How Much Food Can You Bring On A Plane?

Last Updated on October 11, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • There is no limit to how much solid food you can bring on a plane in either carry-on luggage or checked luggage
  • Food that is spreadable is considered to be a liquid and is restricted to containers less than or equal to 3.4 oz in hand luggage

Airline food can be expensive and doesn’t always taste great, so you might want to bring your own food to eat on the flight.

Also you might want to take some of your favorite food to your destination or bring some tasty food home that you discovered on your trip.

Here’s the deal.

How much food you can bring on a plane depends on whether the food you are bringing is a solid or a liquid.

How Much Solid Food Can You Take On A Plane?

The only real limit as to how much solid food you can take on a plane is the size of your carry-on luggage.

When you are traveling in the United States you can pack as much solid food in your suitcase as space allows.

There is a rule that requires travelers to remove powders in containers greater than 12 oz from their suitcase when going through security.

So if you are bringing more than 12 oz of flour or protein powder then place it in a separate tray so that it does not obstruct images on the x-ray screen.

But, on domestic flights, you can bring as much solid food in hand luggage as you want, even powders.

If you are traveling internationally you also need to consider customs laws.

Some types of food might not be permitted to be brought into your destination country.

For example, you cannot bring meat, milk, eggs, and poultry back into the United States if you are returning from a foreign destination.

Packaged food like bread, crackers, candy, and chocolate is good to go.

Fresh fruits and vegetables must be inspected to check that you are not bringing any unwanted pests into the country.

Similar rules apply for all countries. So if you are packing food for international travel you really need to check the customs rules of your destination country.

How Much Liquid Food Can You Take On A Plane?

You can freely pack liquid foods in checked luggage without restriction.

Exemptions for apply for foods, even liquids like purees or soups, if they are for infants.

But for everyone else liquid foods can be a problem. And we’re not only talking about soup.

The TSA often says “If you can squeeze it, smear it, pump it, spread it, spray it, or spill it then it’s considered a liquid”.

All ’liquid’ foods are treated like toiletries by the TSA.

They are restricted to containers that are 3.4 oz and they much be packed in your one quart size bag.

So the maximum amount of liquid food you can bring on a plane is one quart assuming you don’t pack any shampoo!

The rule means food like peanut butter can only be in travel size containers.

But there is an odd quirk to the TSA food rules.

When a liquid spreadable food is contained inside a solid food it is permissible.

That’s why solid chocolate peanut butter cups are unrestricted in hand luggage, but peanut butter is limited to a maximum of 3.4 oz.

The same goes for Tuna mayo.

Tuna mayo is spreadable and considered to be a liquid by the TSA so you can only bring a travel size container through airport security.

But if you put that same Tuna mayo in a sandwich

It suddenly becomes a solid food and is not restricted.

A cake with frosting is treated as a solid, but cake frosting not yet applied to the cake is treated as a liquid.

There is a limit to how much spreadable cheese you can take on a plane, but there is no limit to how much solid cheese you can pack.

It’s odd, but that’s how the rules work.

How Much Frozen Food Can You Take On A Plane?

Another quirk of the TSA rules relates to frozen food.

When you freeze food it changes from being a liquid to a solid.

That means you can take more liquid food on a plane by freezing it.

Soup for example would be a liquid at room temperature so you could only bring a tiny 3.4 oz container of soup.

But if you freeze that soup, it’s like a loophole in the TSA rules.

Solid soup is allowed through airport security in unrestricted amounts.

The challenge is getting to the airport without the soup defrosting.

You can use icepacks or even dry ice to keep foods frozen solid.

At the security checkpoint the TSA agent will inspect your food and if it’s still solid the TSA liquids rule won’t apply.

The Bottom Line

You can bring unlimited solid food on a plane and a maximum of one quart of liquid spreadable food on a plane.

Creative ’packaging’ of spreadable foods inside solid foods you can sometimes help you to bypass the limits.

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