Spam and Hawaii: Why Does Hawaii Love Spam?

Spam and Hawaii: Why Does Hawaii Love Spam?

Last Updated on Apr 12 2019 by Bruddah Ron

spam poster
Original photo by lovelihood

One tidbit of information that seems to get around is that people in Hawaii really like SPAM. And it’s true: about 6 million cans of SPAM are eaten each year in Hawaii (source). That’s around 5 cans per person in Hawaii.

The amount of SPAM eaten here is no joke – when SPAM goes on sale for around $1.79/can, I always see empty shelves at the grocery store. Purchase limits are usually 5 cans, otherwise stores would run into constant shortages.

But why do Hawaiians like SPAM so much? Isn’t it poor man’s food? Doesn’t it taste terrible? Here are 3 reasons why Hawaiians love SPAM.

1. SPAM and Hawaii share a long history together.

After World War II, there was a large military presence in Hawaii. The government needed to feed a lot of soldiers everyday, but it was extremely difficult to get fresh meat out to Hawaii. So, the soldiers ended up being fed a lot of SPAM, which is cheap and non-perishable (SPAM is canned and has a shelf-life of approximately a bajillion years). So much SPAM was shipped to Hawaii that many cans ended up being sold in stores to locals.

What made it so popular though?

At the time, Hawaii had a huge population of Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino migrant workers, all of whom had various methods of incorporating SPAM meat into their own cultural dishes. The resulting SPAM dishes were so good that the popularity of SPAM exploded in Hawaii.

spam family
Photo by Arnold GatilaoThe original SPAM was introduced in 1937. Since then, 10 other flavors have been added to the SPAM family.

2. SPAM is not poor people’s food in Hawaii.

fancy spam
Not exactly what you think of when you hear “SPAM.”

Any mainlander will tell you that SPAM is what they eat when they’re trying to save money or have nothing else to eat. You see, SPAM is an inferior good, a product that people usually only buy if they’re poor or if the economy is bad. Because of this, there is a negative stigma attached with eating SPAM. Eating SPAM is the same as drinking 40oz malt liquor beverages or shopping for clothes at a second-hand store – people think you’re poor or low-class.

In Hawaii, SPAM is not seen in a bad light at all. Although it is a cheap and low-quality meat, SPAM is still eaten by people both rich and poor, old and young. SPAM is part of the Hawaii’s culinary tradition and it’s appeal has no boundaries in Hawaii.

3. We know how to eat SPAM properly here in Hawaii.

I remember a guy from Georgia once told me that he hated SPAM, but ate it frequently in college to save money. I asked him how he prepared it. Do you know what he told me?

“I just ate it right out of the can.”

DO NOT DO THIS. This is exactly why so many people think SPAM is horrible.

SPAM is not meant to be eaten right out of the can, just as hot dogs are not meant to eaten right out of the package. If you eat SPAM right out of the can, it will taste like a soft, salty mess. We locals, the professional SPAM eaters, all know that proper consumption of SPAM requires cooking first.

What cooking does to fat in meat

If you’ve ever gone steak shopping (who hasn’t?), you know that it’s important to find a cut of steak with a good amount of fat on it (also called “marbling”). This is because when the steak is cooking, it is the fat that keeps the meat moist, tender, and most importantly, it adds a lot of flavor into the steak.

Marbled Steak
Photo by julesThe fat in meat is responsible for tenderness and flavor in the meat during the cooking process. The same applies to SPAM.

SPAM is similar in that it has a lot of fat as well, and it is only through cooking with fire that the delicious flavor and crimson-red coating of SPAM will come out.

Photo by yoppyHow SPAM should look

Closing Thoughts

I hope this gives you an insight into the mind of the Hawaiian locals. If this post gave you inspiration to give SPAM another chance, try cooking it and telling us how it was!

71 thoughts on “Spam and Hawaii: Why Does Hawaii Love Spam?

  1. what the carbon footprint of all that spam being shipped to Hawaii? Where do all those metal cans end up on such a small island? Just asking

    1. we have landfills. we burn trash to generate power (look up hpower). i heard about shipping trash to the mainland, not sure how well implemented that is.

      1. My wife and I have been to Maui a few times and by the way we love it there. Once we were told that there is a huge warehouse in Hawaii that is full of Spam. Is that true?

