Some people travel to see famous landmarks or see the latest Broadway show. But if you’re buying a gift for the type of traveler who plans entire trips around one restaurant reservation or eagerly booked a flight to Japan once borders reopened for a life-changing bowl of ramen—this is the gift guide you’ll want to consult.
From cookbooks that will take you on a culinary journey to subscription boxes filled with snacks from a new country each month, these 14 food gifts are just the thing to get for people who travel to eat.
1. “Turkey and the Wolf” by Mason Hereford (Ten Speed Press, 2022)
- Buy now: $28 (was $30), bookshop.org
- Best for: People who know what it means to miss New Orleans
This cookbook features more than 95 recipes from chef Mason Hereford’s New Orleans restaurant Turkey and the Wolf—plus a few from his breakfast restaurant up the street, Molly’s Rise and Shine. Now you can recreate his creative twists on Southern dishes like the Grand Slam McMuffin, collard green melt, and fried bologna sandwich whenever you like.
2. Explorer Cold Brew gift box
- Buy now: from $20, explorercoldbrew.com; amazon.com
- Best for: People who know not to drink the coffee on airplanes
Between bitter beans and suspect water, the coffee served on airplanes is never satisfying. Thankfully, LGBTQ-owned Explorer Cold Brew scaled down its bottles of single-origin cold brew coffee concentrate to a travel-friendly two ounces and sells them in gift packs of 4 or 12 bottles. To enjoy good coffee at 30,000 feet, simply mix a two-ounce bottle of the cold brew concentrate with water (or milk) over ice and enjoy. For every box of cold brew purchased, Explorer Cold Brew funds clean water access for someone in need through Charity: Water for an entire month.
3. Boards & Co. Cheese Board Kits
- Buy now: from $85, shopboardsandco.com
- Best for: The cheese lovers out there
Boards & Co.’s personality-based cheese board kits (including the Wanderlust, the Artist, the Dare-Devil, to name a few) come with everything you’d need to build a perfect board. Of course there’s the carefully curated selection of cheeses and various accouterments, as well as the tools you’d need to spread your cheese or drizzle your honey. But the real surprise is the packaging. The cardboard packaging has pop-outs that turn into different accessories: coasters, tags to note which wineglass is yours (each representing a different kind of cheese), and signs to denote each of the cheeses on your board.
The kits also come with information about how cheese is made, how to build the perfect cheese board, and what kind of wines, beers, or ciders to drink with each of your specific cheeses. For a small added charge, you can even order a wine pairing with the kit online.
4. Fly By Jing Shorty Spice set
- Buy now: $25, flybyjing.com
- Best for: People who consider flavorless the real F word
Inspired by her hometown of Chengdu, China, Jing Gao created a line of pantry staples in 2018. The Fly By Jing Shorty Spice Set includes TSA-friendly two-ounce bottles of her fan-favorite Sichuan Chili Crisp, Zhong Sauce, and Mala Spice Mix. This makes a great stocking stuffer for travelers who BYO hot sauce in their personal item.
5. Universal Yums monthly subscription snack box
- Buy now: from $15 per month, universalyums.com
- Best for: Travelers who always stop at a local grocery store to raid the snack aisle for edible souvenirs
Universal Yums monthly subscription boxes come packed with sweet and savory snacks and candies from grocery stores around the globe, each box typically tied to a particular country.
“The boxes are always well balanced between sweet and salty, familiar and novel,” Ashlea Halpern, an AFAR contributing writer, wrote in a review. As a member, she’s tried everything from classic treats like nutty baklava from Jordan and marbled sesame halvah from Israel to more creative flavors like floral cheese potato chips from France, Italian truffles studded with strawberry pop rocks, and crunchy Turkish kebab chips.
6. “Black Food” by Bryant Terry (4 Color Books, 2021)
- Buy now: $37, bookshop.org
- Best for: Travelers who also love to cook at home
There are travel books and there are cookbooks, but our favorites are the ones where the genres coexist. One of the most recent examples is chef and food activist Bryant Terry’s cookbook, Black Food, which is a tribute to the Black diaspora.
Inside, you’ll find recipes for baker Erika Council’s vegan sweet potato biscuits and chef Nina Compton’s lentil, okra, and coconut stew—all prefaced with nuggets of history and memory. There are also essays, poems, illustrations, and collages that touch on food beyond the dinner table, including an okra-based ancestral bathing practice, the South African village pushing back against industrial farming, and more.
7. Trade Coffee Co. subscription
- Buy now: from $40, drinktrade.com
- Best for: Caffeine lovers
If you’re buying a gift for someone who maps out a city’s best coffee shops before traveling there, a Trade Coffee subscription will help them discover more than 50 of the top roasters in the United States, including Oakland’s Red Bay Coffee, Miami’s Panther Coffee, and Seattle’s Kuma Coffee.
