Cayenne Pepper

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 12 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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Common Allergen: No
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a pile of ground cayenne pepper before it is prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat cayenne pepper?

Babies may be introduced to spices as soon as they are ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months old. However, because it is so intense, it may be best to introduce cayenne pepper after your baby’s first birthday. 

It is best to wait to introduce cayenne until your baby is 12 months old for two reasons. First, and most importantly, you want to avoid causing your baby any pain as you start your solids journey together. We want your babies to learn that food is enjoyable and fun—that is paramount. Second, you want to help your baby develop an awareness of individual ingredients and their distinctive tastes. For example, if you introduce beans via a spicy chili, your baby may learn that beans are spicy and may not want to try them again. But if you introduce plain beans and your baby likes them, you can try mixing in a spice during the next serving, and your baby will learn that sometimes beans are plain and not spicy and sometimes they are spicy. 

Contrary to popular belief, babies do not need to eat bland foods when they are starting solids. In fact, studies show that children who experience a variety of flavors as babies are more likely to accept new foods later on.1 Babies and children learn to like what is familiar to them, so the more we familiarize our kids with diverse tastes, the more likely they will eat (and even like) them.

Whichever way you introduce cayenne pepper to your baby, make sure to use a scant amount and taste the food before you offer it. More tips on introducing this hot spice below. 

How to add cayenne pepper to fruit in a gentle way for babies.
Max, 16 months old, tastes mango with cayenne pepper for the first time.

Is cayenne pepper healthy for babies?

Yes. Cayenne pepper has vitamins A (including beta carotene), C, and E, as well as B-vitamins and a whole bunch of antioxidants and minerals. However, the scant amount in your baby’s meal won’t dramatically change the dish’s nutritional value.

Can babies choke on spicy foods?

Cayenne pepper, when ground and added to other foods is not a choking hazard unto itself, though it can make babies (and adults!) cough quite a bit. When serving foods with cayenne pepper, be sure to have an age appropriate drink (such as breast milk, cow’s milk, or formula) ready for your baby, as well as another, milder food that your baby loves to eat as another choice. Dairy products such as ricotta cheese or plain yogurt will help reduce the heat on the tongue.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is cayenne pepper a common allergen?

No. Allergies to cayenne are rare, though people with nightshade allergies (includes bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes) may be allergic to cayenne pepper, paprika, and other chili peppers.

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

6 to 12 months old: Avoid unless it is the smallest amount in a bigger dish for the family. At this age, your baby is just getting to know what solid food is as we want to make sure we avoid causing them any pain, which could develop negative associations with eating. That said, other spices are fair game!

12 to 18 months old: Play time! Dust a scant amount cayenne pepper on sweet fruit, such as mango, pineapple, or watermelon. To do so, pinch a tiny amount of the spice into a small fine mesh sifter and tap it gently over the fruit to give it light dusting of spice. Be careful not to overdo it—a little goes a long way! Be sure to prevent your baby from touching the spice and rubbing their eyes during the meal. Dipping baby’s fingers in yogurt or milk, then giving them a thorough soapy washing will help remove any lingering spice from their hands and save you both tears!

18 to 24 months old: Incorporate hot spices like cayenne pepper into your family dishes, but perhaps turning it down a notch to let your toddler catch up. And as always, it’s a good idea to signal to your child that something is spicy before they try it.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

★Tip: Play up the senses! Try adding the cayenne pepper to the food in front of your baby, and say “SPICY” as you dust the spice. This visual will help reinforce your baby’s understanding of why that food tastes different. 

Recipe: Baby's First Spicy Mango

Ingredients

  • Mango
  • Cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Wash the mango.
  2. Stand it vertically on a cutting board. With a very sharp knife or vegetable peeler, cut the fruit from top to bottom, removing the inner pith from the flesh.
  3. Once the pith is removed, use a water glass to scoop the flesh away from the tough skin.
  4. Slice the flesh into thin, long spears if your baby is 6 to 12 months old, or small pieces if your baby’s pincer grasp has developed (or if you’d like to encourage fork practice).
  5. Divide the prepared mango portions in half so you have two plates of mango.
  6. Add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper to a small fine mesh sifter. Gently tap the sifter over one plate of prepared mango, picking out any pieces that got too much spice on them.
  7. Then—and this is important—taste a few pieces yourself before serving. If it causes you pain or discomfort, you may either start over with the other plate of mango or add the plain mango to the spiced mango and mix well to decrease the overall heat.

Flavor Pairings

Cayenne’s sweet-spicy heat tends to pair well with beans, burgers, chicken, mango, pineapple, rice, and watermelon.

  1. Semantic Scholar, Development of Eating Behaviors Among Babies and Children (website) Retrieved December 30, 2019.