Cauliflower, when cooked until soft, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
“Cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” American author Mark Twain was no botanist, but he has a point about cauliflower’s origins. Long ago, in the fertile lands around the Mediterranean Sea, humans bred cauliflower and other brassicas from wild cabbage plants growing in cool, sunny, climates. With its mildly nutty flavor, cauliflower entered the repertoire of ancient Roman cooking, where it was prized as the tastiest of all the cabbages. Colonization and trade brought cauliflower worldwide, and over time, agricultural innovation produced new varieties with domed crowns ranging in color, from the common cream-colored varieties, to others that are bright green, golden orange, or deep purple.
Levi, 7 months, works with steamed cauliflower. At this age, large pieces of food are actually better than small.
Amelia, 8 months, tastes purple cauliflower (steamed) for the first time....
Hawii, 12 months, eats steamed cauliflower.
Yes. Cauliflower is a good source of fiber to support baby’s digestive health and is packed with B vitamins, including B6 and folate, as well as choline for cell energy. As with other cruciferous veggies, cauliflower has a decent amount of vitamin C, which helps our bodies absorb iron—a critical nutrient at this stage of life. It also supplies vitamin K for healthy blood and is rich in phytochemicals that support baby’s overall development.
Cauliflower is bred to grow in a range of colors, each offering slightly different nutrients. For example, green cauliflower contains chlorophyll, purple contains anthocyanins and all cauliflower – particularly the orange kind – contains beta-carotene. Feeding a wide variety of colorful plant foods to early eaters is one way to combat picky eating, while also providing plenty of nutrients for growth.
Steaming or roasting cauliflower helps preserve its nutrient content while increasing nutrient absorption in the body. Another bonus to cooking cauliflower is the reduction of pesticide residues, which are common in growing cauliflower.
★Tip: Cauliflower has lots of vitamin C, a nutrient that helps our bodies absorb non-heme iron from plants. Serve cauliflower alongside iron-rich plant foods like beans, dark leafy greens, lentils, mushrooms, and tofu to help boost absorption of this critical nutrient that babies need to thrive.
Yes, raw or undercooked cauliflower is firm and hard to chew. To minimize the risk, steam or roast cauliflower until soft and cut stems in half lengthwise. 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.
No. Allergies to cauliflower are rare, but not unheard of. Individuals who are allergic or sensitive to other members of the cruciferous family, such as mustard greens and broccoli, may also be sensitive to cauliflower.
Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen food allergy syndrome), and in particular, those with sensitivities to mugwort pollen, may also be sensitive to cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower. 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.
Bake a whole cauliflower crown to create a showstopper for a vegan feast. Slice a crown into thin “steaks,” then marinate in your favorite sauce and grill them in the same way as meat. Blend the crown into cauliflower “rice,” which functions like a grain in casseroles, salads, and stews. Blend cauliflower with bone broth, cashew cream, or yogurt to create a creamy sauce for pasta. The entire plant is edible, from its thick stalk that can be cooked like kohlrabi or rutabaga, to its sturdy leaves that function as stand-ins for collard greens or kale.
★Tip: Cauliflower has a long shelf-life in the freezer. To freeze cauliflower, blanch florets for 3 minutes, then drain and dry them before storing them in an airtight container in the freezer.
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 offering bite-sized pieces of cooked cauliflower floret for baby to practice their developing pincer grasp (where the forefinger and thumb meet). If you’d like to continue offering large florets of cooked cauliflower, go for it, and use the opportunity to model for baby how to take bites.
Continue offering cooked cauliflower florets as desired, both on their own and cooked into shared meals. To encourage the use of utensils, pre-load a fork with bite-sized pieces of cooked cauliflower, and lay it down for the child to pick up. Alternatively, pass the utensil in the air for the child to grab from you. Closer to the child’s second birthday, once you see they are able to take accurate bites and chew food thoroughly, try gradually decreasing the cook time so that the cauliflower is not completely soft.
Take the guesswork out of baby’s solid food journey with our First 100 Days: Daily Meal Plan for Starting Solids.
3 cups (720 milliliters)
Wash the cauliflower florets.
Place the florets in a steamer basket in a pot. Add 1 cup (240 milliliters) of water.
Cover and set the pot on medium-high heat. Cook until the florets are soft, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the florets to a mixing bowl. Drizzle the oil and lemon juice on the florets. Stir to coat.
Scoop some florets onto baby’s plate. Exact serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
Season the remaining florets for adults and older children with salt to taste.
Serve the Cauliflower
Serve the florets as finger food and the child self-feed with their hands.
If you’d like to encourage the use of 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 Cauliflower keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
★ Tip: Like to meal prep? This recipe can be easily scaled up. Just don’t salt the food. This way, the cauliflower is ready to serve at future mealtimes, and you can add salt to order for adults and older children.
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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