Lesson 1: Cottage Food Basics

A cottage food operation, where you operate your business from your home kitchen, has its distinct advantages and disadvantages.

This lesson will look at what it takes to start a home-based cottage food business.

Cottage Food Basics

The Washington State Legislature created the state’s cottage food program, which is managed by the Department of Agriculture. A cottage food business can make up to $35,000 per year operating out of a home kitchen.

What you can sell

A wide range of products can be produced through the Cottage Food program. Without getting too deep into the weeds, you can sell:

  • Low-risk baked or fried products, including bread, biscuits, muffins, cakes, sweet bread, pastries, scones, cookies, crackers, cereals, trail mixes, granola, pies (except custard, unbaked fresh fruit or pies that require refrigeration), nut mixes, donuts, tortillas, pizzelles and similar products.
  • Candies cooked on a stovetop or microwaved, including molded candies and chocolates, candy or chocolate-coated dipped products, fudge, caramels, taffy, nut brittles, and marshmallow-like candies.
  • Jams, jellies, preserves and fruit butters.
  • Dry herbs, seasoning mixes, teas, and bread, soup and dip mixes.
  • Small batch roasted coffees.

This list is by no means exhaustive. For a complete list, check out Allowable Products under the Cottage Food Rule (WAC 16-149-120).


What you can’t sell

A home-based cottage food business has its limitations, partly due to food safety requirements related to food handling, storage, spoilage and additional inspections.

These include:

  • Fresh or dried meat or meat products, including jerky.
  • Fresh or dried poultry or poultry products.
  • Canned fruits, vegetables, vegetable butters, salsas, etc.
  • Fish or shellfish products.
  • Products made with meat, poultry or fish products.
  • Canned pickled products such as corn relish, pickles, and sauerkraut.
  • Raw seed sprouts.
  • Bakery goods that require any type of refrigeration, such as cream, custard, or meringue pies and cakes or pastries with cream or cream cheese fillings, fresh fruit fillings or garnishes, glazes or frostings with low sugar content, cream, or uncooked eggs.
  • Milk and dairy products, including hard, soft and cottage cheeses and yogurt.
  • Cut fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • Food products made from fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • Garlic in oil mixtures.
  • Juices made from fresh fruits or vegetables.
  • Ice or ice products.
  • Barbeque sauces, ketchup, or mustard.
  • Focaccia-style breads with vegetables or cheeses.
  • Food products not for human consumption, such as dog treats.

Here is a complete list of Prohibited Products (WAC 16-149-130).

If you plan to sell any of these products, you’ll need to move up the food chain to a commercial kitchen, as your home kitchen will not be able to handle your business plan. So feel free to skip ahead.

The Process

The application fee for a Cottage Food Permit is $355 and is good for two years. The fee is nonrefundable as it is used to verify that your food products are allowed before you submit an application and before you can sell products.

The permit is only valid for the person applying and it covers their primary domestic residence only. If you move, you need to submit a new application and fee.

It can take between six and eight weeks for the application to be processed once the office receives your application.

You can only apply to sell 50 master products. A product can have numerous variations (think donuts), but it is still considered one product. Products must be sold directly to consumers. You cannot sell online or to local stores. That requires a different route for Food Processors.

When you submit your application, don’t send recipes. These applications come under the Washington State Public Records Act, and you don’t want to give someone access to your killer brownie recipe. Any recipes and processes will be discussed at the time of your inspection.


Things you will need to apply

To obtain a Cottage Food Permit, you will need:


  • Water Supply Test Results
    • A copy of the test results if you’re on a private water supply (well)
    • A copy of your recent water bill showing the address of your Cottage Food operation.
  • Food Worker Card:
    • For information about obtaining a food workers card, go to the Washington State Department of Health
    • Provide signed copies of your food worker cards for each person named on your application.
    • Food Worker Cards are not valid until signed.

List continues on the next page…



Food Biz Academy

Main Office


Academy Staff