These southwestern egg rolls are filled with shredded chicken, beans, cheese, and peppers wrapped up in a crunchy, bubbly, crispy egg roll wrapper.
On the night before we moved to L.A., Jimmy and I sat on the floor of our empty apartment reminiscing about what we'd miss most about the city.
We had picked our final meals in Baltimore carefully, a farewell tour of our favorite restaurants and food spots, but on our true final night, we chose our favorite delivery spot to cater our little floor picnic: Mustang Alley, a bowling alley near the harbor.
And no order from Mustang Alley was complete without an order of Southwestern egg rolls.
Black beans, shredded chicken, peppers, and Monterey jack cheese all wrapped up in a crunchy, bubbly, crispy egg roll wrapper? You can't go wrong.
The cheese gets all melty inside the egg rolls as they fry, and the cumin and chili powder bring a little bit of heat without being spicy. Southwestern egg rolls are basically everything you love about burritos, without the rice, and deep fried.
Actually, no, they're more like burritos and fried mozzarella sticks had a baby together: delicious, crispy fried wrapped exterior, ooey-gooey cheesy inside with lots of great Southwestern flavors and crunch.
How to roll an egg roll
Wrapping egg rolls is easier than it might seem. All you need is you use store-bought wrappers and an egg wash. You really can put whatever filling you want inside them. FWIW, I'm not an expert at rolling egg rolls — but this is the method that works well for me.
If the egg roll rolling is simpler than you might expect, the frying process might be a bit trickier if you're new to deep frying. If the temperature of your oil is off or you leave the egg rolls in too little or too long (by a minute or two) you risk ending up with underdone egg roll dough that's mushy on the inside and burned on the outside.
Definitely have a sheet pan lined with paper towels and a cooling rack ready on the side for your finished egg rolls to cool and drain.
deep frying tips for beginners
- Use a heavy-bottom pot for your frying. I use this all-clad stock pot but a dutch oven is also a great option. Basically just don't use pots that are copper or aluminum.
- My favorite thermometer to use while frying is one of these. The clamp holds the stem at an angle so you can be sure you're getting the temperature in the center of the pot. Adjust your burner regularly to maintain 350F. You may even need to turn the burner completely off for a little bit.
- DON'T WALK AWAY! Hot oil looks a lot like cold oil in the pot, it doesn't start bubbling and boiling like water does. It will start bubbling once you add your doughnut dough. You might need a higher burner temp than you think to get it to the right temp, but once it's at temp you'll likely only need the burner on low-to-medium to maintain the right heat while frying.
- Use a wide spider or slotted spoon to transfer your food in and out of the hot oil without splashing yourself.
- Dispose of your oil properly — don't pour it down the drain. Use a funnel to transfer the oil (once cool) back to the bottle it came in, then throw out the sealed container. There are great tips for how to reuse oil to reduce waste here.
A few quick recipe notes:
- Egg roll wrappers can be found at many of the big grocery store chains, usually in the refrigerated section near other "international" foods. They are square 7x7" sheets of dough.
- I used this OXO 3 tablespoon cookie scoop to make sure each egg roll had the same amount of filling.
- Leave the egg rolls in the oil for about a minute more than you think they need. They should be a pretty dark golden brown color, not pale or light golden brown at all.
- The temperature of the oil will drop when you introduce a new batch of egg rolls, and the thermometer might take up to 30 seconds to adjust to any changes in temperature. Keep an eye on the temperature and anticipate those changes, adjusting as needed if it's too high or too low. Remember: the filling is already fully cooked, so you just need the oil to cook the wrapper all the way through without burning the outside.
- Always drop things into the oil as close to the surface as you can to reduce splashing. Wear an apron or garbage clothes you don't mind getting stained. Oil bubbles and pops, especially when you add things to it, and it's inevitable that some will get on you as you fry.
you will need:
- Dutch oven or other high-heat, sturdy, deep-sided pot for frying.
- Clip-on thermometer to make sure the oil stays at the right temperature.
- Wire spider for getting egg rolls in and out of the oil without burning yourself.
