Carrots

Food Type:
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.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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3 carrots before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat carrots?

Carrots may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

Warning

Raw carrot is a common choking hazard, especially in the form of baby carrots and carrot sticks. Keep reading to learn more about safely introducing carrot to babies.

Where do carrots come from?

Carrots are often orange and sweet, but they weren’t always that way. The root vegetable originated in Southwest Asia, where humans initially harvested the carrot’s aromatic foliage and seeds as food and medicine. Eventually, people learned to eat the plant’s root as well, which was not orange, but yellow or purple, spindly in shape, and more bitter than the modern carrot. Humans brought the carrot around the world, eventually breeding new varieties in a rainbow of hues – red, gold, purple, white, and variations in between.

Cooper, 7 months, eats cooked carrots for the first time.
Julian, 9 months, eats whole cooked carrots.
Hawii, 11 months, eats cooked carrot.

Are carrots healthy for babies?

Yes. Carrots contain fiber to aid digestion and vitamin B6, an essential nutrient to power the growth and development of a baby’s body. A carrot’s superpower is its amazing amount of carotenoids, which are nutrients that convert to vitamin A in the body and support healthy vision.

Carrots come in many colors, and their nutrient density depends more on the quality of the soil in which they’re grown, rather than their hue. Dark orange carrots contain the most vitamin A, while the yellow, orange, purple, and red varieties offer specific plant nutrients that support the body.1 For example, purple carrots contain anthocyanin, which is a potent antioxidant, and red carrots contain lycopene for heart health.2

You may have read that certain foods like carrots contain heavy metals from the soil they grow in. This is true, though you need not avoid carrots entirely. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes (organic and conventionally grown) can contain trace amounts of arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals in the soil from pollution.3 This is more of a concern with puréed carrots because the additives baby food companies use can also contain arsenic and other metals but also because babies are likely to consume more of the vegetable in a purée form than they would munching on the whole food. To minimize exposure to heavy metals, refrain from offering rice cereal regularly to babies, serve a wide variety of foods, and opt for the whole food over jarred.

Are carrots a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Carrots are a common choking hazard, particularly baby carrots and carrot sticks. To minimize the risk, cook carrot until soft and cut into age-appropriate sizes. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

When can babies and toddlers have raw baby carrots and carrot chips?

It depends but it is generally safest to wait until closer to age two. Raw baby carrots pose a high choking risk because of their shape and firm texture. Like regular carrots, cooking baby carrots until soft minimizes the risk for babies and young toddlers. To minimize the risk further, slice lengthwise in halves or quarters. Never offer whole raw baby carrots to a baby and only offer raw baby carrots to toddlers when you are confident in the toddler’s chewing abilities, likely around age two.

Carrot chips (pieces of raw, coin-shaped carrot) are considered a challenging-to-chew food and as such are safest for more advanced chewers, closer to two years old or beyond.

Are carrots a common allergen?

No. Allergies to carrot are rare, but they have been reported.4 People who are allergic to birch pollen may be allergic to raw carrots or experience Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy).5 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Cooking the carrot can minimize the reaction.

As you would do when introducing any new food, start by serving a small amount on its own for the first couple of times. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future servings.

Are the nitrates in carrots safe for babies?

Generally, yes. Nitrates are naturally-occurring plant compounds that may negatively affect oxygen levels in blood (methemoglobinemia) when consumed in great excess.6 But know that organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the European Food Safety Authority generally view nitrates in vegetables as not a concern for the vast majority of children.7 8 Know that the benefits of eating vegetables typically outweigh the risks of any nitrate exposure from vegetables.9 10 

Babies who drink formula made with untested well water (which can be extremely high in nitrates) and those with health concerns or who are under 3 months of age (who should not be consuming solids) are more susceptible to the effects of nitrates.11 To reduce nitrate exposure, avoid consumption of untested well water and take care with purees.12 13 When possible, avoid homemade purees made with higher nitrate vegetables that are stored for more than 24 hours and commercial purees not consumed within 24 hours of opening.14 Higher nitrate vegetables include arugula, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and squash, among others.15

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

a Solid Starts infographic with the header "How to Cut Carrots for Babies": cooked and cut lengthwise for 6-8 mos+, cooked bite size pieces or grated for 9-18 mos+, raw quartered sticks for 18-24 mos+, and varies for whole raw baby carrots

6 to 8 months old: Cook whole peeled carrot (bigger is better) until it is completely soft and easily pierced with a knife, then cut the vegetable in half lengthwise and hand it over in the air. You can also mash or grate raw or cooked carrot. Help baby self-feed by resting a pre-loaded spoon of mashed or grated carrot in front of baby and let them try to pick it up.

