Here’s what to know before you attempt to bring that tasty souvenir or home-cooked meal through airport security.
Food is my go-to gift when visiting friends, a favorite souvenir to bring home, and an overall essential item on my packing list. So, more often than not, I’ve stashed some sort of tasty treat in my carry-on—which sometimes causes a little delay at TSA checkpoints. Over the years, I’ve had yogurt confiscated, pâté tossed away, and hot chocolate mix sent through additional screening by TSA agents. But I’ve also had countless protein bars, chips, and sandwiches pass through without a problem.
So while yes, you can bring food through TSA checkpoints, there are some important exceptions and rules to know before you head to the airport.
What food can you bring through TSA?
You can bring most food through TSA, but your snacks—just like your toiletries—are subject to the 3-1-1 liquids rule. If they’re considered a liquid, paste, or gel, they must be under 3.4 ounces. This includes liquids and liquidy things like juice, yogurt, syrup, soup, jams, jellies, condiments, or anything jarred in oil, as well as spreadables like nut butters, pâté, creamy cheeses, hummus, and other dips. So while that 5-ounce yogurt may get you in trouble, a 1.2-ounce packet of nut butter shouldn’t be a problem.
Items exempt from the 3.4-ounce rule include:
- Baby food and formula
- Breast milk and juice for infants or toddlers
- Frozen ice packs for keeping these foods cool
Solid foods, like pasta or sandwiches, are not subject to the rule—so go ahead and bring that entire loaf of San Francisco sourdough on board.
If you’re still not sure about a specific food item, TSA’s What Can I Bring? tool is a helpful resource to consult.
Alcohol over 140 proof
Most alcohols, however, are not that strong and are allowed through TSA so long as the bottle is (you guessed it) less than 3.4 ounces.
If you’re traveling with alcohol over 140 proof (70 percent), you’re not allowed to bring it through airport security in any quantity. If you don’t want that souvenir rum tossed, you’re best off checking it.
Technically, you can bring liquidy foods in their frozen form through airport security, “as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening.”
Flights from outside the U.S.
The 3-1-1 rule is not unique to the United States. Many other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, also bar liquids, pastes, and gels (whether food or not) over 3.4 ounces in your carry-on. Before flying, check your airline’s website for more details on what’s allowed.
TSA-approved snacks and meals
If you want to bring your own food from home for your flight, here are some of our favorite TSA-approved snacks and meals.
TSA-approved snack ideas:
- Sliced veggies with a (smaller than 3.4 ounce) container of hummus
- Protein bars
- Dried fruits and nuts
- DIY charcuterie box (with hard, not creamy, cheeses)
- Muffins and pastries
- Beef or mushroom jerky
- Whole wheat crackers
TSA-approved meals to pack in your carry-on:
- Sandwiches and wraps
- Pasta salad (bonus points if you bring reusable cutlery)
- Instant oatmeal, along with a vessel, like the Miir Camp Cup, to eat it out of
- Grain bowls
No matter what you choose to bring, remember that just because you can bring something through TSA doesn’t always mean you should. Try to avoid easily perishable foods and anything overly pungent (like tuna)—your neighbors will thank you.
How to pack your snacks for air travel
For snacks and sandwiches, I like packing them in a reusable silicone bag like Stasher (from $13, stasher.com)—which is more environmentally friendly and handy to have for the flight home. For anything that could be considered a liquid, paste, or gel, I use MonBento’s 2.4-ounce snack cups ($8, monbento.com) to ensure I’m bringing less than 3.4 ounces.
Courtesy Afar.com. By Jessie Beck Artcle available here.
This article was originally published in February 2022 and was most recently updated on November 22, 2022, to include current information.