Taking Chili Peppers on a Plane

How to Carry Frozen Chiles on an Airplane

I frequently fly from Denver toVirginia or California, and – more often than not – I’m transporting a few pounds of frozen chiles in my suitcase. I have always arrived with my chiles still frozen, even when I open my suitcase 12 hours after packing it.

Here are my secrets to arriving with chiles in perfect shape:

  1. Be sure your chiles are packed in heavy duty freezer bags, either Ziploc or vacuum sealed.
  2. Freeze them beforehand in a deep freeze (not the refrigerator freezer). Freezing them at a colder temperature will ensure they stay frozen longer.
  3. Put your bags of frozen chiles inside another sturdy waterproof bag. This is in case a bag turns out to have a leak. Yeah, I’ve had this happen.
  4. Place your bags inside an insulated soft cooler to slow the rate of thawing. These do a wonderful job and are easy to pack, but they are not waterproof. See the cooler I use below.
  5. Pack them in the center of your suitcase surrounded by clothes to maximize insulation. A checked suitcase is preferable to a carry-on. The cargo hold in a plane is usually cold and there is no chance of TSA interference (unlikely anyway).
  6. As soon as you arrive at your destination, transfer your chiles to a freezer.
Here is the lunchbox size cooler I use when I fly. I’ve put about 6 lbs of chiles in, which is about the maximum you can fit in one of these coolers. These are Ziploc quart freezer bags.

Put Frozen Chiles in a Soft Cooler to Transport


You can save a significant amount of money by packing chiles in your suitcase rather than having them shipped, but there are times when ordering chiles to be shipped is worth it. I evaluate the pros and cons of shipping chiles vs carrying them on a plane here.