This Hawaiian spam musubi is one of our favorite on-the-go meals and picnic items next to spicy tuna onigiri! It's made of soft and fluffy sushi rice topped a slice of caramelized spam that's been simmered in a sweet and savory teriyaki-style sauce and wrapped in a strip of seaweed.
If you're a spam lover, you've got to try this Hawaiian spam musubi! It's incredibly easy to make and you only need 3 main ingredients: spam, rice, and seaweed! But what makes this spam and rice yumminess extra special, is the sweet and savory, teriyaki-style sauce the spam is simmered in and glazed with!
The combination of the fluffy plain sushi rice really helps to balance the salty, the sweet, and the subtle caramelized flavor of the spam. It's just a party in your mouth!
What is musubi?
Musubi is a Hawaiian derivative of Japanese rice balls, onigiri. It was a popular lunchbox item Hawaiian plantation workers packed for work, spam musubi being one of the most popular versions.
The first spam musubi was actually an onigiri stuffed with spam. Then, Barbara Funamura of Joni-Hara Restaurant, the creator of spam musubi, made the first rectangular shape musubi when one of her workers brought in a bamboo rice mold.
With its new-found shape, Hawaiian spam musubi is now made of a bed of fluffy sushi rice, topped with a slice of sweet and savory caramelized spam, and a strip of seaweed belt that holds everything together. Because spam musubi is so tasty and easy to make, it's now also one of the most popular snacks and on-the-go meals even outside of Hawaii!
The sushi rice
There's a lot of misconception that musubi is made with seasoned sushi rice, but musubi is not sushi! It's a derivative of onigiri, AKA Japanese rice balls. Musubi is actually made with plain sushi rice to balance out all the flavor of the spam.
Musubi is actually made with plain sushi rice. These rice are available in medium grain and short grain. They have more starch content than long grain rice, which is what makes them sticky and keeps the rice together. So make sure to look for rice labeled as "sushi rice" or "California rice".
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Sushi rice - It is important that sushi rice is used for musubi so that the rice holds together and doesn't fall apart. Sushi rice comes in both short grain and medium grain. Look for packages labeled with sushi rice or California rice. DO NOT confuse sushi rice with seasoned sushi rice. So no need for vinegar, sugar, and salt.
- Spam - The star of our Hawaiian spam musubi! We used regular spam, but if you prefer, you can also use the lite version.
- Soy sauce - We used light sodium soy sauce, but if you only have regular soy sauce, you can use a little less soy sauce and dilute it with some water.
- Sugar - Regular granulated sugar will do. It's just to sweeten the sauce more, for that perfectly balanced sweet and savory.
- Mirin - This is a must-have Japanese pantry item. Mirin is a sweet rice wine, usually used for cooking. You can use any types of mirin you'd like. We used a mirin style condiment, also known as Aji-mirin. It's a lot cheaper but tastes just as good when used in cooking.
- Nori - AKA seaweed, specifically the seaweed sheets used for making sushi and kimbap. Nori will be used to hold the spam musubi together.
- Furikake (optional) - For adding extra flavor to the musubi.
- Oil (any neutral oil for cooking)
How to make spam musubi
For the spam:
1. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil, about 1 to 2 teaspoons. Once the pan is hot, add the spam and sear on both sides until golden brown and caramelized.
2.Remove the caramelized spam from the pan and drain the excess fat.
3. Into the same pan, add the soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
4. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the caramelized spam slices back into the pan and simmer for about 30 seconds, or until the sauce slightly thickens. Turn the spam slices occasionally to coat evenly. Remove from heat.
Assemble the musubi:
1. Cut the nori sheets into 4 even strips per sheet. If you prefer more nori on your musubi, you can cut the nori sheets into thirds or even in half. Set aside.
2. Place the musubi mold on a clean, flat work surface. Add about ½ cup of rice into the mold then sprinkle with some furikake, if desired. Using the mold press, press the rice into the mold with firm, even pressure.
3. Add a slice of the prepared spam into the mold. While gently pressing down on the spam, lift the musubi mold to release the rice and spam.
