The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is widely accepted for food purchases at most grocery stores and some gas stations, convenience stores, and farmer’s markets across the U.S. If you receive SNAP benefits, you can use an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit or credit card, to make your purchases.

But what can you buy with food stamps/EBT/SNAP? Not all types of food and food items are eligible for SNAP purchases — so if you’re wondering exactly what you can and can’t buy with EBT cards/food stamps, this article will provide you with a comprehensive list. We also include foods you can’t buy so you’re not left wondering.

In This Article

What Can You Buy with Food Stamps/EBT/SNAP?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Services SNAP Eligible Food Items page, you can use SNAP benefits to buy:

  • Food for your household, including breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; and dairy products
  • Seeds and plants that produce food for your household

As a general rule, if it has a Nutrition Information or Nutrition Facts label, it is considered a food and therefore eligible under the SNAP program.

For more information about where you can buy SNAP eligible foods with your EBT card check out our articles: Grocery Stores That Accept EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP and The 42 Gas Stations That Accept EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP.

Here’s a complete list of all categories and items that you can buy with EBT cards/ food stamps and where you can buy them.

1. Alcohol Mixers and Non-Alcoholic Beverages

NOTE: Alcoholic beverages are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. However, some alcohol-related and non-alcoholic beverages are eligible.

  • EBT-eligible brands: Any non-alcoholic or alternative vineyard brand with 0% alcohol content
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Non-alcoholic beverages, sparkling cider, cooking wine, mixes for alcoholic drinks
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

2. Baby Food/Formula

NOTE: The WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program is handled separately from SNAP benefits. While WIC benefits may restrict the types of foods that you can purchase, there are no brand restrictions for baby food/baby formula purchases with EBT. Learn more about WIC-allowed foods on the USDA WIC Food Package Regulatory Requirements page.

  • EBT-eligible brands: Enfamil, Similac, all major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types (powdered, concentrated, and ready-to-feed liquid formula; baby food jars; baby cereal; baby snack items)
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

3. Baked Goods

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh baked, prepackaged, day-old/discounted
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, bakeries, gas stations, farmers markets

4. Breads and Cereals

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types including prepackaged, mixes, instant, ready-to-eat, and all ingredients
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets

5. Candy

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

6. Coffee

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Ground, whole bean, prepackaged, bottled cold coffee, single-serve pods for K-Cup and similar coffee machines
  • Exception: Hot, ready-to-drink coffee is not eligible for purchase with EBT/food stamps
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

7. Cooking Ingredients/Spices

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Vinegars; cooking oils including vegetable, canola, and coconut oil; food coloring, condiments; spices; artificial sweeteners; salt substitutes; and cooking spray — these products carry nutrition information labels and are therefore considered food.
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

8. Dairy Products

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

9. Energy Drinks

NOTE: As a rule, you can buy energy drinks with EBT cards/food stamps if they have a Nutrition Information label. Energy drinks with Supplement Information labels are not eligible to buy with EBT/food stamps.

  • EBT-eligible brands: Monster, Red Bull, Full Throttle, Amp, NOS, Rockstar, most generic or store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Ready-to-drink cans
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

10. Frozen Entrees/Frozen Dinners/Uncooked Pizza

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

11. Fruits and Vegetables

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands; all produce
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh, frozen, canned, prepackaged
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets

12. Ice Cream

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types, including novelty items
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

13. Lunch Meat/Deli Food

  • EBT-eligible brands: Lunchables and other prepackaged combination food brands; all major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh sliced or pre-sliced deli meats and cheeses; packaged deli foods and prepared foods (including rotisserie chicken and cold sushi) that will be eaten at home.
  • Exception: Hot/prepared foods to be eaten at a store, such as in-store café services, can’t be purchased with EBT cards/food stamps.
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

14. Meats, Fish, Seafood, and Poultry

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fresh, frozen, canned, prepackaged, live seafood (lobsters, fish, shellfish)
  • Exception: Live animals such as chickens are not eligible for purchase with EBT/food stamps
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations, farmers markets

15. Nutrition and Dietary Supplements

NOTE: This category includes items such as protein powders and meal replacement shakes. As a rule, items with Nutrition Information labels are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits, while items with Supplement Information labels are not eligible.

