Green Beans

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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a pile of fresh green beans on a table before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat green beans?

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

Green beans are snap beans—a sprawling family of legumes whose tender pods are eaten before their tiny seeds mature and swell from soaking up sun and water. Snap beans go by different common names depending on the variety. Aside from green beans, there are bush beans, pole beans, string beans, and wax beans, to name a few. While green beans might be the most widely recognized, snap peas actually range in color, from red to purple to yellow, even speckled and striated. All trace back to the common bean that was cultivated by Indigenous people of Central and South America for thousands of years before colonizers took the seeds to Europe. There, exotl (the Nahuatl name for the string-like beans) became ejote in Spanish, and domestication and global trade led to the many varieties eaten around the world today. 

Amelia, 7 months, munches on whole, steamed green beans.
Mahalia, 11.5 months, eats cooked and chopped green beans.
Adie, 15 months, eats whole green beans. Around 15 to 18 months of age, your toddler may be ready to go back up in size to whole green beans.

Are green beans healthy for babies?

Yes. Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin K—an essential nutrient that plays a key role in blood clotting. They also contain vitamin A (for healthy eyesight and immune systems) and vitamin C, a critical nutrient that helps our bodies absorb iron from plant-based foods, which is important for babies at this stage in their lives.1 Lastly, green beans help fuel your baby’s body with protein and move things along in the digestive tract thanks to plenty of fiber within the tender pods. 

You may have heard that green beans and other edible plants (arugula, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, and squash to name a few) contain nitrates—naturally occurring chemicals which, if consumed in large amounts, can negatively affect oxygen levels in our blood.2  Babies—and particularly babies younger than 3 months of age—may be more susceptible to nitrates.3

So are green beans safe for babies starting solids? Yes. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the European Food Safety Authority has found that the level of nitrates in vegetables is not a concern for most children, and nitrates from vegetables appear to be less of a concern for babies older than 6 months of age.4 5 Therefore, we believe that the benefits of eating vegetables as part of a varied diet of fresh foods outweigh the risks of excess nitrate exposure from vegetables.6 If you’re worried, nitrate exposure can be reduced by avoiding deli meats (and other processed meats) and well water, which can be high in nitrates.7 8

Money Saver Icon Frozen and fresh green beans have similar nutritional content. If you’re in a pinch, frozen green beans are a nutritious and economical option.

Are green beans a choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Green beans are tough for babies to chew, plus pre-cut green beans and other cylindrical varieties of snap beans are very similar in diameter to the trachea at this early stage in life. To minimize the risk, cut lengthwise or offer your child a whole string bean to munch on. Bigger is often safer!

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Are green beans a common allergen?

No. Green bean allergies are rare, though not unheard of and, in theory, an individual can be allergic to any food.9 As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

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

Infographic showing how to cut green beans for babies. Serve whole steamed green beans for 6-12 months, bite size pieces of cooked and cut green beans for 12-18 months, and either bite size or whole green beans for 18 months+

6 to 12 months old: Offer cooked green beans in their whole form (a whole bean, uncut is best). At this age, whole bean pods may be safer for babies than pre-cut green beans. Whole bean pods are also easier for the baby to grasp.  As they munch, their gums smash the pod and reduce its roundness, while small pieces of pre-cut green beans could be more likely to be accidentally swallowed whole. If you’d like to work the fine motor skills required for utensils, raw green beans can be excellent “spoons” or vehicles to practice self-feeding a pureed texture (like hummus). While your baby won’t consume the green bean itself when used this way (as raw green beans require strong jaw control and for most babies, teeth, to break through the skin), they are fantastic for learning the skills of scooping. 

12 to 18 months old: Offer bite-size pieces of cooked green beans. This is also a great time to practice with forks and green beans spear quite nicely!

18 to 24 months old: Continue to offer bite-size pieces of cooked green beans as finger food or serve with a fork but reduce the cooking time to acclimate your child to chewing tougher foods. You can also serve whole green beans with a dip—toddlers love to dip! 

