Yes, You Can Bring Food Through TSA—With Some Exceptions

Here’s what to know before you attempt to bring that tasty souvenir or home-cooked meal through airport security.

Snacks of fruit, veggies, and nuts packed for travel in small square and rectangular boxes

Most—but not all—food is allowed through airport security.

Photo by Fortyforks / Shutterstock

Food is my go-to gift when visiting friends, a favorite souvenir to bring home, and usually an 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 with your in-flight snack carefully tucked away in your bag.

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—a classification that isn’t always obvious—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, frosting, 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:

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, you can consult TSA’s helpful What Can I Bring? tool or text the TSA your question.

Alcohol over 140 proof

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.

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.

However, according to FAA regulations, you are not allowed to drink alcohol onboard that is not served by a flight attendant. So if you are stashing a few mini bottles of liquor in your carry-on, be mindful to keep them there for the duration of the flight or risk a fine.

Frozen foods

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—bonus points if you bring reusable cutlery.

TSA-approved snack ideas:

  1. Sliced veggies with a (smaller than 3.4-ounce) container of hummus
  2. Protein bars
  3. Dried fruits and nuts
  4. DIY charcuterie box (with hard, not creamy, cheeses)
  5. Muffins and pastries
  6. Beef or mushroom jerky
  7. Popcorn
  8. Chips
  9. Crackers
  10. Chocolate or cookies

See more DIY snack ideas, along with recipes.

TSA-approved meals to pack in your carry-on:

  1. Sandwiches and wraps
  2. Slice of quiche or frittata
  3. Pasta salad
  4. Instant oatmeal, along with a vessel, like the Miir Camp Cup, to eat it out of
  5. Grain or rice 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 or bananas)—your neighbors will thank you.

How to pack your snacks for air travel

Because no one needs to reach into their carry-on midflight to discover a few rogue, squished grapes in their bag, here are some tips for packing your snacks and food for your flight.

For snacks and sandwiches, I like packing them in a reusable silicone bag like Stasher (from $13,—which is more environmentally friendly than a disposable bag 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, to ensure I’m bringing less than 3.4 ounces.

If I’m bringing more than a small snack, then a lunch bag, like the fun printed ones by Baggu, helps perishable items stay fresh while keeping the food separated from the rest of my travel gear.

This article was originally published in February 2022 and was most recently updated on October 25, 2023, to include current information.

Jessie Beck is a San Francisco–based writer and associate director of SEO and video at Afar. She contributes to travel gear, outdoor adventure, and local getaway coverage and has previously lived in Washington, D.C., Malta, Seattle, and Madagascar.
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