Can you bring food on a plane? (2023)
Can you take food on a plane? Airplane food is usually unappetizing, and some airlines these days aren’t even providing food on certain flights. Or maybe you have a dietary issue that makes it difficult to eat the standard food on offer on the flight.
There are many reasons why you might wonder about packing your own food for your flight. But this isn’t a clear cut issue, and with all the rules surrounding what you can and can’t bring on a plane, it’s understandable that many people get confused.
Keep reading for answers to the question, can you bring food on a plane?
Note: This post is written referencing TSA rules for travel from airports in the USA. Some countries may have different rules, so if you’re flying from an airport in another country, please look up the rules for the authority in that country.
Can you take food through airport security?
The biggest hurdle to taking food on a plane is security. The TSA food rules are basically about liquids. If your food is a liquid, it must follow the standard rules about liquids in carry-on luggage.
This means all liquids must be in containers that are 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller, and all containers must fit in a one quart (one liter) clear zip-top bag. Bigger containers will not be allowed, even if there is less than 3.4 ounces remaining in them.
>>Read: How Much Liquid Can I Take on a Plane?
- Peanut butter
- Jelly and jam
- Condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise
- Creamy cheeses
- Hummus and other dips and spreads
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Then there are foods that are part solid, part liquid. Chances are these will be over the limit as well, so I wouldn’t recommend packing foods like canned fruit, canned tuna, or soup.
Another gray area includes salads and sandwiches. While you can’t bring a full jar of peanut butter through security, it seems that you can bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Salads with salad dressing seem to be acceptable, as long as there isn’t so much dressing that it pools at the bottom of the container.
I haven’t found anything on the TSA website specifically talking about these kinds of foods, but my research has turned up lots of people who have done this successfully.
>>But please consider not bringing peanut-based snacks in case there are passengers near you with allergies. Read more about respecting others with your food choices towards the end of the post.
If you’re worried, scoop your spreads or pour your dressing into small containers that can go into your liquids bag and assemble your food after security. Check out these containers or these containers on Amazon.
Note: TSA may ask you to remove any food items for additional screening.
What food can you take on a plane?
Once you understand the liquids rule and how it applies to bringing food on a plane, there are actually a lot of foods and snacks that you can bring in your carry-on bag.
This is good for those of you who want something healthier to eat than the food typically sold in airports. Or even if your airline is serving food, sometimes it’s good to have something you know you’re willing to eat.
You can take almost any food on a plane, as long as it isn’t more than 3.4 ounces of liquid. So what foods make good airplane snacks?
Granola bars, nuts, trail mix, crackers, fruits and veggies are all easy and tasty snacks to bring on an airplane. Candy and chocolate aren’t healthy, but they are easy snacks to pack in your hand luggage.
If you want something a little more substantial, make a sandwich or a salad.
Since you can’t keep things cold or heat things up, make sure whatever food you pack for your flight will survive being out of the fridge for a few hours and tastes good at room temperature.
And if you don’t want to pay for that overpriced and environmentally unfriendly bottled water at the airport, you can bring your own refillable bottle.
Just make sure it’s completely empty before you go through security, and then fill it up at a water fountain or sink on the other side.
Can you take food in hand luggage if it’s frozen?
You might be wondering if you can get around the liquids restriction by freezing your liquid airplane snacks. Frozen juice, for example, is not technically a liquid.
TSA’s take on this is that if the item is completely frozen solid all the way through, you can take it through security.
But can you really keep something frozen solid in the amount of time it takes to get from your freezer at home to the security checkpoint at the airport? Probably not.
So you’re welcome to try this out, but keep in mind that TSA might decide your frozen food item isn’t 100% frozen anymore, and they can confiscate it.
This rule also applies to ice packs you might want to pack to keep your food cold. If you want to take food on a plane that requires refrigeration, an ice pack seems like a good option, until it starts melting before you reach security.
But if you plan on eating the food soon after passing through security, maybe that’s long enough to be worthwhile. This is a judgement call.
>>Read: Can you bring disinfectant wipes on a plane? Plus how to disinfect your airplane seat!
Can you take food on international flights?
Taking food on international flights can be a little more restrictive than taking it on domestic flights.
Many countries have rules about the types of food they allow passengers to bring in due to concerns with insects or diseases the food might be carrying. Usually meats, some cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and plants are restricted, but the exact details vary from one country to another.
So if you’re wondering, can you take food through customs, you need to look up the customs and agricultural rules for the country you’re traveling to. If you’re hoping to bring food back to the US, you can read some of their rules about bringing food through customs here and here.
