California has a list of approved cottage foods that is more diverse than probably any other state. A lot of different foods can be made, but many cannot. What can, and cannot, be made for sale under a cottage food license in CA?
Approved foods include the standard baked goods like muffins, cookies, and cakes, but also nut butters, dried herb and salt blends, popcorn, and more regional or ethnic foods such as fruit empanadas and tamales, churros, and tortillas. Many more foods also are approved to be made in a home kitchen–cotton candy, dried vegetable soup mixes, chocolate covered marshmallows, and more. And the list keeps growing! Recently, certain fruit infused balsamic vinegars were added. To see all the currently approved products, click here.
Foods that make the cut are those which are non potentially hazardous meaning that they are essentially ‘shelf stable.’ Without refrigeration, they are unlikely to foster growth of potentially harmful bacteria. Technically, they are foods that have a pH or water content that will not support growth of pathogenic bacteria. (Such foods can still carry pathogens if prepared poorly, but not support its growth. Be sure to follow safe food handling procedures.)
Adherence to the approved list of foods is very strict and you should consult the official CA approved Cottage Foods list to see if your product category is listed. As a general rule we have observed the following:
No fermented products.
No acidified foods or those needing heat canning.
No products containing alcohol (other than minimal amounts in flavorings such as vanilla extract)
No products with meat.
No products with cream or eggs as a major component resulting in custard or mousse like texture. Probably no custards or mousses at all.
No frostings, icings, fondants or gum pastes with cream, eggs, meringue powder, or cream cheese
No baked goods with cream, custard, or meat fillings.
If you are wanting to make products like these, you should confirm with the health department that your products are, or are not, approvable under a Cottage Food Operator permit. If not, you will need to work out of an inspected commercial or rental kitchen.
Many times, substitutions can be made using whole milk, soy, coconut, or almond milk, or vegan products to get your recipe to qualify as a cottage food product.
Otherwise, there are so many other foods that ARE allowed as cottage foods in CA that you can easily find products to make or repackage in your home kitchen.
Roast coffee. Fry donuts. Shave chocolate. Check out the list and see how you, too, can have a home-based business!