1. Food

What is SPAM?

The "Meat of a Million Uses"


Cans of Spam are displayed on a shelf at Cal Mart grocery store on January 3, 2013 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Spam may be the brunt of many jokes, but this canned ham product is deeply rooted in American history and has earned a large dedicated following. Over its 70-year history, Spam has gone from being just another luncheon meat to becoming a pop-culture icon.

Spam was created by the Hormel Company in 1937 and was a popular staple during World War II. Not only was Spam consumed heavily in the states when other meats were heavily rationed, but it was also a popular item for the troops abroad thanks to its stability and easy shipping. Today, Spam is particularly popular in Hawaii, which has the highest Spam consumption per capita, as well as the United Kingdom, and parts of Asia. Spam is currently sold in 41 countries throughout the world.

What is in Spam?

The ingredients listed on classic Spam include: pork with ham, salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite. Potato starch is used for binding the chopped meat together and sodium nitrate is used as a preservative. The jelly like substance that surrounds spam is caused by natural gelatins in the meat that solidify when cooled (like an aspic). Depending on the variety of Spam, other ingredients, including chicken or turkey, may be added.

How is Spam Used?

Spam can be baked, fried, grilled, or eaten cold straight from the can. Because it is pre-cooked, heating is optional.

The most basic way to serve Spam is pan-fried along side eggs for breakfast, but because Spam is so versatile, it can be used in anything from burgers to salads, or even sushi. Spam eaters are known for their creative uses of the canned meat. For more examples and recipe ideas, check out the recipe exchange on the official Spam website.

Spam Nutritional Stats

A suggested serving size of classic Spam is 56 grams, or approximately 1/6th of a regular 12 oz. can of Spam. One 56 gram serving contains 180 calories, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, and approximately 1 gram of carbohydrates. Of the 16 grams of fat, 6 are saturated fats. Each serving also contains 40 mg of cholesterol and 790 mg of sodium.

Spam is also offered in light variety, Spam Lite, which contains 110 calories per 56 gram serving, 8 grams of fat (3 grams saturated), 9 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbohydrates.

Spam Varieties

During its 70-year history, Spam has created a variety of flavors and products to keep its consumers interested. Here are the ten most common varieties on the market today:

  • SPAM Classic – The original “Miracle Meat of a Million Uses.” Available in 12 or 7 ounce cans.
  • SPAM Lite – With chicken added to the mix, this Spam has 33% fewer calories and 50% less fat.
  • SPAM Low Sodium – Created in 1986, this variety of Spam has 25% less sodium.
  • SPAM Hot & Spicy – Classic Spam flavor with a touch of tobasco.
  • SPAM Spread – Prefer to spread rather than slice? Spam spread has the classic spam flavor in a spreadable texture.
  • SPAM Singles – Single serving packages of Spam to take with you on the go. No need to bring a knife for slicing and no leftovers. Also available in Spam Lite.
  • SPAM Hickory Smoked Flavor – The powerful flavor of hickory smoke combined with classic Spam.
  • SPAM with Cheese – One stop shopping with cheddar cheese built right into the mix.
  • SPAM Oven Roasted Turkey – Made with 100% lean turkey for those looking to eat a little healthier.
  1. About.com
  2. Food
  3. Food Reference
  4. Traditional Foods
  5. What is SPAM? - Food Reference

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.