Cilantro may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Babies can enjoy food with big flavors too, so feel free to continue using cilantro if you are accustomed to cooking with it.
Cilantro originated in the fertile lands around the Mediterranean Sea, where the herb has been used as food and medicine since ancient times. Cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander, which was introduced by colonizers to the Americas and South Asia, the world’s top growing regions of the plant today. The versatile herb flavors dishes across the globe, from chutney, larb, and masala in South Asia, to mojo, salsa, and sofrito in Central America. Like parsley, the entire cilantro plant is edible. Its leaves are used as a garnish or seasoning, seeds are dried to make spice, and roots add subtle flavor to curries. Cilantro can be used interchangeably with culantro—a different herb with a similarly assertive flavor.
Sebastián, 8 months, eats finely minced cilantro in a sauce on pieces of tortilla.
Malden, 11 months, eats finely chopped cilantro with rice.
Julian, 12 months, explores whole cilantro leaves with their stems.
Yes, although cilantro’s nutritional benefits are limited because the herb is often used in small amounts. Fresh or dried cilantro leaves and stalks support bone and eye health, thanks to the presence of vitamin K and vitamin A. Small amounts of vitamin C and folate are also present in this herb, which both play a role in the growth of healthy cells and tissue. Cilantro also contains antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Coriander seeds (which are also finely ground to make the spice coriander) contain lysine, an amino acid that supports the immune system, fiber, as well as small amounts of the minerals calcium, phosphorous, and iron.
★Tip: Give cilantro a good rinse before using, as the leaves may have gained some sand or dirt in the harvesting process. Cilantro is also very perishable, so plan to use it soon after buying. If you have leftover cilantro, wrap it in a damp towel and store in a sealed bag in the fridge. You can also blend it with a little olive oil and freeze in ice cube trays for later.
For some people, cilantro tastes bright and citrusy. For others, cilantro tastes acrid or soapy. Research indicates a genetic component to this difference—specifically the genes that play a role in smell and taste—but there are also environmental factors that influence how people perceive tastes. This suggests that early and frequent use of cilantro could help baby acclimate to the flavor, even if they carry these genes.
Crushing or heating the leaves helps to break down the specific plant compound that seems to be responsible for cilantro’s distinctive taste, so introducing cilantro as part of a sauce or cooked into a dish can reduce the herb’s potency.
When chopped, cilantro should not pose any significant risk, although its leaves can stick to baby’s tongue, roof of mouth, and throat and cause some gagging or coughing. If this happens, offer baby a drink from an open cup to help wash it down. Drinking from an open cup (rather than a straw cup) tends to be more helpful in these situations. 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 cilantro are rare, although contact dermatitis and anaphylactic reactions have been reported. Individuals who are allergic to mugwort or birch pollen or who have Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) may also be sensitive to cilantro and its seed, coriander. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
Some individuals who are sensitive to cilantro and coriander may develop respiratory symptoms or contact rashes when handling coriander powder during food preparation.
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.
Because cilantro is often used in small amounts, its effects on pooping are minimal. When consuming cilantro in larger quantities, it may help move stool along.
Cilantro adds bright, citrusy flavor to foods. Look to Asia for inspiration, and try cilantro leaves in gỏi cuốn (spring rolls), on top of larb (minced meat), or mash the leaves or seeds to make curry paste or masala to flavor dal and vegetables. The Americas are another source of inspiration: mix cilantro with onion and tomato to make pico de gallo, stir chopped-up cilantro, garlic, and chili peppers with oil to make salsa verde, or add cilantro to lime juice to make a simple marinade for ceviche. Got limited time to cook? You can’t go wrong with avocado, cilantro, and lime in the classic dish from Mexico that the entire family can enjoy: guacamole.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Blend fresh cilantro with oil and a little citrus juice into a bright sauce that can be drizzled onto steamed vegetables, stewed chicken, or poached fish. You can also finely mince cilantro to fold into soft, scoopable foods like mashed vegetables, rice, or yogurt. Exposing baby to flecks of green early on helps acclimate them to green foods and foods that are mixed together.
Incorporate finely minced cilantro into sauces, meat patties, and lentils, or sprinkle on top of bean dishes and steamed vegetables. And by all means, continue to use cilantro to make green sauces to season baby’s food.
Use cilantro as you normally would in dishes, even if a recipe calls for whole cilantro leaves. Just keep in mind that any larger leaves may cause toddlers to gag or cough a little. Keep an open cup with water or milk on hand and encourage the toddler to take a sip if a bit of cilantro gets uncomfortable.
Get inspired with new recipe ideas from our guide, 100 Dinners for Babies & Toddlers.
1 ½ cups (360 milliliters)
Halve the pepper, then remove the stem, seeds, and pith. In Puerto Rico, this sauce is often made with ají dulce, a popular sweet pepper across the Caribbean. If you like, swap 4 to 6 ají dulce peppers for the bell pepper in this recipe.
Peel and chop the onion and garlic.
Wash and dry the cilantro, then roughly chop the leaves and fine stems.
Blend the pepper, onion, garlic, and cilantro into a paste. A high-powered blender or food processor speeds up this task, but if you do not have one, you can make the sauce by hand. Simply finely chop the ingredients with a sharp knife, or use a mortar and pestle to mash the ingredients.
Stir the oil and lime juice into the paste until fully blended. Set aside some sauce for yur child. Season the rest with salt to taste for yourself.
Drizzle sauce on your child’s food. The sauce tastes delicious with grilled chicken or fish, mashed plantains, pasteles (corn, plantain, and pork tamales), and steamed cassava.
Serve the Sauce
Offer a drizzle of ajili-mojili sauce on your child’s food and let the child self-feed. Alternatively, dip a piece of food or a spoon in the sauce, then pass the spoon in the air for your child to grab from you.
For toddlers and older children, serve the sauce in a small bowl and invite the child to pour some sauce on their food.
Eat some sauce alongside baby to model how it’s done.
To Store: Ajili-mójili (Cilantro and Sweet Pepper Sauce) keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.
E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN
A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
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