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I tried Figgy Pudding Spam, and it’s something of a surprise

Is it fig-flavored ham or ham-flavored figs? I've got answers.
Spam’s new holiday flavor: Is the proof in the figgy pudding?
Spam’s new holiday flavor: Is the proof in the figgy pudding?Figgy Pudding Spam / Hormel Foods

My fellow Americans, I come to you today with a message, glad tidings for our aching nation. After years of political turmoil, pandemic and economic hardship, a new hero has arisen just in time for the holiday season. Time-honored, briny and brazenly unfashionable, it is both a proud veteran and a feminist icon. With nods to holiday food traditions all around the world, from the Pacific Rim to merry old England, its many layers of flavors are matched only by the proud diversity of our nation’s populace itself.  

It’s Hormel’s Figgy Pudding Spam. 

Figgy Pudding Spam comes bedecked with holiday spices from around the world. Yes, I have photographed it with chile pequin instead of holly. Give me a break; it was 90 F here last week.
Figgy Pudding Spam comes bedecked with holiday spices from around the world. Yes, I have photographed it with chile pequin instead of holly. Give me a break; it was 90 F here last week.Spam Brand / Hormel Foods

A Spam Brand spokesperson tells me that 12.8 cans of Spam are consumed every second, so if you want to try this one, you’d better act fast. Although they plan to continue the tradition of holiday flavors in future seasons, Hormel’s limited time festive flavor is available only from, and while supplies last. It retails two 12-ounce tins for about $10.

It is not Spammy figgy pudding; I checked. The first ingredient is still allegedly pork. The second, though, is sugar, followed closely by flavorings of ... comfort and joy? Do they mean like, instant pudding? Does this refer to literal figs? Americans typically have no idea, except for some vague notion that we’re supposed to ask for it whilst caroling. The version from the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” has varied over time, but in general, it really is a pudding in the British English sense, a dessert, and it really does have figs in it. (Spam hilariously leans in with an animated video for the song, updated to wish you a "figgy Christmas" and "SPAM®-tastic New Year." The stylistic nod to the old Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special and a casual reference to porcine cannibalism are not to be missed.)

The earliest recipes for “Fygey” are so old they have to be translated into modern English to be understood, and they result in a super-dense cake of ground almonds, spices, brandy and a metric ton of raisins in addition to figs. The texture resembles lightly cured plaster of Paris. Later recipes added things like breadcrumbs, wheat flour, eggs and a solid animal fat called suet. If you’ve ever had fruitcake, it’s not entirely dissimilar, except that it’s boiled or steamed instead of baked. Many recipes instruct us to douse it in brandy and leave it to sit for four to six weeks, then douse it in more brandy and light it on fire.

So, let’s open a can — and light a match.

Figgy Pudding Spam
Behold, holiday tradition incarnate, made (ugh) flesh.Heather Martin

It just smells like ham, and then spice, and then spiced ham. Not bad, but it’s not going to win a beauty contest any time soon. Still, I’m relieved to see it doesn’t contain whole raisins. The can notes cheerfully that Spam is fully cooked and ready-to-eat “hot or cold," but I’m a coward. A lot of people love it as a cold spread, but in my opinion, Spam needs frying to give a smidge of texture to an otherwise uniformly pasty slab. has a few suggested recipes to showcase its new Yuletide monster, such as cubed kebabs with red onions and figs, or a Figgy Pudding Spam Dutch baby pancake, but I just don’t feel those quite live up to the horrifying retro recipe potential. There are so many possibilities! A 1960s Wham Spam Pie would puree it into a quiche, but I’m not sure these flavors would work with that much egg. Perhaps an iconic musubi? Spam’s Festive Musubi recipe would certainly be seasonal, but I’m concerned the cranberry sauce and nori would compete with the, um, subtle flavors. Spam ‘n’ Limas baked in a tomato-lard sauce would ... on second thought, I don’t think even I could stomach that one. Let’s start with the holiday classic recipe of many a yesteryear: Baked Spam. 

Figgy Pudding Spam
Baked Spam for the holidays: When in doubt, stick cloves in it.Heather Martin

It’s scored, glazed, studded with cloves and baked. I’ll keep the glaze unseasoned to let the fundamental nature of the “figgy” shine through. If you’d like to try this simplified version yourself, carefully cut a crosshatch with a long, sharp knife, starting on the diagonals and then at roughly half-inch intervals. Press in cloves at the intersections, pour on 2 teaspoons brown sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon of water, and bake at 375 F for 20 minutes. You can also place in an air fryer on the bake setting for six minutes. It will re-emerge all polished up.

Figgy Pudding Spam
Baked Figgy Pudding Spam looks a bit more polished than it did straight out of the can.Heather Martin

Even with the browned exterior, the inside is still very soft, which is not my personal thing. It’s heavy and fatty eaten alone, just like regular Spam. To my surprise, however, the spices are balanced well with each other and the ham flavor alike. It’s actually difficult for me to identify the spices. That’s not a criticism — they’re warm and complex. I paid close attention to a few bites, and eventually I picked out ginger, cinnamon, a deep frutiness that could be fig or raisin, and a citrus peel note. When contacted, Spam specified nutmeg, clove and allspice as well, and confirmed the fig and orange, true to its historical figgy-pudding roots. Want to know what this tastes like without doing the deed yourself? Imagine eating ham, except that it’s squishy. And now imagine that it’s flavored faintly like boiled fruitcake. Squishy boiled fruitcake ham is not as bad as it sounds. It would work with the maple syrup suggested for serving in Spam's Dutch baby, for example. Still, I can’t help feeling it’s not the final frontier.

It’s time to break out the Spam Birds recipe.

Developed at a time when many food ingredients were rationed due to World War II, the Spam Birds recipe was designed to use less meat than other entrees by wrapping thin slices of Spam toothpicked around a tablespoon of stuffing and frying. The magazine ads featuring the recipe often made mention of “stretching points” — making those precious ration card allotments last for more dinners. All at once, I am repulsed by a macabre and ultra-processed mockery of stuffed poultry, and impressed by the cheerful ingenuity and shared patriotism of the culinary time. It’s my fervent hope that we can find that common purpose as a nation again. And to that end, I give you Figgy Pudding Spam Birds. I’m going to say the Pledge of Allegiance and take a bite, with my hand over my heart.

Figgy Pudding Spam
Spam birds stretched wartime ration points by letting a thin slice of all-meat cuboid stand in for a bone-in pigeon or game hen. Waving flag not included.Heather Martin

The texture is vastly improved by frying over a broad surface and stuffing with crispy bits of bread. The little bite from chunks of celery and onion are a welcome respite from the heavy fattiness of ham paste. The flavor, hand to heaven, is pretty good. Especially if crisped up, it would work in a plethora of recipes instead of chopped ham or bacon bits, adding some traditional winter flavor without stomping over your grandmother’s recipe collection like Godzilla through Santa’s Village.

So give thanks, America. If all these flavors can not only meld together in harmony, but actually improve on the original formula, so can we.