        1. Like a lot of other goods in Hawaii, they’re made and shipped to Hawaii. In terms of a warehouse full of Spam, it’s possible, since items are shipped in bulk before being distributed. Either way, it’s a good idea to have some cans in the pantry (I’ve got 3 right now) — I’ve never seen or heard of Spam going bad!

  2. Delicate Delight !
    1-lightly toast & butter 1 slice of white bread
    2- in a small fry pan(I use cast iron), boil 1 inch of water
    3- slip two 1/2 to 1/3 inch thick SPAM fillets ( regular or lite)
    into the water.
    4-heat for ~30 seconds, then remove…reduce water to
    a simmer
    5-slip 2 XL or Jumbo eggs into the simmering water
    poach until the whites are just set….yolks should be
    6-place eggs on the toast, then spoon some of the
    poaching water on the toast edges….(If you opt for
    classic rye instead of white, this added step is a MUST ! )
    7-re-heat the spam in the boiling water for ~ 10 s
    8-plate the SPAM w/ the eggs & use a teaspoon for the subsequent act of indulgence.

  3. I first tried Spam when I was in the Army stationed in Hawaii. I took to it immediately! So much so that I keep a can in my home in Boston at all times. My favorite
    recipe is Spam, white rice and butter. Simple but delicious.
    I’ll never forget that first experience with Spam, it was soooo good. That was in 1968, 50 years ago!

  4. Spam ..spam..spam..who made that shit..Thank’s my comfort food..and all these picky ass food people..if Donald Trump lead world war 111 in America be glad spam exist bcuz will be your only hero by your side😅😅😅😅😅..

  5. So my affair with Spam began and ended (mostly) with a Peace Corps assignment from 1967-70 in a Southern Luzon Poblacion where it was available and much appreciated…we had isda, baboy and manok available – I still remember some Tagalog – but raw (smothered in mustard on fresh pan de sol, or cooked (with rice and eggs) Spam made my day…I suppose my withdrawal from such cuisine began with whispers later repeated in a Paul Theroux book that Pacific Islanders love Spam because it reminds them of the days when cannabalism was the rage – something about its saltiness I guess -VERY UNSUBSTANTIATED I will hasten to add…Update – I got a can in my stocking at Christmas because I, think, I was on the Big Island in October and saw a pyramid of cans in a Hilo drug store – what memories flooded back that I must have related to the principal stocking stuffer… I look forward to opening it up on Spam Day…whenever that is

  6. I ate this Spam concoction in college and still eat it occasionally and love it! I don’t consider Spam a poor person food.

    Grate one can of Spam, 1/3 of block of Velveeta cheese, and one white onion. Thoroughly mix together and then spread on bread about 1/2″ deep. Place in broiler oven and toast until cheese melts but bread doesn’t burn. Delicious!!!!

    1. I have a concoction for you too. A couple of years ago they had my recipe on macaroni and cheese box. Basically by dice it up into chunks fry it up pretty good and throw it into macaroni and cheese but it has to be Deluxe not the OtterBox. And we’re not done yet get some nice honey mustard and mix it in there and it tastes great. I used to have a saying with the kids and I used to call it spamming and jamming and they loved that recipe that I made

  7. There is a book titled ‘Trout Delamer’s First Book of Made-Up Stories’ available on Amazon Kindle which includes a brilliant song about SPAM. It would be great for an advert. This is how it goes:

    What a lovely day to have Spam for dinner, Spam for dinner, yes Spam for Dinner,
    What a lovely day to have Spam for dinner, or any other time.

    At breakfast it’s with eggs,
    for lunch with chicken legs,
    and we’ll have beans and tomatoes too,
    My auntie Nelly makes a lovely tagliatelle,
    and it’s perfect on a pizza too, cor blimey,

    What a lovely day to have Spam for dinner, Spam for dinner, yes Spam for Dinner,
    What a lovely day to have Spam for dinner, or any other time.

    You can slice it, you can fry it,
    you can grill it, you can dice it,
    You can even put it in a stew,
    There’s simply no denying, anything’s worth trying,
    I wonder what you’ll do, will you try?

