Cashews, if they are finely ground or served as cashew butter, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Whole cashews, chopped cashews, and cashew butter are choking hazards for babies and children, so read our preparation by age section closely before serving.
If you are feeling terrified to introduce nuts to your baby, watch our peanut and allergen videos in our virtual course, which were created by our award-winning allergist MD and our founder, who is an allergy mom.
From its origins in Central and South America, the cashew tree was introduced by the Portuguese to India, which is now the world’s most prolific producer of the nut. The original Tupian word for this nut in its homeland—acajú—gave rise to many others (cashew, cajou, casu, kaju) as it spread across the globe. The cashew on its tree is a beautiful sight to see: each shelled nut emerges from the bottom of a small, brightly colored “false fruit” called a cashew apple, which looks like a tiny pear or pepper. The cashew apple is also edible, although they’re not widely available in many parts of the world. During harvesting, the nut is plucked from its shell, which contains a natural chemical called urushiol that is also found in poison ivy and poison oak.
★Tip: Cashews are a labor-intensive and even dangerous nut to process. If you buy cashews marked “Fair Trade”, you’re supporting fair prices and working conditions for local workers.
Alex, 7 months, eats cashew butter mixed into yogurt.
Aaïla, 8 months, eats egg noodles with cashew butter.
Río, 24 months, practices eating cashew halves.
Yes, if unsalted. Cashews are a terrific source of healthy fats for baby’s nervous system and brain development. Cashews are also rich sources of zinc and fiber, two nutrients that are important for healthy growth and digestion. Nuts in general are a great source of iron and protein for babies on plant-based diets. Lastly, cashews contain vitamin K, a nutrient that is essential for blood clotting.
Cashews are sometimes sold salted, and some brands of cashew butter may be high in sugar and sodium. When introducing cashews to babies, opt for unsalted, unsweetened cashews or cashew butter when possible.
★Tip: Like most tree nuts, cashews can go rancid. Store raw nuts and open jars of cashew butter in the refrigerator to extend the shelf life. Cashews can keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 6 months and in the freezer for up to 1 year.
No. Prior to 12 months, the only liquids an infant should receive are breast milk, formula, and if the baby is older than 6 months of age, water in small amounts (less than 2-4 ounces / 60-120 milliliters a day) in an open cup. If cashew milk is used as an ingredient in solid food (such as oatmeal), then it is acceptable to serve before 12 months of age.
If, after the first birthday, you’d like to introduce unsweetened cashew milk as a beverage, it’s fine to do so, but know that nut milk often lacks adequate calories, fat, and protein for a plant-based milk for toddlers; typically, fortified soy or pea milk are more nutritious. See our Milk FAQs to learn more.
Yes. Whole nuts, nut pieces, and globs of nut butter are choking hazards for babies and young children. To reduce the risk, finely grind cashews until no large pieces remain and sprinkle on other foods, or offer smooth cashew butter thinned with other foods like applesauce, yogurt, breast milk, formula, or water until smooth with no clumps. 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 section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Yes, cashews are classified as a Global Priority Allergen by the World Health Organization. Cashews are considered tree nuts (although they are technically a seed). Due to similarities in the protein structure of cashews and pistachios, children are often allergic to both of these specific tree nuts (approximately 75% of children with cashew allergy will also be allergic to pistachio). While only 0.5 to 1.2% of the population is allergic to tree nuts, tree nut allergy is usually life-long: only 9% of children with tree nut allergy will outgrow it.
Sumac and pink peppercorn belong to the same botanical family as cashew (Anacardiaceae), and individuals with cashew allergy may be sensitive to these spices. While mango is also a member of this family, most individuals with cashew allergy are able to enjoy mango pulp without any reaction.
Although an allergy to one tree nut increases risk of allergy to another, keep in mind that being allergic to one nut does not necessarily mean that all nuts need to be removed from the diet. Having as diverse a diet as possible, even within the confines of food allergies, is important for a child’s nutrition and quality of life. If your child has a cashew allergy, work with an allergist to determine if other tree nuts can be safely incorporated into the diet.
For most babies, there is no need to pursue allergy testing before introducing tree nuts into the diet, even if there is a family history of food allergy. However, if baby has severe eczema or has already experienced an allergic reaction, or you suspect your baby may be allergic to nuts, make an appointment with your primary care clinician or a pediatric allergist before introducing cashew at home. Your doctor can help you determine if cashews can be safely introduced in the home setting, or if supervised introduction in the clinic would be preferable. Keep in mind that a growing body of evidence supports the preventive benefits of early food allergen introduction (especially for babies with eczema), so it’s important not to delay introduction any longer than necessary.
When it’s time to introduce the nut at home, offer a small quantity (such as a pinch of finely ground nut or 1/8 teaspoon of smooth cashew butter thinned with water, breast milk, or formula) at first. If there is no adverse reaction, you can increase the quantity over future meals. It is okay if your baby does not consume each serving entirely. Rather than filling the belly with the nut, it is important to maintain exposure to common food allergens (such as tree nuts) in the diet regularly (twice weekly, if possible) once introduced. Don’t stop offering the nut unless your baby shows signs of a reaction.
