Thanksgiving 2021: TSA dishes on which foods can be checked, carried through security

If you’re traveling by air this holiday season, you may be tempted to bring your favorite food along for the ride to the Thanksgiving table — but there are some restrictions. 

While most foods can be carried through airport security, the Transportation Security Administration says some items will need to be transported in checked baggage.


People stand in line while they inch closer to the security check point at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport November 23, 2005 in Arlington, Virginia. The day before Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year with thousa

Thanksgiving foods that can be carried on plane

According to TSA, solid items are able to carried through an airport’s security checkpoints, but these items often need additional security screenings. The agency suggests placing the items in a clear plastic bag or container when packing them at home an removing the items from your carry-on bag and placing them in a bin for screening at the checkpoint.

  • Baked goods: Homemade or store-bought pies, cakes, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats
  • Meats: Turkey, chicken, ham, steak. Frozen, cooked or uncooked
  • Stuffing: Cooked, uncooked, in a box or in a bag
  • Casseroles: Traditional green beans and onion straws or something more exotic
  • Mac ‘n Cheese: Cooked in a pan or traveling with the ingredients to cook it at your destination
  • Fresh vegetables: Potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radishes, carrots, squash, greens
  • Fresh fruit: Apples, pears, pineapple, lemons, limes, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kiwi
  • Candy
  • Spices

Thanksgiving foods that need to be put in checked baggage

Meanwhile, items should go in a checked bag if you can "spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces," according to the TSA.

  • Cranberry sauce: Homemade or canned are spreadable, so check them
  • Gravy: Homemade or in a jar/can
  • Wine, champagne, sparking apple cider
  • Canned fruit or vegetables: It’s got liquid in the can, so check them
  • Preserves, jams and jellies: They are spreadable, so best to check them
  • Maple syrup

Still unsure if your food item can be carried on or needs to be checked?

Travelers who are still unsure if an item should be packed in a carry-on or checked bag can check the TSA homepage, which has a "What can I bring?" feature. Type in the item and find out if you can carry it through a checkpoint or if it should be checked. 

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In addition, passengers can tweet to @AskTSA to ask how best to travel with a specific food item. 

Either way, make sure to store food properly

Regardless of whether you check or carry on your food item, TSA says it’s important to remember food safety by properly storing your food to prevent foodborne illness. 

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If you need to keep items cold during your trip, ice packs are permissible, but they must be frozen solid and not melted when they go through security screening. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.