christmas

50+ Homemade Food Gifts That Travel Well (and the Recipes to Make Them!)

updated Nov 16, 2023
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sucre le creme sit stacked on top of each other
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

If you are traveling to see family and friends and don’t want to show up empty-handed, you might be wondering what kind of food gifts are best to bring along. When it comes to both homemade and store-bought food gifts, it’s important to consider not only how delicious the treats are, but also how well they can withstand a long flight or a few hours or days on the road. After all, nobody wants to present their loved ones with a smushed cake or stale cookies.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 15 homemade food gifts that travel well — and we’ve gathered our best recipes to help you make them. All of the food gifts on this list meet the following requirements:

  • Don’t need to be refrigerated 
  • Have a shelf life of a few days or weeks
  • Able to be easily and neatly packed
  • Won’t fall apart, smush, melt, or become otherwise ruined when jostled

Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, here are our top picks for homemade food gifts. (Many of these can also be mailed!)

Candies, Cookies, and Bark

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Classic Chocolate Fudge

This recipe for fudge is a classic one from my childhood. I like it because it requires no special equipment or ingredients — just sugar, cocoa powder, milk, salt, butter and vanilla. Even a candy thermometer is optional.

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2 / 26
Sucre à la Crème (Maple Fudge)
A French Canadian confection made with maple syrup or brown sugar and served as a spread or fudge.
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3 / 26
Soft Caramel Candies
A two-step approach to making easy caramel candies.
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4 / 26
Ginger Cinnamon Caramels

These are not nearly as spicy as Ginger People’s hot stuff; instead they’re warm and mild, perfect for Christmas candy giveaways.

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5 / 26
Peanut Brittle
Homemade peanut brittle is the ultimate made-with-love holiday gift.
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6 / 26
Toffee
Crunchy butter toffee topped with melted chocolate and finely chopped nuts is the easiest homemade candy to gift and enjoy.
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7 / 26
Holiday Nut & Fruit Brittle

This Holiday Nut & Fruit Brittle. It’s perfect for gifting and so versatile, using whatever nuts or dried fruit you have around.

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8 / 26
Super Easy Holiday Pistachio Brittle

Made of caramelized sugar and studded with green pistachios, this brittle is a sophisticated, modern twist on the classic peanut brittle.

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9 / 26
Chocolate Caramel Matzo Brittle

While Passover gives us a reason to make this candy-like dessert, really there’s no need to wait.

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10 / 26
Chocolate-Almond Toffee
This buttery, crunchy toffee covered in a layer of dark chocolate and toasty almonds comes together on one sheet pan.
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11 / 26
Skillet Toffee

If you can stand to share, a batch of skillet toffee makes a great gift for someone many zip codes away.

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Brownie Brittle
Brownie brittle is a chocolate confection that is perfectly crunchy and crispy.
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13 / 26
Chocolate Chip and Toffee Shortbread Cookies
Crumbly, buttery shortbread dunked in melted chocolate.
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14 / 26
Parmesan Ranch Shortbread Crackers
In this savory cookie recipe, Pecorino cheese and herby ranch seasoning turn traditionally sugary shortbread dough into a decidedly salty treat.
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15 / 26
The Official Ted Lasso Biscuits
These classic, buttery shortbread biscuits come straight from the powers that be at Apple+.
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16 / 26
Sweet Potato Snickerdoodles
Chewy, cinnamon-y sweet potato snickerdoodles made with brown butter.
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Double-Ginger Molasses Cookies
Unlike traditional ginger cookies, we've added crystallized ginger, chopped dark chocolate, and espresso powder to our recipe to make them really stand out.
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Banana Pudding Cookies
Nicely crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, these cookies encompass the magic of that first bite of banana pudding in one easy-to-make treat.
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Black Sesame-Espresso Pinwheel Shortbread Cookies
An easy slice-and-bake shortbread cookie flavored with black sesame.
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20 / 26
Christmas Bark
This saltine toffee is easier than the real deal and so much ore tasty. Perfect for last minute holiday gifting.
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Elvis Chocolate Bark

In homage to this delicious snack, here’s a holiday bark, fit for Elvis himself!

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Strawberry-Almond Granola Bark

I can’t in good conscience call this a healthy snack, exactly. But neither is it a totally decadent chocolate dessert. It’s somewhere in the middle. An afternoon snack with a bit of a wink.

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White Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Bark

This sweet treat is quick and easy to whip up, and it makes a beautiful gift simply layered in a pretty container.

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Fluffy Marshmallows

Dunked in cocoa, gifted to a good friend, or secretly eaten too close to dinner, homemade marshmallows are a treat above all others.

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Eggnog Marshmallows

These eggnog marshmallows will guarantee you get an invite to the next holiday party.

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Birthday Cake Marshmallows with Sprinkles

Rainbow sprinkles turn anything into a party.

