When can babies eat chayote?
Chayote may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of chayote
Chayote is a crisp, juicy squash with cream- or green-colored rind and bright white flesh that tastes herbal and mildly sweet. It is a key ingredient in cooking all over the world, where it is eaten raw and cooked like squash in both sweet and savory dishes, from cakes to casseroles to chow chow to curries. When eaten raw, chayote has crunch like an apple and refreshing texture like cucumber—the chayote’s distant cousin in the squash family.
Like most gourds, the plant originated in Central America, where Spanish colonizers adopted the Nahuatl word chayohtli for the squash, which were capable of lasting in storage during long journeys at sea. Its hardiness may be how chayote proliferated in the American South, according to food historian Lance Hill, who has studied the impact of the Haitian Revolution on the squash’s journey from its native lands to the Caribbean islands to the Louisiana, where it is called mirliton.1 Today, chayote grows in abundance on prolific climbing vines in tropical regions around the world, where the squash is known as choko, chou chou, christophene, labu siam, perulero, and vegetable pear, among other names.
Note that all parts of the chayote plant are edible, including the flowers, leaves, and starchy roots, but this page is all about the squash, which can be offered in both sweet and savory dishes. Check out nutrition information and serving suggestions!
Stock up on chayote when they’re on sale! The squash will last up to a month when lightly wrapped and stored in a cool, dark place.
Is chayote healthy for babies?
Yes. Chayote contains plenty of zinc for robust metabolism, folate for neurological development, vitamin B6 for brain development, and vitamin C for healthy skin and immunity. It also offers trace amounts of fiber, vitamin A, calcium, copper, and iron—essential nutrients to help your baby thrive.
Like other members of the squash family, chayote contains powerful antioxidants, which may reduce inflammation, regulate blood-sugar levels, and metabolize fat.2 3 The plant has a long history of use in folk medicine, including in its native home of Central America, where Indigenous people used the cooked fruit and young leaves to treat urinary tract infections and to help dissolve kidney stones.4
★ Tip: When shopping for chayote, look for squash that is firm with no bruises or dark spots. The squash should feel compact, but not rock hard—like a pear that has started to ripen.
Is chayote a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Raw chayote is a choking hazard if it is not cut and cooked in a way that is safe for your child to consume. Well-cooked chayote should not be a common choking hazard when prepared and served according to your child’s eating development. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and always stay near your baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions!
Is chayote a common allergen?
No. Allergies to chayote are rare, though it’s not uncommon to get an itchy rash on the hands after handling vegetables in the squash family, especially when raw.5 6 7 When peeled, chayote secretes a milky substance that can irritate the skin. To minimize any reaction, wear gloves or run the chayote under cool water while peeling. This substance does not generally cause any issue after cooking the chayote, so the risk of reaction while eating is low. Consider applying a barrier ointment, such as pure white petroleum jelly, around baby’s mouth before eating, and wash your baby’s face and hands after eating.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first few of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare chayote for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Offer well-cooked, mashed chayote for baby to eat with their hands or from a pre-loaded spoon or serve large sections of cooked chayote for baby to munch on as a finger food. If a too-big piece of chayote breaks off in your baby’s mouth, stay calm and give your baby a chance to work the food forward independently before intervening.
9 to 18 months old: At this age, your baby is developing a pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet), which makes it easier to pick up smaller pieces of food. Try offering bite-sized pieces of well-cooked chayote or continue to offer large sections or slices of well-cooked chayote or mash and serve on a pre-loaded utensil. If you’d like to serve raw chayote, you can, just slice thinly (or grate) to reduce the choking risk as raw chayote can be quite challenging to chew.
