Can you eat Spam out of the can cold?

Spam, the canned precooked meat product made by Hormel Foods Corporation, is a unique food that has been a staple in many cultures for decades. The rectangular canned “meat brick” is composed primarily of chopped pork shoulder meat along with ham, salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrite. Spam bursts with a distinctive salty, smoky, savory, and slightly sweet flavor that has earned it a cult following. But one question many people have is: can you eat it straight out of the can without heating it up first?

Is Cold Spam Safe to Eat?

The short answer is yes, you can absolutely eat Spam directly from the can without cooking or warming it. Spam sold in the United States is fully cooked during the canning process to an internal temperature of at least 137°F, which is well above the temperature required to eliminate harmful germs and bacteria.

The 12 ounce cans of Spam are then sealed and subjected to extreme heating which sterilizes the contents and allows the meat to be shelf stable for years. As long as the can remains intact and has not expired, refrigeration is not required and the Spam inside will be safe to eat cold. However, for best taste and texture it is recommended to warm it up before eating.

Tips for Eating Cold Spam

While safe to eat straight from the can, Spam generally tastes better warm. However, when eating it cold here are some tips:

  • Let it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes before eating to take the chill off
  • Cut thin slices rather than thick chunks to make it easier to chew
  • Pair it with crackers, bread, or mustard to offset the high saltiness
  • Drink something like milk or juice to balance the salty flavor
  • Mix in other ingredients like chopped pickles, onions, or peppers

The firm gelatinous texture of refrigerated Spam may take some getting used to for some people. Letting it warm up a bit before eating improves the texture considerably.

Nutrition Information for Cold Spam

A 1 ounce serving of Spam straight from the can contains:

  • Calories: 90
  • Total Fat: 7g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Cholesterol: 15mg
  • Sodium: 450mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: <1g
  • Protein: 6g

As these nutrition facts show, Spam is high in sodium, with nearly 20% of the recommended daily value in just one ounce. Make sure to account for the high salt content when incorporating cold Spam into your diet.

Health Risks of Eating Cold Spam

For most people, eating cold Spam straight from the can once in awhile poses no significant health risks. However, there are some things to be mindful of:

  • Blood Pressure – The high sodium content can potentially increase blood pressure in those with hypertension or heart disease.
  • Nitrates – Cold Spam contains added nitrates/nitrites to preserve color and prevent botulism. In high amounts, these may pose health risks.
  • Intolerances – Cold Spam contains pork as well as other ingredients like potato starch that those with intolerances should avoid.
  • Germs – As with any food, eating directly from the can could transmit germs from your mouth back into the can.

Pregnant women, young children, the elderly, or those with the conditions above should take extra care with cold deli meats like Spam and reheating before eating is recommended.

Taste Test: Does Cold Spam Taste Good?

Opinions on the taste of cold Spam straight from the can run the gamut from delicious to disgusting. Here are some thoughts from brave taste testers willing to try it:

“The strong salty and smoky flavors really punch you right away. But after a few chews it starts tasting pretty darn good. I can see why Hawaiians eat it with rice.”

“It’s not nearly as bad as I expected, but I definitely wouldn’t want to eat a whole can this way. A little slimy, but with a sandwich it would be pretty good.”

“No thanks, I just can’t get past the rubbery gelatinous texture. I’ll stick to frying it up into hot Spam sandwiches.”

As these perspectives demonstrate, personal preference plays a big role. Those accustomed to the unique properties of Spam are more likely to enjoy eating it straight from the fridge. The high sodium and umami flavors tend to be polarizing.

Popular Dishes and Recipes with Cold Spam

While Spam is most often served hot and fried in classic dishes like Spam and eggs or fried rice, there are some popular recipes that specifically call for cold Spam straight from the can:


This Hawaiian snack features a slice of cold Spam atop a block of rice, wrapped with nori seaweed. The contrast of the savory Spam with the sweet rice and umami seaweed is delicious.

Korean Kimchi Stew

Cold diced Spam is commonly added to spicy kimchi jjigae stew along with tofu and vegetables. The Spam adds a salty, meaty bite.

Spam Salad Spread

Shredded cold Spam is mixed with mayo, mustard, celery, onions, and other ingredients to create an easy protein-packed sandwich spread.

