Fresh spring rolls with yakiniku 焼肉の生春巻き

Fresh Spring Rolls with Yakiniku. photo by Namiko Chen

Juicy Japanese BBQ meat with crunchy vegetables, wrapped in rice paper to seal in the deliciousness, these fresh spring rolls with yakiniku make the best summer dish! Serve the spring rolls as the main dish on a warm summer night or as an appetizer for your next potluck or home party.

What do you like to prepare on a hot summer day when you want to avoid standing in the kitchen for a long time?

When I want to stay away from the stove, these Fresh Spring Rolls with Yakiniku (焼肉の生春巻き) are one of my favorite foods to make. I usually assign the hardest part of the work to our family head grill chef (thank you, Mr. JOC!), and you too can do the same. Sounds good so far, right? All you need to do is wash the vegetables and cut them into julienned strips. Once the meat is done grilling, you just need to wrap up everything into light, colorful rolls.

Oh, did I mention you should dip these spring rolls in a homemade Japanese BBQ sauce, too? It’s incredibly refreshing and packed with flavors; everyone who tries these will be in love!

Gluten-Free Japanese BBQ Sauce
Yakiniku sauce (or Japanese BBQ sauce) is sweet, savory and intensely flavorful, which makes it the best companion to grilled meats, thinly sliced short ribs and many other grilled foods. Although there are several brands of Japanese BBQ sauce available in the Japanese grocery stores, they often come with a few sneaky ingredients on the labels that you may not want to eat.

Luckily, homemade yakiniku sauce is easy enough to make with the condiments you have in the kitchen. Make a large batch in advance and you’ll be happy to use the leftover for the rest of the week.

To make it gluten-free, all you need is to swap the regular soy sauce with Gluten-Free Soy Sauces (

To make Fresh Spring Rolls with Yakiniku, I used Kikkoman’s Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce. If you do not have to make this recipe gluten-free, feel free to use regular soy sauce. The flavor is pretty much the same, so there is no need to adjust the amount.

3 Tips to Make Fresh Spring Rolls with Yakiniku

1. Buy “Three Ladies Brand” rice paper
Some of you have asked for my recommendation for a rice paper brand. I’ve tried a few and my favorite choice is “Three Ladies Brand.” The rice papers are easy to work with, and I find it easy to detach the spring rolls without tearing the rice papers when they stick to each other.

2. Start with less filling and “tuck tightly and roll”
If you’ve never worked with rice papers for spring rolls before, it’s a bit like making pancakes: you just need a few practice runs to get better at it. To start off, do not over pile the filling. It’s easier to work with less than more. Once you do a few rolls, you will get better at judging the right amount of filling. When you’re ready to roll the wrappers, make sure your first fold over is tight enough to cover the ingredients. Then fold the side edges towards the middle to secure a nice package. Then give it another tight roll to finish off.

3. Adjust the amount of sugar
For those who are careful with their sugar intake, the amount of sugar (three Tbsp) that goes into the sauce might raise your eyebrows. Please feel free to adjust the amount, but remember that you need to counter the salty flavor from soy sauce with a sweetener. You can swap the sugar with honey or maple syrup if you like, but the final taste will be different from my recipe.

If you prefer the original taste of Japanese yakiniku sauce, follow this recipe, but don’t go crazy with the sauce. The sauce is there to enhance the flavor of fresh ingredients you’re eating.

Various Filling Choices
For this recipe, I included lettuce, cucumber and carrot — simple enough ingredients to assemble for a weeknight dinner. Below are some suggestions for the filling, but feel free to customize and work with whatever you fancy:

Protein Choices
Thinly sliced beef (short ribs, ribeye and chuck)
Thinly sliced pork (pork belly and pork loin)
Strips of chicken breast and thighs
Strips of firm tofu
Boiled eggs, sliced or wedges

Vegetable Choices
Any kind of leafy lettuce
Green onion
Garlic chives
Radishes, such as daikon or red radish
Sugar snap peas
Red bell peppers
Bean sprouts
Herbs (mint, basil, cilantro)
Grilled eggplants
Grilled zucchini

Make These Fresh Spring Rolls Vegetarian and Vegan
This recipe can make a wholesome meatless meal, perfect for those who are vegetarian and vegan. Swap the meat with grilled tofu and vegetables such as zucchini, eggplants and bell peppers. You can also grill up an assortment of mushrooms in place of the meat. They will work very well with homemade yakiniku sauce.
Bright and flavorful, I promise these fresh spring rolls will be a regular occurrence in your summer meal.

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit

Fresh Spring Rolls with Yakiniku
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Servings: 8 fresh spring rolls

4 leaves red leaf lettuce
1 bunch mint
1 bunch cilantro (coriander)
3/4 lb thinly sliced short rib
1-2 carrot
1-2 cucumber
1 green onion/scallion
1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.)
8 rice papers

Yakiniku Sauce (Tare)
1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce (I used Kikkoman Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp gochugaru (Korean pepper flakes) (or use ichimi togarashi)
1/2 tsp roasted sesame oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 clove garlic
1/2 knob ginger
1/4 apple (I used Fuji apple)

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, visit

For the full recipe, visit

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