Basil

Food Type: ,
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Common Allergen: No
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Basil leaves before they have been prepared for a baby starting solid foods

When can babies eat basil?

Basil may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready for solids, which is generally around 6 months old. Contrary to popular belief, babies do not need to start with bland foods, and you may introduce most spices and herbs right away. Basil is a member of the mint family, and its fresh leaves will add a bright flavor and smell to your baby’s meal.

Amelia, 8 months, eats chicken with basil and garlic.
Hawii, 13 months, eats pasta with basil.
Max, age 2, eats bread with pesto and tastes pesto sauce on its own.

Is basil healthy for babies?

While basil offers scant amounts of vitamin C, calcium, and iron, it’s an incredible source of vitamin K, which is important for growth, bone formation, and blood clotting. Additionally, basil contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A, which is necessary for your baby’s eye health and vision. But the best reason, in our opinion, to introduce this tasty herb is its bright green color. Introducing leafy greens and herbs early on will broaden your baby’s palette and help stave off picky eating later on.

Basil stems, while edible, can be bitter and woody, especially if they were harvested toward the end of the plant’s growing season. When introducing basil to your baby, just use the leaves and chop them finely. Save yourself time and hassle by rolling the leaves together into one big roll, then slicing thinly to julienne the leaves. A mezzaluna (a half-moon shaped herb cutter) also works well with leafy herbs and greens like basil.

Is basil a common choking hazard for babies?

If served as a whole leaf, yes—basil can pose a choking risk.  So, as long as it is chopped up, basil is safe for your baby to eat.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Can babies be allergic to basil?

Yes, though basil allergies are uncommon. If your baby is sensitive to mint, however, then be careful because basil is a member of the mint family.

How do you prepare basil for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Pesto is probably your best bet! At this age, flat, wide egg noodles are easy for babies to self-feed. You may also spread pesto on a baby cracker, thin rice cake, or toast.

12 to 18 months old: This is a great age to introduce fresh basil. While there’s no one right way to introduce basil, you may find that mixing it into other foods, such as ricotta, goat cheese, or a tomato salad may help your baby take interest in the taste and prevent little leafy parts from getting stuck to the back of the throat. And by all means, continue with pesto, spreading it on chicken, fish, and pasta dishes.

18 to 24 months old: Use basil liberally in your dishes and when you have it fresh, offer some thinly sliced basil in a little bowl for your toddler to sprinkle on their own meal.

Mix up your kitchen routine with ideas from our guide, 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers.

Recipe: My First Pesto

bowl of pasta topped with pesto

Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • Noodles or pasta of choice
  • Fresh basil (handful of leaves)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, walnuts, or nut or seed of choice (optional)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional, best for 12 mos+)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (parmesan), egg (noodles), wheat (noodles), and tree nut (pine nuts or walnuts). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Cook enough pasta for you and your baby in boiling water (skip adding salt to the pot) until soft. Drain the noodles, and set them aside.
  2. Heat up a small skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil and sauté the minced garlic clove on low heat until fragrant. Don’t let it brown.
  3. Once you smell the garlic, pull the pan from the heat immediately and set aside to cool. Note: you may use raw garlic (as most pesto recipes call for) but sautéed garlic is a bit easier on the belly and less potent/spicy.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, rinse the basil and pat it dry with a kitchen cloth.
  5. Pick the leaves off of the basil’s woody stems, and put them in a food processor, along with a generous pour (about ½ cup) of extra virgin olive oil, sautéed garlic, ¼ cup of nuts, and parmesan (if using).
  6. Blend the pesto until it forms a smooth paste. If it looks too goopy, add more olive oil. If it looks too runny for your taste, add more cheese or pine nuts.
  7. Mix your desired amount of pesto into the noodles, and serve.

Flavor Pairings

Basil tastes terrific with chicken, coconut, eggs, garlic, goat cheese, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, raspberries, shellfish, tomato, and walnuts.