Food for a LONG plane ride?

I'll be going on an 11-hour plane ride in a few weeks that offers no in-flight meals that aren't for purchase. I'll be damned if I spend $12 on a bad club sandwich, so I'll be packing 2-3 meals/snacks for the two of us.

Amanda has a whole chapter in Cooking for Mr Latte about what she likes to eat on planes, but sadly I don't think cheese and charcuterie will last the entire plane ride in my carryon. (Also I love the occasional Marcona almond, but I've never liked snacking on nuts as a way to get full.)

What are some sandwiches, dumplings, anything that are filling, easy to pack, store/age well, and aren't too messy to eat?

Nozlee Samadzadeh


aussiefoodie August 15, 2012
When I'm going on long car rides and don't have many options to eat I always like to take some kind of quiche. Using frozen puff pastry, an egg and cream mix and some kind of fillings like sundried tomato, spinach, cheese, mushrooms and other tasty treats its like a meal in a single serve portion.
minipanda August 14, 2012
I just eat before and after the flight now, and if it's a really long flight (12-14 hours), I pack a snack. I used to pack a full meal for flights and would never eat it.

Otherwise, arancini. I think these work well (perhaps better than onigiri) because the deep fried coating keeps the interior moist and they're usually pretty aggressively seasoned, which is key at 35,000 ft, since your taste buds are dulled, as someone noted above. Plus, I think they taste ok cold. I've had issues with vinaigrette-dressed grain-based salads leaking from their containers. The prosciutto/butter sandwich from Amanda's book was a go-to for a while. Plus your favourite salty snack and candy. For my last flight (EWR to NRT) I chose salted chocolate caramels.

Another option is cold, undressed pasta and then the sauce in a separate container. Ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water during beverage service and then use that to heat your noodles up. Then pour the water back into the cup (and give it back to the flight attendants when they collect the trash) and put the sauce on the noodles (full disclosure: I've never done this). I generally have some sort of water bottle with me, so I often buy iced tea in the airport (starbucks or the awesome vending machines in Japan) and put it in there to drink on the flight. Bonus if it's a vacuum thermos, because then the drink will stay cold for hours.
ATG117 August 11, 2012
My suggestion: Ambien. On a long flight it does wonders.

Otherwise I'd agree that less is more and, for the sake of people like me who are sensitive to scents in confined spaces, you might want to shy away from things that have strong smells. PB and J, fruit, and granola are my go tos.