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Granola

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How To Make Easy Homemade Granola
A simple easy granola recipe for beginners and seasoned breakfast bakers alike.
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2 / 6
Cardamom-Spiced Granola with Tahini

Tahini, ground sesame paste, is exceptionally versatile and can be used like any other nut or seed butter in your cupboard — it’s delicious in cakes, cookies, and even granola! Put your tahini to good use this fall and get baking. This delicious spiced granola is proof that tahini has a world of uses.

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3 / 6
Curry Coconut Savory Granola

Consider this granola a much-needed savory break for you and anyone lucky enough to receive it from you as a gift. Savory curry granola?, you may be thinking. That’s right: salty, crunchy, curry-spiked granola studded with toasted pecans and browned coconut chips. You don’t need milk or yogurt to enjoy this granola — it’s good enough to eat plain by the handful, but if you’re nice you’ll make a double batch to give out as gifts as well.

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4 / 6
Cherry Pistachio Granola Clusters

A handful of this makes all other afternoon snacks look puny by comparison — and a whole bag of it makes the ultimate gift for everyone from the friends in your book group to the babysitter.

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5 / 6
Peanut Butter and Honey Granola

It’s a satisfying breakfast, especially with a dollop of yogurt. And if you’re feeling especially indulgent, try it with one extra drizzle of honey!

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6 / 6
Apple-Ginger Granola with Pecans
If your favorite part of granola is the big crunchy clusters of oats, there's an easy way to get them at home: Add egg white. This recipe does just that.
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Snack Mixes, Caramel Corn, and Popcorn

Set your hosts up for a movie night by arriving with a snack mix or flavored popcorn treat. Pack any of these snacks in reusable decorative tins or large reusable silicone snack bags, which double as a bonus gift.

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Absolute Best Oven-Baked Chex Mix
A step-by-step recipe for making the best homemade Chex mix.
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2 / 12
Homemade Cracker Jacks

The recipe for Cracker Jack is similar to caramel corn but with the addition of molasses and Spanish red peanuts. To make it, all you have to do is whip up the simplest caramel sauce (butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and molasses) and pour it over plain popcorn and nuts. Toss, bake, then snack to your heart’s content. The only thing missing is the prize!

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3 / 12
Kettle Corn at Home

The aroma of lightly caramelized popcorn combined with the merry sound of popping is all the encouragement I need to buy myself a big bag for snacking. To imitate that rich flavor, make kettle corn on stovetop and let the sugar caramelize just a bit over direct heat as the popcorn pops. Here are some tips on how to make kettle corn at home.

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4 / 12
Pumpkin Spiced Caramel Corn

You can resist the pumpkin spice craze this time of year, or you can lean right on into it. I say lean. This crunchy, lightly-spiced caramel corn is only for those of us who truly embrace the season. It will satisfy those random cravings that arise between this morning’s pumpkin spice latte and tonight’s spice-infused dessert

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5 / 12
Peanut Butter Popcorn

Maybe it’s the college football parties, the trick-or-treating, or the endless grazing before Thanksgiving dinner, but snacks and fall just seem to go together. Popcorn is one of the best fall snacks, and this take brings some sweet and salty deliciousness thanks to peanut butter and honey.

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6 / 12
Salted Dark Chocolate Popcorn

It’s just barely sweet, a touch bitter, and just salty enough to send me back to the bowl again and again. Salted caramel corn used to be my go-to fancy popcorn, but since this recipe is so much easier and less messy, I know I’ll be making it more often, especially as a quick party snack.

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7 / 12
Dark Chocolate & Nutella Puppy Chow

Puppy chow, also known as muddy buddies, is simple to make. In the original recipe, chocolate and peanut butter are melted together and used to coat Chex cereal, then tossed with powdered sugar.

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8 / 12
Ina Garten's Chipotle & Rosemary Spiced Nuts

It’s another crowd-pleasing, comfortable, yet elegant set of recipes and tips with Garten’s trademark style: Unfussy, gracious, and delicious.

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9 / 12
Curry-Roasted Pistachios

In the past few years, pistachios have inched their way towards the top of my “favorite snacks” list. This is mostly due to their unique flavor paired with the “fun” aspect of cracking the nut easily out of the shell. These spicy curry pistachios have recently become my evening go-to snack with a glass of crisp white wine.

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10 / 12
Brown Butter Sage Cashews

You get two recipes for the price of one today! First we have cashews tossed with brown butter and sage, and then there are cocoa-dusted cashews for those of us with a sweet tooth. Neither recipe takes more than a few minutes to bring together, making this our new favorite snack for holiday get-togethers.

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11 / 12
Savory Spiced Pecans

A highly-requested fall recipe, these spicy maple pecans can be tossed with salads, served with an assorted cheese platter, or just eaten straight from the bowl.

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12 / 12
Candied Cocktail Nuts Recipe
A savory-sweet mixture of maple syrup and red pepper makes for irresistible candied cocktail nuts.
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Loaf Cakes and Quick Breads

Set the stage for a brunch or leisurely tea time with a gift of a sweet or savory bread or loaf cake. Tightly wrap the cake or bread in plastic wrap or reusable wrap and tuck it into a gift bag.

