Spam Musubi is a famous Hawaii snack made from Spam, rice, and nori. It’s portable, affordable, and tasty! It’s the most popular way to eat Spam in Hawaii.
Spam (with Egg, Avocado, and Unagi!) Musubi at Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Oahu)
What’s Hawaii’s favorite snack?
What Is Spam Musubi?
Spam Musubi is a local Hawaii snack. It’s a small, handheld treat made from three key ingredients: Spam, rice, and nori.
A slice of Spam is placed on top of a block of rice, and the whole thing is wrapped in nori. It’s affordable, convenient, and super onolicious. You can find Spam Musubi everywhere in Hawaii be it the local 7-11 shop, supermarket/deli, or plate lunch spot. You can also make it at home.
Many Spam Musubi options at Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Oahu)
Where Did Spam Musubi Come From?
Spam got popular in Hawaii right after World War II.
The military consumed a ton of Spam during the war years. Because Hawaii had a large military presence, there was lots of Spam in Hawaii. People loved the taste, and Hawaii eventually “adopted” Spam. Spam musubi was invented by a local Japanese lady in Hawaii.
Spam, Egg, and Bacon Musubi
Why Is Spam Musubi So Popular In Hawaii?
Multiple theories, but the main one is that Hawaii is a very outdoorsy type of place and Spam Musubi is the ultimate portable snack. You can pack it in your bag before you go hiking, you can bring it with you to the beach (toss a few musubis in your beach bag and eat after you come out of the water).
Spam Musubi at Yama’s Fish Market (Oahu)
It doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it’s durable, and it’s really hits the spot after outdoors physical activity. Just don’t forget to bring water or something to drink.
Spam at Costco!
Spam in Hawaii
Sometimes people make fun of Hawaii for loving Spam so much. As a local that splits time between Hawaii and mainland, making fun of Hawaii/Spam might seem funny, but it’s not. It feels like a dated joke that only someone who doesn’t “get” Hawaii would make. If you want to seem like someone who “gets” Hawaii, just act all cool and nonchalant about Spam ^_^
Spam (and Egg) Musubi at Diamond Head Market & Grill (Oahu)
We love Spam very much and it shows up seemingly everywhere in Hawaii. If not in the form of a musubi, it comes on breakfast plates (even McDonald’s offers it), sliced in bowls of saimin, and mixed into fried rice (kimchee-Spam fried rice is super good).
Mini bento with Spam musubi from Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Oahu)
We even have an annual festival dedicated to Spam (it’s called Waikiki Spam Jam and a bunch of restaurants make new/fun Spam dishes for the event). On the flip side, not everyone in Hawaii eats Spam. I don’t think my grandma has ever tried Spam!
Spam Musubis from Ookini Onigiri (Oahu)
How To Make Spam Musubi
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The first thing you need is a Spam Musubi mold – this is a good one.
Then you’ll need the 3 key ingredients:
- Cooked rice – Japanese rice like Nishiki. But if you’re in Honolulu make sure to visit The Rice Factory!
- Can of Spam – get the Spam Classic (don’t get any of the flavored Spam). Can get Spam Lite (low sodium) if preferred.
- Nori sheets – they come in packs of 10 or 50. This is a good one.
Musubi menu (Spam Musubi is at middle-left) from Ookini Onigiri (Oahu)
There are no exact measurements, it’s all about personal preference. Some people like more rice, others like less. Some people like big fat slices of Spam, others like skinny crispy slices. But there is a general guideline:
- Cook three cups of rice for each one can of Spam.
- Cut each can of Spam into eight slices.
- Cut each nori sheet in half lengthwise.
Spam Musubi from Fort Ruger Market (Oahu)
- Pan fry (both sides) the slices of Spam. Set aside.
- Lay the nori strip (already cut in half) on a table. Put the musubi mold in the center of the nori strip.
- Use a rice paddle to scoop the rice and press it into the mold. Use the mold handle to really pack in the rice.
- Top with the slice of Spam and remove the mold.
- Wrap the nori around the entire thing. Go eat ^_^
Spam Musubi at Waiola Shave Ice (Oahu)
Spam Musubi is easy (and fun) to make. It was one of the first things I learned to “cook” as a kid. And in college we would have Spam Musubi making parties/get togethers.
