When can babies eat broccoli?
Broccoli, when cooked until soft, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Where does broccoli come from?
In Italian, the name “broccoli” translates to the “sprouts of cabbage,” which is appropriate given the edible flower’s origins. The broccoli bloom is a brassica—a diverse plant family that includes collard greens, gai lan, kale, kohlrabi, turnip, and many other common vegetables bred thousands of years ago from wild cabbage in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. Cultivated broccoli fueled the Roman Empire long before it traveled with human migration and trade to other parts of the world, including North America, where Italian immigrants popularized the cruciferous vegetables in the 20th century. Today, broccoli florets are one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the United States, though the leaves and stems are edible, too.
Is broccoli healthy for babies?
Yes. Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin A, which supports eye health. Broccoli also contains vitamin B6 and folate, for growth and brain development, as well as fiber for healthy digestion. Powerful phytochemicals, like sulforaphane, also abound in broccoli and may inhibit the development of several types of cancer.1
There are numerous varieties of broccoli to try, each with its own nutritional profile: romanesco, a gorgeous lime-green variety with fractal blooms; purple sprouting broccoli; and broccoli rabe, a more bitter, leafy variety.
★Tip: Steaming or microwaving broccoli (as opposed to boiling) helps retain its nutrients.2 Roasting broccoli works, too, though this method may yield a tougher texture. For young babies, steamed broccoli has the benefit of softness for their tender gums.
Is broccoli a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes, raw or undercooked broccoli is firm and hard to chew. To minimize the risk, cook broccoli until soft and cut broccoli stems in half lengthwise. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meal time. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Is broccoli a common allergen?
No. Allergies to broccoli are rare, but possible.3 4 Individuals who are allergic or sensitive to other members of the cruciferous family, such as mustard greens and cauliflower, may also be sensitive to broccoli.5 6 People who are allergic to mugwort may be allergic to broccoli or experience Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy). Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Can broccoli help babies poop?
Yes. Broccoli offers excellent amounts of soluble and insoluble fibers, glucosinolates, and phenolic compounds that, together, contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity.7 8 9 Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about your baby’s pooping and digestive function.
How do you prepare broccoli 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: Bigger is better! Serve large florets that have been steamed until they are soft and the stems are easily pierceable by a fork. For the youngest eaters, if you serve a large broccoli floret upside-down (on its head with the stem up), baby will likely pick it up by the stem and eat the soft floret top. Another option is to serve cooked broccoli stems. Simply peel broccoli stem to remove some of the tough outer layers and steam until soft. From there, cut the stem in half vertically, so that it is no longer cylindrical. You can also grate raw broccoli or mash steamed broccoli to fold into finger foods like egg cups or egg strips.
9 to 12 months old: Try serving small, bite-sized pieces (about the size of a large adult knuckle) of cooked broccoli stem or floret. If your baby is having a hard time picking up the small pieces, just move back up in size to larger cooked florets and model how baby can take bites.
12 to 24 months old: This is a great time to introduce a utensil, pre-loading with bite-sized pieces of cooked broccoli as needed. As the child develops their tearing and chewing skills, you can decrease the amount of time you are steaming or cooking the broccoli a bit. Follow the child’s ability (and your gut instinct) and incorporate broccoli into any dish as desired.
Feeling anxious? Have a look at our First 100 Days: Daily Meal Plan for Starting Solids.
Where are recipe ideas for cooking with broccoli for babies?
Serve steamed broccoli florets alongside a dip (herby yogurt!), dressing (peanut sauce!), or spread (hummus!) and show baby how to swipe a piece of broccoli for extra flavor. You can try cooking broccoli in stir-fries with beef, mushrooms, or tofu and stir in ramen noodles or your favorite pasta to round out the meal. Broccoli can be blended with herbs and olive oil to make a simple sauce for chicken or pasta. Finally, try shredding raw broccoli florets to make egg cups, egg strips, or egg frittatas. Want to keep it simple for baby? You can’t go wrong with steamed broccoli with a simple lemon vinaigrette.
Recipe: Lemony Broccoli
Yield: 3 cups (720 milliliters)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+
Recipe By Solid Starts
- 3 cups (228 grams) fresh or frozen broccoli florets
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) lemon juice
- salt to taste for adults and older children (optional:12 months+)
- Wash broccoli florets.
- Steam broccoli with ½ cup (120 milliliters) of water on the stovetop or in the microwave until soft. This process takes about 4 minutes in the microwave or 8 minutes on the stovetop.
- Transfer florets to a mixing bowl. Drizzle over them oil and the lemon juice. Stir to coat.
- Scoop some cooked florets onto baby’s plate. Exact serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat. Allow child’s portion to cool to room temperature.
- Keep florets warm for adults and older children and salt to taste.
Serve the Broccoli
- Let baby self-feed with their hands.
- If you’d like to encourage baby to use utensils, pre-load a utensil and place it next to the food for the child to pick up. Alternatively, pass a preloaded utensil in the air for the child to grab.
To Store: Lemony Broccoli keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days.
★ Tip: Like to meal prep? This recipe can be easily scaled up. Just don’t add lemon juice and salt until you are ready to serve. This way, the broccoli stays fresher and salt-free for baby, and you can add seasonings to order for adults and older children.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Bringing Up Broccoli. (n.d.). @berkeleywellness. Retrieved April 9, 2022
- Wu, X., Zhao, Y., Haytowitz, D. B., Chen, P., & Pehrsson, P. R. (2019). Effects of domestic cooking on flavonoids in broccoli and calculation of retention factors. Heliyon, 5(3). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01310
- Sugita, Y., Makino, T., Mizawa, M., & Shimizu, T. (2016). Mugwort-Mustard Allergy Syndrome due to Broccoli Consumption. Case Reports in Dermatological Medicine, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/8413767
- Scott, O., Galicia-Connolly, E., Adams, D., Surette, S., Vohra, S., et al. (2012). The safety of cruciferous plants in humans: a systematic review. Journal of biomedicine & biotechnology, 503241. DOI:10.1155/2012/503241. Retrieved April 29, 2022
- Blaiss, MS., McCants, ML., Lehrer, SB. (1987). Anaphylaxis to cabbage: detection of allergens. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 58(4):248-50. Retrieved April 29, 2022
- Hermanides, H.K., Laheÿ-de Boer, A.M., Zuidmeer, L., Guikers, C., van Ree, R., et al. (2006). Brassica oleracea pollen, a new source of occupational allergens. Allergy, 61(4), 498–502. DOI:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2006.01055.x. Retrieved April 29, 2022
- Sikorska-Zimny K, Beneduce L. The glucosinolates and their bioactive derivatives in Brassica: a review on classification, biosynthesis and content in plant tissues, fate during and after processing, effect on the human organism and interaction with the gut microbiota. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(15):2544-2571. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1780193. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Bunzel, M., Seiler, A., & Steinhart, H. (2005). Characterization of dietary fiber lignins from fruits and vegetables using the DFRC method. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 53(24), 9553–9559. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf0520037
- Cartea ME, Francisco M, Soengas P, Velasco P. Phenolic compounds in Brassica vegetables. Molecules. 2010;16(1):251-280. Published 2010 Dec 30. doi:10.3390/molecules16010251. Retrieved April 25, 2022