If you simply want to take a piece of fruit on your flight to eat while on the plane, I wouldn’t worry about it. The main concern is any food you have with you when you actually land and go through customs.
I travel with granola bars to other countries all the time without a problem, but I stay away from traveling with fruit or other items that might be problematic for customs agents.
Can you take baby food, formula, or breast milk on a plane?
For those of you flying with toddlers or babies, you’re in luck. TSA has some exemptions from the liquids rules that apply to food you’re bringing on the plane for your baby or toddler.
TSA says that reasonable quantities of formula, breast milk, or juice that you’re bringing for your baby or toddler is allowed in excess of the normal 3.4 ounce rule. This also means they don’t need to be in your liquids bag.
When you get to the security checkpoint, you should tell the TSA agent that you have formula, breast milk, or juice for your baby, and remove these items from your bag to be screened separately.
The TSA website also states that you are allowed to bring reasonable quantities of baby food in your carry-on baggage. It’s worth taking this out of your bag for separate screening as well, just like with the formula or milk, and let the TSA agent know you have baby food.
The rules say that you are also allowed to bring an ice pack to keep the milk or formula cold. If the ice pack is partially melted by the time you get to security, that’s allowed too.
Your formula, milk, or juice, as well as an ice pack, might have to undergo additional security screening, so don’t be caught off guard if this happens. For more info about TSA’s procedures for traveling with children, read here.
Does your airline allow food to be brought on board?
Most airlines have no problem with you bringing your own food. But there are a few airlines, mostly low cost carriers, that say they do not allow you to bring your own food.
For example, Scoot Airlines, a low cost airline in Asia, says, “Consumption of outside food and beverages is not allowed on board.” Clearly they want you to buy theirs.
These airlines will make exceptions if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions they can’t accommodate.
But even beyond that, there’s little they can do if you pull out a granola bar mid flight. While researching this issue, it seems that most people who brought their own food on the plane with airlines like this were discreet and stuck to small snacks, not full meals.
You never want to anger the flight attendants. But if you wait until the plane is in the air, bring smaller food items, and don’t wave the food around in their faces, it is unlikely you’ll have any issues with bringing food on these kinds of flights.
Bringing food on a plane: be respectful
When taking food in your carry-on bag to eat on the plane, please be respectful of the people around you.
Stinky foods are not appreciated when you’re stuck in a confined space for several hours. Fish, certain vegetables, hard boiled eggs. These are just a few foods you should consider leaving at home out of respect for the other passengers sitting near you on the plane.
Nut allergies, especially peanut allergies, are on the rise, and even being in close proximity to peanuts can cause issues for those with allergies. Most airlines no longer serve peanuts on board, and while they can’t technically forbid you to bring peanuts on the plane, it’s highly recommended that you don’t.
Think about it, if you were highly allergic to peanuts, would you feel comfortable knowing someone a couple rows over was eating them? It’s pretty easy to simply pick a different snack.
Hopefully that answers all your questions about bringing food on a plane!
You might also enjoy:
- What to Pack For Trip: Travel Packing Checklist for Carry-On Only
- Carry On Luggage Size Chart with 170+ Airlines Worldwide
- Can you bring makeup on a plane?
- Or find answers to all your packing questions here
April 10, 2022 @ 5:08 pm
can I bring ceder for blessing purposes on the plane?
April 12, 2022 @ 11:45 am
Hi Michelle! Is ceder like the wood cedar? Wood is allowed as long as you’re not flying to another country that prohibits bringing in wood. If you are flying to another country, you’ll need to look up that country’s customs rules. For example, Australia won’t let you bring in wood products from Vietnam. But if you’re flying within the US, it should be fine.
I hope this is what you’re asking, but if I’m way off, let me know!
March 2, 2021 @ 8:43 pm
Can you bring a simple lunchable on the plane? And usually there’s a drink pouch can I bring this drink as well?
March 3, 2021 @ 9:25 am
Hi Penny! If there’s a drink pouch in it, or anything else that could be considered liquid, like applesauce, you would need to take those out and put them in your liquids bag, AND they would need to be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller.
September 11, 2020 @ 8:34 am
I sometimes shop for spices when in a new city. Can
i bring those into the cabin of the plane if they are in a glass jar?
or plastic bag?
September 13, 2020 @ 6:03 pm
Hi Madeline! Yes, spices are fine in your carry on bag. TSA has some weird rules about powders these days, so they might want you to send your powders through separately, like how you take out your liquids bag at screening. But they’re still allowed in your carry on bag, up to a certain limit. You can read more about powders in this makeup post.
