Today I’m sharing tips for taking food on a plane. With these vegan sandwiches, salads, and sides, you’ll be the envy of everyone subsisting on tiny pretzel packs until the plane touches down.
And so we’ve come to that part of winter when the glistening beauty of white snow against twinkling Christmas lights is a memory, but the buds of spring are still at least a month away… (And where I live, probably more like two months.)
It’s at times like this that I’m hankering to hop on a plane with a suitcase full of tank tops, sundresses, and sandals.
I don’t seem to be alone in this feeling as so many of my friends are posting photos on Instagram of their feet sunken into sandy beaches, and palm trees against lapping ocean waves.
But before you can get from point A to point B, there’s the airport to contend with.
While some large airports offer a wealth of vegan riches, at others the vegan options include such highlights as potato chips and a banana. (Shout out to Cedar Rapids! Womp, womp.)
Better safe than sorry
Still, even if I’m going through a vegan-friendly airport, you never know when a delay will cause a tight connection that doesn’t allow for grabbing an overpriced burrito or bagel.
And of course, then there are times when a missed flight means you’re spending a whole lot more time at the airport than you’d planned – sometimes after hours when the restaurants have closed.
So I always like to pack for flights as if I’m going on a long adventure, even if it’s supposed to be a quick jaunt. I’d rather be over prepared with snacks I can eat at my destination than ravenous and stuck in a middle seat with a grumbling stomach and over-talkative seatmate.
(I can get cranky when I’m too hungry even in the best of times. Add to that travel stress and over-crowded planes, and it’s not a pretty sight.)
So today I’m rounding up vegan recipes & tips for taking food on a plane – just in time for your next flight.
Taking food on a plane
There’s a lot to think about when planning food for travel. You don’t want to break the liquid rule of going over 3.4 ounces. However, while you can’t bring a jar of vegan mayo on a trip, you can put a slathering on your sandwich without a problem.
(Remember that foods that resemble pastes follow the same liquid guideline. So big packages of guacamole, hummus, or vegan cream cheese are a no go, unless they’re slathered on a sandwich.)
When taking food on a plane, I like to include things that taste just as good at room temperature since heating isn’t usually an option.
(Wondering how to keep food cold on a plane? I have more information on that at the end of this post.)
Also, bring an empty reusable water bottle in your carry-on. While you can’t bring a filled water bottle through security, once you’ve been screened, you can add to it from a water fountain on the other side.
Vegan sandwiches & wraps
When you’re making a sandwich for the trip, of course you could do something super simple like store-bought vegan deli slices on wheat with mustard and pickles.
Field Roast and Herbivorous Butcher make some particularly delicious vegan deli slices. (That’s the Herbivorous Butcher pastrami above.)
Vegan tuna salad
Vegan tuna salad is made with chickpeas, vegan mayo, and pickles. Serve it with a bag of potato chips, and it feels like an old school lunch from the 80’s.
Vegan egg salad sandwich
Or go with vegan egg salad, featuring tofu and black salt. This sandwich takes 5 minutes to make. So even if you put off packing until the last possible minute, you still have time to make this sandwich, and catch your flight.
Curried tofu salad
Speaking of tofu salad, if you like a spicier mix, make curried tofu salad. It can be put on a sandwich, served with a salad, or eaten right out of the bowl.
It was modeled after a cold deli salad that I like to get at my local co-op.
This flavorful picnic sandwich isn’t just for hikes and picnic baskets alone! It also works well for travel days with its spicy sweet jalapeño cashew cheese spread and loads of vegetables.
Double hummus wraps
It wouldn’t be a vegan travel line-up without hummus wraps.
This double hummus wrap includes both traditional chickpea and black bean hummus. It has rice for staying power, and turnip pickles for a delicious, salty crunch.
Bagel sandwich with hummus & vegetables
This inviting bagel sandwich takes only minutes to make. It’s packed with a generous spread of hummus for protein, crunchy cucumber, red bell pepper, and onion.
These hearty salads can be a meal on their own. Remember, if you’re packing a salad in your carry-on, bring a fork with you. I’ve had instances where I had a salad but no cutlery, and there was none to be had on the plane.
Israeli couscous salad
This Israeli couscous salad is packed with lots of flavor and some of my favorite ingredients – cucumbers, artichoke hearts, and olives. So much briny goodness!
It can work as a meal on its own or a side dish to a sandwich.
Cold peanut noodle salad
Cold peanut noodle salad includes filling pasta and crisp vegetables in a creamy peanut sauce. Add cubed tofu for an extra punch of satiating protein.
Bowtie pasta salad
In a similar vein, this bowtie pasta salad is delicious hot or cold and filled with vegetables, roasted chickpeas, and chewy farfalle pasta.
If you want to make sure you eat your greens while traveling the friendly skies, this sesame kale is the way to do it. Because it’s steamed first, the kale softens and shrinks, and you get a whole lot of kale with every bite.
This marinated lentils recipe offers another good, substantive option that can be served with a salad or eaten on its own.
It’s fairly easy at airports to find a vegan-friendly side salad, but finding something protein-dense can be more elusive. By bringing along marinated lentils, I know I’ll stay full until I land.
Lemon rosemary tofu
What about on the return flight?
Return flights can be a little trickier for packing, since you don’t always have access to a kitchen at your destination. In those instances, I like to grab an extra meal at my final restaurant stop. Or visit a natural grocery store to get a vegan to-go item.
Other vegan airplane snack ideas:
Popcorn, dried fruit, bananas, apples, grapes, potato chips, tortilla chips, vegan jerky, kale chips, crackers, noodle & oatmeal cups (most airplanes have hot water available), and hard non-dairy cheese slices.
How to keep food cold on a plane
One lucky thing about vegan food is that by design it doesn’t include several of the biggest offenders people worry about when it comes to food safety. (There’s a reason people are wary about a non-vegan potato salad at the 4th of July picnic.)
But since vegan food already leaves out meat, eggs, and dairy, you’re one step ahead out of the gate.
However, just like packing a lunch for work or school, you’ll want to use common sense for keeping foods cold & within safety standards. Using an insulated lunch bag is an obvious first step.
According to the TSA guidelines, an ice pack can go through the TSA checkpoint as long as it is frozen solid during screening. If the pack has started to melt, is slushy, or has left behind liquid at the bottom of the container, it will have to meet the 3-1-1 liquid requirements, or else it won’t be permitted.
To keep things cold, freeze your ice packs well ahead of time, and don’t put them into your insulated container until you are heading out the door. Adding a frozen element, like frozen grapes, can also help to keep things cool.
Vegan food in the airport
If you run out of time to plan taking food on a plane or life has other ideas, check out these vegan airport options:
- Los Angeles restaurant, Real Food Daily, has its own stand at LAX with a fully vegan menu.
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport has several vegan options.
- So does the Denver International Airport, which includes labeled vegan options at Root Down.
And once you get to the hotel, I also have some ideas for keeping your mini fridge well stocked in this post titled, How to eat vegan while traveling.