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What is Deviled Ham?

A Kaminsky
A Kaminsky

When a food is considered deviled, it is typically prepared to be either spicy, rich, or both at once. Deviled ham is certainly one of the best known deviled foods, but others include deviled eggs, deviled crabs, and deviled shrimp. Foods are made deviled by adding spices and peppers to create the desired flavor; while dozens of recipes exist for making deviled hams, many cooks do not follow an exact recipe, but instead add spices and peppers to the ham until they feel the taste is correct. The specialized ham was originally meant to be a meat spread, but some other popular uses include serving it as a dip or using it as filling in tiny pastry shells served as hors d'oeuvres.


Dollops of deviled ham on crackers.
Dollops of deviled ham on crackers.

In the late 1860s, the William Underwood Company created a meat spread after tinkering with ham and various spice recipes; this became the first known creation of deviled ham. After tweaking the recipe, the product was eventually ready for mass-production. By 1870, the company was granted a trademark on their little red devil logo and started turning out deviled ham in small cans. Home cooks liked the new product and soon were making their own versions of it. Today, the product can still be purchased in a can from most retail foods stores, and it is possible to make it from scratch.


A baked ham.
A baked ham.

Like many recipes, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to make deviled ham. The cook's preferences are the sole determining factors on exactly what goes into their individual deviled ham recipes. Most recipes for deviled ham include diced, baked, or canned ham as a base; many cooks feel that a well-baked ham makes a better deviled ham. The recipe then calls for spices to make the ham deviled such as scallions or green onions, sour cream, hot mustard, tarragon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and hot sauce; some cooks also add celery for extra crunch. Once enough ham, scallions, and sour cream have been mixed together to create a good texture, the rest of the ingredients are added according to taste.

Oregano can be used as a substitute for tarragon.
Oregano can be used as a substitute for tarragon.

Garlic and other herbs, such as oregano or thyme, might be substituted for the tarragon, depending on the flavor the cook is aiming for; some herbs will made the final product more or less spicy. Horseradish added to dry sherry or white wine is another popular add-in. Some cooks might even process the ham through a meat grinder for a smoother result — perhaps more suitable for sandwiches or crackers. The one thing most recipes agree on is that the deviled ham should be refrigerated for a few hours before it is eaten; this allows the flavors time to blend together.

Discussion Comments


Deviled Ham Recipe (Excellent)

1/2 pound cooked ham

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup Dijon mustard (or your favorite spicy mustard)

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a food processor, chop the ham and onion. Add mustard, mayonnaise, horseradish and cayenne. Blend well. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Serve on toast, crackers, pita, tomatoes, baked potatoes, etc.


@snowywinter: This is a good recipe for a delicious spread. It calls for 16 oz. of deviled ham, 1 tbsp. of minced onion, ½ tsp. powdered garlic, 2/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard and 1 ½ tbsp. relish. Mix all of the ingredients together. It’s really good to spread on bread with melted cheese.


@snowywinter: I like to make a deviled ham ball. It is very simple and delicious. Take an 8 oz. package of cream cheese, a small can of deviled ham, and finely chopped parsley. Let the cream cheese soften and then mix it with the deviled ham. Refrigerate it until firm and roll it into a ball. Roll it in the parsley and it is ready to serve. It’s good on Ritz crackers.


Is deviled ham eaten by itself or do you mix it into a spread?


I always liked it as a quick sandwich spread. If you don't like spicy meats so much you can always try Potted Meat instead. It's not spicy but isn't ham, usually a chicken/beef mix.

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    • Dollops of deviled ham on crackers.
      By: MSPhotographic
      Dollops of deviled ham on crackers.
    • A baked ham.
      By: monticellllo
      A baked ham.
    • Oregano can be used as a substitute for tarragon.
      By: Taiga
      Oregano can be used as a substitute for tarragon.
    • Black pepper is usually included in deviled hams.
      By: kellyschulz
      Black pepper is usually included in deviled hams.
    • Some cooks add celery to deviled ham for its crunchy texture.
      By: andersphoto
      Some cooks add celery to deviled ham for its crunchy texture.
    • Sour cream is an ingredient in deviled ham.
      By: dream79
      Sour cream is an ingredient in deviled ham.