Fava Bean (Broad 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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Common Allergen: No
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fava beans before being prepared for babies starting solids

Warning

If a baby has a family history of G6PD deficiency (also known as favism), or is of African, Mediterranean, South Asian, or Southwest Asian (Middle Eastern) descent, talk to the child’s medical provider before introducing fava bean. The legume is the main food trigger for individuals with G6PD deficiency, and when fava bean is consumed, these individuals can experience hemolytic anemia, which can lead to critical illness.1 Breastfeeding moms of similar backgrounds or with babies with G6PD should take care, as compounds from fava bean can be transferred into breast milk and cause reactions.2 3

When can babies eat fava beans?

Fava bean (broad bean) may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Note: If a baby has a family history of G6PD deficiency (also known as favism), or is of African, Mediterranean, South Asian, or Southwest Asian (Middle Eastern) descent, talk to the child’s medical provider before introducing fava bean. The legume is the main food trigger for individuals with G6PD deficiency, and when fava bean is consumed, these individuals can experience hemolytic anemia, which can lead to critical illness.4

Are fava beans the same as broad beans?

Yes. In fact, the bean goes by many names: fava and haba in the Americas; cándòu and đậu rộng in Asia; and bagilla, bakla, and fūl in the Mediterranean region to name a few. Its name in English (broad bean) alludes to its shape as the plant matures and its seeds (or beans) swell and widen.

The legume’s many names hints at its widespread use in kitchens across the globe. In Egypt, fava beans are stewed with herbs, citrus, and aromatics to make ful medames, a popular breakfast and lunch. Ethiopians and neighbors in Eritrea and Sudan prepare a similar dish, flavoring the beans with ghee and spice blends such as berbere. They also pulverize the beans into hilbet, a dry paste used in injera bread and stews. To the north in Greece and Italy, fresh fava beans are lightly cooked with artichokes and seasoned with salty cheese to usher in the spring season. Across the world, Mexicans enjoy a hearty tomato and onion soup thickened with habas. They also deep fry the beans to make a salty snack. Japanese snack on fava beans, too – though they call the bean “soramame” which means “sky bean” in English. It’s a fitting name considering the fairytale, Jack and the Beanstalk, which features a fava bean that sprouts into a hardy plant that grows so tall that it reaches the clouds.

Sebastián, 7 months, eats a fava bean mash with this fingers.

Are fava beans healthy for babies?

Yes. Fava beans have got it all: plant-based protein, healthy fats, fiber, and energy from complex carbohydrates. They also contain lots of folate for brain and nervous system development, omega 3 fatty acids for healthy blood, and zinc for a robust immune system.5

Keep in mind that fava beans can be a trigger for favism, a genetic condition also called G6PD (glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase) deficiency.

★Tip: The season for fresh fava beans is short, so grab them while you can and buy more than you think you need. There are only a couple of beans in each pod.

Are fava beans a choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Fava beans can be a choking hazard if a child attempts to swallow a whole bean. To minimize the risk, remove each bean from its pod, peel the casings, cook the beans until soft, and gently flatten the beans with a finger or fork. Alternatively, purée the beans. Make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within arm’s reach of baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are fava beans a common allergen?

No. Allergies to fava bean are rare, but possible.6 7 What is more common is “favism”, also called G6PD deficiency. For affected individuals, consuming fava beans can lead to serious health conditions, such as hemolytic anemia, jaundice, and brain damage.8 Symptoms of favism can include pale skin, jaundice, dark urine, fever, weakness, dizziness, confusion, and an increased heart rate.9 Although favism can occur at any age, it is more common and can be more severe in children (especially in boys).

If a baby has a family history of G6PD deficiency, or is of African, Mediterranean, South Asian, or Southwest Asian (Middle Eastern) descent, talk to the child’s medical provider before introducing fava bean. Prevalence of the condition ranges widely between 5-30% in these regions, and G6PD deficiency may affect 10% of African American males in the United States.10 11 12 Breastfeeding moms of similar backgrounds and/or with babies with G6PD should also take this added precaution, as compounds from fava beans can be transferred into breast milk and cause reactions.13

When introducing fava beans, start by offering a small quantity during the first serving, and watch for symptoms of hemolytic anemia over the next 24 hours. These can include irritability, lethargy, dark urine, pale appearance, a sudden increase in body temperature, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, abdominal or lower back discomfort, or yellowing of the whites of the eyes, mucus membranes, or skin.14 If there is no adverse reaction within 24 hours of the first serving, you can gradually increase the amount over future meals.

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

6 to 9 months old: Mash cooked fava beans and let baby scoop up with hands or eat from a pre-loaded spoon. You can also split or flatten cooked fava beans to serve as finger food. Serving flattened beans in a bowl or plate that suctions to the table can help babies scoop, but they may be more successful picking them up when they get a bit older and have a more precise pincer grasp. Note: Fava beans are a trigger for individuals with G6PD deficiency. If baby has a family history of G6PD deficiency do not introduce fava beans without talking with your health care provider as it can lead to critical illness and even death.

9 to 12 months old: At this time babies develop a pincer grasp, enabling them to pick up smaller pieces of food. Continue to flatten each bean to reduce the risk of choking, and when a baby develops the pincer grasp, offer the beans directly on the tray or table to strengthen dexterity. Note: Fava beans are a trigger for individuals with G6PD deficiency. If baby has a family history of G6PD deficiency do not introduce fava beans without talking with your health care provider as it can lead to critical illness and even death.

