How to Make Airline Food Taste Better (It Works for the Lounge Buffet Too)

airline meal hotel lounge taste better food buffet
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One question I’m regularly asked by others is how to make airline food taste better.  My simple answer would be “fly more international first class airlines”.  But the reality is that for how most people travel that isn’t great advice.  My own weekly business travel frequently leaves me on mid-con domestic flights or grabbing a quick bite off an airline lounge buffet.  I also eat more breakfasts and improvised dinners off chain hotel executive lounge buffets than I’d like to admit.

The key, I’ve found, is having the right items in my travel bag to help me doctor what I find in front of me.  I’ve become a wizard at creating my own improvements for bland food.  Much like the time I actually made deviled eggs for lunch from an airport convenience store.  Business travel is rarely glamorous and involves far more shameful meals on the run than I’d like to admit.  Often it’s either eat what is on offer or don’t eat at all.

Here are a six items you might keep on hand that will help amp up your food flavor:

Sriracha Singles

These awesome chili hot sauce packets are everything.  Add them to bland lounge buffet scrambled eggs. Stir them in the soup from the airline lounge buffet.  Use them on any airline food item that needs a bit of pizzazz (mystery chicken, I’m looking at you).  It’s no secret that I love sriracha, even at home.  I use it on my wings as well as in my snack mix.

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Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is not just for Asian food.  It adds a salty punch to many items.  At home it is the secret ingredient in my spaghetti sauce so I use it to punch up airline pasta.  It also jazzes up bland rice or boosts a bland salad to zesty.  Mini packs of soy sauce are easy to carry and I like the low sodium version to keep me from swelling up.

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Or you can buy these cute little fish and fill them at home.

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Peanut Butter

I’m a huge fan of peanut butter as an easy way to add protein and jazz up many items.  Bland semi-stale lounge buffet toast or bagels?  Add peanut butter.  Cookies or crackers?  Add peanut butter.  It works great with apple slices or celery sticks too.  My favorite brand for the road is Justin’s in the mini packs.

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Umami Seasoning

I watched on a flight recently as my seatmate pulled out a bottle of umami seasoning.  She swore it is how to make airline food taste better no matter how bland it is.  I haven’t brought a bottle on board yet, but it seemed to help her clean her plate.

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Parmesan Cheese

A former colleague would frequently pack parmesan cheese packets in his briefcase  He sprinkled them on everything from airline meal entrees to popcorn from the lounge buffet at cocktail hour.  An easy and fairly cheap way to amp up flavor quickly, if you ask me!

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Ranch Dressing

I have a couple of friends who swear that everything savory tastes better with ranch dressing.  I don’t always agree but sometimes having your own supply on hand, especially if you prefer fat-free, helps.  60 packs for under $25 makes these easy to store and grab anytime.

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Are these all a bit gimmicky? You betcha. But the reality is, I’m going to still spend a lot more time in bland chain hotel and second-city airline lounges than I am flying first class on Cathay Pacific.  As a result, I’m going to always look for ways to spice up the bland lounge buffet or figure out how to make airline food taste better.

What are your favorite flavor booster tricks?


  1. Toning worst than Executive lounges in the US. I haven’t bothered in years. Some Hyatt’s may be an exception. Stay away from those , and toss the packets. Pure sodium. Worst thing to eat during travel

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