When can babies eat black beans?
Black beans, if cooked down to a soft consistency, may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of black beans
Black beans are a beloved staple food in kitchens around world, especially in Central and South America, their native land, where they are and known as bu’ul in Mayan, feijões pretos in Portuguese, and frijoles negros in Spanish. Black beans are affordable, versatile, and packed with nutrition—making them a terrific food for babies and adults alike.
Are black beans healthy for babies?
Absolutely! To start, black beans are an excellent source of fiber, healthy fats, and protein. The bean’s black shell offers anthocyanins, which are plant-based compounds with antioxidant effects that fight free radicals in the body. They also contain lots of B-vitamins, specifically vitamin B1 and folate, which help our bodies process carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and power our brain and nervous system. The best part about black beans: they contain lots of iron and zinc, two essential nutrients that are often deficient and/or insufficient in babies.1
Babies need increasing amounts of iron starting at 6-month mark, when their reserves become depleted. Breastfed babies are particularly in need of iron-rich foods, as breast milk contains very little iron. This is why, for example, iron-fortified rice cereal for babies is sometimes recommended by pediatricians. But rice cereal need not be baby’s first food. There are plenty of whole foods that are naturally high in iron—like black beans!—that can easily be worked into your baby’s diet. Serve them alongside a food that is high in vitamin C (berries! broccoli! cauliflower! citrus!) to boost your baby’s ability to absorb all that healthy iron.
Cooking dried black beans from scratch is more economical (and usually healthier!) but canned beans taste great, too. Just be sure to read the fine print on the labels:
- Watch the salt. From beans to fish, canned products often have exceedingly high levels of sodium, which you want to limit when it comes to feeding your baby. Beans in cans marked “no salt added” or “low sodium” are good options.
- Be careful with BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in plastics and resins, and in the interior lining of cans, amongst many other packaging materials. Unfortunately, BPA has been linked to cellular damage, including disrupting your baby’s endocrine (hormone) functions, affecting growth in many ways. When purchasing preserved products for your baby, look for cans or pouches that are marked “BPA-free”.
Are black beans a common choking hazard for babies?
They can be. To reduce the risk, cook until very soft and smash until you feel your baby is ready for the whole beans. Always stay near your baby during mealtime and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Are black beans a common allergen?
No. Black beans are not listed among the most common food allergens, but in theory, an individual can be allergic to any food. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a scant quantity at first. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare black beans for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Blend cooked black beans into a smooth paste and serve on its own to encourage hand-scooping or spread on thin rice/grain cakes. To boost nutrition, add breast milk, formula, olive oil, or even full fat yogurt to the blender when making the paste. Start with small portions: beans + young babies = poop! For babies who are starting to develop a pincer grasp, serve black beans that have been gently flattened by a fork.
9 to 18 months old: If you feel your baby is ready, this can be a good time to introduce whole beans as long as the beans are cooked until soft. If you are nervous about choking, gently flatten the beans before serving or serve as a mash on a pre-loaded baby’s spoon. Keep experimenting with added nutrition by mixing the beans with milk, oil, or other healthy fats.
18 to 24 months old: Keep serving black beans as described above, and try mixing black beans with grains, pasta, scrambled eggs, or soup. This is also a great age to explore burrito bowls—see recipe. To encourage utensil use, teach your baby to spear beans with an age-appropriate fork.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Black beans are on the small side, so if your baby has not quite mastered the pincer grasp, opt for cannellini, fava, or kidney beans, whose larger shape are easier for babies to pick up and eat independently.
Recipe: Burrito Bowl
- 1 cup cooked black beans
- ½ cup corn kernels (12 months+)
- ½ avocado
- 2 ounces grilled chicken
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon crème fraiche, mascarpone cheese, or sour cream (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground hemp seeds
- Rinse the beans in a colander and place in a mixing bowl. For babies younger than 9 months of age and/or to reduce the choking hazard, flatten each bean with the back of the fork.
- Cook the corn in a small saucepan with a splash of water until warm and softened. Transfer to the bowl.
- Halve the avocado and remove the pit. Store one half in the refrigerator for future meals, and remove the peel from the other half. Slice into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl.
- If using chicken, shred or thinly slice the meat. Add to the bowl.
- Add the olive oil to a mixing bowl, and if you like, the crème fraiche, mascarpone cheese, or sour cream—the creaminess binds the food, which helps babies with self-feeding. Gently stir to combine.
- Transfer to a bowl that suctions to the table. Sprinkle the ground hemp seeds on top for an added boost of nutrition.
Black beans have a mild earthy taste and a creamy texture. Like all beans, they take on the taste of the ingredients in which they are cooked. Cook the dried black beans in bone broths, vegetable stock, coconut milk, or another nutritious liquid to build a base of flavor. Add herbs like bay leaf, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, or thyme to the pot to add another layer of taste. Once cooked, the beans are a great foundation to experiment with flavor pairings and spices. Try mixing them into casseroles, grain dishes, and salads, or eating them on their own with fresh herbs like cilantro with a little acid like lime juice or your favorite vinegar.