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This Vegan Tofu “Spam” Musubi is a totally meat-free swap for savory spam and rice musubi made with a teriyaki marinade, firm tofu, and nori for the classic musubi look.
If you grew up eating spam like me, you’re going to love this vegan take on spam musubi.
To this day, I don’t know what spam is really made of (nor do I want to), but I ate it ALL the time as a kid. I’m part Japanese and also part Korean, so I grew up with a lot of spam around me. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that spam contains some not-so-great-for-you ingredients. Ultimately, it has to be one of the most highly-processed meat products out there.
Because I prefer to eat less processed food and no meat these days, I thought it was time to reimagine one of my favorite childhood dishes. This take on vegan spam musubi is every bit as savory, salty and umami-packed as what I ate growining up. It just happens to be healthy, light and vegan at the same time. Win-win!
What is Spam Musubi?
Spam musubi is a Hawiian snack. It was popularized in the US by Japanese Americans.
O-mosubi (おむすび) is a rice ball wrapped in a strip of seaweed (nori). It’s sometimes stuffed with a filling of meat, fish or vegetables. Other times, it’s topped with a piece of protein.
In this case, for spam musubi, the rice ball has a nice pink strip of spam on top. The spam is usually sliced, grilled and then glazed in a teriyaki sauce. Then the rice snacks are usually served with an extra brush of sauce to top. The spam on top is flavour-packed, and the rice underneath balances out some of the saltiness.
why you’ll love this vegan mutsubi with tofu
First of all, this recipe is vegan, gluten-free, oil free and refined sugar free, but full of flavour.
Secondly, most teriyaki sauce recipes are not gluten-free. But this recipe is made without gluten. It’s a great one to keep on hand to use for stir-fries, noodles and other plant proteins. And if you have leftover teriyaki sauce, feel free to brush more on top of your musubi after cooking for even more flavour.
In addition, musubi makes for a great on-the-go snack or packed lunch. If you want to make it in advance, I recommend making it the day you’ll eat it so the rice texture stays intact.
How to make vegan spam musubi
For starters, I found that tofu is the best plant-based substitute for the spam in this recipe. First, because it has a similarly firm texture. In addition, tofu is also easy to cut tofu into a spam-like shape. And while I don’t think anything will ever compare to the sodium and umami bomb that is spam and teriyaki sauce, this is the closest I’ve gotten while keeping healthy and gluten-free too.
In addition to the tofu, you’ll need short grain white rice, seasonings to make teriyaki sauce, and nori.
tips for success
The trick to making this recipe work is to nail the tofu. The bulk of the recipe focuses on getting the texture and flavour right, so give your tofu time to marinate in the seasonings.
First, make sure you’re using extra-firm tofu, not silken. It should be hard to the touch and shouldn’t fall apart when you’re working with it. This is important for texture, and shape.
Tip: if you have a tofu press, I highly recommend one! But if not, follow the tofu pressing instructions in the recipe below.
gluten-free teriyaki sauce
This teriyaki sauce recipe has a few key ingredients:
tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce alternative. However, if you prefer liquid aminos or coconut aminos, feel free. And if you’re not allergic to gluten, feel free to use conventional soy sauce.
liquid smoke adds a touch of smokiness to the marinade that tastes like grilling outdoors without the fire. Of course, you can omit the liquid smoke if you prefer.
arrowroot or cornstarch help thicken up the sauce. These are both naturally gluten-free and help give more body to your marinade. As a result, it turns into more of a glaze when you cook the tofu.
maple syrup. Because the sauce needs a bit of sweetness, I like maple syrup for its more complete flavors. However, coconut sugar or even brown sugar will also work well.
can I use store-bought terikayi marinade?
Certainly, if you’d rather keep things simple and marinate your tofu “spam” in your favorite store brand of teriyaki sauce, then go for it!
more favorite Japanese recipes to try
Finally, if you love this spam musubi recipe, then try these other vegan Japanese recipes next:
Slice tofu into spam sized pieces. I started by cutting the block of tofu in half (to create two wider blocks, not longer blocks, if that makes sense!). Press the tofu using a tofu press, or allowing to sit, sandwiched between paper towels and a heavy book on top for pressure. Press for about 20-30 minutes, or longer if possible! This allows for better texture and more water to be released.
Once tofu is pressed, slice into pieces about an inch thick, and shape rectangles into spam shape, roughly 2 inches by 4 inches and round off the corners if desired.
Prepare the teriyaki sauce by whisking together all sauce ingredients and allow tofu to marinate in the sauce. Again, the longer the better, for maximum flavour absorption! I recommend at least 30 minutes to an hour, but if you’d like to, you can also let sit in the fridge overnight.
When tofu is ready, you can choose to pan fry tofu with any remaining sauce, until golden brown, and all the sauce is absorbed. Otherwise, you can bake at 375F in the oven on a nonstick baking mat for about 10 minutes on each side, brushing with leftover marinade as you flip.
Prepare nori strips by cutting into strips about 2 inches wide, and prepare rice by tossing in a large bowl with sesame seeds and a pinch of salt. Use a spatula to toss, being careful not to break the rice grains or mush the rice.
To assemble, take about 1/2-2/3 cup of rice and using your hands, press together firmly with moist hands to form an oval shape. You can also use a form/mold to do this. This will be your rice ball base! Top with a slice of tofu, and wrap with a nori strip. To finish, brush with any remaining sauce.
*I recommend preparing in a rice cooker for best results
Hi there, I’m Remy! Welcome to Veggiekins Blog, home to nourishing vegan + gluten-free recipes and tips to live your best balanced and holistic life. I’m a human on a mission to empower you to be well and be kind to your mind, body and soul with the healing power of plants.
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