You may, at your own risk, also offer a thick raw carrot stick (aim for around 1 inch or 2 cm in diameter at both ends of the carrot stick, avoiding the tapered end that could more easily snap off), peeled for baby to gnaw, an activity that won’t lead to much food in the belly at that meal, but has immeasurable benefits for strengthening the jaw, helping the tongue learn to move food to the side of the mouth where the molars will eventually grow in, and providing sensory feedback for baby to “map” the inside of the mouth. These actions help support the development of chewing coordination. While unlikely, for babies with teeth and a strong jaw, it is possible to bite off a piece of carrot. If this happens, give baby a moment to spit it out, keeping your fingers out of baby’s mouth. You can help by putting your hand on baby’s back and gently leaning the baby forward to allow gravity to help pull the piece of food towards the front of the mouth for baby to more easily spit out. Those moments can feel scary, but they are valuable teaching moments for baby to learn what isn’t safe to swallow and to practice spitting out foods.

9 to 18 months old: At this age, babies develop a pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. When you see signs of this development happening, try moving down in size by offering cooked carrots cut into bite-sized pieces. You can also offer grated raw carrot. As the child gets closer to 18 months, consider cutting raw carrot into matchsticks, which pose a bigger risk for choking, but offer the child the opportunity to build jaw strength and practice biting and spitting out large pieces. Raw carrots are a choking hazard, so make sure you are creating a safe eating environment by minimizing distractions (no cell phones, no tablets), making sure the child is in a supported seat, and staying near them at mealtime.

18 to 24 months old: Continue to offer whole carrots that have been cooked and cut into bite size pieces, or if you like, larger pieces as a finger food. Many toddlers are ready to handle raw carrots closer to age two. If you feel comfortable with the child’s eating skills, you can offer raw carrot that has been cut into sticks by quartering raw carrots. As always, you can reduce the risk of choking by making sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach at mealtime.

24 months and up: Continue to offer cooked carrots as desired and raw carrots cut into sticks. If you have not yet offered raw carrots cut into sticks, you may want to begin there before progressing to whole baby carrots. When a child is regularly showing mature chewing skills (taking small bites, moving food to the side of the mouth to be chewed and chewing thoroughly, and not stuffing too much food in their mouth), they may be ready to practice eating whole, raw, baby carrots in a safe, supervised setting. Raw baby carrots pose a high choking risk because of their shape and firm texture, so offer them when a child is seated, engaged in eating, and when you can supervise mealtime closely.

We suggest demonstrating chewing with the molars prior to offering the whole, raw, baby carrot: open your mouth, place the vegetable on your back teeth and explain, “I am using my strong back teeth to crush this carrot, and I have to chew it A LOT.” You may want to consider holding the baby carrot for your child to practice biting—hold at the corner of their mouth and allow your child to close their teeth on the food. Coach your child to push hard to break through the baby carrot. You can make a big deal about the loud crunch sounds that happens when they chew through it.

If your toddler does not attempt to bite and chew with coaching, you can continue to serve thin, raw carrot sticks to help build chewing skill.

a hand holding a cooked carrot cut in half lengthwise for babies 6 months+
A cooked carrot cut in half lengthwise for babies 6 months+
A hand holding bite-sized pieces of cooked carrot for babies 9 months+
Bite-sized pieces of cooked carrot for babies 9 months+

Learn more about how to make high-risk foods safe for babies in our Starting Solids virtual course.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with carrot?

Carrots have a sweet vegetal flavor that works well in savory dishes and desserts alike, and are eaten raw, cooked, or preserved around the world. Dig into a region’s cooking culture, and you will likely find a unique version of carrot salad: there are carrots marinated in citrus with onion and garlic; tossed with chile, coconut, and mustard seeds; lightly roasted with oil and bold spices; fermented with cabbage and radish; pickled with herbs and peppercorns, and more.