This kuku reference has intrigued me. We had family friends that were Persian, and when I was growing up they used to make this frittata-like egg dish filled with greens, though I don't believe it was cilantro, which I strongly dislike--almost want to say it was watercress (possible?). Nzle or Maggiesarah, do you have a recipe for this? Is there a trick to it, or can I simply add lots of greens to an egg base?
maggiesara August 12, 2012
I love cilantro, so I always use it. However, I have seen recipes for herb kuku that didn't include it. Also, some omit the fruit, some add a little flour, some serve it -- and this is delicious -- with some thick yogurt. You know, the bottom line -- and understanding this has been HUGELY freeing for me, as a cook -- is that if you don't use cilantro, no, it won't be exactly like most of the recipes out there. But who cares? It might be better. I think watercress might be great. Or wild arugula or mustard greens or romaine or pretty much anything that you find delicious.
brooklynite August 10, 2012
I second an orzo salad. My favorite meal to bring aboard a plane is orzo with feta, cherry tomatoes, parsley, and garlic, tossed with a bit of red wine vinegar and olive oil Top with toasted pine nuts. It's good at room temperature, and holds up for a very long time. I use one of those plastic takeout pint containers, and bring along with a plastic fork.
Lost_in_NYC August 10, 2012
How about a light orzo salad mixed with super simple ingredients - orzo pasta+olive oil+crushed red pepper+ roasted red pepper diced up really small+basil (if you want)+salt & pepper- this could also be put in a ziploc freezer bag and it will lay flat in your carry-on without the bulkiness of a dirty container nor should it spoil during your journey. You could also pair this with a loaf of bread (pre-sliced) and bring some cherry tomato spread (recipe from Food52) or even hummus with olives to go with it. Then maybe the only thing you could buy on the plane would be the wine to go with the (hearty) meal!
lmateos August 10, 2012
If you do have any fresh fruit or veggies in your snack pack, make sure to eat them all before you land. Hawaii has an agricultural inspection you go through before leaving the airport (and before boarding a flight back to the mainland).
Allieyum August 9, 2012
I love lentils with a small pasta and grilled veggie bites--basil, olive oil & some Parmesan. Yum!
maggiesara August 9, 2012
Heh, I remember buying some tinned haggis once, in London, to bring back to a friend. They had many brands, and I asked the clerk which to get. She recommended one with whisky in it, and I asked if that was traditional. She said no, "but it helps kill the taste." I did not regard this as a really strong recommendation.
Sam1148 August 9, 2012
They wouldn't let me bring Haggis back from Scotland because it was food, but I told them it was a cultural artifact.
maggiesara August 9, 2012
Oh heck, I meant kuku
Nozlee S. August 9, 2012
I'm Iranian, so I KNOW kuku! It's my two sisters' absolute favorite airplane food.
maggiesara August 9, 2012
I love both the miso paste and the spinach pie ideas. For me, eggs are king when traveling. My two go-to options are "Basque eggs" -- essentially eggs soft-scrambled with a mix of tomatoes, peppers, and garlic -- and kiku, which is basically a Persian version of frittata, stuffed with just about anything; I most often make herb kiku, which is stuffed with a mix of cilantro, dill, parsley, chives, chopped walnuts, and either dried cranberries (or barberries, if I can get them) or pomagranate seeds. Both of these are very good at room temp, relatively tidy to eat, high in protein, and relatively low-aroma, which I do find important in travel-food, as I would not want to inflict serious raw onion or tuna or black vinegar smells on my seat-mate. I have also, on occasion, traveled with Chinese dumplings, but I find the wrappers get unpleasantly hard. Egg-wrappers (essentially mini-omelets wrapped around standard dumpling filling) are delicious, but rather a kerfuffle to make, especially if I'm already stressing about packing.
Tarragon August 9, 2012
I agree with Creamtea about dealing with dirty containers, so I think sandwiches, wraps, anything in pastry (such as spinach pie or empanadas) are the way to go. Also (and I realize this may be heresy), I've brought ramen soup that is already in a cup (think Cup of Noodles) that I once enjoyed for breakfast on a red-eye flight from Hawaii.
Panfusine August 9, 2012
You've triggered nostalic memories of cross country train trips to SOuth India that were a part of vacations in India.. The challenge .. to take foods that wd not go south before we reached!.. The top contenders.. a sweet sour tamarind chutney that was mixed with rice.. It just got better with time. The other a special Train chutney, made with toasted lentils and dried Tamarind pods that was spread on bread & roti The trick here was to use absolutely NO water to allow it to keep from going bad.Blenders were never used for this because they need some amount of water. Stone metates required to do the trick... I'll post recipes If you want..
creamtea August 9, 2012
Yes, Panfusine, I want!
healthierkitchen August 9, 2012
sounds delicious!
healthierkitchen August 9, 2012
I too have never had trouble bringing food through customs. I have never tried to bring hummus though. I hope nobody who suggested pan bagnat takes this the wrong way - I love them - but I definitely think tuna and onion are not the best if you'll be in the close confines of coach class. I flew home from California recently (OK, only 5.5 hours) but I could smell this guy's Mcdonalds two or three rows back. Granted, good quality tuna and McDonalds are not exactly the same, but I think you want to avoid anything too strongly scented.
ChefJune August 10, 2012
My thoughts on the Pan Bagnat was that it is Awfully messy to eat, and in such close quarters. Did you know that tuna is not a required ingredient in Pan Bagnat?
chef O. August 9, 2012
Don't bother making a while bunch of snacks/fod, the TSA won't let you bring that through security. Why do you think that the airport vendors can charge 15.00 for a sandwich!?
creamtea August 9, 2012
I have never had a problem with bringing food on a flight from NY. Water bottles yes, but we bring bagels spread w/creme fraiche and smoked salmon, and a "snack bag" of specially-permitted junk food from Trader Joes to keep the offspring happy. The chip or pretzel bags puff up amusingly at 3,000 feet and make a satisfying pop when you open them. I don't bring containers of cooked food because I don't want to have to wash them in the plane restroom (eeew) or sit with containers that grow increasingly fragrant as the flight goes on..... :)
HalfPint August 9, 2012
Actually, as long as it can't be classified as a liquid or gel, you can bring any kind of food through security and as much as you are allowed for your carryon quota.

