Spam is a salty and savory processed luncheon meat made from ham which became popular in American and Polynesian culture during WWII and into the present day. My vegan, compassionate version is made from vital wheat gluten, tofu and select seasonings. Typically, Spam is sliced or diced and pan-fried until golden brown and crisp around the edges. Like Spam, Gentle Spam can be used as a luncheon meat or used in a variety of recipes in place of ham.
This recipe requires a total of 5 ounces/200 grams of pressed and thoroughly blotted extra-firm tofu (weighed after pressing). Typically, ½ block of commercial extra-firm tofu will yield 5 ounces/200 grams after pressing and blotting.
The recipe also requires a food processor; a pressure cooker (e.g., Instant Pot) or conventional steamer; and a square or rectangular silicone or metal mold which will hold at least 2 cups of liquid (molds used for preparing vegan cheese are ideal). Do not use plastic or glass!
A scant amount (⅛ teaspoon) of red food color is used to simulate the nitrate-pink color of the product. Regrettably, natural red pigments won’t work. If you’d rather not use artificial red food color (FD&C red, which is derived from petroleum, not animals), simply omit, although the finished product will be brown in color. You can add 1 teaspoon of paprika for color, although this will produce an orange hue.
• 1 cup (240 ml) water
• 3 oz/85 grams pressed and crumbled extra-firm tofu (not silken tofu)
• 4 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes
• 4 teaspoons organic sugar
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1½ teaspoon garlic powder
• 1¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
• 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted (not virgin oil)
• 1 tablespoon tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 teaspoons hickory liquid smoke (or less if sensitive to smoke flavor)
• Optional for pink color: ⅛ teaspoon red food color (FD&C)
• 1 cup (140 grams) vital wheat gluten (scooped and leveled)
• 2 oz/60 grams pressed and finely crumbled extra-firm tofu (not silken tofu)
• ¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon onion powder
In a small bowl, toss the marbling tofu bits with the salt and onion powder. Set aside.
In a food processor, add ½ of the water, the 3 ounces of crumbled tofu, and the remaining processor ingredients except for the gluten. Process until liquefied.
Add the gluten and the remaining water and process for 1 full minute or until the dough comes together. Add the marbling tofu bits and pulse a few times until dispersed through the dough.
Pressure Cooker: Add 2 to 3 cups of water to the pressure cooker and put the trivet in place. Cook on manual high for 1 hour. Turn off the cooker and let the steam pressure naturally release for 30 minutes – do not open release valve to release pressure! After cooking, remove the container from the cooker; let cool in the mold with the foil in place and then chill to firm and enhance texture before slicing and frying.
Conventional Steamer with Basket: Steam the container over boiling water on high heat with the lid in place for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Check occasionally to replace water lost to evaporation with very hot water. Do not let boil dry! After cooking, remove the container from the steamer; let cool in the mold with the foil in place and then chill to firm and enhance texture before slicing and frying.
A Hawaiian favorite, vegan- style. Gentle Spam Musubi consists of pan-grilled Gentle Spam over sticky rice, wrapped in nori seaweed and topped with crispy garlic chili sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Hawaiian Spam Loco Moco is an island breakfast favorite. My compassionate version consists of pan-grilled Gentle Spam over sticky rice with brown vegan gravy and chopped scallions, and topped with a sunnyside-up “egg” (from my new digital cookbook What’s Cookin’ Too)