When can babies eat chickpeas?
Chickpeas may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Whole chickpeas can present a choking hazard for babies, but there are lots of ways to serve them safely.
Background and origins of chickpeas
A staple food for cultures around the world, chickpeas go by different names: ceci beans, chana, desi chana, garbanzo beans, kadale kaalu, nokhod, sanaga pappu, and shimbra to name a few. Color, shape, and size varies (there are multiple varieties) but Kabuli chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) are the most widely cultivated and recognizable. The cream-colored legume is larger in size with a smoother coat and a sweeter taste than other varieties.
Chickpeas can be eaten raw, milled into flour, blended to make hummus, and even ground to make coffee. Chickpea flour in particular is a terrific pantry item to have on hand and can be used in a variety of recipes as a gluten-free replacement for wheat flour.
Are chickpeas healthy for babies?
Yes. Chickpeas are an incredibly nutritious legume with concentrated amounts of key nutrients that babies to thrive, including folate, iron, vitamin B6, and zinc. Chickpeas also contain ideal amounts of every other mineral (except sodium), including copper which, like vitamin C, helps your baby’s body absorb the iron—a major bonus.
Babies need increasing amounts of iron starting at around 6 months, when their reserves from their mother become depleted. This is why, for example, iron-fortified rice cereal for babies is sometimes recommended by pediatricians. But rice cereal need not be your baby’s first food! There are plenty of whole foods that are naturally high in iron—like chickpeas—that can easily be worked into your baby’s diet. Serve them alongside a food that is high in vitamin C, such as berries, broccoli, or citrus, to boost your baby’s ability to absorb the iron.
Preparing dried chickpeas from scratch is economical (and usually healthier) but canned beans can be just as good, too. Just be sure to read the fine print on the labels:
- Watch the salt. From beans to fish, canned products often have exceedingly high levels of sodium, which you want to limit when it comes to feeding your baby. Beans and black eye peas in cans marked “no salt added” or “low sodium” are safe options.
- Be careful with BPA. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in plastics and resins, and in the interior lining of cans, amongst many other packaging materials. Unfortunately, BPA has been linked to cellular damage, including disrupting your baby’s endocrine (hormone) functions, affecting growth in many ways. When purchasing canned products for your baby, look for cans that are marked “BPA-free”.
Are chickpeas a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Whole chickpeas are a choking hazard because they are round and firm. To reduce the choking risk, flatten cooked chickpeas between your fingers and discard any skins that slip off.
Are chickpeas a common allergen?
While not among the most common allergens in the United States, chickpeas are considered to be a common allergen in India and Spain.1 2 Furthermore, hummus—one of the most popular chickpea dishes—contains sesame, which is a common allergen.
As with all new foods, start by introducing a small amount of chickpeas for the first couple of servings and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the serving size over future meals.
How do you prepare chickpeas 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: Smash or flatten and serve in a bowl that suctions to the table and encourage your baby to hand-scoop and/or offer a pre-loaded spoon. You can also spread hummus on other foods such as avocado slices, toast, thin rice cakes, or cucumbers. Homemade hummus is the way to go; store-bought hummus can contain quite a bit of salt and other undesirable ingredients for babies, like canola oil.
9 to 12 months old: Offer slightly flattened chickpeas to encourage your baby to practice the pincer grasp and explore dishes with soft, cooked chickpeas in them. Again, to reduce the risk of choking, flatten each chickpea.
12 to 24 months old: The world is your chickpea! Experiment with different recipes and preparations as your baby’s chewing and swallowing skills become more advanced.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Chickpea flour is a terrific gluten-free alternative to wheat flour. Swap 1 cup of wheat flour for ½ cup of chickpea flour when baking, and treat it as a binder in fish cakes, potato dumplings, and other recipes that rely on wheat flour.
Recipe: Sesame-Free Hummus
- 1 ½ cups chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar, separated
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Prepare the chickpeas: If using canned beans, open the can (one 15-ounce can equals 1 ½ cups) and reserve 3 tablespoons of the preserving liquid. Rinse the beans. If using dried beans, soak overnight (or for 8 hours) with 1 tablespoon of citrus or vinegar. Cook in a large pot with enough water to cover by 2 inches, along with any desired flavorings (bay leaves! kombu! parsley! peppercorns!) until the beans are soft but not broken down, about 1 hour.
- Set aside 1 ½ cups of chickpeas plus 3 tablespoons of the cooking liquid for the hummus, and store the rest in a sealed container in the refrigerator for future meals.
- Add the beans and remaining lemon juice to a food processor, along with the garlic, olive oil, and spices if using. Blend until creamy and smooth. If the hummus is too thick, add a bit of the cooking liquid or preserved liquid from the can and continue to blend until the hummus reaches the desired consistency.
- Serve in a bowl that suctions to the table to aid scooping. Store leftovers in a sealed container for future snacking.
Chickpeas are so versatile! Their nutty flavor tastes great in both savory and sweet dishes. Try pairing them with hearty foods like almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, walnuts, and whole grains; fatty foods like coconut, goat cheese, and olives; and vegetables like carrots, peppers, radishes, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. Mix and match herbs and spices to experiment with flavors: roasted chickpeas with cinnamon, garlic, and ginger taste just as great as chickpeas mixed with chives, mint, and shallots!
- Martínez San Ireneo, M., Ibáñez, MD., Fernández-Caldas, E., Carnés, J. (2008). In vitro and in vivo cross-reactivity studies of legume allergy in a Mediterranean population. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 147(3), 222‐230. doi:10.1159/000142045 Retrieved May 31, 2020
- Patil, SP., Niphadkar, PV., Bapat, MM. (2001). Chickpea: a major food allergen in the Indian subcontinent and its clinical and immunochemical correlation. Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 87(2), 140‐145. doi:10.1016/S1081-1206(10)62209-0 Retrieved May 31, 2020