18 to 24 months old: Fork time! Offer bite-sized pieces of cooked chayote along with a fork to encourage utensil practice. Help show how it is used by pre-loading the fork for your baby to pick up independently or try spearing the chayote while making a sound (boink!) to make it fun to use the utensil. To serve chayote raw, continue to serve in thin slices, increasing the thickness as your toddler’s eating skills advance. As always, make sure your child is seated in a supported position when eating (and not running around) and that you are an arm’s length away at mealtime.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Chayote rind is edible, but if it’s too thick, go ahead and peel it. Like other squash, chayote secretes a sticky sap that is harmless but can cause a rash. While peeling, wear gloves or hold it under running water to minimize the impact.
Recipe: Savory or Sweet Chayote
- 2 small chayote squash
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- Savory: 1 sprig marjoram, mint, or thyme, OR
- Sweet; 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg
- Wash the chayote. If the rind is thick, peel under running water or while wearing gloves.
- Halve the chayote lengthwise. Slice off and compost the flower and stem ends. Scoop out and compost the seed.
- Cut the chayote into age-appropriate sizes as described above.
- Place the butter in a medium skillet set on medium-heat. When the butter has melted and finished foaming, add the chayote slices.
- Stir to coat, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the chayote is golden and soft, about 10 minutes (or longer if you are keeping the chayote in large pieces).
- If you’d like to serve savory chayote, wash and mince your herb of choice while the chayote is cooking.
- Remove the chayote from the heat. Garnish with the minced herb for savory flavor or mix in your spice of choice to play up the chayote’s natural sweetness. Let cool.
- To serve: Place a few chayote slices on your child’s plate. Let your child eat the chayote slices as finger food or place a baby fork on the side of the plate to encourage utensil use. Eat your serving of chayote alongside your child to show how it’s done!
Chayote have a mild taste with a hint of sweetness and bright herbal notes—like zucchini and its summer squash cousins—which means its subtle flavor can serve as a blank canvas for your favorite flavors. To bring out its sweetness, try pairing with apple, lime, mango, pear, tomato, or fellow gourds like acorn squash, butternut squash, delicata squash. For savory flavor, pair with corn, cucumber, fennel, green bean, or purple potato. Try adding herbs and spices like cinnamon, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, star anise, or vanilla for an extra layer of flavor!
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Hill, L. (2020). The History of Chayote (Mirliton) In North America: “One of the Noblest Gifts the Vegetable Kingdom Can Offer Man”. Mirliton.org. Retrieved October 16, 2020
- Rosado-Pérez, J., Aguiñiga-Sánchez, I., Santiago-Osorio, E., Mendoza-Núñez, V.M. (2019). Effect of Sechium edule var. nigrum spinosum (Chayote) on Oxidative Stress and Pro-Inflammatory Markers in Older Adults with Metabolic Syndrome: An Exploratory Study. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 8(5), 146. DOI:10.3390/antiox8050146l. Retrieved October 16, 2020
- Vieira, E. F., Pinho, O., Ferreira, I., & Delerue-Matos, C. (2019). Chayote (Sechium edule): A review of nutritional composition, bioactivities and potential applications. Food chemistry, 275, 557–568. DOI:10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.09.146. Retrieved October 16, 2020
- Geck, M. S., Cristians, S., Berger-González, M., Casu, L., Heinrich, M., & Leonti, M. (2020). Traditional Herbal Medicine in Mesoamerica: Toward Its Evidence Base for Improving Universal Health Coverage. Frontiers in pharmacology, 11, 1160. DOI:10.3389/fphar.2020.01160. Retrieved October 16, 2020
- Moneret-Vautrin DA. Modifications of allergenicity linked to food technologies. Allerg Immunol (Paris). 1998 Jan;30(1):9-13. PMID: 9503097.
- Potter, T.S., Hashimoto, K. (1994). Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) dermatitis. Contact dermatitis, 30(2), 123. DOI:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1994.tb00588.x. Retrieved October 12, 2020
- La Shell MS, Otto HF, Whisman BA, Waibel KH, White AA, Calabria CW. Allergy to pumpkin and crossreactivity to pollens and other foods. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010 Feb;104(2):178-80. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2009.11.048. PMID: 20306822.