Branzino

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.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Fish
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

Jump to Recipe ↓
a whole branzino fish on a white table, before being prepared for a baby starting solid food

When can babies eat branzino?

Branzino may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months old.

Background and origins of branzino

Also called Mediterranean sea bass, European sea bass, and Loup de Mer, branzino is a white fish commonly available at fish markets and restaurants in the United States. Most are shipped to North America from Europe, where they are raised in indoor recirculating tanks, primarily in Greece, whose fishermen once caught wild branzino from the sea before the ocean’s supply was depleted.

Branzino is not the most nutrient-dense fish for babies (sardines, trout, or wild salmon are best), but with its relatively low levels of mercury, branzino is a safe option for little ones. Once cooked, the fish has a flaky consistency and mild taste.

Amelia, 8 months, eats branzino for the first time.
Bodhi, 9 months, eats branzino for the first time.
Callie, 12 months, eats branzino for the first time.

Is branzino healthy for babies?

Yes—when served in moderation. Branzino is packed with vitamin A, vitamin B6, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and selenium—nutrients that are key for optimal growth.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that fish be limited to once or twice a week due to increasing levels of metals in our waters from pollution.1 Many types of fish have been found to contain a form of mercury called methylmercury, a toxic metal that can harm developing nervous systems. Generally, the bigger the fish and the longer it lives, the higher the content of mercury and other metals. For example, swordfish and shark contain high amounts of mercury, whereas small fish such as sardines and anchovies contain very little.2

Not all sea bass are safe for babies. When purchasing fish, select varieties that are low in mercury and responsibly caught or raised.

Sea bass that are safe for babies and children include:

  • Branzino (farmed or wild-caught)
  • Farmed European / Mediterranean sea bass
  •  Wild-caught European / Mediterranean sea bass

 

Sea bass that should be avoided due to higher levels of mercury:

  • Chilean sea bass (very high in mercury)
  • Black sea bass
  • Striped sea bass

Is branzino a common choking hazard for babies?

Branzino doesn’t pose a significant risk, however any food can be a choking hazard in theory, so be sure to watch closely as your baby eats. Before serving, take care to remove the skin and bones, and cut up the food into age-appropriate sizes and shapes.

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

Is branzino a common allergen?

Yes. Finned fish and shellfish are common food allergens. That said, it’s estimated that only 1% of people in the United States are allergic to finned fish.3. Unfortunately, most individuals who are allergic to finned fish do not outgrow the allergy.4

If you have a family history of allergies or suspect your baby may be allergic to fish, make an appointment with an allergist before introducing branzino. As with all common allergens, introduce branzino in small amounts and watch closely as your baby eats to see if any adverse reaction occurs. If all goes well, gradually increase the serving size to your baby over time.

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

an infographic with the header "how to cut fish for babies": a thin deboned filet for babies 6 months+, bite-sized pieces for babies 9 months+, small flakes and pieces with a fork for toddlers 12 months+

6 to 9 months old: Offer large pieces of cooked Branzino about the size of two adult pinky fingers together. Alternatively, you might want to just put a bit of the fish in a bowl that suctions to the table and let your baby get messy with it (smashing it, sucking their fingers, etc.) Remember to limit the amount you are serving on the first couple of exposures until fish allergy is ruled out.

9 to 18 months old: This is a great age for Branzino cakes (see recipe). The disc shape is easy for babies to grab and hold on their own and will maximize consumption. Just be sure to also serve fish, flaked or in strips, on its own as well to continue exposing your child to fresh fish.

18 to 24 months old: Mix flaked branzino into healthy grains (such as quinoa), or serve with a sauce and invite your baby to practice using their fork. When introducing a new food to toddlers, try serving it two ways, such as Branzino cakes and freshly cooked Branzino in unsalted butter. Like all humans, babies—and especially toddlers—enjoy choice. Every child is different and certain textures and shapes will appeal to some more than others.

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Avoid purchasing prepared or processed fish cakes or fish sticks. Most are too high in sodium for your little one and fish cakes are relatively easy to make from scratch.

Recipe: Branzino Cakes*

Ingredients

  • Branzino
  • Lemon
  • Onion or Shallot
  • Celery
  • Unsalted Butter or Olive Oil
  • Eggs
  • Mayonnaise
  • Sweet Paprika
  • Panko Breadcrumbs or chickpea flour
  • Avocado oil (or other healthy high-heat oil)

Directions

  1. Place the fish in a large skillet or pot along with enough water to cover. Add 2 to 3 slices of lemon. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the fish is fully cooked. The fish is done when the tip of a knife inserted into the thickest part shows no translucent flesh. Remove the fish from the liquid and set it on a cutting board to cool.
  3. While the fish is cooking, finely dice 1 small onion or medium-sized shallot and 1 celery stalk. Place the onion and celery along with 1 tablespoon of butter or oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Turn off the heat and let cool.
  4. Lightly beat 2 eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add a spoonful of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a hearty sprinkle of sweet paprika. Stir in the sautéed onions and celery (and reserve the skillet to cook the patties). Add the cooked fish and stir until the fish flakes apart and the mixture comes together.
  5. Scoop up a small handful of the mixture and use your hands to form it into a small patty. Place the patty on a large plate and continue forming patties with the rest of the mixture.
  6. Place 1 to 2 cups of Panko breadcrumbs on a separate plate, and roll each patty in the crumbs until they’re evenly coated. (For gluten-free families, try substituting panko breadcrumbs for garbanzo bean flour).
  7. Add a generous pour of vegetable oil to the skillet and reheat it over medium-high heat for a few minutes, or until a small drop of water sizzles in it. Gently set a couple patties in the pan (don’t overcrowd the pan) and cook for a few minutes, until the bottom side is lightly browned. Flip and cook for a few minutes more. Lift the patties out and cool on a paper towel-lined plate while you cook the remaining patties. Serve at room temperature with a dollop of mayonnaise on top.

*Note: This recipe contains a number of potentially allergenic foods. Only serve it after wheat and eggs have been safely introduced.

Flavor Pairings

Like most white, flaky fish, branzino pairs nicely with avocado, fennel, garlic, lemon, mango, parsley, paprika, potatoes, and tomatoes.

  1. HealthyChildren.org. (2019, May 20) Healthy Fish Choices for Kids. (website) Retrieved January 6, 2020
  2. FDA, Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (website). Retrieved January 6, 2020
  3. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis – Fish. (website) Retrieved January 6, 2020
  4. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis – Fish. (website) Retrieved January 6, 2020