Creating delicious space food for astronauts to eat has long been a concern for space agencies.


If they want a human mission to last longer than a few hours without your crew getting irritable or distracted, you have to feed them

But in the early Mercury missions it quickly became apparent that food served another important purpose – keeping up morale.

The Mercury 7 astronauts were given unappetising meals served as a paste in a tube, and it was one of their biggest complaints about the mission.

Today space agencies around the world spend a lot of their time dedicated to making the best food that they can for their crews for their long stays on the International Space Station (ISS).

Expedition 55 crewmembers (left to right) Anton N. Shkaplerov, Oleg G. Artemev, and Norishige Kanai enjoy a sushi dinner.
Expedition 55 crewmembers (left to right) Anton N. Shkaplerov, Oleg G. Artemev, and Norishige Kanai eating sushi on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

How is astronauts' food made?

The lack of gravity means that many foods we easily eat on Earth are impossible in space.

Meanwhile, the lack of storage space and need for food to last months, or even years, put further constraints on how foods are processed. So what do astronauts eat in space?

In a lot of cases, it’s possible to use shelf-stable ingredients to pre-cook meals and then vacuum sealing them in bags or tins as glorified ready meals.

However, sometimes it’s better to dehydrate food removing as much water as possible, usually by freeze-drying.

This puts the food into a strong vacuum drawing out up to 98% of the water, and it can then be rehydrated at a later date.

Today, the ISS has a special kitchen with hot and cold water taps, as well as a warmer to heat meals.

Several pouches labelled - Intermediate Moisture, Natural form, Thermostabilized/Aseptic Fill, Rehydratable and Beverage.
A range of space food available on the Space Shuttle, showing the range of methods for preserving food. Credit: NASA

What does food taste like in space?

The effect of microgravity doesn’t change the chemical structure of most food stuffs, so food should in theory taste the same on Earth as it does on orbit.

However, it does cause fluids in the body to shift, meaning some astronauts get congested and can’t taste as well as they can here on Earth.

For this reason, one of the favourite condiments on the ISS is Tabasco sauce.

What do astronauts eat on the ISS?

Astronaut Tim Peak floats on the ISS surrounded by fresh apples and oranges
British Astronaut Tim Peake admires a recent delivery of fresh fruit.

Today, astronauts have a wide menu to choose from.

Each space agency is responsible for feeding their astronaut, though it’s not uncommon for crew members to swap meals - especially when a new cargo delivery arrives, bringing with it a shipment of fresh fruit.

As well as special meals for holidays, each crew member is allowed to request a certain number of ‘bonus foods’, usually local delicacies or personal favourites.

Before his 2015-2016 mission, UK astronaut Tim Peake worked with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to develop essential British classics, such as chicken curry, beef stew and a bacon sarnie.

The latter was a slightly uncertain option, as the bread crumbs can gum up instruments, as John Young found out in 1965 when he snuck a corned beef sandwich on board Gemini 3.

However, Heston used dense bread which was then cooked in a tin to create a crustless option.

When Peake arrived at the ISS he found his crew mates had already cooked one up, waiting for him.

Listen to our interview with Tim Peake on our podcast Radio Astronomy to find out more about his time on the ISS.

Do they eat astronaut ice cream on the ISS?

Astronauts unpack ice cream on board the ISS (clockwise from left) Thomas Pesquet, Shane Kimbroug and Akihiko Hoshide. Credit: ESA/Thomas Pesquet

In space, no one can hear you scream for ice-cream – unless you’re on the ISS.

For the last few years, astronauts have received real ice cream thanks to SpaceX’s Dragon cargo vehicle, which has a freezer installed.

The catch is they only have the month the vehicle is docked to eat it – a great hardship, I’m sure.

What you won’t find though is freeze-dried ice cream – most astronauts say it is too dry and sweet for their tastes, and creates too many crumbs.

But that hasn’t stopped ‘astronaut’ ice cream becoming a hit with the public and the tasty treat can often be found in gift shops and science museums, serving as a delicious way to learn about the dilemmas when it comes to meal planning in space.

Here we list our top picks of ‘astronaut’ ice-cream, and space food for you to enjoy yourself, or give as a space-themed present to your dearest astro-nut.

Looking for more cosmic candies and space snacks? Read our list of best space sweets.

Or perhaps your searching for a good space-themed gift? Then check out our space gifts for kids and space gifts for adults.

Best astronaut ice cream

Astronaut Cookies and cream ice-cream sandwich

This ice cream sandwich is made from a slice of freeze dried ice cream that's been sprinkled with cookie chunks, and then sandwiched between two chocolate wafers.

The result is a delicious treat that will stay together in spite of the crumbly filling.

It is made in the USA using the same freeze-drying process used by NASA uses to freeze it's astronauts' food in time, but not in temperature.

The silver airtight bag (as well as looking great) keeps the product dry, so it should be shelf stable for years to come.

This would be a great space-themed gift for a child (or adult) who has always dreamed of being an astronaut.

Super Garden Mango Astronaut Ice Cream

This freeze dried ice cream uses its own technique which turns ice straight from ice to vapour, without undergoing the liquid stage.

This maintains the ice cream's structure, while keeping the delicate mango flavour intact.

Made from quality ingredients, the ice cream is vegan friendly, gluten and lactose free meaning it's a suitable space themed gift for any astronaut obsessed adult.

Is a great snack in its own right, but also works for a camping trip, can be sprinkled on top of your morning cereal or for recreating a mission to Mars in your own home.

To protect the delicate pieces, which have a tendency to crumble during transit, this comes in a sturdy airtight pot that is resealable, reusable and recyclable.

There are several different flavours available, including classics like chocolate and strawberry, as well as the more bizarre Vanilla with hard cheese and cranberries.

Freeze dried vegan strawberry ice cream

If you’re looking for ice cream that will never melt in the summer Sun, then this could be the option for you.

The 30g bag contains six balls of vegan friendly strawberry ice cream that’s made and freeze dried here in the UK by EmsEatsUK.

Comes in a resealable pouch so you don’t have to worry about the rehydrating if you don’t eat them all at once (but I won’t stop you if you want to!).

Also available in chocolate, mint choc chip, raspberry ripple and cookie dough.

Super Garden bubble gum mini ice cream

This ice cream is formed into hundreds of tiny balls – perfect for a little treat on their own, or sprinkled on your morning cereal.

If you’re looking for a present or just want to give it a try, there is a 60g tub, but if you really enjoy them you can buy a resealable 1kg bag to keep you supplied for months.

Suitable for vegetarians.

Best astronaut space food

Strawberry space food

Today, the ISS gets shipments of supplies every couple of months, many of which come with a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, but between those they do sometimes snack on freeze dried fruit.

These pouches contain whole freeze dried strawberries that can just be eaten straight from the pack.

Though they start out crunchy, the moisture in your mouth rehydrates the fruit it will start to bring out the flavour.

Freeze dried skittles

Astronauts regularly request Skittles, M&Ms, Reeses pieces and many other snacks on the ISS.

As these are already shelf stable, the only preparation they need is repackaging (otherwise they would have to test every single product’s packaging to see if it gives off any harmful gases in microgravity).

But that hasn’t stopped Sci-fi Foods UK from giving the sweets a space age makeover, and freeze-drying them anyway.

These candies transform the chewy Skittles we’re familiar with into crunchy puffs of fruity flavour.

Comes in 40g, 100g and 200g bags.

Astronaut Food cinnamon apple wedges

While freshly picked apples are well known for their crunch, over time they lose their crispness.


Not so with these freeze dried versions, which can maintain their crisp texture for years and years.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.