Spam Sushi (Musubi)

Spam Sushi (Musubi)

Spam Sushi is a fun, sweet, and savory dish that’s great for lunches on the go or picnic dinners with the kids. Also called Musubi, these handheld rolls are Hawaiian comfort food at their best.

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Wooden board with several Spam Sushi (Musubi) -  handheld treat of sushi rice and teriyaki glazed Spam wrapped in nori.

Spam Sushi is one of my picnic go-to dishes. I like to serve them with Tropical Slaw With Pineapple, Pickled Deviled Eggs, and Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies for a picnic menu that’s a family favorite.

Can of Spam on a white background.

What Is Spam, Anyway?

Spam is a brand of canned pork lunchmeat.  Developed by Hormel Foods in 1939, the cooked pork product became popular when it was used as rations during World War II.

Spam is made from pork shoulder, ham, salt (and lots of it), sugar, potato starch, and sodium nitrate. It’s formed raw and cooked in the can, which is what makes the weird, meat jelly at the top of the can.

The name originated when the brother of a Hormel Foods executive won a competition to name the new product. He thought the product tasted like spiced ham and used a contraction of the two words. Thus, Spam was named.

Spam Musubi Or Sushi?

I learned about this dish from my father-in-law who had loved it since he served in the Army stationed in Hawaii. He was a fan of anything with Spam in it, but especially what he called ‘Spam Sushi’.

Spam Musubi is what this dish is called in Hawaii. It’s a spin on Japanese Musubi, which is a rice ball that is filled and sometimes wrapped in nori.

There are many theories on who or how the Spam Musubi should be credited. The theory told to me by my father-in-law was that a Japanese-American woman living with her military husband in Hawaii used the only military rations she had left to make a meal for her husband.  She took rice, Spam, and seasonings, and wrapped it all in nori.  Needless to say, her husband loved it.

What Ingredients Are Needed

  • Sushi rice – You want to use sushi rice because it is short grain rather than medium or long grain like normal jasmine or basmati rice,  It also has a higher starch content, making it stickier so it holds the shape when you mold it.
  • Rice vinegar 
  • Granulated sugar and brown sugar
  • Sea salt
  • Spam
  • Soy sauce
  • Pineapple juice
  • Roasted nori – This is the roasted seaweed that is dried and used to wrap around sushi. You can find it in the international aisle of your grocery.

Wooden board with several Spam Sushi (Musubi) -  handheld treat of sushi rice and teriyaki glazed Spam wrapped in nori.

Steps To Make This Recipe

  1. Rinse the rice and cook it until tender.
  2. Mix the rice vinegar, granulated sugar, and sea salt into the rice.
  3. Cook the Spam in a skillet until the edges are brown and begin to crisp on both sides.
  4. Mix the soy sauce, pineapple juice, and brown sugar together.
  5. Pour over the Spam and simmer until the liquid evaporates.
  6. Line the Spam can with plastic wrap.
  7. Press some of the rice into the bottom of the can.
  8. Use the plastic wrap to pull the molded rice out of the can.
  9. Top the rice with a Spam slice.
  10. Wrap a nori strip around the Spam and rice and seal the bottom edge by moistening the edge and laying the sushi seam side down on a serving plate.
  11. Repeat with the remaining rice and Spam slices.