Need more support introducing allergens? Check out our Introducing Allergens guide.
Recommended Guide: Introducing Allergens
Cashews and cashew butter can help prevent constipation by promoting bowel movement regularity. They are a good source of fiber and magnesium that help move stool along in the intestine.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Make a dip or sauce to serve on porridge or cooked veggies by mixing unsalted smooth cashew butter (with no added sugar) with applesauce, yogurt, breast milk, formula, or water until smooth with no clumps. Keep in mind that adding even a thin layer of nut butter to a food can make that food more challenging for baby to manage. Toast with nut butter can be particularly challenging for young babies to manage, which can increase the risk of gagging and choking. You can also finely grind cashews and sprinkle a pinch on fresh fruits like avocado or banana and cooked veggie spears. If you’re up for a little fun in the kitchen, you can make a batch of cashew cream by soaking cashews in water for a few hours until they’re saturated (they’ll be a little squishy) and then blending them until smooth. Serve a spoonful or two as a sauce on baby’s pancakes, porridge, or cooked meats, fish, beans, or tofu.
Continue to finely grind cashews and sprinkle on fruits and vegetables or incorporate cashew butter or cashew cream into other foods like yogurt, warm cereals, or mashed vegetables. At this age, you can also try serving cashew butter on toast. To serve, make sure the butter is very thinly spread and offer milk or water in an open cup to help wash down any sticky pieces of food.
Continue to finely grind cashews and use cashew butter as you wish. If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouths, and finally, the ability to identify and spit out foods when it is not well chewed), they may be ready to learn how to eat whole cashews. Just remember that nuts and nut pieces are considered choking hazards until age 4 and even beyond by all governing medical bodies.
Only serve nuts when your child is seated in an upright seat and is actively engaged in mealtime and not distracted. It is important to help your child stay engaged with the task, and part of that is modeling that safe chewing takes place when we are not talking, singing, etc. A highly animated child who is talking, yelling or singing while practicing eating nuts increases choking risk. Do not serve nuts in a stroller, car seat, or while toddler is on the move (walking around).
To model how to eat cashews safely, start by telling your child: "This is a hard one. Watch me." Then, show your child how to eat one cashew half at a time. Place the half cashew in-between your front teeth and exaggerate taking a small bite of the nut. Then, show how you move the nut piece to your molars with your tongue. Chew with your mouth open so it’s visible. Once you have chewed the nut well, open your mouth to show your toddler how it has been broken down. Say, "I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing." Demonstrate this a couple of times before offering your toddler a cashew half to do the same.
To coach your child through eating a cashew half safely, say, "Your turn to try." For the very first attempt, firmly hold on to the nut for your child to take a bite from it (without you letting go of the nut). DO NOT PUT THE NUT IN THEIR MOUTH. Don't let go until they have used their teeth to actively take a bite. This ensures that they initiate chewing. Continue but only serve one or two nuts at a time to pace the practice. If your child insists on holding the cashew half themselves, allow them to self-feed and take a bite if you feel comfortable. If you do not feel comfortable or if your child does not bite or attempt to break down the cashew with your support, we’d recommend waiting a few weeks more. Once your toddler has had ample practice with half cashews, you can repeat the process with a whole cashew.
After practicing nuts with your child, make sure their mouth is clear before taking them out of the highchair. Never allow your toddler to walk around with nuts or nut pieces in their mouth.
Take the guesswork out of introducing common allergens by watching our video, Introducing Allergens.
1 ½ cup (360 milliliters) water
½ cup (120 milliliters) unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk (ideally from a BPA-free container)
1 cup (80 grams) instant rolled oats or oatmeal
1 tablespoon (16 grams) unsalted cashew butter (with no added sugar)
¼ cup (28 grams) unsalted cashews
2 tablespoons (13 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
This recipe contains allergens: coconut (coconut milk) and tree nut (cashew butter, cashew). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.
Bring the water and coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Stir the oats into the boiling liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes.
Stir the cashew butter into the oatmeal. Cover and remove from the heat. Let rest for 1 minute.
Uncover and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Roll the oatmeal into 2-inch-wide balls. Evenly space the balls on the tray. Set aside.
Grind the cashews to a fine powder. Mix the ground cashews with the shredded coconut.
Roll the balls in the ground cashew-shredded coconut mixture.
Set aside a couple of balls to serve to the child. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
Serve the cashew and coconut balls as finger food and let the child try to pick up a ball on their own. If help is needed, pass a ball in the air for the child to grab.
To Store: Cashew and coconut oatmeal balls keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days or the freezer for 2 months. To prevent the balls from sticking together in the freezer, place the sheet tray with the balls in the freezer for 30 minutes, then transfer the balls to an air-tight container to store in the freezer for future meals or snack time.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
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