When can babies eat brussels sprouts?
Brussels sprouts, 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 do brussels sprouts come from?
Brussels sprouts are brassicas—a diverse plant family derived from wild cabbages in the Mediterranean region. So, what’s the deal with its name in English? Ancient migration and trade led to cabbage varieties that thrived in cooler climates, like the farmlands near Brussels, where “spruitjes” have been widely grown since the 13th century. With trade across the North Sea, the tiny sprouts took on the name of the Belgian capital where they grew. Brussels sprouts can taste bitter, although recent agricultural innovation has led to new varieties that minimize those harsher flavors. These offer a nuttier, sweeter taste that appeals to many taste buds—perhaps why this once-maligned vegetable has become a go-to ingredient for many.
Are brussels sprouts healthy for babies?
Yes. Brussels sprouts are loaded with fiber, folate, B vitamins, potassium, and vitamin K. Brussels sprouts also provide some vitamin E, choline, iron, and zinc. That’s not all—they provide pretty much every other nutrient babies need to thrive, including calcium, vitamin A, and carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), vitamin C, and magnesium. Plus, these “mini cabbages” are packed with phytonutrients that help protect human cells, support the immune system, and fight against cancer.1 Lastly, they also contain a dash of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in healthy brain development.
Are brussels sprouts a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes, very small sprouts are a choking risk because of their round shape and firm texture. To minimize the risk, cook brussels sprouts until soft and cut into quarters, so they are no longer round. Note that individual leaves can stick to baby’s tongue or the roof of their mouth and cause some harmless gagging. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Are brussels sprouts a common allergen?
No. Allergies to brussels sprouts are rare, but possible.4 5 Individuals who are allergic or sensitive to other members of the cruciferous family, such as mustard greens and cauliflower, may also be sensitive to brussels sprouts.6 7 People who are allergic to mugwort may be allergic to brussels sprouts 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.
How do you prepare brussels sprouts 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! Start with larger brussels sprouts (much bigger than baby’s mouth, at least 2 inches in diameter), then halve or quarter them and cook until soft. You can also mix shredded and steamed brussels sprouts into a soft, scoopable food like mashed potato.
9 to 12 months old: Try offering bite-sized or quartered pieces of brussels sprouts that have been cooked to a soft consistency for baby to practice picking up with their developing pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet). If you’d like to continue offering cooked brussels sprout halves, go for it. Just be intentional about teaching baby to take bites and model chewing.
12 to 24 months old: Explore a wide range of recipes that use brussels sprouts—including dishes with shredded, raw brussels sprouts. When you feel comfortable with the child’s biting and chewing skills, try decreasing the cooking time to offer bite-sized and quarter pieces of brussels sprouts that are a bit firmer in texture. This is also a great age to encourage self-feeding with utensils. If the child needs help, simply pre-load an age-appropriate fork with bite-sized pieces of cooked brussels sprouts, and lay it next to the food for the child to pick up. Alternatively, pass the utensil in the air for the child to grab from you.
Get baby’s caregivers on the same page as you with our guide, Baby-led Weaning with Daycare & Caregivers.
What are recipe ideas for cooking with brussels sprouts?
Use brussels sprouts in salads, slaws, and stir-fries. When shredded (cooked or raw) brussels sprouts work well in egg dishes, fried rice, noodles and pasta, soups, stews, tacos, and almost any recipe that calls for shredded cabbage. If you find brussels sprouts taste too bitter, use hearty fats like butter, olive oil, or peanut oil when preparing them. You can also balance the bitterness by serving brussels sprouts with foods rich in fat, like avocado, cheese, or nuts. How you cook brussels sprouts also makes a difference. Blasting them with high heat (frying, grilling, roasting, sautéing) mellows the bitterness by enhancing the sprouts’ nutty, sweet flavors. Alternatively, cooking brussels sprouts in water (boiling, steaming) leaches bitterness from the greens, resulting in a mellower flavor.
Recipe: Lemon Butter Brussels Sprouts with Ground Pecan
Yield: 1 ½ cups (360 milliliters)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 5-7 large brussels sprouts
- 2 tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter
- 1 tsp (5 ml) lemon juice
- ½ tsp (1 g) ground black pepper (optional)
- 1 tsp (2 g) ground pecan (optional)
- salt to taste for adults and older children (optional: 12 months+)
This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter) and tree nut (pecan). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.
- Wash the brussels sprouts. Cut off any woody stems, then halve the sprouts lengthwise.
- Add enough water to cover the bottom of a pot by 1 inch. Place a steamer basket in the pot and add the brussels sprout halves.
- Cover and set the pot on medium-high heat. Cook until the brussels sprouts can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife, between 8 and 10 minutes. If you like, you can continue to cook the sprouts until they are so soft that they can be easily smashed, though longer cook times result in a stronger sulfurous flavor.
- As the sprouts are cooking, melt the butter, then stir in the lemon juice and black pepper if you are using it.
- Once the sprouts are done, transfer them to a mixing bowl and drizzle with the lemon butter. Stir to coat.
- If you like, sprinkle ground pecan on the brussels sprouts. If you are introducing pecan for the first time, use a scant amount–about ¼ teaspoon (½ gram). You can also swap pecan for any tree nut that has been safely introduced.
Serve the Sprouts
- Scoop some lemon butter brussels sprouts into a bowl for baby. Serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
- If you would like to share the sprouts with baby, season your portion with salt to taste.
- Serve brussels sprouts and let the child try to self-feed. If baby struggles to pick up a sprout, pass one in the air for the child to grab from you. Never place small, round pieces of food like brussels sprouts directly in baby’s mouth.
To Store: Lemon Butter Brussels Sprouts with Ground Pecan keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.
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
- Kapusta-Duch J, Kopeć A, Piatkowska E, Borczak B, Leszczyńska T. The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig. 2012;63(4):389-95. PMID: 23631258.
- Bhilwadikar T, Pounraj S, Manivannan S, Rastogi NK, Negi PS. Decontamination of Microorganisms and Pesticides from Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: A Comprehensive Review from Common Household Processes to Modern Techniques. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2019 Jul;18(4):1003-1038. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12453. Epub 2019 Jun 4. PMID: 33337007.
- NSF Center for Integrated Pest Management. (1999). Crop profile for brussels sprouts in California. Retrieved April 29, 2022
- 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