Spam and Cream Cheese Roll-Ups

Thinly sliced cold Spam is rolled up with cream cheese, pickle, and other fillings for a unique appetizer bite.

Cobb Salad

Chopped cold Spam can be used in place of ham or turkey in a classic Cobb salad with greens, egg, avocado, cheese, and veggies.

These recipes demonstrate the versatility of keeping canned Spam stocked in the pantry for quick, easy cold preparations.

Do People Actually Eat Spam Straight from the Can?

While most people warm up Spam before eating, is gobbling it straight out of the can really a thing? Spam has a surprising cult following, with over 7 million cans sold annually worldwide. And yes, many self-proclaimed “Spam-o-philes” enthusiastically eat it chilled and slice it up as a quick snack, protein addition, or even an appetizer at parties.

In the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, enjoying cold Spam musubi is commonplace thanks to the meat’s cultural significance and popularity. The state of Hawaii actually consumes the most Spam per capita in the United States.

Spam’s retro appeal and versatility also make it ideal for campers, hikers, and preppers who stash cans in their emergency food supplies. When cooking facilities are limited, straight from the can it is.

College students, struggling artists, and others on a tight budget may keep a stack of Spam cans in their cupboards as a cheap source of meat and protein. Right out of the fridge and onto a sandwich can make a quick, easy meal.

And there are of course the die-hard Spam enthusiasts who will proudly eat it chilled or warm, in just about any preparation you can imagine. There’s even an annual Spam Museum in Austin, MN celebrating all things Spam and featuring Spam-eating contests.

How Other Countries Eat Cold Spam

Spam is popular well beyond the United States and Hawaii. Here’s a look at how some other cultures around the world consume cold Spam right from the can:

South Korea

In Korea, cold Spam cut into strips is a common topping for kimbap (seaweed rice rolls). It is also diced into kimchi fried rice. The salty meatiness pairs well with spicy Korean dishes.


Filipinos adore Spam and it often makes an appearance at celebrations and gatherings. Chilled sliced Spam on a stick is a popular appetizer to snack on.


On the Micronesian island, Spam served straight from the fridge with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and lemon is a favorite local dish called Spam taquitos or Spam chucks.

United Kingdom

In the UK, cold canned Spam is sometimes added cubed or sliced into quiche, toasties, potato salad, and sandwiches for an extra salty, meaty punch.

Clearly Spam holds a special place in the cuisines of many cultures beyond the United States. Its unique flavor and convenience make it perfect for cold preparations.

Should Spam Be Refrigerated Once Opened?

An opened can of Spam will stay safe at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. However, for best quality and taste, it is recommended to store opened Spam in the refrigerator.

Keeping Spam chilled once open will slow bacteria growth and maintain its flavor. The sodium and preservatives allow it to last unrefrigerated, but its high fat content means it can still spoil eventually in warmer temperatures.

Refrigerating unused portions of opened Spam in an airtight container maximizes freshness and shelf life. Reheating cold fridge-stored Spam before eating is recommended for improved texture and taste.

How Long Does Opened Spam Last in the Fridge?

According to the USDA, an opened can of Spam will last for 3-5 weeks in the refrigerator. Make sure to discard any Spam that shows signs of spoilage like sliminess, stickiness, or an unpleasant smell.

Properly stored, refrigerated Spam stays fresh for about a month after opening. This makes it easy to open a can and eat it gradually over time.

Can You Freeze Opened Canned Spam?

Yes, leftover Spam can be frozen to extend its shelf life even further. To freeze, place small airtight packs of remaining Spam from the can in freezer bags or containers. It will keep for 2-3 months in the freezer.

Thaw frozen Spam overnight in the fridge before using. Reheat to 165°F or until hot and steaming before eating.

Final Thoughts

Spam has earned its place as a unique, versatile canned meat with a nostalgic appeal, and for Spam lovers, eating it straight from the fridge is an acceptable, enjoyable method. While cooking it is ideal, chilling helps make its high salt and fat content more palatable. Spam can be eaten cold by itself or in countless creative recipes that highlight its distinctive savory taste.

Make sure to limit intake and refrigerate after opening to reduce any potential health risks. This iconic canned classic has become a popular pantry staple for quick, easy protein the world over. So go ahead, grab a can, slice it up, and enjoy this tasty, quirky meat!

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