Here’s how it works: First decide how many bags of coffee their gift subscription will contain, then Trade will email them a gift code to activate their subscription. After answering a few easy questions about their preferred coffee taste (light or deep and smoky?), experience level (“pretty new” to “total coffee nerd”) and ideal brewing method (coffee maker or French press?), the subscription service will create a personalized flavor profile to automatically “match” them with the roasts they’ll love.
8. Fulton Fish Market Best of Domestic Caviar assortment package
- Buy now: $320, fultonfishmarket.com
- Best for: The ones worth the splurge
New York City’s Fulton Fish Market has been open since 1822—first at the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan and now in Hunts Point, Bronx. You can get anything from oysters to a full sushi kit shipped door to door, but if you really feel like treating someone (ahem, yourself) this holiday season, splash out on some caviar. This gift box includes two ounces each of hackleback caviar, paddlefish caviar, California sturgeon caviar, and salmon roe caviar, plus crème fraîche, frozen blinis, and a mother of pearl spoon.
9. Yamazaki 12-Year-Old Whisky
- Buy now: from $175, drizly.com; flaviar.com
- Best for: Someone who booked a flight to Japan as soon as the border reopened
This bottle of Yamazaki 12-year-old whisky is Suntory’s flagship single malt out of Japan’s first distillery, Yamazaki Distillery, which opened in 1923. It is so smooth, with hints of fruit (to name a few: peach, grapefruit, pineapple, candied orange, tart cranberry).
>> Read more: The Best Global Gifts for Whiskey Lovers
10. Carnegie Deli Cheesecake
Even though the original Carnegie Deli in New York City closed years ago, you can still order its famous cheesecake via its website that ships nationwide. Order the eight-inch cheesecake for a party, or send the four-pack of mini cheesecakes so you can eat one now and freeze the rest for later.
11. Adoboloco Pineapple Habanero Hot Sauce
- Buy now: from $11, mouth.com; adoboloco.com
- Best for: Someone with a fridge full of hot sauces from around the world
Add something spicy to add to your hot-sauce loving friend’s collection this year. Adoboloco, founded in 2011 by a family in Maui, makes a pineapple habanero hot sauce with sun-ripened Hawaiian pineapples picked only two days before production. Today, they operate a community farm and supply dozens of local restaurants. Though this hot sauce is best enjoyed at Kihei Caffe in Maui, your friend can dash it on pizza, splash it in coleslaw, or slather it on pulled pork sandwiches at home while they plan their next trip to Hawai‘i.
>> Read more: 9 Out-of-This-World Hot Sauces Worth Traveling For
12. Estelle Colored Champagne Coupes
- Buy now: from $95 for two coupes, estellecoloredglass.com
- Best for: The person whose drink of choice is bubbly
For a gift for a wine lover, you can never go wrong with a bottle of champagne as a gift. But why not add a set of colorful coupes to go with it? Stephanie Summerson Hall named her hand-blown colored glass stemware company after her grandmother, Estelle, who loved antiquing and looking for new treasures in small South Carolina towns.
Made by glass artisans in Poland at a glass making company with a 100-plus-year-old history, these vintage-inspired champagne coupes come in nearly a dozen different colors from “Amber Smoke” to “Cobalt Blue” and can be purchased in sets of two or six.
13. Pastrami Queen Sandwich Kit for Four
- Buy now: $100, goldbelly.com
- Best for: New Yorkers at heart
Leftover turkey sandwiches are fine and all, but pastrami sandwiches shipped straight from NYC are even better. The Upper East Side’s Pastrami Queen packs its sandwich kits with well-brined pastrami, soft seeded rye, mustard, and crisp pickles. The late Anthony Bourdain called the sandwich “if not the best, among the very best.”
Goldbelly also ships all sorts of iconic American regional foods from bagels to barbecue using UPS or FedEx overnight services within the United States. You could sate lots of cravings with this gift.
14. Salt & Straw Pints Club subscription
- Buy now: $229 for three months (15 pints total), saltandstraw.com
- Best for: Those who always make room for dessert
Founded in Portland, Oregon, this woman-owned business delivers ice cream made with cream from grass-fed cows to all 50 states. Better still: It tastes terrific. Its three-month Pints Club gift includes 15 pints of five different flavors per shipment. You can choose from a rotating menu of monthly flavors, classic best sellers, or choose to keep it a surprise.
Rosalie Tinelli, Laura Dannen Redman, Katherine LaGrave, and Aislyn Greene contributed reporting to this article.
This article was originally published in 2020; it was updated on November 4, 2022, with current information.