Abstract The influence of biogenic amines (i.e. putrescine, cadaverine, spermidine and spermine) on the N-nitrosamine formation in heated cured lean meat was studied in the presence or absence of sodium nitrite and at different meat processing temperatures. Experimental evidence was produced using gas chromatography with thermal energy analysis detection (GC–TEA). Concentration of N-nitrosamines was modelled as a function of the temperature and the nitrite concentration for two situations, i.e. presence or absence of added biogenic amines to the meat. The significance of the influence of the changing parameters was evaluated by ANOVA (Analysis of Variance). It was found that higher processing temperatures and higher added amounts of sodium nitrite increase the yields of N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosopiperidine (NPIP). Spermidine and putrescine amplify the formation of NDMA, but spermine and cadeverine do not influence the formation of this N-nitrosamine. Spermidine and cadeverine cause a significant increase of NPIP. Beside N-nitrosopyrrolidine (NPYR) in some rare cases, no other volatile N-nitrosamines are detected.