July 1, 2020 @ 11:09 pm
The thing about taking food through Customs (in most countries), it must satisfy ALL of the following requirements:
1) It is ‘manufactured’ (i.e. no raw fruit/vegetables, meat, dairy, or honey)
2) It is in original Retail packaging, and unopened.
3) It has a ‘use-by’ date clearly displayed, and the item is within this date.
Do not, I repeat, do not, take the unused part of your inflight meal through customs, as they can quite picky about this as one person found when taking an apple on a Delta Airlines flight!
July 2, 2020 @ 3:08 pm
Thanks Pat! I’ve never considered the “use by” date thing, but I guess better to be safe than sorry. And yeah, definitely don’t bring the inflight meal items through customs. I may have once brought some crackers still in the package, but definitely not fruit.
January 30, 2020 @ 4:58 am
Can I bring jar of instant coffee, dry coffee mate, package of oatmeal
January 30, 2020 @ 12:54 pm
Hi Mable! All of that is dry food, so there aren’t any issues with the liquids rule. TSA has some new rules about powders, so they might want to inspect your food more closely, but it’s all still allowed in your carry on, so you should be fine.
January 8, 2020 @ 12:36 pm
Hi Ali, thank you for all this useful information. I have a question though. I am travelling on Air India from London Stansted in February 2020 and we wanted to make some home made savoury snacks as gifts for our relatives who we will be staying with. As they will be quite delicate, can we carry them as hand luggage to prevent damage. Or do you recommend storing in checked in luggage. Thank you for your help. Mrs K Panesar
January 13, 2020 @ 11:33 am
I would recommend packing the food in your carry on bag, as long as they aren’t liquid. It’s also worth checking to make sure whatever kind of food you’re bringing doesn’t violate any customs or agricultural rules India might have. Usually countries don’t let you bring in fruit, vegetables, meat, and a few other things, but I don’t know the rules, especially since they’re country-specific.
December 22, 2019 @ 5:25 pm
Hello. I will be traveling to Europe the end of this week. I have a lots of snacks such as candy and cereal that I want to bring with me. I am wondering if those things can go on my carrion bag?
Also how much of non prescription medication can I pack on my carrion?
December 23, 2019 @ 1:34 pm
All of those things are fine to pack in your carry on bag. Candy and cereal are not foods customs will be concerned with, and your medicine, prescription or non-prescription, is better in your carry on bag in case your checked bag gets lost. Just make sure you look up the exact type of medicine to verify that it isn’t illegal where you’re going. Things like Tylenol or Advil are fine, but some countries have strict rules about certain drugs.
December 7, 2019 @ 2:38 am
Thank you so much for this article! I think I know the answer now, but will still ask. I am Holiday traveling for the very first time. I’d like to take a tin of homemade Christmas cookies and a tin of my “famous” (I actually fill many orders this time of year!! ??) Chex Mix as they will be gifts for our hosts. I was thinking of just carrying them in a reusable grocery bag as one of my carry-on’s? Thanks again! Your article has relieved a lot of my anxiety about this trip! ?.
December 9, 2019 @ 2:39 pm
Hi Stephanie, I’m glad you found my site helpful! I think that sounds fine, none of the food you’re talking about is liquid. I’ve heard stories about TSA inspecting food a little more closely, so there’s always a chance they’ll want to open your tin, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. The grocery bag as a carry on should be fine too, just make sure you’re staying within your airline’s carry on luggage size policies. If the grocery bag ends up being your 3rd carry on bag, try to bring a small purse you can shove into the grocery bag or your main bag when boarding the plane.
November 23, 2019 @ 4:08 pm
Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with us. I am very grateful. I was drawn to your site for answers because I’m planning to take an already baked and iced cake as a carry-on (Allegiant Airlines) as we travel to Thanksgiving with relatives. An aging aunt who will not be making the trip nonetheless wants to participate in the family festivities by providing one of her family favorite desserts. The cake has been frozen and is wrapped in clear cellophane. Based on what I’ve read on your website I’m going to proceed w plans to take it on board.
November 24, 2019 @ 11:56 am
Thanks Cathy, glad to help! I can’t make any guarantees because you just never know what TSA is going to decide on any given day, but your cake is probably fine.
October 14, 2019 @ 10:40 pm
Can I bring fried chicken on spirit airlines
October 15, 2019 @ 11:23 am
Hi Peter! Unless Spirit Airlines has a rule against bringing outside food onto the plane, that should be fine. I personally would consider food that doesn’t have such a strong smell since it could bother other people, but that’s up to you.
