I see it as a parental obligation to expose my kids to stuff that I know they might not like (tuna melts!). The last thing I want is to coddle them into thinking that every dinner is custom-made to their liking.
And sometimes, Dad is in the mood for something left-of-center and delicious. And on those nights they will just have to suck it up and try SPAM tacos!
While some people might have an initial aversion to this pink canned meat, if cooked and paired correctly, it can be really good. So, let’s do those things and eat great tacos while we feed our kids something entirely different as they boycott the family dinner.
What Is SPAM, Exactly?
SPAM is a precooked, canned pork that is pretty similar to ham, actually. If you look on the SPAM can, it only has six ingredients: cooked pork, salt, water, potato starch (to keep it moist), sugar, and sodium nitrite (a common preservative).
SPAM gained popularity during World War II and has continued to be popular in many countries. It has lost some of its popularity in the U.S., but recently it’s having a comeback. In Hawaii, especially, you can find some delicious SPAM dishes, including many versions of SPAM sushi!
SPAM Is Perfect for Tacos
I’m not sure that the creators of SPAM even knew about tacos, but they made something that is very delicious in taco form.
SPAM is rich and almost creamy. It can be overpowering in large quantities, but cooking it in small strips and pairing it with acidic, sweet, and spicy flavors balances out its richness.
To cut that richness in these tacos, I paired the SPAM with pineapple, red peppers, and crunchy green cabbage. All of those things are featured in these tacos for a reason!
Also, spicy foods go well with crispy SPAM, which is where the Dad Add comes in below.
Do You Need to Cook SPAM?
SPAM is precooked and you can eat it right out of the can with a spoon. But, like...don’t. Please don’t.
SPAM tastes much better when it’s cooked, and is especially good when it is thin, crispy, and served with other stuff. Like—you know—in a taco.
How to Assemble SPAM Tacos
These are super simple tacos to make. The key is to cook your SPAM first so it has time to get crispy.
Remove the meat from the can and slice it into matchsticks about 1/4-inch in thickness. Add those to a skillet with some olive oil and cook them over medium-high heat until they get crispy, which takes about 10 minutes.
Then remove the SPAM strips and add the pineapple and red pepper. You want the fruit and vegetables to take on some color, but don’t cook them down into oblivion. Some crunch is good.
Finally, toss the SPAM strips back into the pan, and mix everything together. Assemble your tacos with flour tortillas, sour cream, crunchy cabbage, queso fresco, and cilantro. YUM.
How to Store Leftovers
If you have leftover filling or you want to make this in advance, you definitely can. Store it in the fridge in an airtight container.
I wouldn’t recommend microwaving the filling for reheating though. It can seriously explode. Instead, reheat the filling in a skillet over medium heat to keep the SPAM crispy.
The Dad Add: Habañero Guacamole!
This is dynamite guacamole. Habañeros are spicy but also have nice fruity flavors which go well with the SPAM. This is definitely not a family-friendly guac though. It’s pretty spicy!
Be careful when handling habañero peppers. I recommend using gloves or, at a minimum, be sure to wash your hands and cutting surfaces after you finish working with them, and before moving on to the next task.
My favorite version of these tacos involves a very light smear of sour cream and a heavy dollop of this guacamole, followed by the cabbage, SPAM filling, and toppings. YUM.
The Kid Report Card
Well, this went as expected. My kids have zero experience with SPAM. They didn’t know that it can sometimes have a bad rap. But they still didn’t touch it.
In the above photo, I tried to capture my 4-year-old who kept chanting, “I want the black meat! I want the black meat!” It took me a very long time to figure out he was talking about ground beef, my normal taco meat.
I am not sure I would describe it as “black meat,” but that’s what it’s called now in our family! (Next up on Eat Your Food: BLACK MEAT TACOS!)
No, but seriously, my kids had chicken noodle soup for dinner that night.
And yes. They are wearing pajamas because it was PJ day at school. I was not trying to feed them SPAM tacos at 7 in the morning.
That said, I stick by my goal of serving my kids things that are outside of their comfort zone. And these tacos are super delicious, so they are going to have to suffer through them again and again. And maybe one day they will try them and hop on board the SPAM train with me!
5 More Tacos to Try!
Hawaiian SPAM Tacos with Pineapple
If making the Dad Add: When dealing with habañero peppers, be very careful. They are very spicy. I recommend using gloves to help protect your hands and a separate cutting board. If you don’t do that, be sure to wash your hands immediately after to avoid any cross-contamination.
- Dad Add: Habañero Guacamole
- 1 habañero pepper, seeded and minced
- 1/4 cup minced red onion
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
- 1 lime, juice only
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large ripe avocados
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 (12-ounce) container SPAM, sliced into matchsticks
- 2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped
- 1 red pepper, sliced into matchsticks
- 1/2 head of green cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
- 4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
- 1 cup sour cream
- Fresh cilantro, garnish
- 12 small flour tortillas
Make the Dad Add Habañero Guacamole:
In a medium bowl, combine minced habañero, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Mash together with a fork.
Add in ripe avocados and mash until the guacamole comes together. Some chunks are good, but it should be creamy and dippable.
Guacamole can be made a day in advance. To store it, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to slow oxidation and refrigerate.
Make the taco filling:
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and SPAM strips. Cook until strips start to get crispy and browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove strips from the skillet and add the pineapple and red peppers. Continue to cook until red peppers soften slightly and pineapple starts to turn tan in spots, another 6 to 8 minutes.
Add strips back to skillet and toss to combine. Keep warm until serving.
Assemble the tacos:
Warm tortillas by wrapping them in damp paper towels and microwaving them for 10 seconds. Then add a smear of sour cream (and/or guacamole) to each tortilla. Top with a handful of shredded cabbage, 2 to 3 strips of crispy SPAM, and seared pineapple and red pepper. Garnish the taco with queso fresco and cilantro. Serve while warm!