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Recipe: Three Sisters Succotash

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 1 pound fresh or frozen green beans
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 10 ounces fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground pumpkin seeds (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash the beans and defrost if frozen. Slice off any stems then cut the beans into age-appropriate sizes. Steam until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Set aside.
  2. Wash and shred the zucchini with a box grater while the beans are cooking. Set aside.
  3. Wash the corn kernels and defrost if frozen. Set aside.
  4. Wash and mince the chives. Set aside.
  5. Heat the butter in a large skillet set on moderate heat. When the butter is done foaming, add the corn kernels, then stir to coat. Cook until soft, about 4 minutes, then gently mash with the back of a wooden spoon to reduce the choking hazard.
  6. Add the shredded zucchini and stir to coat in the corn mixture. Cook until soft and some of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the green beans and stir to coat in the corn-zucchini mixture. Cook until warmed through, about 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the minced chives.
  8. Measure 1/2 cup into a bowl that suctions to the table for your baby and a generous portion for yourself. If you like, sprinkle the ground pumpkin seeds on top for extra flavor and nutrition. Store the rest of the succotash in an air-tight container in the fridge for future meals.
  9. To serve, place a fork on the edge of your child’s plate to encourage utensil practice, then eat your meal alongside your child to show how it’s done!

Flavor Pairings

Green beans have a bright grassy flavor that pairs well with rich proteins like bacon, beef, and lamb; tart fruits like lemon, orange, and tomato; earthy foods like oyster mushrooms and purple potato; and creamy foods like avocado, ricotta cheese, and yogurt. Try seasoning green bean dishes with mint, savory, tarragon, or your family’s favorite herb. And when in doubt, add butter!

Reviewed by:

Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS

Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD

Kary Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

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

Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Friel, J., Qasem, W., & Cai, C. (2018). Iron and the Breastfed Infant. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 7(4), 54. DOI: 10.3390/antiox7040054. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  2. Brkić, D., Bošnir, J., Bevardi, M., Bošković, A. G., Miloš, S., et al. (2017). Nitrate in Leafy Green Vegetables and Estimated Intake. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM, 14(3), 31–41. DOI:10.21010/ajtcam.v14i3.4. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  3. Brkić, D., Bošnir, J., Bevardi, M., Bošković, A. G., Miloš, S., et al. (2017). Nitrate in Leafy Green Vegetables and Estimated Intake. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM, 14(3), 31–41. DOI:10.21010/ajtcam.v14i3.4. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  4. Filer, L. J., Lowe, C. J., Barness, L. A., Goldbloom, R. B., Heald, F. P., et al. (1970). Infant Methemoglobinemia: The Role of Dietary Nitrate. Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, 46(3), 475-478. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  5. European Food Safety Authority. (2017). EFSA Explains Risk Assessment: Nitrites and Nitrates Added in Food. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  6. European Food Safety Authority. (2017, June 15). EFSA Confirms Safe Levels for Nitrites and Nitrates Added in Food [Press release]. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  7. Hord, N. G., Tang, Y., Bryan, N. S. (2009). Food sources of nitrates and nitrites: the physiological context for potential health benefits. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90(1), 1-10. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27131. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  8. Ahluwalia, A., Gladwin, M., Coleman, G. D., Hord, N., Howard, G., et al. (2016). Dietary Nitrate and the Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Report from a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Workshop. Journal of the American Heart Association, 5(7), e003402. DOI:10.1161/JAHA.116.003402. Retrieved September 9, 2020
  9. Igea, J. M., Fernandez, M., Quirce, S., de la Hoz, B., Diez Gomez, M.L. (1994). Green bean hypersensitivity: an occupational allergy in a homemaker. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 94(1),33-35. DOI:10.1016/0091-6749(94)90068-x. Retrieved September 9, 2020