October 8, 2019 @ 3:56 am
Can wire clothes hangers be taken in one’s carry on bag?
October 8, 2019 @ 10:58 am
Hi Mary! Yes, wire hangers are allowed in your carry on baggage.
September 28, 2019 @ 10:27 am
Ca I take a tin of corned beef in my carry on case?
September 30, 2019 @ 12:36 pm
Hi Gail! That’s an iffy one. When I look up “canned food” on the TSA site, it basically says “maybe”. If there’s any liquid in the can, a TSA officer in a bad mood might decide you can’t have it and confiscate it. But maybe it’s worth the risk since it’s something you can easily replace when you get to where you’re going.
December 10, 2020 @ 6:46 pm
Thank you for your information but I wanted to ask and making sure if it’s okay I can Take frozen homemade tamales on my carrion?
December 17, 2020 @ 4:12 pm
Hi Irene! That one is tough. TSA sometimes inspects food separately, and if they determine that your food is liquid (like sauce) they might confiscate your food since it will most likely exceed the 3.4 ounce (100ml) limit. And in order to keep the tamales frozen, you’d have to bring an ice pack, which they typically don’t allow unless you need it for medical reasons, like keeping insulin cold. You might be better off asking TSA directly through their Twitter or Facebook. You can always take the chance, but they might throw out your tamales, which would be so sad!
September 20, 2019 @ 7:42 pm
Just wondering about domestic rules…I have been moved to another province and since my movers wont move everything can I bring frozen (wings)(roast)(bacon)in a soft cooler with an ice pack?
September 24, 2019 @ 10:56 am
Hi Bob! I’m guessing since you said “province” that you’re in Canada, so I looked at the Canadian security site, and they say frozen food is allowed in carry on: https://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/en/search/site/frozen%20food?f%5B0%5D=type%3Awhat_to_pack. However, it’s the ice pack that could be a problem since ice will melt and become liquid. That link says you can have frozen liquids that are 100ml or less, and even though it doesn’t state anything about a liquids bag, in general all liquids must fit in your liquids bag, and I’m not sure that would give you enough ice to keep your food frozen.
A couple of ideas: Is it possible to mail the frozen food to your new home in some kind of freezer pack? OR if you can keep the food frozen until the point you reach the security checkpoint, could you then try to get a bunch of ice from a restaurant inside the airport after passing through security?
September 9, 2019 @ 4:54 am
I will be traveling to Israel soon. Should there be anything I should know about the trip? We will be stopping in Turkey for a three hour layover.
Thank you! Your web site was very nicely designed.
September 9, 2019 @ 11:28 am
Thanks Joanne! I’m sorry, I’ve never been to Israel, so I can’t give any advice on that.
August 29, 2019 @ 1:53 pm
Can İ take Marmite onto plane in several containers of right size? İn clear plastic bag of allowed size
August 30, 2019 @ 5:06 pm
Hi Julie! As long as each container is 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller and they all fit into your quart-sized liquids bag, that should be fine.
August 24, 2019 @ 6:29 pm
My friend is traveling in October from the US to Ireland. His doctor has put him on a strict diet due to severe ISB. If he gets a written statement from his doctor about this, will airlines allow him to bring 2 bottles of liquid Boost (a complete nutritional drink) onboard?
August 25, 2019 @ 11:33 am
Hi Jeanine! It’s not about the airlines allowing it, it’s security. Liquids above the 3.4 ounce rule are allowed if they are medication, but since Boost isn’t prescription medication, I’m not sure if security will let him through with it, even with a doctor’s note. Here’s what the TSA website says about traveling with medications: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures. You or your friend could also try contacting TSA and asking about it – there’s a contact link towards the top of their website. You’d also need to find out about the Irish security agency’s approach to this for his return trip, if he’s planning on picking up more of it to take on the flight back to the US.
July 25, 2019 @ 1:30 am
Please reconsider advising about taking peanut butter & jam sandwiches on board a flight due to the fatal effects it can cause to any peanut allergy sufferers. Thanks
July 26, 2019 @ 8:48 pm
I’ve already mentioned in two different places in this post asking people to consider not bringing peanuts or peanut butter.
June 29, 2019 @ 10:00 pm
can I pack my knitting in my carry on baggage
July 1, 2019 @ 11:25 am
Hi Shirley! TSA allows knitting needles in carry-on baggage.