  • EBT-eligible brands: Slimfast, Muscle Milk, Ensure, some store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Powdered, ready-to-drink
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, health food stores, gas stations

16. Seeds and Plants

  • EBT-eligible brands: All brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: Fruit trees, flaxseed, alfalfa seed, and nasturtium seeds; any edible or food-producing seeds or plants
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, health food stores, farmers markets

17. Soft Drinks (Soda/Pop/Coke)

  • EBT-eligible brands: All major and store brands
  • Types you can buy with EBT: All types
  • Where you can buy with EBT: Grocery stores, gas stations

18. Miscellaneous

In addition to the main categories, there are several other types of food items that are eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. These include:

  • Gift baskets: You can use your EBT card to buy gift baskets with food and non-food items if the value of the food items is at least 50% of the total price. Learn more about buying gift baskets with food stamps on the Important SNAP Information notice from the USDA.
  • Pumpkins: Whole pumpkins are considered food items and can therefore be purchased with EBT cards/food stamps. However, inedible gourds for decoration are not eligible.
  • Special occasion cakes: Items such as birthday cakes, graduation cakes, and other special occasion cakes are SNAP eligible provided the value of non-edible decorations is not more than 50% of the total price.

You can also buy these individual specialty food items with EBT/food stamps:

  • Baker’s yeast
  • Bottled water
  • Corn husks
  • Goat’s milk
  • Honey
  • Ice (cubed, bagged, or blocked)
  • Vegan foods

Find a list of these eligible and ineligible items and more by downloading the Generic Product Determinations (Excel spreadsheet) from the USDA SNAP Eligible Food Items page.

Finally, in certain rural areas of Alaska, you can purchase hunting and fishing items with EBT cards/food stamps including bows and arrows, harpoons, knives, fishing line, hooks, nets, and other necessary equipment. Learn more about this exception on the Alaska Division of Public Assistance How to Use Your Food Stamps page.

What Can’t You Buy with Food Stamps/EBT/SNAP?

The USDA states that SNAP benefits can’t be used to purchase:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes, or tobacco
  • Any nonfood items including household supplies, soaps, paper products, cosmetics, grooming items, and pet food (dog food, cat food, etc.)
  • Vitamins or medicines
  • Food that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods

Any prepared or hot foods that are to be eaten on-premises, such as at restaurants, fast food places, and in-store cafes, are not eligible for purchase with EBT/food stamps. The only exception to this rule is the Restaurant Meals Program, which provides prepared food for the elderly, disabled, and homeless in limited areas through participating fast food restaurants.

The Restaurant Meals Program is currently available only in California, Arizona, Florida (Alachua County only), and Rhode Island. Learn more about fast food restaurants participating in this program through our article, Which Fast Food Places Take EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP?

Some particular items in eligible categories are not allowed for purchase with SNAP benefits. As a rule, anything that does not have a Nutrition Information or Nutrition Facts label is not considered food and therefore isn’t eligible for purchase with EBT cards/food stamps.

Here’s what you can’t buy with food stamps/EBT:

  • Banana leaves
  • Bitters (alcohol-based flavoring such as liqueurs)
  • Canning jars and lids
  • Charcoal
  • Cod liver oil
  • Cough drops
  • Crabs (cooked and hot) — however, live crabs and fresh or frozen crab legs are eligible for purchase with EBT
  • Diapers
  • Dry ice
  • Energy drinks with Supplement Information labels (including 5-Hour Energy and G Fuel Energy)
  • Fertilizer and insecticides
  • Flax oil
  • Gift baskets that are less than 50% food
  • Gourds used for decorative purposes
  • Ice cream cone/sundae (fresh dipped and made for on-premise consumption, such as at an ice cream stand or store window)
  • Livestock (live animals or birds)
  • Nutrition and dietary supplements with Supplement Information labels (including Metamucil, Body Fortress, GNC, and most protein powders)
  • Special occasion cakes that are more than 50% non-edible
  • Toilet paper
  • Yeast tablets

In Summary

If you have an EBT card and receive SNAP benefits, you can use it at the majority of grocery stores, as well as some gas stations and farmers markets, to purchase any item that’s considered food — as long as the item is not hot or prepared food that will be eaten on the premises. In general, any food that you take home to eat is eligible for EBT/food stamps, including food ingredients and cooking ingredients.

You can’t buy obvious nonfood items like paper products, household supplies, and pet foods with EBT. If you’re not sure whether an item is considered food and therefore SNAP-eligible, the easiest way to tell is to read the product label. If the item uses a Nutrition Information or Nutrition Facts label, it is considered food. If it uses a Supplement Information or Supplement Facts label, it is not considered food.