As for how much rice to press in the mold, it’s up to you. Some days I make super thin Spam Musubi and use a 1:1 height ratio of rice and Spam. Most days I used a 4:1 ratio.
Spam (with egg, avocado, and unagi!) Musubi at Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Oahu)
Variations on Spam Musubi
The classic is a trio combo of rice/spam/nori. But there are many (really good) variations. Here are a few:
- Furikake Spam Musubi – Rolling the rice furikake before you top it with the Spam slice. Some places also mix the furikake directly with the rice, so you get furikake-speckled rice.
- Half-Wrap Spam Musubi – Cut the nori sheet lengthwise into quarters (instead of half) so that either end of the musubi is exposed.
- Spam-in-the-Middle Musubi – This is when the Spam is tucked between two layers of rice (instead of being on top of the rice). You do a half layer of rice, then the Spam, then a top layer of rice. And then wrap the whole thing in nori.
- Saucy Spam Musubi – Those who like crispy and saucy Spam (I do!) can pan fry Spam slices in shoyu or teriyaki sauce before making the musubi.
Spam Musubi (mini size) as part of a bento at Kawamoto Store (Big Island)
- Mini Spam Musubi – These are just whole Spam Musubi cut into halves or quarters (often seen as part of a bento). Minis can also be made with a mini musubi mold.
- Deluxe Spam Musubi – The kids like to call this “premium” musubi. It’s when you take a Spam Musubi and add on additional layers of toppings. Common toppings include: egg omelet (made Japanese-style, and sliced thin), bacon, cheese, avocado slices, and even unagi.
- Non-Spam Musubi – In supermarkets and 7-11, the Spam Musubi is usually stored under heaters (to keep the musubi warm). Sitting next to the Spam Musubis are many other kinds of musubi that look exactly the same, except the Spam is replaced with a different type of meat. You’ll see hot dogs (cut in half, two halves atop the rice), teriyaki tofu, and teriyaki chicken.
Spam Musubi at Diamond Head Market & Grill (Oahu)
How/When Do You Eat Spam Musubi?
When? There are so many ways to eat Spam Musubi…
- Eat it for breakfast! (The same way you would a breakfast burrito.)
- Eat it for snack! Our school cafeteria would sell Spam Musubis for $1.50 and we’d get them for snacks.
- Eat it as part of a lunch! One Spam musubi is a snack, and two is lunch.
- Bring it to a potluck/garage party! Odds are someone is going to bring a giant tray of Spam Musubis (usually cut in half for “party-size”) to that potluck party.
Spam Musubi at Yama’s Fish Market (Oahu)
How? What’s the correct way to eat a Spam Musubi?
- Got to be with your hands! If you buy Spam Musubi to-go, it’s usually wrapped in plastic. I use one hand to peel the plastic, and the other hand to hold and bite the Spam Musubi. Always want to keep one hand clean just in case.
Spam and Egg Musubi from Ookini Onigiri (Oahu)
Fancy Spam Musubi
Many nicer restaurants (both in Hawaii and outside Hawaii) make their own in-house Spam! It’s a pretty neat concept – it doesn’t taste like the “real” Spam, but you do feel healthier/less bad for eating fancy Spam heheh.
Housemade Spam musubi at Mill House (Maui)
Restaurant housemade Spam is used to make fancy Spam musubis, and is also served sliced over rice (essentially a deconstructed Spam musubi). In Hawaii, check out MW Restaurant on Oahu (pro tip: MW’s to-go lunch bentos are an amazing value) and Mill House in Maui. In San Francisco, visit Trailblazer Tavern and Liholiho Yacht Club (here’s my full post about Hawaii food in SF). In NYC, visit Noreetuh in the East Village.
Spam Musubi (and Chicken and Salmon Musubis!) at Diamond Head Market & Grill (Oahu)
Where To Get Spam Musubi
This is but a short list of the many, many places in Hawaii where you can find Spam Musubi. Pay attention and you’ll spot them in the most unexpected places (shave ice shops, included) ^_^
- Musubi Cafe Iyasume (Oahu)
- Diamond Head Market & Grill (Oahu)
- Mana Musubi (Oahu)
- Fort Ruger Market (Oahu)
- Kawamoto Store (Big Island)
- Da Kitchen (Maui)
- Pono Market (Kauai)
- 7-11 (All Islands)
- Foodland (All Islands)