Now here's the weird part: TSA will confiscate jars of peanut butter, jelly/jam, cream cheese, etc; however, if all of these things are in a sandwich, it's ok. Yes, they will confiscate a small wheel of runny cheese (classified as a gel) but if that cheese is inside a baguette or any two pieces of bread, that's alright.

So bring all the food that you can carry, but just make sure it's not a liquid or a gel.
ChefJune August 9, 2012

That's incorrect. You can bring sandwiches and other food through security with no problems. Airport vendors can charge $15 for a (lousy) sandwich because most people don't take the time to prepare their own food.
fiveandspice August 10, 2012
Creamtea you're lucky! I've definitely had things confiscated from me, though others not. I once had both my Greek yogurt and a tupperware of sweet potato wedges confiscated (it was 5:30 and I almost burst into tears because I really wanted my breakfast). But, another time I was allowed to bring a tinfoiled rhubarb crisp and once a tupperware with pate and mustard - maybe they saw the chunk of bread in there too and decided it was fine? I think it really depends on the airport and your security officers.
creamtea August 11, 2012
Fiveandspice my sympathies. I happen to love sweet potato with yogurt. Just wondering is it possible to attach electrodes & ignite sweet potato wedges (cooked?). I think I missed that lesson in science class. Possibly TSA gets payback from the rancid-tuna-sandwich vendors for confiscating real food?
aargersi August 9, 2012
OK just one more - I also carry tea bags - I drink a LOT of herb tea, in particular Traditional Medicinal Ginger-Aid ... you can make tea on the plane and also it will help settle your stomach once you get there and get a little overenthusiastic with the local food and beverages ...
fernetaboutit August 9, 2012
I was gonna say the same thing! I also really like the kava tea, it helps ease anxiety, which may come in handy if there are a lot of screaming babies on board.
jbban August 9, 2012
I liked Heidi's ideas for food for long plane rides:
petitbleu August 9, 2012
Spinach pies! I've used dough from Anissa Helou's book Lebanese Cuisine and filled them with cooked, drained spinach seasoned with smoked paprika, feta, and some pine nuts (walnuts would be a good sub). They're really excellent, and I've found that you can also stuff them with leftovers, which would be a two-birds-one-stone deal: clean out your fridge AND have tasty plane food.
drbabs August 9, 2012
Kauai is fabulous-- have a wonderful time! Here's a link to the TSA rules, including a place called "can I bring?" where you can ask about hummus etc.
Kristen W. August 9, 2012
Agreed on that last point. Even during high tourist season Kauai still feels practically deserted, which is one of the many wonderful things about it! Just wanted to add that although I'm not a huge fan of the wrap, it can be a good format for a traveling meal.
pierino August 8, 2012
The really hard part about traveling to Hawaii is that all the people you've been trying to escape from are already over there waiting for you in flip flops and "I Got Leied" T-shirts.
Nozlee S. August 8, 2012
Don't worry! We'll be on an underpopulated-enough island that we'll leave 'em all behind once we get off the plane.
Nozlee S. August 8, 2012
Sam1148 is right, I'm going to pack 3 carry-ons full of food, try every single suggestion, and extend my plane ride to 24 hours so I can eat all these snacks!

In all seriousness, though, this is amazing. Thank you! The biggest takeaways are that portability is key, and that filling, highly-flavored foods are best. And fernetaboutit, I LOVE the miso paste idea -- lots of fluids are always a good idea when flying.

usuba dashi, I totally hear you on eating on a plane being more a way to fill time than a real need -- after all, how hungry do you get sitting down for 11 hours? But I do know that the comfort that food brings will keep me from getting antsy/anxious/restless on the flight!
Sam1148 August 8, 2012
Heheh. I'd mostly be worried about pastes, cheeses (not in sandwiches), liquids etc. Making it through TSA checking.
They're okay on food--like a dressed salad, or a PB sandwiches or cheese on sandwich, but not in containers.

