The 35-year-old man was detained after he tried to slip out of a Bilbao supermarket with 16 packets of ham about his person.
When security staff challenged him, the culinarily-challenged thief then turned violent, 20 Minutos reported on Monday.
The Basque Department of Security said the incident took place at half past four on Saturday afternoon.
A cop on foot patrol saw the hungry criminal sprinting across Bilbao's Plaza Zabalburu with a security guard in hot pursuit.
The officer then rushed to intercept the ham-loving criminal at which point another nearby policeman joined the chase.
Once caught, the man was transferred to a local police station.
Spanish media did not report on what food the thief could expect to receive while being held.