- Sheet pan with wire cooling rack for the egg rolls to rest on after coming out of the oil.
southwestern egg rolls
- 1 lb chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 red bell pepper (small diced)
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 15 oz black beans (1 can, rinsed)
- 1 fresno pepper (seeds and ribs removed, minced)
- 1 jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs removed, minced)
- ½ cup thinly sliced scallions
- 4 oz Monterey jack cheese (1½ cups, grated)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro (stems included) (optional, chopped)
- 24 egg roll wrappers (7x7 inches)
- 1 large egg (beaten, for sealing, OR use water)
- 3 quarts peanut oil (OR vegetable oil OR canola oil, for frying)
- Butterfly the chicken by slicing it horizontally with the knife parallel to the cutting board so the chicken breast opens like a book. Place the chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound it to a ¼" thickness. Season both sides with salt and pepper, and dust both sides lightly with flour.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the chicken 3-4 minutes per side until browned and cooked through. Remove from skillet and set aside to rest at least 5 minutes. Slice into strips or cut into 1" cubes.
- In a large bowl combine the all the peppers, corn, black beans, scallions, Monterey Jack cheese, salt, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika. Add the chicken (and cilantro, if using) and stir to combine.
Assembling egg rolls
- Place one egg roll wrapper on the counter in front of you, rotated so it looks like a diamond. Use a 3 tablespoon (a scant ¼ cup) scoop to place the filling in the center of the egg wrapper.
- Fold the bottom point of the wrapper up over the filling, tucking it tightly against the filling. This is a good time to help nudge your filling into a log-like shape and press out any large air pockets.Use your fingers to brush egg wash on the top point of the wrapper, along the open edges, and all the way down to the right and left points of the egg roll wrapper. Don't be stingy with the egg wash! It needs to stick!
- Fold the right and left corners of the wrapper into the center, so that one overlaps the other. Use more egg wash as needed to help get the corners to stick to each other and to the bottom flap.If you look down at it now, the egg roll should look like the back of an envelope with the top flap open.
- Roll the bottom of the wrapper with filling in it forward onto the open flap to seal the egg roll shut. If there are any open edges or spots where oil might get inside the egg roll during frying, use the egg wash to seal them shut.
- Place finished egg rolls on a sheet pan dusted lightly with flour or corn starch to prevent them from sticking. Lightly dust more corn starch or flour over the tops of the finished egg rolls. (See notes, below, for freezing instructions if not frying immediately).
Frying egg rolls
- Line a sheet pan with paper towels and arrange a wire cooling rack inside it.Attach candy thermometer to the dutch oven and heat 3 quarts of oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F.
- Bring the temperature of the oil up to 360-370°F, then carefully lower two egg rolls into the pot. The oil temperature should drop down to 350°F within 30-60 seconds. If it doesn't, lower your heat to medium.Keep an eye on the temperature throughout the frying process, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 350°F.
- Use the wire spider to move the egg rolls around, keeping them from sticking to the bottom of the dutch oven or from bobbing too high above the surface of the oil.
- Fry for 6-8 minutes, until the egg rolls are dark golden brown all over. Remove from oil and place on the cooling rack to drain. NOTE: These first two egg rolls are a practice run — let them cool for about 10 minutes and then give them a try so you can make any adjustments before frying the next batch.
- Repeat steps 2-6 with batches of 3-4 egg rolls until you're out of eggs to roll and rolls to fry.
- To make this vegetarian, omit the chicken and increase the other filling ingredients slightly to make up for it.
- Try to get as much air out of the egg roll when you wrap it as you can. It doesn't have to be vacuum sealed shut, but air pockets will cause the egg roll to float when it fries, and might even burst open in the oil.
- To freeze Southwestern egg rolls before frying: Arrange the shaped egg rolls on a sheet pan dusted with corn starch to prevent them from sticking to the pan or each other. Dust the tops of the egg rolls with corn starch. Freeze until solid, then transfer to an airtight bag or container. To fry: Instead of dropping ice cold egg rolls straight into 350°F oil, start them at around 250°F. After about 2-3 minutes, increase the heat to bring the oil up to 350°F for another 4-5 minutes of frying.
- To freeze Southwestern egg rolls after frying: Let fried egg rolls cool completely. Wrap individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, then freeze inside of an airtight bag or container. To reheat: Place fried egg rolls on a wire cooling rack inside a sheet pan in a 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes.
- DO NOT POUR USED COOKING OIL DOWN THE DRAIN!!! There are lots of safe ways to reuse, recycle, and dispose of used cooking oil which you can find here.