I think there's an exception for labeled (with weight) items in your 1qt ziplock personal affects baggie. I have seen PB at some bagel places in little containers that would pass in those, or baby bell cheese, etc. So a label maker, scale, and little deli-cups could pass as it's 'printed' with weight/item etc. If the TSA agent isn't having a bad day. You're at their whim there, as I've even heard people having their mayo/mustard packets thrown away because they weren't on the sandwich.
Nozlee S. August 8, 2012
"But officer, you don't understand! That aioli was a FOOD52 contest winner!"
Sam1148 August 8, 2012
They can be real jerks at a whim. A friend of ours was traveling with some stuff like vicks vapor rub (which is good for the nose in a dry cabin), acne medication, baking soda, unlabeled 'generic' containers for travel that got tossed from the personal ziplock bag. As they weren't labeled, with weight.
If they'd had a even a home printed label with weight on them--they'd would have passed. But then again this was Miami...they're not too friendly there.
usuba D. August 8, 2012
In the early 70's my instructor at uni was the exchief steward of BOAC (aka Brititsh Airlines) who introduced us to the fact that your taste palate at 35,000 ft does not work, hence how food that is prepared is different than at lower altitudes. I travel all over the world and as much as I love good food, I do not fool myself. . . food that that brought on a plane or is served by the airline not great. How you eat and what you eat on a long trip totally defines how you feel when you arrive. After 50 years of travel, I have found less is more. Believe it or not, and I will create a lot of nasty comments, you are probably better off to eat a Cliff Bar then anything else. Once I arrive to my destination I enjoy the food of the region. . . . taking the edge off the travel. Air travel today is not the wonderful experience of years ago. I feel most people eat on an airplane out of boredom than a real need to satisfy hunger.
pierino August 8, 2012
But Usuba Dashi, could you land that Airbus 380 if you had to?
SKK August 8, 2012
Water, water and more water. Sleep is also great! Those are the the keys when flying. So agree with usuba dashi about food the taste of food on planes. Less is more is a great answer. You will be gaining 6 hours as you fly to Hawaii - so sleep and take advantage of getting off the plane ready to play.

My experience traveling has 12 hours be a short trip - that gives you time to chat, sleep, drink water and eat right before you land. And if you wake up snacks. 18 and 24 hours trips are another matter.

SKK August 8, 2012
Water, water and more water. Sleep is also great! Those are the the keys when flying. So agree with usuba dashi about food the taste of food on planes. Less is more is a great answer. You will be gaining 6 hours as you fly to Hawaii - so sleep and take advantage of getting off the plane ready to play.

My experience traveling has 12 hours be a short trip - that gives you time to chat, sleep, drink water and eat right before you land. And if you wake up snacks. 18 and 24 hours trips are another matter.

fernetaboutit August 8, 2012
I often bring a little container of miso paste. I ask the flight attendant for hot water and mix up some broth to sip on. It's warm and nourishing!

Voted the Best Reply!

amysarah August 8, 2012
Maybe boring, but I think this is the exact situation where a sandwich trumps all. Portable, endless possibilities, no special containers necessary...and it can be as satisfying as many more complicated foods. Pan Bagnat, Ham/Cheese on a baguette with good mustard/butter, smoked salmon/cream cheese, smoked turkey with avocado/tomato/chipotle mayo...whatever you love. A couple of pieces of fruit, some homemade cookies or good chocolate....maybe some Greek yogurt. Knowing that in a few hours when I get wherever I'm going, the real food adventure begins... something simple, but tasty is all I care about en route.
Sam1148 August 8, 2012
By the time Nozlee finishes this thread, she'll have 3 carry-ons.
Get a couple of bento boxes with snap lids--or simple sectioned Tupperware. Nothing too complicated.
You can just use flat non-sectioned Tupperware and put in silicone cupcake 'papers' to section off stuff. Which would be more versatile.
For second meal. One that would have to last longer on the flight.
I like quinoa salad idea--how about some wild rice in that, sunflower seeds, cucumbers and oranges. Dressed with a orange/miso/oil dressing. Make a larger tupperware of that and share.
Or a tabbouli salad with quinoa ..pita bread. And hummus (would that pass TSA? probably not in container--maybe 2oz 'deli sauce' containers in your personal effect ziplock bags). Or pre-coat the pita with hummus and put in sandwich bags.
So, you'd have two flat 'bento" Tupperware boxes for main lunch. One big quinoa salad for sharing for second meal w/ PIta bread with hummus (pre spread). Maybe some olives--I've seen prepackaged olives, without juice, in individual vac-pack things. And of course some small snack bags of nuts, granola bars, jerky, veggies, cookies, chocolates--for between meal snacks.

