Cranberry Bean

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 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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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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a pile of cranberry beans ready to be prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat cranberry beans?

Cranberry beans may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

Where do cranberry beans come from?

Cranberry bean is believed to have originated in South America, where it was likely bred from the cargamanto bean, a popular bean in Colombia. Colonization and trade introduced the bean to other regions of the world, where new legumes were cultivated from heirloom seeds. As a result, there are many varieties of cranberry bean, including alubia pinta, barbunya, borlotti, frijoles romanos, gadra, rosecoco, and saluggia. When they are in season, cranberry beans can be eaten fresh off the vine though they often dried and stored for year-round use.

Maya, 7 months, eats mashed cranberry beans from a pre-loaded spoon and spread on toast.

Are cranberry beans healthy for babies?

Yes. Cranberry beans are packed with protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. They provide an array of important micronutrients that often are low in the diets of young children, such as iron, zinc, folate, choline, and vitamin B6.1 Collectively, these nutrients support healthy blood, strong immune systems, and thriving brains. Plus, they’re rich in antioxidants to support the body’s resilience against stressors.2 3

★Tip: If buying fresh cranberry beans in the pod (not dried or canned beans), look for pods that look full and pump. Their shelf life is relatively short and they last in the fridge for a couple of days.

Are cranberry beans a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Cranberry beans are a choking hazard due to their small size and rounded shape, especially if not cooked thoroughly. To reduce the risk, cook until soft and mash the beans into a paste or flatten each bean before serving. 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.

Are cranberry beans a common allergen?

No. Cranberry beans are not a common food allergen. Bean allergies have been reported in some patients with allergies to other legumes, including peanut and soybean (which are common food allergens). However, being allergic to one type of legume does not necessarily mean that an individual will be allergic to others, although the risk of more than one legume allergy can increase.4 Fortunately, most individuals with peanut or soy allergy are able to tolerate other legumes just fine.5

Individuals with allergies to birch tree pollen and/or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to legumes, such as cranberry beans.6 7 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching 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.

Are the lectins in cranberry beans safe for babies?

Yes. Often called anti-nutrients, these naturally-occurring plant compounds (including lectins, oxalates, and phytates) break down during the soaking and cooking process and are generally harmless in healthy people when consumed as part of a balanced diet.8 9 10 Lectins and oxalates can even offer health benefits, such as antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.11 12

Do cranberry beans need to be soaked before cooking?

No, although soaking dried cranberry beans in water can help reduce cooking time, reduce lectin content, reduce the levels of a gas-producing carbohydrate, raffinose, and help improve overall digestibility of the bean and its key nutrients.13 14 15

Here are a couple of soaking methods:

  • Overnight soak: Use a ratio of 1 lb (454 g) of dried beans and 10 c (2 ½ liter) water, and soak the beans in water for 4 or more hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans prior to cooking.
  • Hot soak method: Use a ratio of 1 lb (454 g) of dried beans and 10 c (2 ½ liter) water, and bring the mixture to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat, then soak for a few hours. Drain and rinse the beans prior to cooking.

Can cranberry beans help babies poop?

Yes. Beans are well-known for their ability to produce gas and poop because of their high levels of fibers and resistant starch. While gas is normal and expected, excess gas can be uncomfortable for baby. To minimize digestive discomfort, introduce high-fiber foods like cranberry beans gradually and regularly in baby’s diet as tolerated.16 Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about your baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.

How do you prepare cranberry beans for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 8 months old: Crush or blend cooked cranberry beans into a textured mash or smooth paste. To add nutrition, stir in breast milk, formula, olive oil, or yogurt. Start with a small amount and gradually increase portion size to minimize any digestive discomfort. Let baby scoop the mash or paste, and if help is needed, pre-load a spoon or thinly spread some mash on a resistive food like a teething rusk in the mash. Alternatively, share cranberry beans from your chili, pasta, salad, or stew. Simply pick out some of the beans and mash them for baby.

9 to 11 months old: Babies with a developing pincer grasp (where the thumb meets the pointer finger) may graduate to whole, cooked cranberry beans that have been flattened between your thumb and finger. Alternatively, continue serving mashed or pureed cranberry beans.

12 to 24 months old: By this age, toddlers should be able to handle whole cranberry beans that are fully cooked until soft. To encourage self-feeding with utensils, spear a cranberry bean with an age-appropriate fork and lay the utensil next to the food for the child to try to pick up. If help is needed, pass the utensil in the air for the child to grab from you.

Our Nutrient Cheat Sheet is ideal for keeping on the fridge for a quick reference of which babies need most.

Recipe: Big Batch Cranberry Beans

Yield: 8 c (2 liter)
Cook Time: 1 hour + optional soak
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 lb (454 g) dry cranberry beans
  • 4 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 dried chili pepper (optional)
  • 1 ½ tsp (5 g) kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

Directions

  1. If you have time, soak the beans for 4 hours or overnight prior to cooking. It’s okay to skip this step, though it speeds up cook time and aids digestion.
  2. When you are ready to cook, place the beans and 10 c (2 ½ liter) of water in a large pot.
  3. Add the garlic, rosemary, bay leaves, chili pepper, and salt to the pot. Salt helps the beans cook, but if you’d like to minimize sodium, reduce or skip it altogether. Same goes for the seasonings: skip them or swap them with your favorite herbs and spices.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered until the beans start to soften, but still taste chalky. This can take between 25 and 45 minutes. Once the beans reach this point, add the olive oil, then continue to cook until the beans are fully softened, about 15 minutes more.
  5. Strain the beans and remove the garlic, rosemary, and chili pepper. Mash or flatten some beans for your child. Season the rest with salt to taste for yourself. Reserve the cooking liquid for another use, like soup or stew.

Serve the Beans

  1. Offer mashed or flattened beans to baby, then let the child self-feed.
  2. If help is needed, swipe a teething rusk or resistive food in the mash, then hold it in the air in front of baby and let the child grab it from you.
  3. Eat beans alongside your child to model how it’s done.

To Store: Stewed Cranberry Beans keep in airtight containers in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months. When freezing, use this method for faster access to ready-made portions: measure the beans into ½- or 1-c (120-ml or 240-ml) airtight containers, mark the containers with the date, and transfer them to the freezer. This way, only a small portion needs to be defrosted, rather than a whole batch. Defrost a container in the refrigerator the day before you plan to serve it.

Flavor Pairings

Cranberry beans pair well with the flavors of corn, eggplant, onion, plantain, rice, and tomato.

Reviewed by

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

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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