4. Wrap the nori strips around the musubi like a belt and repeat with remaining spam, rice, and seaweed.
5. Enjoy the musubi warm or room temperature!
How to make musubi without a mold
If you don't have a musubi mold, don't worry! Here's how you can make this Hawaiian spam musubi without a mold:
1. Line a clean spam can with cling wrap. Make sure there's extra cling film hanging out of the can.
🚨 Caution! The spam can can be sharp around the opening, so be careful!
2. Add about ½ cup of rice into the can and flatten as evenly as possible with spoon or spatula. Sprinkle with furikake if desired.
3. Place a slice of the prepared spam into the can, on top of the rice. Using the cling film, lift everything out of the can.
4. Wrap a strip of nori around the spam and rice. Reuse the cling wrap if you want and repeat with remaining ingredients.
Add some flare to your spam musubi with these additional toppings:
- Shiso leaves
- Make the musubi while the rice is still warm or hot. Warm rice is easier to mold. Also, warm rice will keep the nori sticking to it.
- Depending on the musubi mold you use, the size may be different. So if needed, match the mold to the shape of the musubi and cut accordingly.
- Don't over reduce the sauce! Just let the sauce simmer until it starts to slightly thicken. If the sauce is reduced too much, it will become too sticky and too salty.
Storage and reheating
If you have leftover spam musubi, let them cool completely, then wrapped them individually with cling wrap. Store them in the fridge for up to 4 days.
When ready to enjoy, reheat the musubi in the microwave until hot and the rice is soft again, about 30 seconds. We recommend keeping musubi wrapped while microwaving to prevent the rice from drying out.
We recommend using rice labeled as sushi rice or California rice. These rice are usually available as medium grain or short grain. They have sufficient amount of starch in them which makes them stickier and won't fall apart.
We do not recommend long grain rice, as they do not have enough starch in them. The musubi will fall apart if you use long grain rice.
Absolutely! You can use the spam can to make musubi instead. Read more about it under our "how to make musubi without a mold" topic. Also, if you don't mind the musubi not having perfect straight edges, you can simply wrap the rice in cling wrap and mold it with your hand.
Although you can do without mirin, it does add a depth of flavor to the sauce. So if possible, we definitely recommend it. However, if you can't find mirin or cannot consum alcohol, you can omit it and substitute with some water and a little extra sugar, or you try Honteri, a non-alcoholic mirin.
If you’ve made this recipe or any recipes from our blog, please tag us on Instagram using #twoplaidaprons! You can also tag us in your Instagram stories using @two_plaid_aprons. We would love to see your creations! It absolutely makes our day! 🥰
Hawaiian Spam Musubi
For the spam:
- In a nonstick pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil, about 1 to 2 teaspoons. Once the pan is hot, add the spam and sear on both sides until golden brown and caramelized.
- Remove the caramelized spam from the pan and drain the excess fat.
- Into the same pan, add the soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, add the caramelized spam slices back into the pan and simmer for about 30 seconds, or until the sauce slightly thickens. Turn the spam slices occasionally to coat evenly. Remove from heat.
Assemble the musubi:
- Cut the nori sheets into 4 even strips per sheet. If you prefer more nori on your musubi, you can cut the nori sheets into thirds or even in half. Set aside.
- Place the musubi mold on a clean, flat work surface. Add about ½ cup of rice into the mold then sprinkle with some furikake, if desired. Using the mold press, press the rice into the mold with firm, even pressure.
- Add a slice of the prepared spam into the mold. While gently pressing down on the spam, lift the musubi mold to release the rice and spam.
- Wrap the nori strips around the musubi like a belt and repeat with remaining spam, rice, and seaweed.
- Enjoy the musubi warm or room temperature!
- How to make musubi without a mold: If you do not have a musubi mold, you can use the spam can to help you mold your musubi! Into a clean spam can, line it with a sheet of cling film. DO be careful of the sharp edges! Place about ½ cup of rice into the can and flatten as evenly as possible with a spoon or spatula. Sprinkle with furikake if you wish and top it with a slice of the prepared spam. Lift the rice and spam out of the can using the cling film and wrap it with a strip of nori. Reuse the cling film if you want and repeat with remaining ingredients.