People around the world have given Spam a proper place at their table. Now that we're all quarantine cooking, it's the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with this old (and hipper-than-you-realize) friend.

The convergence of the coronavirus pandemic and rebirth of Spam is making a strong case for canned ham to aid the nation in the same way it did decades ago, during WWII

The shelf-stable protein comes in tons of flavors, is inexpensive, and can be added to tons of dishes, so it's an ideal ingredient for quarantine. "Now's the time to really play," says John Castro, a Kentucky-born chef who grew up eating Spam and loves experimenting with it in his recipes. While executive culinary director at Bottle and Bond in Kentucky, Castro has introduced diners to all sorts of Spam creations. (His favorite Spam flavor is jalapeño.) 

Ready to get playful with your can of Spam? Check out Castro's tips for using the ingredient, then browse our A-Z list of Spam ideas inspired by Castro, our friends at Spam, and our own recipes archives!

a201701152 SPAM Musubi v3
Spam Musabi
| Credit: Courtesy of Spam

John Castro's Spam Guidelines

Spam's a versatile ingredient, but if you're having trouble thinking of it as anything other than, well, Spam, Castro's three guidelines for cooking with it can help. It's not just your preconceived notion of "Spam," Castro says. See it as a substitute protein in dishes you usually make.

  1. Think of Spam as a meat. It's not just your preconceived notion of "Spam," Castro says. See it as a substitute protein in dishes you usually make.
  2. Use it as a seasoning. Use it as you would a high-end bacon or pancetta. Cutting it into different shapes (diced, julienned, etc.), helps you see Spam as an ingredient, not the main, and it helps stretch out your can of Spam!
  3. Think Asian. Look to Asian and ethnic recipes for inspiration.

A-Z List of Spam Ideas


Air fry it. Air fry Spam in slices and serve with eggs or rice, or try these Spam fries

Arancini. Form leftover risotto into a ball. Use Spam and jelly or chutney for the filling to make a sweet and savory riff on the Italian classic. Try Spam in our Carbonara Arancini


Bahn Mi sandwich. Slow-roasted pork and pâté are the usual Bahn Mi meats, but Spam is a good protein pick, too. Try Spam in our BBQ Bahn Mi Sliders.

BBQ Bahn Mi Sliders

Bibimbap with Spam

BBQ (Filipino BBQ). "Filipino bbq is pretty sweet," says Castro, "They use banana ketchup. But if you have a bottle of gochujang in the fridge you don't know what to do with, use that."



Grits. If you have leftover grits, form them into cakes, fry, and serve with eggs and slices of Spam. You can also use Spam as the flavoring agent when preparing grits. Cut Spam into bars to make it the main ingredient or dice it up and use it more as a seasoning.

Goetta. The meat-and-grain sausage dish popular in Ohio is great with Spam. Use it in place of or in addition to the sausage. 


Hoe cakes. Hoe cakes are cornmeal pancakes. "What a great breakfast dish: scrambled or fried eggs with Spam on top of a hoe cake," Castro says.


Katsu.Bread and fry a plank of Spam like you would pork for katsu. 


Lettuce wraps. Add Spam to all sorts of lettuce wrap combinations. Check out our collection of lettuce wrap recipes for inspiration.

plum-sauce pork or chicken lettuce wraps


Noodle cakes. Castro suggests pan frying leftover pasta into "cakes" and topping with them veggies and Spam to make a full meal. He likes tossing leftover vegetables with gochujang and Spam for his noodle cake toppings. Learn how to make a noodle cake here


Pies. Use Spam to make sweet and savory pies, Castro says. "Render the fat out of some Spam and toss with diced apples and pears to make little hand pies." If you're not so into the sweet and savory, just go full savory and add Spam to a traditional meat and potato pie. Try Spam in our Meat and Potato Hand Pies

Pozole. A match made in heaven. Spam is perfect in place of chorizo in pozole, but it's great in lots of recipes. Just use less Spam if the meat you're replacing isn't super salty. 

Potstickers. Another perfect pairing! Try Spam in our Juicy Chicken Potstickers.


Rice cakes. This is similar to the noodle cake above. Mix leftover rice with a binder, like an egg, pan fry it, and top it with whatever you'd like. We, of course, recommend Spam. 


Siopao. "Spam is delicious in this FIlipino steamed bun," Castro says.

Spaetzle. "Get some spaetzle mix or frozen spaetzle and add Spam to it," Castro says. If you'd prefer more subtle Spam flavor, use the ingredient as a flavoring agent, like would use bacon lardons: Fry Spam in a pan, then cook the spaetzle in the same pan. Instead of tossing in butter, use the fat that renders out as the sauce.

Spam RamenYou can simply add Spam to prepackaged ramen or use it in your own recipe. You'd be surprised at how many noodle shops already do!

ramen bowl with egg
Credit: Photography by Amy Dickerson

Stew. "If you made a white chili, add Spam as your pork product instead of bacon or ham," Castro says. Try Spam in our Lamb Stew with Tomatoes & Bacon


Tamales. "It's really good in a tamale," says Castro enthusiastically. "I love a bean, cheese, and Spam combo." 



Zucchini and Fennel Soup with Garlic Croutons—and Spam! Just add some tiny cubes of sautéed Spam for pizzaz.

For even more out-of-the-can ideas, check out Spam's recipe section.