These Air Fryer Southwest Egg Rolls are the vegetarian version of Chili’s famous appetizer. Crispy on the outside and filled with a mixture of spices and veggies, they’re perfect with my zesty ranch dipping sauce.
These bring back so many college memories for me. I don’t know about you, but in my college town (almost 20 years ago…my goodness) Chili’s was the hot date night place. And my favorite thing to order was the southwestern egg rolls. Then they came out with the triple dipper and I swear I would have gone on a date with just about anyone to get one of those.
I don’t know why it took me so long to try to recreate this, but I’ve been trying to think of fun ways to use my air fryer and this seemed like a good idea. However, I really wanted to test it both ways - the air fried and with the traditional fryer to see which one was better.
I’m pretty sure Chili’s uses chicken in their southwest egg roll recipe, and you can, but I really liked these as vegetarian and they tasted exactly the same.
What I used:
- Red bell pepper - This could be subbed with yellow or green pepper.
- Corn - I used frozen, but you could also use canned (drained) or fresh.
- Canned black beans - I recommend low sodium.
- Spinach - (frozen works too, although cut the amount in half)
- Green onions - Green onions offer a light onion flavor without being overpowering to the other vegetables.
- Jalapeño - I used half for some heat, but you can adjust to your personal tastes.
- Fresh cilantro
- American Cheese - A good quality American cheese is ideal here because it melts very well and becomes super creamy. Good brands would be Andrew and Everett, Organic Valley, and Boars Head. If you'd like to make these air fryer southwest egg rolls vegan, just leave this out.
- Frozen Egg Roll Wrappers - Find this in the frozen/ethnic food section with wontons and pre-made frozen egg rolls. They will also carry them at Asian grocery stores.
Add in some pantry spices and garlic and you’re ready to go.
How to Make Southwest Egg Roll Filling
- Begin by chopping the vegetables, mincing garlic, and preparing the spices to cook.
- In a large pan, add the corn, pepper, green onion, and jalapeño. Cook over medium heat until everything starts to soften.
- Add in black beans and spinach until wilted and softened.
- Turn off the heat and mix in the cheese, stirring until combined. The cheese will start to melt into the filling mixture from the residual warmth. Set aside.
How to Wrap an Egg Roll
Probably the most challenging part of this whole recipe is wrapping the egg roll but once you get the hang of it, it becomes rather simple.
- Start with laying your egg roll wrapper in a diamond shape (1).
- Spoon in about 2-3 tablespoons of filling. You don’t want to overfill these or they’ll break apart (1).
- Begin by wrapping up the bottom of the diamond, then fold in the sides so it looks kind of like a letter. Brush both sides with oil and pinch them together so they stay (2-3).
- Begin to roll the egg roll towards the unwrapped top, pressing in the sides as needed, and brush with oil at the top corner to secure the wrapper (4).
- Place on a baking sheet and brush the entire egg roll with vegetable oil (see picture below).
Air Fryer Method
I have the instant pot air fryer lid so that’s what I used for this recipe, but any air fryer will work. I wanted to see if these would get just as crispy and good as traditional fried egg rolls.
- Coat the egg roll wrapper with oil by brushing vegetable oil all over before placing it in the air fryer, preheated to 375 degrees F.
- Place them seam side down and “fry” it for 8-9 minutes on the first side till nicely golden brown. Flip, seam side up, and fry for another 5-7 minutes on the opposite side. As they cool, they crisp up more.
Deep Fry Method
Don't have an air fryer? As a comparison, I also fried some of these in vegetable oil on the stove. While they are more similar to the traditional southwestern egg rolls, both were just as crispy. In fact, I think the air fryer ones had slightly more crunch to them.
Both were delicious, so you really can’t go wrong either way. If you have an air fryer, save some calories and use it. If you don’t, try the traditional frying method.
To deep fry:
- Heat about ½ inch of oil over medium high heat. Place the egg roll in the oil, seam side down. It should start to sizzle.
- Turn the egg roll on all sides about a minute at a time on each side, till browned all around.
- You can also fill the oil much higher and fry all at once, I just like to conserve oil.
- Drain on a paper towel and allow to cool before eating.
Frequently Asked Questions
About 13 minutes total, 8-9 minutes on the first side and 4 on the next. You want them to be golden brown. They'll crisp up as they cool.
Yes, they only take about 1-2 minutes per side to fry in vegetable oil.
No, but I used an Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid, which only fits a few in at a time. A larger air fryer can cook more egg rolls faster.
Yes! Just leave out the cheese. They will still be delicious and flavorful.
Freezing and Reheating Instructions
These air fryer southwest egg rolls reheat extremely well in the oven, no matter how you fried them. From the fridge, I baked them at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes and then let them cool.
You can freeze these by wrapping them in cling wrap and then storing them in a freezer safe bag. If you individually wrap them, there is less chance they'll stick together in the freezing process.
To reheat these from frozen in the air fryer, cook at 350 degrees F for about 5 minutes per side.
Other Vegetarian Appetizers
For other appetizers that are vegetarian, check out these recipes:
Air Fryer Southwest Egg Rolls
- ½ cup diced green onion
- ½ cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup frozen corn (or fresh)
- ½ jalapeno, seeded and chopped (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¾ cup canned black beans, drained
- 1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅓ cup fresh chopped cilantro
- ¾ cup good American cheese (see post for recommendations on brands)
- 10-11 egg roll wrappers, defrosted
- mild oil like vegetable, avocado, or canola
- In a large saute pan coated with 2 teaspoons of oil, combine the green onion, red bell pepper, corn, and jalapeno over medium heat. Saute for about 3-4 minutes until cooked through, then add the minced garlic and stir for another minute. Add the canned black beans and spinach, till spinach is wilted down. Then add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, and salt.
- Once combined, turn off the heat and stir in the cilantro and American cheese. Preheat air fryer (if using) to 375 degrees F. Meanwhile place an egg roll wrapper to make a diamond shape. Add about 2-3 tablespoons of the southwestern filling and fold up the bottom. Then fold in both sides, making an "envelope" shape. Brush all the edges with oil. Continue to roll the bottom of the envelope towards the top of the diamond, folding in the sides as needed. Brush oil on the top of the egg roll flap to secure it and place seam side down. Brush oil over the entire surface of the egg roll.
- Place in the air fryer in a single layer, seam side down, and cook for 8 minutes until golden brown. Flip and cook another 4-5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the air fryer and allow them to cool before serving with dipping sauce.
- To fry these the traditional way, coat a heavy bottomed pan with vegetable or canola oil till it's about ½"-1" deep. Heat over medium heat till hot. Fry for about 1 minute each side till golden brown. Drain on paper towels and allow to cool.
- These can be made vegan by leaving out the cheese. You can add in more vegetables to make up that ¾ cup.