The wrapper is usually brushed with an egg wash before frying. However, it is possible to find rolls without eggs in their wrappers at all!
Many commercial brands and restaurant chains offer egg rolls with a vegan wrapper. We will list some examples later. So always ask about the wrapper before ordering a ‘vegan egg roll.’ If your roll has a meatless filling and an egg-free wrapper, you have got a vegan egg roll on your plate!
Now we come to the next major component of an egg roll, the stuffing. Egg rolls have the reputation of being non-vegan primarily because of the ingredients used in the filling. In the US, meat-based fillings are most well-loved. So, you will most often find egg rolls with pork or chicken in the filling.
However, you will be surprised to know that the next principal ingredient of an egg roll filling is cabbage. Even meat-based fillings will contain green cabbages and other vegetables as their base ingredient! So, it is not that odd of a request to ask for egg rolls without meat.
Many restaurants will be happy to customize a vegan egg roll for you that does not contain any meat in the filling. Some fast-food joints might have that as a separate menu option. You can also make your own at home with a generous filling of cabbages, spices, and fresh vegetables. They are no less tasty than ones with meat fillings.
Remember – a vegan filling does not guarantee a vegan egg roll. Do Keep in mind the wrappers and cooking processes.
You will often find that egg rolls are being served with sauces for dipping. It is essential to be aware that many of these sauces may be potentially meat-based.
If you are explicitly ordering a vegan egg roll, the chances are that the restaurant will not offer you meat-based sauces in the first place. But it is always safe to ask.
Beware, even hot and sour sauces can contain chicken juices.
If you think you must abandon the goodness of dipping sauces, you couldn’t be more wrong! There are excellent plant-based sauces that go brilliantly with your vegan egg roll. You can opt for soy or plum sauces, among others.
Top Choices For Commercial Vegan Egg Rolls
It is now time to check out some commercial brands and restaurants which ultimately serve vegan egg rolls. We will break down the components of the rolls offered by them and verify whether they are as vegan as they claim.
Barney’s Egg Rolls
Barney’s egg rolls are marketed as vegetarian egg rolls. However, a quick look at their list of ingredients shows that they are vegan as well.
Barney’s egg rolls wrappers include bleached wheat flour, soybean oil, food starch, salt, potassium sorbate, ascorbic acid, and citric acid as main ingredients. Fillings are cabbage-based and include water chestnuts, carrots, celery, and onions, among other veggies. A Teriyaki Glaze sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, dehydrated ginger, onion juice, etc., accompanies the rolls.
As you can see, Barney’s egg rolls are a great option if you are on the hunt for ready-made vegan egg rolls.
Cohen’s Egg Rolls
Much like Barney’s, Cohen’s egg rolls are also sold as vegetable rolls. Yet, they are also entirely safe for vegans.
The ingredients of Cohen’s egg roll wrappers and fillings are practically identical to Barney’s, so we are not listing them. There is no trace of any animal product in any of their components – vegans can consume them without any worries.
Now let’s look at the menu of some famous Chinese restaurants in the US and see if their rolls are vegan friendly.
Pei Wei Asian Diner
Pei Wei Diner, unfortunately, does not offer any vegan options in their egg rolls. They serve traditional egg rolls with pork or chicken. Even their vegetarian spring rolls have egg wrappers. So, if you are looking for vegan rolls, Pei Wei is not the place for them.
If you order an egg roll at a Panda Express, you will probably be served with chicken filling rolls. However, they do serve vegetarian spring rolls with egg-free wrappers. Vegans can opt for Panda Express vegetarian spring rolls safely.
Pick Up Stix
Like Panda Express, Pick Up Stix also does not offer separate ‘vegan egg rolls.’ However, their spring rolls are an excellent alternative for vegans as they have egg-free wrappers.
How Healthy Are Vegan Egg Rolls?
Egg rolls or any deep-fried food are not exactly what you would call healthy snacks. However, you might be wondering if swapping the meat with veggies helps increase the health bar in vegan rolls. Veggies do indeed provide you with essential nutrients. However, ingredients such as soy sauce or peanut oil used even in vegan egg rolls can harm your health.
With its high sodium levels, soy sauce is a primary culprit behind cardiovascular diseases. Studies show that soy sauce may also contain potentially carcinogenic substances. Similarly, peanut oil has a considerable amount of omega-six fatty acids, which can be a risk factor for high cholesterol.
So, if you are health conscious, you might not want to opt for restaurant-prepared vegan egg rolls. Instead, you can make a healthier alternative right at home.
As we discussed, it is also possible to swap out egg or meat fillings and egg-washed wrappers to make a perfect vegan-friendly egg roll.
So, the next time you are missing your favorite egg rolls as a new vegan, always remember to ask the restaurant if they have a vegan alternative to offer. You might be in luck!