When can babies eat garlic?
Garlic may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is typically around 6 months of age.
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 and other flavorful foods early in their solids journey. One study even found that babies nurse longer and ingest more breastmilk from mothers who have ingested garlic.1
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. However 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 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!
Is garlic healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Garlic is packed with nutrients that are critical for babies at this stage in their development, including vitamins B6 and C, calcium, copper (which helps your baby absorb for iron), manganese, phosphorus, and selenium.
Thanks to its pungent flavor, garlic is often eaten in small quantities, yet daily intake of garlic yields long-term beneficial results. There are literally thousands of studies on the benefits of garlic consumption, collectively showing how garlic is truly a super food. For babies, garlic helps support healthy blood circulation and balanced blood sugar. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which help virtually every system in the body, and offers potent antimicrobial qualities that help kill bugs that cause colds and infections.
While raw garlic is especially beneficial for the gut, take care to introduce it in small amounts so you do not cause your baby any discomfort. And if you come across black garlic, buy it! Black garlic is aged garlic and contains a number of beneficial antioxidants. When pinched for time, garlic powder is a totally appropriate alternative for flavoring foods, and it offers some nutrients, too—although less than fresh or cooked garlic.
Is garlic a choking hazard for babies?
While not listed as a common choking hazard, garlic cloves can pose a risk if not prepared in an age-appropriate way for your baby. Be sure to mince and cook garlic to a soft consistency before mixing it with food for babies who are starting solids.
Is garlic a common allergen?
No. Garlic allergy is rare, though there are cases of people with allergies to foods in the allium family. If your baby has a family history of allergies or is sensitive to onions, make an appointment with an allergist before introducing garlic.
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.
9 to 12 months old: Start to use garlic liberally in your dishes. The options are endless: in marinades, mixed with roasted or steamed vegetables, roasted and spread on whole grain bread, or sautéed in butter for a simple pasta sauce.
12 to 24 months old: Continue using garlic liberally in dishes you serve to your baby 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 cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★Tip: If you detest preparing garlic for recipes, save yourself the time and hassle by roasting or mincing a larger batch than you need for one meal, then storing the rest in a container of olive oil in the refrigerator. You’ll have prepared garlic and garlic-flavored oil at your fingertips during future mealtimes.
Recipe: My First Aglio e Olio
- Pasta (extra-wide egg noodles, rigatoni, or ziti)
- Olive oil
- Parmesan or pecorino cheese (12 months +)
- Boil the pasta according to instructions.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a generous splash of olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat while you mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic. Lower the heat and sauté the garlic until fragrant, taking care not to burn the edges.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the garlic oil over medium-low heat. Fold in the 1 to 2 spoonfuls of minced herbs. If your baby is 12 months old or older, add a sprinkle of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese for a flavor boost. Cool slightly before serving.
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.