    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spaghetti with cheese and Spaaaaam,

    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spaghetti with cheese and Spaaaaam,

    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spam and cheese and spaghetti,
    Spaghetti with cheese and Spaaaaam,

    Just go and buy the book, make it a best seller in Hawaii and I will get the author and the illustrator to come over and visit you, sing the song to you all and paint pictures of Spam in Hawaii.



  8. The king of all Spam sandwiches, one that even the King would love?

    Take two pieces of white bread and slather them with grape jelly, then cut two thick slices of cold Spam and lay them down gently and reverently on the bread.

    Then get ready to eat something DADGUM GOOD!

    Blessings to all…

  9. I couldn’t figure out why my Spam never tasted as good as when my mom prepares hers. She finally told me her secret…

    She dips the 1/4″ rectangle slices in flour before frying in a small amount of oil! And she ALMOST overcooks them, where they have a crunchy outside, but tender inside. So yummy! Her way sure makes a difference! Think I’m going to have to try to fry some like hers right now…

  10. I really do not remember Spam in my childhood during WWII but mom used to buy a spiced luncheon meat that reminds of Spam. When I joined the Fire Department one of the firefighters made a green bean casserole with Spam, green beans and eggs. Loved it. I like to make breakfast sandwiches w/ English muffins, Spam, fried egg and cheese, or a bowl of grits, poached eggs and
    Spam. I saw a posting on social media about the six things that we used to eat for breakfast. Number two was Spam cakes consisting of a dinner plat size pancake with a slice of Spam in the center of it. I had to try that one. It is very good with your favorite syrup. This posting was a picture of an ad for Bisquik and Spam.

  11. I’m 60 y/o and grew up eating Spam in south central Arkansas. Mother would cube it and then fry it in a cast iron skillet. Then she’d scramble a few eggs into it and serve with toast for breakfast. We kids loved it! I still love it for a quick,easy meal and I like it right out of the can on white bread with a little mayo & mustard, tomato, onion and lettuce. Got a couple of cans in the pantry now. Sells here for about 2.50/can. Bon appetit!

    1. I went to high in the middle 1950s. I recall eating spam sandwiches we purchased in the school cafeteria. Good stuff.

  12. As a Spam lover for many years I loved this article. My husband and I took a trip to Hawaii a few years ago. We ate breakfast at McDonald’s almost every day. On the menu was Spam, eggs and rice. Yum yum
    Try spreading a little mustard on a slice, dipping on cornmeal and frying in butter

  13. Family members have been eating Spam since childhood..they are now in late eighties and early nineties with little or no health issues. I myself is in my mid seventies and healthy as a loving and eating Spam. I am from Maui.

    1. I am from England. During world war 2, f food was rationed and scarce. . Spam was a once week meal. I totally love it on toast with butter cold spam sliced with A1 sauce . To this day. [I have lived in USA for over 70 years]. . Spam sandwiches made this way sooth my taste buds. I must eat it this way nice a week

  14. I’m Korean. Therefore, I love SPAM. So does my Korean wife, and so do my kids. It’s the exception rather than the rule to find a Korean-American who does NOT like SPAM. I wouldn’t choose SPAM over steak, but it’s also not some disgusting low-class thing so many consider it to be. It’s like ramen. So many Americans’ experience with ramen is out of a cup, they think that is a cheap, poor-person, low-class food. They’ve never had ramen the right way.

  15. I am really very happy to find this particular site. I just wanted to say thank you for this huge read!! I absolutely enjoying every petite bit of it and I have you bookmarked to test out new substance you post.

  16. I haven’t had spam since I was a kid in the ’60s. I am visiting Hawaii right now and am heading out to the “Spam Fest” along Waikiki Beach being held this evening!

  17. This is a fantastic article. This really is top notch wonderful stuff from you, my friend. You really have impressed me with your work here. I hope you can keep doing this in the future as well!

  18. After reading all of these comments I think I’ll be trying Spam again. I used to have it as a kid at my grandparents’ houses but it has probably been about 30 years since my last tasting.