Tips And Hints

  • The recipe calls for a special musubi mold to form the rice patty. You can find one easily on Amazon.  I use something simpler and cheaper – the Spam can.  Once you remove the Spam, rinse out the can.  Use a utility knife to carefully cut the can in half and then cut out the bottom.  Use plastic wrap to protect your fingers from any sharp edges and to help unmold the rice easily. Your rice will be a perfect size every time.
  • As a rule of thumb, the rice layer should be twice the height of the Spam. There is a lot of friendly controversy over the perfect ‘Spam to rice ratio’ and every home cook has his/her own thoughts.
  • Use sushi rice or any short grain rice for the Musubi. Traditional Hawaiian Spam Musubi doesn’t have vinegar or sugar in the rice. My recipe uses a more traditional sushi-style rice because that’s how my Dad-In-Law liked it. Try it both ways to determine your family’s preference.
  • Be sure to rinse your rice. Rinsing removes any starch from the surface of the rice kernel so that when cooked it’s perfectly fluffy and sticky rather than gluey and gummy.
  • Allow the Spam slice to caramelize just a little around the edges when you cook it. The browned edges become slightly crisp and very sweet.
  • When buying the nori, look for the one that is graded as either ‘gold’ or ‘A’ or ‘B’. This way your nori sheet will be uniform in thickness and size and easier to wrap around the Spam and rice. If you can’t find high-grade nori, you may need to be more careful when wrapping the Musubi.
  • Seal the edges of the nori by dipping your finger into water and ‘gluing’ the ends together around your Musubi. 
  • Wrap and store the Musubi in plastic wrap individually and refrigerate for up to three days – if they last that long.

Toppings For Spam Musubi

  • Add a folded scrambled egg to the top of the Spam before you roll the Nori around it. This is a classic breakfast in Hawaii.
  • Avocado slices
  • Kimchi
  • Furikake seasoning – this is a Japanese seasoning made of seaweed, salt, sesame seeds, and spices.  
  • Slices of cucumber – slice them lengthwise using a mandoline for the prettiest Musubi.
  • Top the Musubi with slices of sushi-grade seafood like tuna or salmon.

More Comfort Food Suggestions

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Wooden board with several Spam Sushi (Musubi) - handheld treat of sushi rice and teriyaki glazed Spam wrapped in nori.

Spam Sushi (Musubi)


Description

Spam Sushi is a fun, sweet, and savory dish that’s great for lunches on the go or picnic dinners with the kids. Also called Musubi, these handheld rolls are Hawaiian comfort food at their best.


Ingredients

Scale

For the rice:

1 ½ cups sushi rice

2 ¼ cups water

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

For the caramelized Spam:

½ (12-ounce) can Spam

3 teaspoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ cup pineapple juice

To assemble:

3 sheets roasted seaweed nori, cut into 2-inch wide strips


Instructions

Make the rice.

Pour the dry rice into a fine mesh colander and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.

Add the washed rice and water to a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  

Start at medium-high heat and cook until the water just begins to simmer.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for another 18-20 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender and fluffy.

Remove the pot from the heat and let the rice steam (with the lid still on!) for another 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, and sea salt until the sugar is dissolved.

Drizzle the vinegar mixture over the rice and mix it into the rice using a fork or a rice paddle. Set aside.

Brown the Spam.

Slice the Spam into ¼-inch thick slices.

Add the slices to a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until browned and beginning to turn crispy around the edges – about 3 minutes.

Flip each Spam patty and brown the other side for another 3 minutes.

Caramelize The Spam.

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, pineapple juice, and brown sugar until combined.

Turn the heat under the skillet to medium-low and pour the brown sugar mixture over the Spam slices.

Flip the Spam slices to coat both sides.

Cook, stirring the sauce, for 2 minutes.  Flip the slices and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

Allow the Spam to simmer in the sauce until the sauce evaporates, flipping the slices every 2 minutes. 

Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.

Assemble the Spam Sushi.

Lay a slice of Nori on a flat surface.

Line the inside of your Span can with plastic wrap.

Pat ½ cup of the rice mixture into the bottom of the can, pressing down to fill the mold and ensuring that there is an even layer of rice.

Use the plastic wrap to pull the rice out of the mold. 

Place the rice at the bottom of the nori strip. 

Use your fingers to pat and reshape any of the rice that fell off.

Place a slice of the caramelized spam on top of the rice, then wrap the nori around the roll, and secure the end by wetting the other end of nori with water and placing the roll seam side down on a serving plate.

Continue with the remaining ingredients.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Saute
  • Cuisine: Hawaiian

Keywords: Spam Sushi (Musubi), Musubi recipes, Spam recipes, Hawaiian food, Hawaiian recipes, vintage recipes, hand held food, comfort food,

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