When can babies eat garlic?
Garlic may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months old. Many people believe that bland foods are best for babies, but there is no evidence to support this cultural myth. In fact, people around the world introduce alliums like garlic and other flavorful foods early in their solids journey. One study even found that babies nurse longer and ingest more breast milk from mothers who have ingested garlic.1
Background and origins of garlic
Garlic is native to Central Asia, where it has long been used for a variety of medicinal purposes—from improving respiration to alleviating diarrhea. In cooking, most recipes calling for “garlic” are referring to the aromatic white cloves that make up the bulb. The cloves can be prepared and used in many ways, from raw to roasted to pickled. The stalk of fresh garlic (called the “scape”) is edible, too. The long, curly green stems pop up at greenmarkets at the beginning of the growing season, when farmers cut them in an effort to prevent the plants from growing the scapes instead of plumping the bulb. Scapes are considered to be less assertive and more herbal than the cloves, making them a good alternative when cooking for loved ones who are sensitive to traditional garlic cloves. Garlic scapes also keep for weeks when stored in the fridge.
★Tip: Garlic in its whole, bulb form does not like humidity. To extend your garlic bulb’s life, keep it out of the fridge and store it in a paper bag in a cool, dry area – such as the pantry.
Is garlic healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Garlic is rich in nutrients that are critical for babies at this stage in their development, notably vitamins B6, C, and calcium, as well as copper, manganese, phosphorus, and selenium.2 What’s more is that garlic varieties abound with phytonutrients like sulfur-based compounds including allicin, ajoene, alliin, and many more.3 Collectively, these nutrients offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anticancer effects; plus, garlic may promote healthy cholesterol levels and heart health, as determined in plenty of studies.4 5 Garlic – both raw and cooked – also is particularly beneficial for the gut due to its natural prebiotic content – in other words, fuel for beneficial gut bacteria.6 When pinched for time, garlic powder or granulated garlic is a totally appropriate alternative for flavoring foods, and still offers plenty of nutrients.7
When it comes to first offering garlic to baby, consider starting slow and small. Sometimes too much of a prebiotic-rich food all at once can lead to gassiness and discomfort.8 And if you come across black garlic, buy it! Black garlic is aged garlic and contains a number of beneficial antioxidants.9 In general, regular intake of garlic clove, oil, and scape varieties has a host of benefits, so don’t let garlic’s pungent flavor deter you from experimenting – baby’s palate also may thank you.
★Tip: Peeled or chopped garlic preserved in oil is a handy cooking time saver but can be a source of foodborne illness – namely botulism – if prepared and stored improperly. Botulism is a type of food poisoning, for which infants are at higher risk. To minimize risk of botulism, follow safe canning practices, refrigerate after opening, and use within 3-4 days.10 For more on how to store garlic safely, check out our FAQs here.
Is garlic a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Unless a child manages to get a whole clove of raw garlic off the counter, garlic, including whole roasted garlic cloves, should not pose any unusual risk. That said, in theory an individual can choke on any food. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Is garlic a common allergen?
No. Allergic reactions to garlic are rare, but not unheard of and, notably, when they have occurred, they have tended to be severe.11 12 13 14 People who are sensitive to onions or other members of the lily family may also be sensitive to garlic.15 Of note, some allergens in foods in this family are sensitive to heat, meaning that well-cooked garlic might be well-tolerated in an individual who is sensitive to raw garlic. Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen fruit syndrome), and in particular, those with sensitivities to grass pollen and mugwort pollen (a weed) may also be sensitive to garlic.16 17 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Skin contact with raw garlic has been associated with the development of hand eczema.18
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare garlic 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: A great way to introduce garlic to young babies is with garlic oil drizzled on other food. To make garlic oil, peel a couple of garlic cloves, sauté a clove or two in olive oil until fragrant, and then remove the cloves from the oil. From there, you can add the garlic oil to steamed vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower, or even mix it into mashed potatoes. Alternatively, begin to experiment with granulated garlic or powder, sprinkling it atop cooked vegetables, beans, lentils, and grains.
9 to 12 months old: In addition to oil and granulated or powder, start to use fresh garlic in your dishes. The options are endless: in marinades, mixed with roasted or steamed vegetables, roasted and mixed into hummus, or sautéed in butter or oil for a simple pasta sauce.
12 to 24 months old: Continue using garlic liberally in dishes and explore more garlic-forward recipes, such as a garlic scape pesto, black garlic bread, or aglio e olio – a garlicky pasta dish.
For more information on how to store garlic safely for the whole family, check out our FAQs here.
Recipe: Roasted Garlic Butter
Yield: 1 ¼ cup
Time: 5 minutes active, 40 minutes total
Age: 6+ months
- 1 head of garlic
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 sticks (1 cup / 230 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Cut the top off the head of garlic, just enough to expose the garlic cloves. Place the head of garlic on a square of aluminum foil and drizzle the exposed cloves with oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic and roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the cloves are totally tender and light golden brown.