1 / 7
Copycat Starbucks Lemon Loaf Cake
From the warm lemon flavor to the impossibly moist, pillowy texture to the ultra-luxe lemon icing, this version is even better than the one from Starbucks.
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2 / 7
Cinnamon Streusel Apple Bread
Streusel-topped apple bread perfect for fall.
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3 / 7
Whipped Eggnog Loaf Cake

It’s cake. Made with eggnog. Glazed with sweet boozy icing. An extra pinch of nutmeg and a special baking trick with a whisk are all you need to put this holiday treat right over the top.

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4 / 7
Cranberry Cake

This cake is also a little unusual in its construction, at least for bakers like myself who are most accustomed to cakes leavened with baking powder. This is an old-fashioned butter cake that is leavened instead by whipping the eggs and sugar together for some minutes, until they are lightened and increased in volume. This produces an outrageously moist and tender cake, with the richness of a classic fruitcake. (I like to say this is a fruitcake for those wary of that good old English treat.)

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5 / 7
Carrot Quick Bread
Swap carrots for zucchini in this easy quick bread with a tangy yogurt glaze.
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6 / 7
Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread

The bright colors and flavors of citrus are one of the saving graces of long winters. So let sunny lemon take a starring role in baked goods when there aren’t many other fruit options available. The classic combination of tart lemon and crunchy poppy seeds come together in this quick bread that requires just two bowls and some elbow grease. Fresh lemon juice and powdered sugar are turned into a pretty glaze to drizzle over the finished quick bread for an extra layer of sweet-sour magic.

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7 / 7
Basic Buttermilk Quick Bread

For an average weeknight meal, or even a non-average dinner party, I really like this basic buttermilk loaf all on its own. It’s rich, a touch tangy, and not overly sweet, making it a good match for everything from a roast to a pot of chili. During the summer, I serve the leftovers topped with berries and whipped cream as a simple shortcake-like dessert.

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Infused Liquor, Vinegar & More

While bottles of infused liquor or vinegar might not be the best for carry-on travel, if you’re driving to your destination, they make great long-lasting gifts. Store the infusions in well-sealed glass jars or bottles, then pack securely and upright in a box for transportation. Tip: Ask your local wine store to save boxes with dividers for you, or make your own dividers with pieces of cardboard. Fill out any spaces in the box with crumpled-up paper or bubble wrap.

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Homemade Limoncello

All you need to make truly incredible limoncello are some good lemons, a bottle of stiff vodka, and just a little patience. So dive into what exactly goes in a glass: what alcohol and lemons you should use, how much sugar and how long should you infuse it.

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2 / 8
Apple & Cinnamon Infused Bourbon

I think you’ll be really surprised at how easy this is! Throw all of your ingredients into a mason jar and let everything get nice and cozy. Seal the jar tightly with a lid and stash it in a cool, dark place for a week or three. The flavors of the cinnamon and apples will infuse the bourbon, making it both sweet and spicy.

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3 / 8
Herb-Infused Honey

Making herb-infused honey has become one of my favorite ways to use leftover sprigs of thyme from cooking dinner, a handful of wild mint found while foraging, or the buds of an edible flower bouquet. It couldn’t be easier to do. And if you start now, there’s plenty of time to make them for holiday gifts, too.

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4 / 8
Fruit-Infused Vodkas

It’s no pretty jar of jam or row of canned tomatoes, I know, but I suspect that making your own fruit-flavored vodkas might just be the most fun way to preserve. It’s very easy and simple; choose some ripe fruits, cover them with vodka, and wait for a few days until the vodka tastes good.

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5 / 8
Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade vanilla extract takes just two ingredients — vanilla beans and alcohol — and you can be as straightforward or creative as you like. Though it does take a bit of patience as you wait for the alcohol to extract the flavor from the beans, the delicious results are well worth it.

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6 / 8
Homemade Bitters

From the medicine cabinet to the bar, bitters have a long history of curing ailments and flavoring drinks. Though they may seem mysterious, at heart, bitters are simply bitter and aromatic herbs and spices infused or tinctured in spirits. Combining the various flavors is where the fun part comes in. Here’s a primer to making your own bitters at home, which you can use in cocktails, sodas, cooking, and even as digestive aids.

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7 / 8
Toasted Coconut Sugar

Stored in a pretty jar, it looks special, yet the two-ingredient recipe is a snap to make.

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8 / 8
Citrus Sugar

You may juice citrus regularly, but perhaps don’t realize what you’re missing: all the flavor from the peel. Citrus zest brightens so many recipes, but if you have citrus sugar in your pantry, you’ve got a wonderfully fragrant gift. Keep it tucked away for sprinkling on cookies, rimming the glass of a tart cocktail, or gifting to your favorite baker or mixologist who will delight in the flavors of preserved sunshine.

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