Low-Carb Spring Rolls and “Rice” Salad


I’ve written a lot about Thrive Kitchen, the healthy cooking class program I founded and teach at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, but not so much about the classes I teach my healthcare colleagues, Lunch with Linda.  For these classes, which serve both as team-building and culinary education, I often teach a menu of a Thai mixed-rice salad and fresh Vietnamese spring rolls, because it’s a way to introduce whole grains and also very interactive.  This time, I was asked to present some lower carbohydrate alternatives.  First I felt panicked, then I felt inspired.  Instead of the mixed whole grain rice varieties I normally use for the rice salad, we made mixed cauliflower rice.  And instead of the rice paper wrappers for the spring rolls, I used blanched collard green leaves (and left out the rice vermicelli). I was really happy with how these turned out!

One of my colleagues who has done a lot of research into the effects of low carbohydrate or ketogenic diets on glucose metabolism and decreasing insulin resistance wrote about the class on his blog.  Thanks, Ted, for the challenge, the information and the great photos!  For more information on plant-based, low-carbohydrate diets, here’s a good review.

Low-Carb Fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls

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1 pound firm tofu

1-2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil

1 bunch collard green leaves

10 leaves red leaf lettuce, leaves washed, dried, separated and trimmed to fit within the diameter of the rice paper

1 small bunch mint

1 large red bell pepper, julienned

2 carrots, julienned

1 English or 2 Persian cucumbers, julienned

1 cup red cabbage, julienned

Serve with:1 cup spicy peanut dipping sauce (recipe follows)


  1. Drain tofu, wrap in paper towels, and press for 30 minutes by sandwiching between 2 cutting boards topped with a heavy object, like a pan. Cut pressed tofu into ¼  inch thick 1”x 1/2” rectangles.
  2. Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce and set aside (recipe follows).
  3. Prepare the collard green wraps.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.  Trim collard green leaves of the stems, and use a paring knife to shave down the thick part of the stem that is part of the leaf until it is flat and flexible.   Blanch trimmed leaves by placing in the boiling water until flexible and bright green, about 30 seconds.  Remove immediately to an ice batch and then drain on towels.  Set aside.
  4. Once tofu has been pressed, dry well with a paper towel. Warm oil in a (preferably nonstick) skillet over medium heat.  Add tofu rectangles in a single layer. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Set up your mise-en-place for making the rolls: Set out all of the vegetables, cooked tofu and the collard green wraps.
  6. To assemble each roll, lay a collard green wrap on a cutting board or large plate.
  7. Arrange one lettuce leaf over the bottom third of the collard leaf, running your finger along the rib to crack and flatten it. Top with three mint leaves, a few slices of tofu and a handful of assorted julienned vegetables.  Avoid the temptation to overstuff!
  8. Fold in the left and right sides of the collard leaf, then fold the bottom edge up and over the filling tightly and roll toward the top end, enclosing the filling completely and as tightly as you can.
  9. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.  Serve with peanut sauce.

 Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce


4 tablespoons creamy natural peanut butter (only peanuts)

juice of two limes

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

2 tsp sugar

2-4 tablespoons water, to thin out the sauce, if necessary

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chile garlic sauce, or red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)


  1. Stir together all ingredients in a bowl until well combined.


Thai Mixed Cauliflower Rice Salad with Fresh Herbs and Spring Vegetables

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Inspired by Plenty, Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves: 6


1 small head white cauliflower

1 small head green or purple cauliflower

1 T coconut oil

½ tsp fine Kosher salt

1 red bell pepper, julienned

1 large or two small carrots, peeled and julienned

1 large mango, cut into 1-inch dice

1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped

2/3 cup flaked unsweetened coconut

1 cup loosely packed Thai basil, roughly chopped

1 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 fresh red chile, such as Fresno, seeded and finely chopped

grated zest and juice of 1 lime

2 T peanut or canola oil

kosher salt to taste

Garnish: 3/4 cup crisp-fried shallots (homemade or bought, available in Asian markets)


  1. Start by making the cauliflower rice.  To make cauliflower rice, wash a cauliflower, remove core and leaves, trim, and dry completely. Chop the cauliflower into small florets or pieces small enough to fit into a food processor. Place cauliflower pieces in a food processor and process (pulse) a little at a time until the cauliflower is small and has the texture of rice. (Putting in too much will make some of the cauliflower too pasty.)  Then in a large frying pan over medium-high heat, melt coconut oil. Add the prepared cauliflower and cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower is becoming translucent and glossy and is just slightly tender. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining vegetables and herbs.
  3. Place the cooked and cooled cauliflower rice in a large bowl and combine together with all the remaining ingredients, apart from the shallots, and stir just to mix; do not stir too much or the mango pieces will disintegrate. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding additional lime juice and salt as needed. Top with fried shallots, if desired.

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