Food Fondles

Is Spam Gluten Free? Let’s Set The Record Straight For The Popular Delight!

is spam gluten free

Those who love Spam may have ever had this thought – is spam gluten free? Will it trigger any gluten reaction in me? Well, this article will explore whether Spam is safe for those with gluten sensitivity and intolerance.

I’m pretty sure most of us have eaten Spam one way or another. Spam is so popular that it is found in 48 countries around the world, with more than 9 billion (yep, billion) cans sold. Spam is such a perfect vehicle to eat with French fries, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, fried rice, mac & cheese and even salad. We will delve into this topic, so that we can make sure that we are not missing out on one of the best (albeit, heavily processed) food out there.

The History of Spam

Spam is a kind of processed meat that’s packed in a can. It originated in the United States in the 1930s during the War. It found a permanent place in the shelves in supermarkets during the Great Depression. Spam contains a combination of characteristics that Americans were looking for in a time of financial crisis. Because Spam was essentially meat in a can, it had a long shelf life, it was cheap and extremely versatile. This made it the perfect household food item for those watching their wallets.

Spam is very similar to luncheon meat and is in fact a type of luncheon meat. Luncheon meat can be made from poultry, pork, or beef. Whereas Spam is chopped pork meat mixed with ham and a whole load of preservatives. This gives Spam the nasty reputation that it is very unhealthy. But because Spam is so, so popular, many people, especially Asians, simply use the terms ‘Spam’ and ‘luncheon meat’ synonymously.

Today, despite health concerns surrounding Spam, it is loved internationally. From South Korea to The Phillippines to Hawaii.  Spam can be found in sushi in Japan. Eaten in army stews in Korea. Served with instant noodles and a fried egg as a popular breakfast item in traditional cha chaan tengs (which translates to ‘tea restaurant’) in Hong Kong.

See Also: Is Sriracha Gluten Free?

See Also: Is Sushi Gluten Free?

What is Spam?

Spam essentially belongs to the same family as hot dogs, sausages, bacon and salami. In other words, not exactly the healthiest stuff to put on your plates. But let’s face it – anything that belongs in that category, whether we admit it or not, does taste good.

The Spam line does not only sell Spam. It sells Spam Hot and Spicy, Spam Teriyaki, Spam Hickory Smoke and many others. This makes it more challenging to know which option is gluten-free.

Is Spam Gluten Free?

Is spam gluten-free? Yes, Spam is gluten-free! You can enjoy this convenient and delicious meat as you wish. From Hormel Foods website, these are the options in the Spam line which are labelled as gluten-free:

  • Spam Black Pepper
  • Spam Classic
  • Spam Hot and Spicy
  • Spam Less Sodium
  • Spam Lite
  • Spam Jalapeño
  • Spam Oven Roasted Turkey
  • Spam Single Classic
  • Spam Single Lite
  • Spam Tocino
  • Spam with Real Hormel Bacon

Ingredients in Spam

The skimpy list of ingredients in Spam should also provide some kind of clarity and easiness for customers to determine its gluten-free status (although this is not always the litmus test to test for gluten!). After all, fewer ingredients means that one need not do too much research to figure out whether it is free from gluten.  It has just six ingredients in the original version – the Spam Classic – pork with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite.

Sodium Nitrite – what’s that?

The first five ingredients in Spam are naturally gluten-free. Those following a gluten-free diet are usually more wary of ingredients that sound like they belong in a chemistry laboratory simply because one has no idea what they are.

Sodium nitrite is one of the worst, and some say most toxic, ingredients that can be found in an ingredient list. Often touted as the main culprit of headaches, breathing difficulties and even cancer, they make one of the most effective preservatives out there. This makes it an essential component of processed meat, like Spam, to help with extending its shelf life and to give it that attractive pink colour. 

Sodium nitrite is essentially just a synthetic chemical compound produced by reacting nitric acid with sodium hydroxide. Although I honestly have no idea what these are or even look like in its raw form, they are probably too artificial to contain any traces of gluten. Regardless, sodium nitrite is gluten-free, although not the healthiest.  

But that’s also what makes the final food product delicious, I guess. So, if you’re looking to indulge in some simple guilty food pleasures occasionally, you’ll be glad to know that Spam is gluten-free. You just have to make sure that you eat it in moderation.

Recipes for Spam

Can you eat Spam on its own? Yes, of course. My favourite way to eat it is to take Spam fresh out of a can, cut it up into tiny strips and air-fry them (or deep fry them for an even more sinful treat!). The final product is Spam fries with a crispy exterior coupled with a soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Dip it with Sriracha, mayo or top them with some paprika.

Besides Spam fries, here are some other recipes with Spam as a main ingredient:

  • Spam Musubi Bowl: This is inspired by the traditional Hawaiian dish so that it is gluten-free. Featuring rice, spam and bok-choy as main ingredients, this dish is easy, delicious and somewhat healthy with the addition of vegetables.
  • Gluten-free Sweet Rice Balls with Spam: These adorable little rice balls make really good appetisers, perfect for parties and family gathering. The vibrant colours from the corn, zucchini and spam makes these babies irresistible that one of them is simply not enough.
  • Quick Spam Fried Rice: This quick spam fried rice is a wonderful recipe for those looking to make use of leftover rice and vegetables. This is so simple to make that you can literally throw in anything you find in your fridge. And the Spam adds an extra layer of crunch and crisp to the rice, making it perfect to cajole kids to eat whatever vegetables that you add into the mixture. Just be sure to use leftover rice for the perfect non-soggy texture!

Conclusion: Is Spam Gluten Free?

So yes, Spam is gluten-free. It may not be the healthiest food option out there, but everything should be eaten in moderation. It is not necessary to avoid eating spam totally, but just make sure that you eat it sparingly. Eating hot dogs at the movies is a cultural norm – so is salami with cheese at a Christmas party, bacon with cabbage at St Patrick’s Day or just pancetta with carbonara in an Italian restaurant.

Spam shouldn’t be any different. For those following a gluten-free diet, Spam, with its gluten-free status should be a fact to be welcomed. This means you don’t have to further deprive yourself of yet another comfort food – just make sure you don’t eat the entire can all at once!

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