  19. I have been eating Spam since I was a young girl. I am now an adult. I still love Spam. I am not from Hawaii. But in my home my mother would prepare sandwiches with spam you take toasted bread mayo mustard to your bread add lettuce tomato cooked Spam and there you have it a spam sandwich.:) That was our treat in my home it is tasty too. Have a blessed day. J

    1. If you were to have it in a sandwich, i would have to agree on preparing it in this manner! Strong emphasis on cooking the SPAM and toasting the bread!

  20. Today I had lunch at a restaurant, “Hula Girl,” in Arlington, VA. All the tables had SPAM cans as chopstick holders and three or four SPAM-containing choices on the menu. The waitress remarked that you couldn’t have a Hawaiian-themed restaurant without SPAM on the menu. How true.

  21. When I was a kid in the the mid 1960s we ate Spam and Cheese on toasted Bread everyday in the camper as we traveled to every state in the United States . Spam and Cheese and Tomato soup is still a treat for me as it brings back the 1960s to me. Spam is as American as apple pie

  22. Regarding me just making a comment, I would say… My love for Spam derives from my family, both Mom and Dad, who had hard times during the Depression and were both involved in WWII — my Dad in the Navy (and at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7) and my mom as a cadet nurse (a special unit). So Spam and Vienna Sausages were frequent choices at our house growing up. But now that I am in my 60s, I seem to return to it as a comfort food reminding me of the past in some part of my memory bank, but also finding it very tasty and economical in today’s economy! When I first returned to it, I truly didn’t think I would like it as much as I do! And, as I said above, I haven’t even gotten around to adding pineapple yet!

    1. Also, it should be noted: Store brands… not so much. There’s really a difference in … (I can’t believe I’m going to say this…) quality! Spam has much better quality than store brands… (Just an FYI…)

  23. I think Spam gets a bad wrap… as I would feel totally the same way!!! I brought home a can of Spam from the Dollar General ($2.65) and was just about to put it away when I went, Yum, Spam and scrambled eggs and diced sauted onions and cheeses!!!!

  24. I have been living in the mainland for over 40 yrs. I’m from Hawaii , and let me just say that I just fried 2 thick slices of spam and crackers with hot sauce and ketchup. Omg, I’m crying. $o Ono

  25. This particular post is really very interesting. It has a really great peace of Data, I enjoyed very well with this particular blog it has very useful information I like to much the style of this Article. Pleasure thanks for the share and stuff

  26. I think I’ll try that… with green beans. And then there’s the pineapple thing… I haven’t even begun to try that…

  27. I have been pretty successful in going vegetarian except for one thing: (I hate to even say it…) SPAM! I love a corned beef hash recipe in which I substitute cubed Spam for the corned beef. I make a big pan of it the first day, and may or may not serve it with eggs. But usually, the eggs come in the second day… and around here, there’s nothing left after that! They are very tasty little chunks this way.

  28. I can’t speak for all mainlanders, obviously, but as for me and my family, we love Spam. I grew up eating Spam and eggs, Spam sandwiches, Spam and cheese wraps, and pretty much anything else we could think up. (Short of a Spam sundae. Except for once, which we shall never speak of.)

    To me, Spam is comfort food. And it will always have a special place reserved at my table.

    1. Well said, I was born and raised on the Island of Oahu. Yes, we would eat Spam along with many other delicious foods. Spam is a very big part of the local culture and a staple of most homes on the Island. To each his own on whether you like it or not, but try and have respect for those who enjoy it. We now live on the Mainland and my kids have a taste for all sorts of different cultures food, and yes they love a good Spam and eggs breakfast and maybe Spam Musubi while on a hike. Don’t knock till you’ve tried it, and if you didn’t like it oh well!

  29. I would not eat spam in Hawaii. I would rather have fresh cooked fish or even fresh pineapple or mango instead. 🙂

    1. Good choice, Mr. X. No matter how popular spam is in Hawaii, everyone should still be aware of the fact that spam is still a low-quality “meat” in a can. If I had a friend visiting Hawaii, I would definitely not recommend spam as a food that they have to try.

      1. I feel you would be doing Hawaii a disservice not recommending someone visiting to try some Spam made “island style”. Spam Musubi is absolutely amazing and is the sole reason I love Spam! It’s available everywhere in Hawaii and is great hot or cold. The best food to take when taking in a whole day of exploring the islands.

          1. Stop spamming this comment thread with your anti-Spam hate. #spammatters

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