12 to 24 months old: By age one, if the toddler is chewing well and not overstuffing food in the mouth, offer whole cooked fava beans without flattening them. Watch the child carefully and coach them by dramatically modeling how to chew. Note: Fava beans are a trigger for individuals with G6PD deficiency. If baby has a family history of G6PD deficiency do not introduce fava beans without talking with your health care provider as it can lead to critical illness and even death.

★ How often should you offer solids? See our sample feeding schedules for babies of every age.

Recipe: Fava Beans and Rice

Inspired by Iranian Baghali Polo

a square bowl filled with rice, mashed fava beans, and herbs next to six split, cooked fava beans

Yield: 2 cups (200 grams)
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup (188 milliliters) water
  • ½ cup (90 grams) dry Basmati rice
  • 1 pound (500 grams) fava bean pods or ½ cup (100 grams) frozen shelled fava beans
  • 1 pinch saffron threads (optional)
  • ¼ cup (5 grams) fresh minced dill (optional)
  • ½ cup (63 grams) unsweetened whole milk yogurt or fortified plant-based yogurt (optional)

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (optional). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Baghali polo traditionally consists of parboiled rice seasoned with dill and saffron, which is absolutely delicious, but takes a while to prepare. Got time and ingredients? Go for it—otherwise, proceed with this shorter method. First, bring the water to a boil in a small pot with a tight-fitting lid, and, while the pot heats up, rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear below it.
  2. While the water is warming, open the fava bean pods and pull out the beans. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon or sieve to lift the beans from the water into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
  3. Return the pot to a boil and add the rice, then cover the pot and lower the heat to low. Cook until the grains are tender and have absorbed the liquid, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, uncover the pot, and fluff the grains. Set aside to cool.
  4. While the rice is cooking, finish preparing the fava beans. Start by peeling the casings. An easy way to do this: use your thumb to gently rub the casing until it comes loose and the bean easily pops out.
  5. Next, steam the fava beans until they are soft, about 5 minutes in the microwave or 10 minutes on the stovetop. Drain the beans, then decide if you need to flatten the beans – see our age-appropriate serving suggestions. Stir the beans into the rice.
  6. If you’d like to include saffron and dill, soak the saffron in 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) boiling water, then pour over the rice. Add the minced dill. Stir to combine.
  7. Scoop some fava beans and rice into the child’s bowl, flattening each fava bean with the back of a fork for babies younger than 12 months of age. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
  8. If you like, mix yogurt into the child’s portion of fava beans and rice, which can make the food easier to scoop. Rice can be challenging for babies and toddlers to pick up, and soft, spreadable food like yogurt can help a child learn how to self-feed.
  9. Serve: Let the child self-feed by scooping with hands. If you’d like to encourage the use of a utensil, simply pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the bowl for the child to try to pick. Alternatively, pass it in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Leftover fava beans and rice keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2 days.

Flavor Pairings

Fava beans are earthy—a taste that pairs well with sweet-tart flavor from bell pepper, lemon, lime, pomegranate, sumac, and tomato and rich foods filled with heart-healthy fats like avocado, egg, pork, ricotta cheese, sesame tahini, and yogurt. With a grassier taste than dried beans, fresh fava beans can complement fellow springtime foods like artichoke, asparagus, chives, garden peas, and ramps and brighten up nutty grains like freekeh, Khorasan wheat, quinoa, and rice. Like all beans, dried fava soak up flavor as they cook, so try seasoning with cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric, or your favorite spice and add herbs like mint, parsley, Thai basil, or tarragon to a fresh layer of flavor.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. G6PD (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) Deficiency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  2. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  3. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). (2018). Fava Beans. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. G6PD (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) Deficiency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  5. Balashova, O. A., Visina, O., Borodinsky, L. N. (2018). Folate action in nervous system development and disease. Developmental neurobiology, 78(4), 391–402. DOI:10.1002/dneu.22579. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  6. Mur Gimeno, P., Feo Brito, F., Martín Iglesias, A., Lombardero Vega, M., Bautista Martínez, P. (2007). Allergic reaction caused by a new hidden food, broad bean flour. Allergy, 62(11), 1340–1341. DOI:10.1111/j.1398-9995.2007.01471.x. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  7. Kumar, D., Kumar, S., Verma, A.K., Sharma, A., Tripathi, A., et al. (2014). Hypersensitivity linked to exposure of broad bean protein(s) in allergic patients and BALB/c mice. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 30(7-8), 903–914. DOI:10.1016/j.nut.2013.11.024 . Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  8. Lee, S.W., Chaiyakunapruk, N., Lai, N. M. (2017). What G6PD-deficient individuals should really avoid. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 83(1), 211–212. DOI:10.1111/bcp.13091. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  9. Johns Hopkins Medicine. G6PD (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) Deficiency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  10. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  11. Johns Hopkins Medicine. G6PD (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) Deficiency. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  12. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency: Causes. Retrieved May 19, 2021.
  13. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). (2018). Fava Beans. Retrieved June 2, 2021.
  14. National Organization for Rare Disorders. (2017). Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency. Retrieved June 2, 2021.