Why You Should Always Make Your Own Ham Glaze—Plus 4 Simple Recipes to Try

These simple, flavorful glazes are so much better than the packet that comes with a ham.

honey glazed spiral ham on platter
Photo: Chris Simpson

Have you ever wondered how the picture-perfect baked ham you see in food magazines gets its glossy varnish? It's through a glaze, which is a sauce that gets applied to meat and vegetables either before or during the cooking process and is allowed to caramelize into a sweet and slightly sticky coating.

Ham is the perfect savory canvas on which to use a sticky-sweet glaze. In addition to imbuing the meat with flavor, a glaze will also provide a stunning presentation—and with hardly any effort on your part.

What Makes a Great Glaze?

At its most basic, a glaze for ham needs to have a good amount of sweetener involved. This is so the sugars can caramelize and form a delicious crust over the ham. But a glaze with just sweetener will taste too saccharine and one-note, which is why we recommend ditching the pack of glaze that comes with your store-bought ham and making your own instead.

Like most sauces and dressings, there's a formula involved with making a great glaze. In addition to a sweetener like brown sugar or maple syrup, an acidic ingredient along with an aromatic will add complexity and depth to the mixture. This is a good time to turn to pantry-powerhouses such as apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard.

Get Your Glaze On

Most hams are sold fully cooked and only need to be reheated. And the best way to reheat a cooked ham is to cover it to prevent it from drying out in the oven, but this leads to the issue of the glaze never caramelizing and crisping. Luckily, there are two possible ways to get that signature burnished glaze: Either apply the glaze towards the end of cooking and then let the ham bake uncovered, or apply it in the beginning and simply uncover the ham once it has reached the last stage of baking.

Recipes to Ham it Up

Now that you know the essential formula, use one of our recipes to make a tasty glaze the next time you bake a ham for the holidays.

01 of 04

Pineapple-Mustard-Glazed Ham

sliced ham

Impart a tropical vibe on your Christmas or Easter ham this year by whipping up this recipe that uses fresh pineapple in its glaze. The warm spice of cloves and the boldness of the whole-grain mustard keep this glaze balanced in both the sweet and the savory categories.

02 of 04

Easy Barbecue Glaze


Bring ham into the summer cookout menu with this super easy glaze that is as tangy as your favorite barbecue sauce. Who says ham can't be a new July 4th tradition? Actually, we think this glaze works pretty much any time.

03 of 04

Apricot-Bourbon Glazed Ham

apricot bourbon glazed ham
Romolo Yanes

This Southern-style glaze simmers together Bourbon whiskey and apricot jam for a smoky and tangy holiday treat.

04 of 04

Chipotle-Lime Glaze

chipotle lime glaze

If the crowd you are feeding is the more adventurous type and can handle a little kick, then this zippy chipotle-lime glaze is a must-try on your holiday ham. Orange marmalade is the sticky sweetener, giving the glaze a bold citrus theme. The heat comes courtesy of the liquid from canned chipotle chiles in adobo. Just be sure to triple the recipe so you will have enough to coat the large surface area of the ham.

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