- When cool enough to handle, squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin and transfer it to a large bowl. Use a fork to mash the garlic to a paste, then stir in the butter.
- Serve: Mash into potatoes, plantains, or sweet potatoes. Stir into scrambled eggs. Spread on toast. Exact serving size is variable. Let the child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
To Store: Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Freeze small portions in an ice cube tray, then pop the cubes into a bag for up to 5 months. To use, allow a cube to come to room temperature in the refrigerator, or throw straight onto a hot baking sheet or skillet and stir into roasted vegetables, etc.
Garlic is quite versatile. It pairs beautifully with chicken, eggplant, goat cheese, lamb, liver, pork, tomato, and pungent foods like anchovies, mushrooms, and sardines, as well as fresh herbs like basil, mint, parsley, and thyme.
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
- Mennella, J. & Beauchamp, J. (1993, Dec. 3). The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling’s behavior. Pediatric Research, 34(6), 805-808. DOI:10.1203/00006450-199312000-00022. Retrieved April 7, 2021
- U. S. Department of Agriculture. (2019). Garlic, raw. FoodData Central. Retrieved April 7, 2021
- Zhang, Y., Liu, X., Ruan, J., Zhuang, X., Zhang, X., & Li, Z. (2020). Phytochemicals of garlic: Promising candidates for cancer therapy. Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie, 123, 109730. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopha.2019.109730. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Linus Pauling Institute. (2005). Garlic and organosulfur compounds. Micronutrient Information Center. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Amagase, H. Clarifying the real bioactive constituents of garlic. J Nutr. 2006 Mar;136(3 Suppl):716S-725S. DOI: 10.1093/jn/136.3.716S. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Kaur, A. P., Bhardwaj, S., Dhanjal, D. S., Nepovimova, E., Cruz-Martins, N., Kuča, K., Chopra, C., Singh, R., Kumar, H., Șen, F., Kumar, V., Verma, R., & Kumar, D. (2021). Plant Prebiotics and Their Role in the Amelioration of Diseases. Biomolecules, 11(3), 440. DOI: 10.3390/biom11030440. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Kwak, J. S., Kim, J. Y., Paek, J. E., Lee, Y. J., Kim, H. R., Park, D. S., & Kwon, O. (2014). Garlic powder intake and cardiovascular risk factors: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Nutrition research and practice, 8(6), 644–654. DOI: 10.4162/nrp.2014.8.6.644. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Fedewa, A., & Rao, S. S. (2014). Dietary fructose intolerance, fructan intolerance and FODMAPs. Current gastroenterology reports, 16(1), 370. DOI: 10.1007/s11894-013-0370-0. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Jeong, Y. Y., Ryu, J. H., Shin, J. H., Kang, M. J., Kang, J. R., Han, J., & Kang, D. (2016). Comparison of Anti-Oxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects between Fresh and Aged Black Garlic Extracts. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 21(4), 430. DOI: 10.3390/molecules21040430. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Prevention. Botulism. Retrieved April 7, 2021
- Yagami, A., Suzuki, K., Sano, A., Iwata, Y., Arima, M., Moriyama, T., & Matsunaga, K. (2015). Immediate allergy due to raw garlic (Allium sativum L.). The Journal of dermatology, 42(10), 1026–1027. DOI: 10.1111/1346-8138.13025. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Ma, S., & Yin, J. (2012). Anaphylaxis induced by ingestion of raw garlic. Foodborne pathogens and disease, 9(8), 773–775. DOI: 10.1089/fpd.2012.1133. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Kobayashi, T., Ito, T., Egusa, C., Maeda, T., Numata, T., Okubo, Y., & Tsuboi, R. (2015). A case of contact urticaria inducing anaphylaxis due to Liliaceae vegetables in a hand eczema patient. Allergology International 64, 211-213. Retrieved April 7, 2021
- Moneret-Vautrin, D. A., Morisset, M., Lemerdy, P., Croizier, A., & Kanny, G. (2002). Food allergy and IgE sensitization caused by spices: CICBAA data (based on 589 cases of food allergy). Allergie et immunologie, 34(4), 135–140. Retrieved April 7, 2021
- Garlic. (2018). Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed). Retrieved April 7, 2021
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Armentia A, Martín-Armentia S, Pineda F, Martín-Armentia B, Castro M, Fernández S, et al. Allergic hypersensitivity to garlic and onion in children and adults. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2020;48(3):232-6.
- Schlarbaum JP, Kimyon RS, Liou YL, Voller LM, Seyfer SJ, Warshaw EM. Hold the spice: Allergy to garlic and sulfites-Possible relevance in a patient with cheilitis granulomatosa. Contact Dermatitis. 2019;81(5):397-8.