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.
Recommended Guide: 50 Fantastic First Foods
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.
Juliet Rose, 6 months, eats cooked broccoli.
Callie, 11 months, eats steamed broccoli.
Sebastián, 17 months, eats cooked broccoli.
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.
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. 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.
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.
No. Allergies to broccoli are rare, but possible. 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. 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.
Yes. Broccoli offers excellent amounts of soluble and insoluble fibers, glucosinolates, and phenolic compounds that, together, contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity. 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.
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.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Bigger is better! At this age, larger pieces of food are easier for babies to grab and munch on, which helps baby learn the contours of the mouth. Aim for florets with crowns about the width of three adult fingers pressed together and steam it to your liking: the longer you cook, the softer the food. Firmer foods are typically easier for baby’s tongue to push out of the mouth when too much makes its way in. Softer foods present a lower choking risk, though they often cause more intense gagging. If you decide to offer a firmer floret, minimize choking risk by cutting the floret lengthwise so that the stem is no longer round. Alternatively, mash or finely chop the florets and let baby scoop up the food with hands or a spoon.
Another option is to offer a large stick cut from the main stalk and steamed until soft. Simply peel the stalk to remove the tough outer layers, then cut the stalk into rectangular sticks about the thickness and length of two adult fingers pressed together. Make sure the sticks are not cylindrical, as that shape poses a higher risk of choking should a piece break off in baby's mouth.
Try serving small, bite-sized pieces of cooked broccoli stem or floret. If baby has 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.
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.
3 c (720 ml)
Wash the broccoli.
Place the florets in a steamer basket in a pot or a microwave-safe bowl. Add enough water to barely cover the bottom of the pot or bowl.
Cover and steam the florets until they have brightened in color and softened slightly, but hold together when pressed, about 3 minutes in the microwave or 6 minutes on the stovetop.
Transfer the florets to a mixing bowl. Coat them with oil and lemon juice.
Set aside some large florets to offer to the child, then season the rest with salt to taste for yourself.
Serve the Broccoli
Offer broccoli florets, then let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, hold a floret in the air in front of the child, then let them reach for it. Alternatively, mash some broccoli to pre-load on a spoon for the child.
Eat some broccoli alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Lemony Broccoli keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Speech-language pathologist & feeding therapist
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