Recipe: Steamed Carrot with Herb Butter

steamed carrots sliced lengthwise in a tarragon butter sauce

Yield: 3 cups (500 grams)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 6 large carrots (450 grams, at least 1 inch in diameter)
  • 3 tablespoons (60 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon (1 gram) fresh minced chives, rosemary, tarragon, or herb of choice

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (butter). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the carrots. Cut off and discard the stem and root ends, or reserve for another use, like vegetable stock.
  2. Cut 1 carrot lengthwise to reduce the risk of choking for baby. If you are worried about choking, go ahead and mash the carrot after the next step. Chop the remaining carrots for adults and older children.
  3. Steam the carrots in the microwave or in a steamer basket on the stovetop until they are completely soft, about 5 minutes in the microwave or 10 minutes on the stovetop.
  4. While the carrots are steaming, melt the butter in a small skillet set on medium-low heat.
  5. When the butter is done foaming, add the herb and stir to coat. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Toss the steamed carrots in the herb butter. Set aside the halved carrot for baby’s meal and cool to room temperature.
  7. Season the remaining carrots with salt to taste and keep warm while the child’s carrot cools to room temperature.
  8. Serve the halved carrot as finger food to baby and let the child self-feed by trying to scoop the carrot with hands. If help is needed, pass a piece of carrot in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Cooked carrots keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 5 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Carrots taste earthy and sweet. Try pairing carrots with creamy foods like avocado, coconut, egg, goat cheese, kefir, mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese, or yogurt to balance the vegetable’s flavor. Add ground nuts like hazelnut, pecan, or walnut or serve alongside legumes like chickpea or lentils or grains like Khorasan wheat or quinoa for a complimentary earthy flavor. Carrots also taste delicious with fellow fruits and vegetables like apple, beet, cabbage, garden peas, green beans, lemon, onion, orange, pear, potato, and snap peas.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Carrots: A Beta Carotene Wonder. (n.d.). @berkeleywellness. Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  2. Arscott, S. A., Tanumihardjo, S. A. (2010). Carrots of Many Colors Provide Basic Nutrition and Bioavailable Phytochemicals Acting as a Functional Food. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 9(2), 223–239. DOI:10.1111/j.1541-4337.2009.00103.x. Retrieved July 8, 2021.
  3. Neltner, T. (2021, February 11). House Oversight Committee draws renewed attention to heavy metals in baby food and calls for FDA to act. EDF Health. Retrieved July 9, 2021.
  4. Ballmer-Weber, B. K., Wüthrich, B., Wangorsch, A., Fötisch, K., Altmann, F., & Vieths, S. (2001). Carrot allergy: Double-blinded, placebo-controlled food challenge and identification of allergens. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 108(2), 301–307. https://doi.org/10.1067/mai.2001.116430.
  5. Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome. (2015, January 15). ACAAI Public Website. Retrieved September 3, 2021.
  6. Brkić, D., Bošnir, J., Bevardi, M., Bošković, A. G., Miloš, S., et al. (2017). NITRATE IN LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES AND ESTIMATED INTAKE. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines, 14(3), 31–41. DOI: 10.21010/ajtcam.v14i3.4. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  7. Greer FR, Shannon M; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health. Infant methemoglobinemia: the role of dietary nitrate in food and water. Pediatrics. 2005;116(3):784-786. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-1497. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  8. EFSA Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM). (2010). Statement on possible public health risks for infants and young children from the presence of nitrates in leafy vegetables. EFSA Journal, 8(12), 1935. Retrieved September 2, 2021.
  9. Filer, L. J., Lowe, C. J., Barness, L. A., Goldbloom, R. B., Heald, F. P., et al. (1970). Infant Methemoglobinemia: The Role of Dietary Nitrate. Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, 46(3), 475-478. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  10. European Food Safety Authority. (2017). EFSA Explains Risk Assessment: Nitrites and Nitrates Added in Food. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  11. Preboth, M. (2005). AAP clinical report on infant methemoglobinemia. American Family Physician, 72 (12), 2558. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  12. Hord, N. G., Tang, Y., Bryan, N. S. (2009). Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiological context for potential health benefits. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(1), 1-10. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  13. Greer FR, Shannon M; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health. Infant methemoglobinemia: the role of dietary nitrate in food and water. Pediatrics. 2005;116(3):784-786. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-1497. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  14. Chan TY. (2011). Vegetable-borne nitrate and nitrite and the risk of methaemoglobinaemia. Toxicol Lett, 15, 200(1-2):107-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2010.11.002. Retrieved August 16, 2021.
  15. Lidder, S., & Webb, A. J. (2013). Vascular effects of dietary nitrate (as found in green leafy vegetables and beetroot) via the nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 75(3), 677–696. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04420.x. Retrieved August 16, 2021.