I'm also a big fan of "True Lime" power..sold in little sachetts at most supermarkets.
Great for traveling..not sweet...just pure crystallized lime/lemon to put in your water bottle for extra flavor. And start saving little packs of salt and pepper...I think Morton sells little 1/2 inch high salt and pepper containers for travel.
It would be kinda hard to explain to TSA why you have a little baggie of Maldon seasalt without some fuss and bother.

Summer O. August 8, 2012
I never travel distances without peanut butter. Peanut butter and crackers, carrots or on bread with jelly or eaten straight off of a plastic spoon. It may not be an 'event' to make a long journey fun but the stuff can be a life saver.
creamtea August 9, 2012
Off to buy a new jar of peanut butter for our trip on Sunday. Since have some diet restrictions I do some cooking on every trip--may make cold Asian peanut butter noodles while there this time. Thanks for the tip!
ChefJune August 8, 2012
I've been packing my own food for plane trips for some time. I like a variety of things. Cold Roast Chicken probably heads the list. and any number of salads to go with. Could be potato salad, or something more creative. Little disposable plastic containers are good... I also like sandwiches, but when I pack those, I keep the meat and bread separate from the mayo or spread and the lettuce or other veggies to keep the sandwich from getting soggy. Those little packets of mayo and mustard are useful, or use the little cups with lids you can find in resaurant supply stores. Cold roasts (beef, pork, lamb) also make good place food, either in sandwiches or chunked into a salad.
Devangi R. August 8, 2012
@aargersi - Before I type my suggestion I saw yours and can't stop laughing on" peanut lady"..

@ Nozlee - I like to make puff pastry stuffed with peas and garbanzo beans, you can wrap them in in individual foil or parchment paper. No need to for containers, a pound cake( sliced) and wrapped in a parchment/ plastic wrap. And, last time I even made some spicy dumplings, arranged them on some chopped red lettuce and just a small a dollop of sour cream on top of it. For the dumplings , I used frozen potato/onion peirogies, sauteed them in some garlic butter, hot sauce, smoked paprika, just a little bit of curry powder, some white wine vinegar and let them cook slowly to get a nicely caramelize, garnish it with cilantro. I am sure people sitting next to you in the flight would be jealous if they smelled it. Hawaii is so beautiful. You would surely love it..Enjoy! Just for you to see how these dumplings should look, I adding the image.
aargersi August 8, 2012
PistachioDonut - google Doug Benson Peanut Lady - he's a standup cominc and that's one of his bits. You will fall out of your chair laughing! Oh! Nozlee!! Load up your iWhatever with lots of laughs to make the trip fly by!!!
aargersi August 8, 2012

that's all I have to add to the great suggestions above

and individually wrapped handi wipe things

Oh and once we get through security I always get a big bottle of water to carry on, otherwise I am bothering the Peanut Lady for a drink every 5 minutes.

pierino August 8, 2012
Whatever you choose, here's a tip. Pack your meal in a tiffin (Indian, sectioned lunch box tin). I couldn't believe these things make it through security but apparently they do as I saw a mother and daughter munching from a pair of them. I asked, "TSA allows you through with those?" Answer was yes. Myself, I'd be thinking about maybe a nice salad nicoise or pan bagnat.

American Airlines might charge you extra for bringing a tiffin on board. Or a picnic basket. Who knows?

