Put your leftover holiday ham to great use in the best ham salad recipe! Make a ham salad sandwich or ham spread for crackers as an easy appetizer. So easy and so delicious!
If you grew up in the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, chances are you’ve had ham salad. Or if you’re like me, born and raised in California, you had a friend or college roommate from the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic, who made you try it. And life is better off for it!
What is Ham Salad?
Ham salad is a popular recipe that resembles chicken salad and tuna salad. The main ingredient is (cold) ham, of course, and is mixed with chopped up vegetables and relish, then combined with a mayonnaise dressing. The ham is either ground up or diced, then used as a spread for crackers or used on bread for a ham salad sandwich.
As mentioned, the first time I ever had it was in college. The second (third, fourth, fifth – you get it – times) were all while I lived in Minnesota. It almost always made an appearance at baby showers and luncheons, served on crackers or slider rolls with a little lettuce. And I would unashamedly eat my weight in it.
Ham Salad Recipe Variations
There are a few variations for ham salad, starting with the texture and also the mix-ins.
- Ham salad is traditionally made in a meat grinder, but I don’t have one of those, so I just use my food processor. I like the texture somewhere in-between paste-like and chunky, but you can make it smooth as pâté, if you prefer.
- My recipe calls for 1-2 hard boiled eggs (thus the name Deviled Ham Salad), which adds another layer of flavor and are a great way to use up leftover Easter eggs, but they can easily be omitted without the recipe suffering. I highly recommend you leave them in, though!
- While dill pickle relish has my heart, I actually think sweet relish is the way to go here. The sweetness from the relish gives great balance to the salty ham. But you can certainly use dill pickle relish, if that’s your preference.
- The only way I’ve ever had ham salad is with sweet pickle relish, minced onion, and diced celery, but my understanding is the very original recipe didn’t include any of those items. I can’t even imagine it tasting as good!
- Ground up bologna or Spam can replace the ham, I’m told, but I’ve never tried either.
- Once everything is blended, you should end up with about 3-4 cups of the ground mixture, which will make about 10 sandwiches or enough appetizer spread for a decent sized crowd.
- My ham always has plenty of salt, so I don’t ever add any extra or it would be too much. Give it a taste before serving and adjust the salt to your liking.
- This tastes best if you let it sit in the fridge for at least a few hours before serving, so all the flavors can meld.
How to Store Leftovers
Ham Salad is typically chilled, either on crackers or as a ham salad sandwich. Since it contains mayonnaise, it should not be left out any longer than 2 hours.
- To Store: Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Can you freeze ham salad? I wouldn’t recommend freezing ham salad. The mayonnaise tends to separate leaving a less than desirable texture and taste once it’s thawed.
One of my very favorite reasons for serving a ham on Christmas and Easter is for the leftovers so I can make ham balls and this deviled ham recipe. The other 363 days of the year, I just buy a pre-packaged thick ham steak, which also gets the job done!
Watch Ham Salad Being Made
Other Recipes Using Leftover Ham
Deviled Ham Salad
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless cooked ham (leftover or purchased thick slab, trimmed of fat, and diced – about 5 cups)
- 1-2 hard boiled eggs , sliced or rough chopped
- 1 stalk celery , diced
- 2 tablespoons diced onion
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish (drained and blotted with a paper towel to remove moisture)
- assorted crackers and soft rolls , for serving
- Put the ham, egg, celery, onion, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor.
- Pulse (short, quick pulses) 20-25 times to mince.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, and sweet pickle relish.
- Add the minced ham mixture to the bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Cover and chill for several hours for optimal flavor.
- Serve as sandwiches on soft rolls or as a spread on crackers for an appetizer.