These 21 creative ways to make the Hawaiian staple musubi — with and without Spam — guarantee you’ll never be bored again
Healthier, better-tasting meals are easier than you think with help from Yummly! Try it free now.
Tofu "Spam" Musubi from La Fuji Mama
I grew up eating all sorts of Korean kimbap and California rolls, so I’m no stranger to savory, protein-filled, seaweed-wrapped rice balls. But it wasn’t until the pandemic that I discovered the endless joys of musubi — Spam musubi, to be exact.
In Hawaii, Spam musubi is cheap, ubiquitous and beloved. There, it’s 7-11, gas station, grocery store, and school lunch fare. But I spent most of my adult life oblivious to it.
Then, inspired by an episode of Munchies on Sheldon Simeon from the restaurant Tin Roof in Maui, my brother bought a mold and started making musubi in the traditional way: cooked rice and Spam cooked in soy, sugar, and mirin, wrapped in nori.
Then, he got weird.
Then, the whole family got involved.
Like Chef Simeon says, “The musubi is a blank canvas.” So, the last time my brother and I got together, along with our families, there was a huge platter of classic Spam musubi, Spam and avocado, panko-fried Spam and avocado, Spam and leftover mac n’ cheese, panko-fried Spam and leftover mac n’ cheese, and various other iterations layered with sliced raw jalapeño, or tossed with cilantro and green onion. They were enjoyed, equally, by the 3-year-old and the 30-somethings. We’ve since made musubi with linguica, hot dogs, Japanese fried fish cake (the kind with the veggies), and crab-like surimi and avocado (Verdict? A little wet).
And in the magical world of modern musubi, it feels like we’re just getting started.
Jump ahead to:
Note: The Yummly Meal Planner is available to paid subscribers.
New to musubi? Get the lowdown here, then head to the kitchen.
What is musubi?
Simply put, Musubi is a type of seaweed-wrapped rice ball, like omusubi or onigiri. But musubi — and in particular, Spam musubi — is most recognizable by its distinctive rectangular shape.
Barbara Funamura, owner of the Joni-Hana restaurant in Po’ipu, Kaua’i, is credited with inventing Spam musubi in the 1980s. At first, her invention had a more traditional triangular shape, with chopped Spam stuffed inside. But then she placed a grilled slice of Spam on top of rice, and wrapped the rectangular shape in nori — and Spam musubi as we know it today was born.
How to make Spam musubi
The genius of Spam musubi is in its utter simplicity. Open a can of Spam and slice it into 6 to 8 rectangles. Cut strips of nori to the same width — roughly into thirds. Fry the slices of Spam in a sweet soy-based sauce, until the edges are crisp. Then, using a musubi mold placed over the nori sheets, layer in warm, sticky, short-grain rice (No vinegar! This isn’t sushi rice), season the rice with furikake or sesame seeds, place the Spam on top, press, and roll. (I like an additional layer of rice, but to each her own.)
How to make Spam musubi sauce
This is where you get to be creative. At heart, you’re creating a sweet, sticky shoyu sauce to glaze the Spam.
A solid no-recipe recipe is to heat equal parts soy sauce and sugar in the pan. But people go wild with mirin, oyster sauce, honey, teriyaki sauce, or whatever soy- or tamari-based concoction they have in the fridge. As with so many other aspects of musubi, there are no rules.
How to make Spam musubi without a mold
The whole point of Spam musubi is that you have all you need right there in your hand. Just remove the top and bottom of the empty can of Spam to shape and mold your rice.
But if that feels too Depression-era, you can buy an assortment of acrylic molds with the same shape — and far better aesthetics. Musubi molds run less than $10 on the internet, and are often cheaper if you happen to have a great Asian market nearby.
How to store musubi
Musubi is best eaten right then and there. Like all things wrapped in nori, time (and moisture) is the enemy.
That said, musubi is ideal on-the-go food, and it travels well enough in plastic wrap. Just wrap it tight, keep it room temp. If you must refrigerate, zap the musubi in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds before eating.
How long does musubi last?
According to the Internet, musubi can last 3 to 4 days in the fridge. But that’s strictly theoretical, right? Who has musubi leftovers that long?
What does TikTok say?
Whenever a retro food goes viral, you can blame TikTok. And for Spam musubi, TikTok has this to say: You don’t actually need a musubi mold. Go mega instead.
(More or less) traditional Spam musubi recipes
There is more than one way to musubi, which is why it’s so fun. Even the more traditional recipes have slight variations — mostly the sauce.
Favorite Family Recipes adds oyster sauce for some extra depth to the traditional combo of sugar and soy.
Eating Richly embraces the well-rounded flavor of honey, plus rice vinegar, for some tang.
Hippie Food Mom sticks with mirin and light brown sugar.
Balance with Jess adds delicately shaped scrambled egg patties to the musubi stack, great for that pop of yellow, and additional taste and texture. Similar flavor-wise to a traditional Japanese omelet, Jess adds sugar and mirin to the recipe. But instead of whisking these two ingredients into the eggs, she adds them to the pan with the Spam.
I Am a Food Blog takes it one step further, layering in avocado and even arugula. Here, the egg is simply fried, which gives you the added texture of runny yolk. Mike and Steph make them without a mold, but you can do however you please.
Veggie musubi recipes
Spam is the antithesis of vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean musubi is off the menu for the veggie-minded.
Tofu is a no-duh stand-in for Spam. In this recipe from La Fuji Mama, pressed extra-firm tofu is bathed in a mixture of vegetable broth, tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, tomato paste, mirin, fresh ginger, and garlic, then baked.
Karma Free Cooking uses teriyaki eggplant to great effect.
In this version, a protein product called Omnipork — a blend of non-GMO soy, peas, shiitake mushrooms, and rice — takes the place of Spam.
What’s better than tofu? Tofu done katsu-style.
Crunchy musubi recipes
Speaking of katsu-style, if there’s anything that makes a classic musubi better, it’s some good ol’ fashioned crunch.
Here, the Spam is panko-coated just like the classic pork cutlets. Serve slathered in Katsu sauce — like a Japanese BBQ sauce, if you’ve never had it before.
In this version, the crunch is on the outside.
There’s no Spam to be found in this version of musubi. But crisp fried chicken is nothing to turn your nose up at.
Decidedly non-traditional musubi recipes
There's nothing boring about these super fun musubi recipes, stuffed with personality, humor, and deliciousness.
This is a bold Hawaiian food mash-up: Spam musubi meets Loco Moco, an only-in-Hawaii concoction of hamburger meat, fried eggs, and gravy.
These sweet and savory beauties remind me a little of Korean kimbap, which my mom would make with hot dogs, takuan, spinach, and carrots.
I have two thoughts: One, who has the time? And two, OMG so cute.
Calling this musubi is perhaps a stretch, but it is an amalgamation of some of my favorite things, including kimchi and puff pastry.
Couple Eats Food calls this next-level concoction their “Asian/Hawaiian take on the popular corn dog.”
A natural evolution of Spam and egg musubi — place it between hash browns, instead of rice.
Omusubi for the masses
By now, it should be obvious that musubi is just omusubi or onigiri in a rectangle. The same concept and flavors do great in the more familiar triangle shape. Feel free to put these in a musubi maker and call it a day.
Fun fact: I frequent the L.A. omusubi shop, Sunny Blue, where this recipe is from. Don’t sleep on this one; it’s a keeper.
Triangular omusubi is ideal for less sturdy proteins like canned tuna.
All Day I Eat is here for all your traditional omusubi needs.
More food that's fun to eat
Noodles, much like musubi, definitely check the box for food entertainment.