I’m going to be honest. This recipe initially started as actual salad rolls. I’d volunteered to make them as an appetizer for a dinner with lady friends. Obviously, I terribly underestimated how long they’d take to prepare. So there I was, at home, rolling rice paper furiously...when what I really should have been doing was putting on a half decent outfit and heading out the door. Long story short, I ended up rolling into dinner 30 minutes late (sorry, couldn’t help myself). The dish was a real hit; but still, I knew there had to be an easier way.
Deconstructed spring roll salads/bowls are by no means revolutionary. But they are a great way to assemble a delicious meal in a fraction of the time. You still get all the goodness of the fillings, without the fuss. The only thing you’re missing are the rice wraps, which to be honest, I think you can live without. Sure, having individual rolls makes for a cute hand-held eating experience; but sadly they don’t keep well in the fridge, because the rice wraps will get chewy over time. By ditching them altogether, your Vegan Spring Roll Salad becomes a much better contender for tasty leftovers the next day.
While Vietnamese rolls are often served with either a vinegar-based sauce or a creamy peanut version, I found a way to use both. Both are delicious, so why choose one?! First is the easy, finger-licking-good peanut butter sauce that hugs the cubes of oven baked tofu. The creamy sauce is a pinch to whip up, and it’s loaded with all the nutty, salty, and sweet flavor you could want. A thin layer of cornstarch (or arrowroot), gives the tofu a light coating that the sauce can stick to - no oil required. It’s addictive, and just might happen to be my favorite baked tofu to date. Then, for the noodles, I choose to toss them in a tangy ginger lime vinaigrette. The vinaigrette not only gives an extra boost of flavor, without feeling heavy, but it’s also a better method for storing extra noodles overnight. A thick peanut-based sauce will tend congeal in the fridge, causing your noodles to stick together into a brown blob, which unfortunately doesn’t make for the cutest office lunch situation. So do yourself a favor and hop on the double-sauce train, because the combination is delicious!
As for the rest of the bowl, all you need are some crisp veggies, fresh herbs, and chopped peanuts for a bit of crunch. We use carrots, cucumber and shaved red cabbage in our version, because that’s what we usually have on hand. You can substitute to adapt to what you have in the fridge, but definitely opt for something crunchy. The fresh herbs are an absolute must, since they’re a key ingredient to real deal spring rolls. Roughly chopped peanuts are totally optional for sprinkling on top of the dish. If you’re avoiding peanuts altogether, you could substitute the peanut butter in the sauce for almond butter instead.
Spring Roll Salad with Peanut Glazed Tofu
Peanut Glazed Tofu
- 12 oz extra firm tofu, cubed (¾ to 1-inch)
- 4 teaspoons tamari, divided
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
- 2 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter (unsalted)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1½ teaspoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar or cane sugar)
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Ginger Lime Dressing
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar or cane sugar)
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- ¾ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
- 7 oz dried rice vermicelli noodles (see note 1)
- 2 carrots
- 1 cup shredded red cabbage
- ½ a English cucumber, chopped
- 4 leaves lettuce
- ½ cup cilantro leaves (whole or chopped)
- ⅓ cup mint leaves (whole or chopped)
- 2 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced
- Chopped peanuts (for garnish, optional)
Peanut Glazed Tofu
- Preheat: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Bake tofu: Add tofu to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the tamari over tofu. Using your hands, toss to coat. Sprinkle cornstarch over tofu, toss to coat. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Make peanut sauce: In a medium bowl, stir together peanut butter, remaining 1 tablespoon of tamari, lime juice, sugar, Sriracha, and garlic powder until smooth.
- Sauce and bake: Brush half of the peanut sauce (about 2 tablespoons) all over the tofu. Return tofu to oven, bake until the edges turn slightly golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Coat tofu: Add baked tofu to the bowl of remaining peanut sauce. Toss until well coated.
Ginger Lime Dressing
- Make dressing: In a small jar combine lime juice, rice vinegar, grapeseed oil, tamari, sugar, sesame oil, and ginger. Shake vigorously to mix.
- Soak noodles: Add noodles to a large heatproof bowl. Pour hot water (from a kettle) into the bowl, until the noodles are submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate or baking sheet and let soak until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain noodles in a colander, rinsing with cold water until noodles are no longer hot. Drain thoroughly.
- Prep carrots: Peel carrots. Then, run the vegetable peeler down the length of the carrot, to create long carrot strands. (Alternatively, cut into matchsticks.)
- Assemble: Return noodles to the large bowl. Pour half of the ginger lime dressing (about ⅓ cup) over noodles. Toss to coat. Divide noodles into bowls. Top with carrots, cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, cilantro, mint, and scallions. Drizzle with the remaining dressing. Add peanut glazed tofu and sprinkle with peanuts (if using).
- Vermicelli noodles: For this recipe, we prefer using vermicelli noodles made from rice. Mung bean varieties are also available (often labelled as "glass noodles" or "cellophane noodles"). While you can substitute mung bean noodles in a pinch, they'll be a bit less firm than the rice noodles.