While some airlines have drastically improved their meal options, the in-flight snack scene is still in a woeful state—especially for gluten-free travelers. A cookie pack might be a step up from peanuts for most, but it’ll never leave you satiated, and if you’re gluten-free consumer, it spells hunger. With the season of short haul (read: no meals), domestic, family-bound flights ahead of us, hanger—that hunger-fueled anger—can be a real threat. No one should have to tackle airport madness on an empty stomach.
But there’s good news: Even if airlines are behind the times, it’s easier than ever to find great—no, divine—gluten-free snacks in most grocery stores and coffee shops. Satisfying, energizing, and full of flavor, the following picks will make your next flight feel like an indulgence, even if you don’t have to avoid gluten. Avoid the hanger. Pack some snacks.
Look, I know. I, too, was skeptical of these chickpea-based, cheese-puff-like snacks, but boy did Hippeas win me over. The unabashedly New Age bites (their motto, in part, reads “arms in the air, flowers in our hair, crumbs in our beards”) are not just delicious, but they’re filling in a way that a salty bag of potato chips will never be. Organic, gluten-free, vegan, baked, high in fiber, low in calories, and in many different flavors—could these little guys get any better? In fact, they can. Not only can you find Hippeas in most large grocery store chains, but they’ve also been picked up by Starbucks, so you can find them in airports, too. Hallelujah.
These are not your average corn nuts. If you’ve been to Peru, chances are you’ve already fallen in love with these giant corn kernels; you may even have tracked down these bad boys at Trader Joe’s, delighting in the memories and the starch content. But if not, you’re in for a treat. The snack, which dates back to the Incan empire, has a toasted, nutty flavor—and while they have a similarly addictive, eat-em-by-the-handful quality, these are far more substantial than popcorn. A handful might even do you for a short-haul flight. As the package says, they do pair nicely with a cold beer. And if you think that sounds good on the ground, you’ve got to try it at 35,000 feet.
Yes, bars can be boring. Energy bars, granola bars, protein bars—they all sort of feel like a last resort, the only item of food that may be gluten-free when you’re starving on a layover in a tiny terminal. But you clearly haven’t met RXBAR yet. It’s surprising what this tiny bar can do with three egg whites, six almonds, two dates, and some other flavors. The peanut butter–chocolate flavor is, of course, delicious, as is the mixed berry one, surprisingly so. But the new gingerbread flavor seems particularly perfect for holiday travel. You can find them all over at grocery stores, bookstores, and outdoor adventure retailers. (Unfortunately, these bars are not compatible with a vegan or nut-free diet.)
Excuse my hometown bias, but I have a lot of love for Nana Joe’s handmade-in-San-Francisco granola. Vegan as well as gluten-free, each Nana Joe’s product is certified by the Celiac Support Association. Its flavor combinations are simple and well-balanced, letting the quality of the ingredients do the talking. Grab a yogurt (or Cashewgurt, if you’re dairy-free) to pair with their granola blends, or go uncomplicated with a cluster blend or granola bar bites pack. They even have nut-free and grain-free versions. Admittedly, unless you live in San Francisco or Los Angeles (or near the Mudsmith coffee shop in Dallas or Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee in Amagansett, NY), you’ll have to order Nana Joe’s granola online. But it’s worth the extra effort.
If there’s anything more delightful and addicting than Made in Nature’s Toasted Cinnamon Coconut Chips, I haven’t found it. The warm, sweet cinnamon flavor makes these little chips taste like an indulgence, but, packed with fiber, they’re incredibly satisfying and actually good for you. As its website points out, coconuts have always been a life-saving food source for anyone stranded on a desert island; they’re equally as life-saving when you find yourself facing an outrageously long delay at the airport. Made in Nature’s extensive line of snacks, including dried fruits, different flavors of coconut chips (the ginger masala chai is another must-try), and its tasty Figgy Pops energy balls are widely available at grocery stores, from Whole Foods to Costco. We recommend buying multiple bags. (Coconut chips are allergen-friendly, but check the labels on other Made in Nature products for nuts.)
Don’t plan on sharing these. And whatever you do—don’t tell the gluten-eaters about them. Slightly cakier than your average Fig Newton, these delightful cookies may be a little crumbly (which is generally something you want to avoid on an airplane), but there are only about two bites per cookie, so it shouldn’t really be a problem. A small, family-run company, Jovial has been producing high-quality gluten-free products since long before gluten-free living was cool. Their products are available at Whole Foods Stores and online. In fact-checking this list, I discovered that they also have sour cherry–filled cookies, which I’m so excited about. (Unfortunately, these cookies are not compatible with a vegan diet and may contain traces of tree nuts and peanuts.)
We’ll assume you already have a Jacobsen salt tin stashed in a bag, backpack, or pocket somewhere, but you may not know that the Portland-based salt company also makes candies, including licorice, caramels, and these honey nut chews. Made with the honey from its partner company, Bee Local, these chews are a pleasing balance of sweet, deep nutty flavors and salt. You’ll have to order these online, but it’s worth it to buy in bulk; they make great holiday gifts, too. (These nut chews contain milk and peanuts. They are also manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, eggs, soy, and dairy products.)