When can babies eat black-eyed peas?
Black-eyed peas 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-eyed peas
Despite their name, black-eyed peas are actually beans, and they are among the most nutritious plant-based foods you can offer your child. There are hundreds of varieties that vary in size and color, but the California Blackeye is the most popular. The small cream-colored bean with a black “eye” is also called a cow pea and a field pea—names that hint at the history of the plant. Black-eyed peas were a favored crop on farms in the American South and Caribbean islands, where black eyed peas traveled along with enslaved people from West Africa, the bean’s native land. Today, the black-eyed peas are a popular staple food in many cultures as well as a celebratory ingredient that symbolizes good luck and prosperity.
Are black-eyed peas healthy for babies?
Yes! Black-eyed peas are one of the most nutritious plant foods you can offer your baby. They have a ton of calcium and protein, folate (for healthy blood), vitamin A (for eye, immune, and skin health), and zinc, which supports the immune system. But their true superpower: these little legumes are packed with iron, an essential nutrient that helps transport oxygen in the body.
Babies need increasing amounts of iron starting at around 6 months, when their reserves from being in the womb become depleted. This is why, for example, iron-fortified rice cereal for babies is sometimes recommended by pediatricians. But bland, textureless rice cereal need not be baby’s first food. There are plenty of whole foods that are naturally high in iron—like black-eyed peas—that can easily be worked into your baby’s diet. Tip: Serve iron-rich foods like black-eyed peas alongside fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, which boosts your baby’s ability to absorb the critical nutrient.
Cooking dried black-eyed peas 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 and black eye peas in cans marked “no salt added” or “low sodium” are safe 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 and containers that are marked “BPA-free”.
Are black-eyed peas a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Once cooked, black-eyed peas are not a common cause of choking. That said, in theory an individual can choke on any food. Always remain within an arm’s reach of your baby during mealtime.
Are black-eyed peas a common allergen?
No. However, it’s not impossible: there are some populations with legume allergies.1
As with all new foods, start by introducing a small amount for the first couple of servings and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over future meals.
How do you prepare black-eyed peas for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: At this age, the easiest way to serve black-eyed peas is to make a mash. See our recipe, which can be served on its own to encourage your baby to hand-scoop. As an alternative, you could spread the mash on a thin rice cake or baby cracker.
9 to 12 months old: This is a good age to start offering whole, cooked beans on their own to encourage your baby to practice the pincer grasp. You may, of course, also continue with mashed beans on thin rice cakes or on their own.
12 to 24 months old: Use black-eyed peas widely in your cooking! Encourage your baby to use age-appropriate utensils and explore a variety of sauces and presentations.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Soak beans overnight with a little apple cider vinegar or lemon juice before cooking to help break down bothersome plant compounds and make them more digestible.
Recipe: Black Eyed Pea Spread
- 1 cup cooked black eye peas
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Rinse the beans in a colander and set aside.
- Mince the garlic clove.
- Heat olive oil on medium low in a small skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add the garlic and reduce the heat to low. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Combine the beans, sautéed garlic, and the oil from the pan to form a smooth paste. You can either mash the beans with a fork in the skillet or put the beans, garlic, and oil in a food processor and blend.
- Spread on thin rice cakes or baby crackers to serve.
Black eyed peas take on the taste of the ingredients in which they are cooked. Cook the dried 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 can be mixed into casseroles, grain dishes, and salads, or eaten on their own with fresh herbs like basil and chives with a little acid like a citrus or your favorite vinegar.
- Verma, A., Kumar, S., Das, M., Dwivedi, P. (2013). A Comprehensive Review of Legume Allergy. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, 45(1), 30-46.DOI: 10.1007/s12016-012-8310-6 Retrieved May 24, 2020