As I recall the tiffin walla pails were once featured in the Food52 shop.
Panfusine August 9, 2012
Pierino...My admiration for you just shot up a notch.. I'd never have to guts to stroll thru TSA with a Tiffin Carrier.. But what an idea.. We used to carry them in trains in those days.. why not now!
beyondcelery August 8, 2012
I'm gluten-free, so I always take all my own food on planes. Here are some of my favorites:
- homemade calzone: veggie-filled, parmesan but no other cheese, maybe with pesto instead of marinara, salami or pepperoni if you feel like it. Yes, they're great cold or room temperature and easier to eat than a sandwich, since you can wrap it up and unwrap as you eat it.
- homemade granola bars: dried fruit, seeds, peanut butter, etc.
- oatmeal cookies, packed full of dried fruit and/or sunflower seeds, maybe with some chocolate chips for good measure
- fruit leather has saved my life countless times
- beer bread/banana bread: half a loaf of quick bread is awesome to have with you

Happy flying!
linzarella August 8, 2012
These are all good options, but if you still like the cheese and charcuterie idea you started with, I wouldn't worry too much about it spoiling. I regularly take hard or semi-hard cheeses and cured meats on backpacking trips, and they last for days.
Tarragon August 8, 2012
I also have trouble coming up with plane food other than snacks. I've been eying this recipe from Kukla, which sounds pretty good!
Maedl August 8, 2012
I don't know if you can get this where you live, but my favorite travel food is a smoked pork chop, which I cook and slice into pieces the night before I leave. I also pack bite-sized tomatoes, cucumbers, whatever rabbit food is in season, cheese (perhaps a smoked cheese if you are worried about spoilage, but I don't think you'd have a problem, clementines in winter--other seasonal fruit the rest of the year and nuts. Hard-boiled eggs work well too, especially if you can bring some butter, salt and pepper. I think lachs or smoked trout would be good too, if you like fish.
HalfPint August 8, 2012
nzle, so jealous. I love Hawaii. Which island?

Here are some foods that you NEED to try while there:
-spam musubi (available just about everywhere)
-pani popo (might have to search harder for this, but so worth it, think sweetish buns in rich coconut sauce)
-shaved ice, with adzuki beans and cream
Nozlee S. August 8, 2012
Kauai! I will definitely add those foods to the list, they sound amazing! I'm also crazily excited for the sweet corn, fresh young ginger, and wide varieties of bananas and mangoes at the farmers' market.
HalfPint August 8, 2012
I packed this meal for my 5-hr flight last month:

1. cucumber ricotta (fresh homemade, seasoned with salt and lemon zest) sandwiches (2 of them).
2. Craisins
3. beef jerky
4. Cheese Nips
5. Cadbury milk chocolate bar

Oddly enough the sandwich survived 4 hours without refrigeration. I think it tasted even better as it sat there. I had 2 sandwiches so I had one early in my flight and the other about 30 minutes prior to descent.

Everything else was a snack. I really recommend the jerky because nuts as a protein snack never satisfied me either. Between the free beverages, sandwiches and the nibbles, I was pretty satisfied for the whole flight.

Other foods I recommend for plane rides: Chinese bbq pork buns (though the curry beef ones are good too), Clif bars, grapes, spam musubi, onogiri, and samosas.

Along with the food, I also need a pack of gum to freshen up after eating.
Nozlee S. August 8, 2012
HalfPint, what a feast! I love the idea of pork buns -- they're totally portable. (Although I might save the spam musubi for after I arrive -- I am going to Hawaii, after all.)
Sadassa_Ulna August 8, 2012
The first thing that comes to mind, aside from sandwiches, is Japanese onigiri. It's hard to find pre-made onigiri in the Philadelphia area but may be easy in NYC. Or make your own:
healthierkitchen August 8, 2012
I like to have more than one option with me so that if I'm bored I can move on and move back again later. What about a grain, maybe farro, and/or quinoa salad with some cut up zucchini, or other veggies, dried fruit, nuts like walnuts or pistachios, feta (should keep unrefrigerated for hours) and a little vinaigrette in a plastic or reusable container and fork? Some cut up carrots on the side? Grapes? I hear that you don't like nuts, but would you like a homemade mix of some almonds or peanuts, sesame sticks and rice crackers or some bhel mix from Indian market mixed with raisins and nuts? Also, my family must have some small bit of chocolate - we currently like Trader Joe's little speculoos filled dark chocolate bars. Or a few squares of really good dark chocolate. Heidi at 101 cookbooks had some lovely looking dumplings while back that she traveled with. Have a great trip!
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