I personally taste-tested a variety of Spam substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry swap, or want a substitute that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
The best substitute for Spam is another canned meat like Dak, deviled ham, or corned beef. You can also use hot dogs or another sausage like Chinese sausage, or ham chunks if you want something convenient. For a vegan alternative to Spam, try marinated tofu.
Other Canned Meats
Spam isn’t the only luncheon-style meat on the market. There are lots of other brands you can try. For example, Treet is very similar to Ppam but it’s made from chicken and pork. I found it slightly sweeter than Spam and had a softer texture, but you can use both in the same ways.
Dak is another popular brand that sells canned chicken and canned ham. The canned chicken is a healthier alternative to Spam because it’s lower in fat and calories and I would say the ham product tastes more like actual ham than Spam. Deviled ham is an interesting option because its consistency is more spread-like and it’s spicier than Spam.
The last one I’m going to mention is corned beef. This is made from brisket that’s been cured in brine. It’s salty and savory just like Spam, but has a more fibrous texture and it’s great in a hash.
Psst… options will vary by country, so try a few of the alternatives available to you!
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with another canned meat of your choice.
Sausages are a great ‘real meat’ substitute for Spam because of their rich flavor profiles and fatty texture. You can easily cube or slice them for dishes where Spam is typically used, like stews, stir-fries, or breakfast items.
Any sausage will work, but here are a few I think are most similar to Spam.
If you’re after the ease and convenience of ready-cooked meat, hot dogs are the way to go. Although their flavor is pretty mild compared to spam. If you’re making fried rice or an Asian dish, then Chinese sausage is a great substitute – it has a fatty texture and a sweet flavor.
Kielbasa is also a fantastic option. It’s got a strong smoky, garlicky flavor and a firm texture. It’s a pretty close match to Spam’s savory and slightly spiced taste.
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with your choice of sausage.
Firm Tofu / Seitan
For a vegan alternative to Spam, you can use firm tofu or seitan. Neither of these alternatives will have the same mouthfeel as Spam because they don’t have the same fat levels. But with the right seasoning, they can mimic Spam’s flavor quite well.
Here’s an idea for a simple marinade:
- 3 tbsp soy sauce (or sub the soy sauce for tamari for a gluten-free alternative.)
- 2 tbsp liquid sweetener (maple syrup, honey etc)
- 2 tsp liquid smoke
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
For best results, you’ll want to marinate the tofu or seitan overnight but 60 minutes will be enough (or even 30 minutes if you’re really short on time). And if you’re using tofu make sure you press the tofu before marinading it.
You can also add 2 teaspoons of beetroot powder to the marinade to color the tofu similarly to Spam, but it won’t add any flavor so I don’t think it’s worth going out and buying! Smoked paprika is another ingredient that will give the marinade a reddish color.
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with your marinated tofu or seitan.
Pork belly is an excellent substitute for Spam if you want a richer, more authentic pork flavor or you want more of a meaty texture. Pork belly has a high-fat content and a juicy texture so it was able to replicate the luscious mouthfeel of Spam pretty well in my fried rice.
However, pork belly doesn’t have the same salty, spiced flavor as Spam so you might want to season your dish a bit more than normal. And it won’t work so well in sandwiches.
You can also use pork shoulder, but this is a leaner cut of meat so you won’t get the same mouthfeel.
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with pork belly chunks.
Bacon / Ham Chunks
If you’re looking for a quick and easy substitute for Spam try bacon bits or chunks of ham. Both of them are cheap and easy to find in any grocery store. Bacon is similarly greasy to Spam and has a smokey rich flavor. I thought it added more depth of flavor to my fried rice, and who doesn’t love bacon?
The ham chunks were less flavorful and slightly sweeter than Spam, but they had a similar texture. Ham chunks are also pre-cooked like Spam, so you can just chuck them straight into whatever dish you’re cooking.
Psst… lardons are the best type of bacon to substitute for Spam, but whatever you have to hand will be fine.
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with bacon or ham chunks.
Pork roll is a processed pork product that originated in New Jersey, USA. The two main brands that sell it are Taylor and Case (but it’s not that easy to find outside of the Mid-Atlantic region in the USA). Taylor is more widely known and has a milder flavor, while Case has a more robust salty flavor.
It’s sold in rolls (if you hadn’t already guessed), and you need to slice and cook the pork roll before eating it – it’s often grilled or fried and used in a breakfast sandwich.
Compared to Spam I thought the pork roll had a coarser and drier texture, likely due to the fact there is a lot less fat in the meat and fewer binders. The lack of binders also meant the pork had more flavor.
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with pork roll.
Making your own Spam is a great substitute for the canned stuff if you enjoy making things from starch. The only downside is that the Spam won’t be shelf-stable, so you’ll need to freeze it for longer-term storage.
There are a few different recipes online, mainly differing in what meats they use. I went for a simple option for this experiment and just used ground pork, which turned out fine. But if I was making the Spam again, I’d use a mixture of meats (like in this recipe).
Here’s the recipe I followed (from amiablefood.com)
- 600g ground pork
- 1/4 cup ice-cold water
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp pink curing salt (sodium nitrite – you can buy this in butcher’s shops or online)
- 1 ½ tbsp potato starch
- Mix the curing salt, salt, sugar, and potato scratch in a bowl, then pour over the cold water. The solid ingredients should dissolve into the water.
- Knead the meat in a separate bowl until it becomes sticky or tacky. You can also pulse it in a blender.
- Gradually pour the liquid over the meat and wait until fully absorbed. You may need to wait up to 30 minutes.
- Transfer the meat mixture into a loaf pan, pressing down to remove any air pockets.
- Place the loaf pan in a larger pan filled halfway up with water (i.e make a water bath). Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.
- Let your Spam cool and then refrigerate overnight before slicing.
- The Spam will last for as long as ham will last, so around a week in the fridge. Or you can freeze the Spam.
The major benefit of making your own Spam is that you avoid all the preservatives and additives found in the commercial versions, and you can adjust the flavorings to your liking.
For example, if you want a spicy version, add some chili flakes.
How to substitute: Replace Spam in a 1:1 ratio with your homemade version.
Subsitutes To Avoid
While I was researching I came across some websites suggesting things like chicken or mushrooms as a substitute for Spam, but I don’t recommend these. While they would work perfectly well in something like fried rice, they have none of the same qualities as Spam so you can’t really call them substitutes.
Best Spam Substitutes + What To Avoid
- 1 portion Homemade Spam
- 1 portion Other Canned Meats
- 1 portion Sausage
- 1 portion Firm Tofu / Seitan
- 1 portion Pork Belly
- 1 portion Bacon / Ham Chunks
- 1 portion Pork Roll
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen Spam substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.