Halibut

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.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Fish
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

Jump to Recipe ↓
two fillets of halibut ready to be cooked for babies starting solids

When can babies eat halibut?

Halibut may be introduced in moderation as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Keep in mind that halibut contains moderate levels of mercury—a toxic metal to which babies and children are particularly susceptible—and there is no known safe level of exposure.1 2 3

Background and origins of halibut

Wild halibut live in northern coastal waters of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, where they serve as an important food source for Indigenous communities in Alaska.4 5 Halibut is also raised as a food source in tanks and off-shore farms in countries around the world. Halibut is a flatfish, a family that includes flounder, sole, and turbot, but wild halibut is typically much larger. As a general rule of thumb, bigger fish lead longer lives, resulting in higher exposure to mercury and other toxins in our oceans.6 While it is okay to share a small amount of halibut with babies once in a while when you are enjoying it for a meal, there are plenty of fish in the sea that contain less mercury, such as codhaddockpollocksardines, and tilapia.7

Money Saver Icon Cod is a fantastic substitute for halibut and is generally more affordable.

Julian, 10 months, eats halibut for the first time.
Max, 18 months, eats halibut patties.

Is halibut healthy for babies?

Yes, in moderation. Halibut contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and fats that babies need to thrive. The fish offers a good amount of B vitamins to fuel cell energy, vitamin D to grow healthy bones and cells, and selenium to help baby’s liver and immune function. Halibut is also a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for baby’s brain development.

However, halibut contains moderate levels of mercury—just like most fish these days due to pollution in our oceans.8 9 10 Mercury accumulates within the body (and can take decades to expel), which makes it a particularly persistent and progressive toxin.11

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that fish be limited to once or twice a week due to increasing levels of metals in our waters from pollution.12  If you’d like to consider other seafood with less mercury, check out our guide of the Best & Worst Fish for Babies, which lists halibut as a “moderate risk” fish.

★Tip: Fresh halibut should have a glossy, translucent appearance and firm feeling. Avoid halibut that feels squishy or has a strong smell.

Is halibut a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Halibut is not a common choking hazard, but fish bones certainly are. Be sure to remove any lingering bones before serving freshly cooked halibut to babies, and, as always, stay close during mealtime.

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

Is halibut a common allergen?

Yes. Finned fish is a common food allergen, and halibut is among the most common, along with codfish, salmon and tuna.13 While it’s estimated that allergy to finned fish impacts less than 1 percent of people in the United States, the allergy is typically lifelong.14 15 About 40 percent of people with finned fish allergies don’t experience their first allergic reaction until adulthood.16

If you have a family history of seafood allergies or suspect your baby may be allergic to fish, make an appointment with an allergist before introducing halibut. As with all common allergens, introduce halibut in small amounts and watch closely as your baby eats to see if any adverse reaction occurs. If all goes well, gradually increase the serving size to your baby over time.

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

an infographic with the header "how to cut fish for babies": a thin deboned filet for babies 6 months+, bite-sized pieces for babies 9 months+, small flakes and pieces with a fork for toddlers 12 months+

6 to 9 months old: Offer well-cooked halibut (with the bones and skin removed) in pieces that are about the size of two adult pinky fingers placed next to one another. Alternatively, mix flaked halibut into grains, mashed potatoes, or other foods that are easy for babies to scoop up with their hands.

9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies develop their pincer grasp (where the pointer finger and thumb meet) which makes it easier to pick up smaller pieces of food. Once that fine motor skill develops, try moving down in size and offer smaller pieces of well-cooked halibut. Just be sure to remove the skin and bones before serving!

12 to 24 months old: Fish cake time! Most toddlers in this age range love disc-shaped patties because they are easy to pick up and eat. Try offering homemade fish cakes, but don’t forget to also serve well-cooked flaked halibut on its own once in a while to help the child become familiar with the taste and texture of the fish on its own.

a hand holding a cooked halibut filet for babies 6 months+
A strip of cooked, deboned halibut filet for babies 6 months+
a hand holding four bite-sized pieces of cooked deboned halibut for babies 9 months+
Bite-sized pieces of cooked, deboned halibut for babies 9 months+

For more information on which fish are safe for babies, see our guide to the Best and Worst Fish for Babies.

Recipe: Coconut-Stewed Halibut

a fillet of halibut cooked in coconut milk and sprinkled with chopped green herbs

Yield: ½ cup (113 grams)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 4-ounce (113 grams) fresh or frozen boneless halibut fillet
  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) water
  • ½ cup (125 milliliters) unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (ideally from a BPA-free container)
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 grams) sweet curry powder (optional)
  • 2 cilantro sprigs (optional)

This recipe contains allergens: fish and coconut. Only serve to a child after these allergens have been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Defrost the fish in the fridge before you plan to cook (if frozen).
  2. Check the fish for lingering bones and discard them. Keep the skin on for easier cooking—you’ll remove it after it’s cooked.
  3. Combine the water, coconut milk, curry powder, and cilantro in a large saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Lower the fish into the pan. Simmer on each side until fully cooked, about 10 minutes total. The fish is done when a knife inserted into the thickest part of the fillet reveals opaque, not translucent flesh. If you’d like to be sure, use a kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature of the thickest part of the fish—it should read 145 degrees Fahrenheit / 63 degrees Celsius.
  5. Strain the fish from the cooking liquid to a mixing bowl, reserving ¼ cup (60 milliliters) of cooking liquid and storing the rest for another use, like soup.
  6. Use a knife or fork to gently slide the fillet away from the skin. Discard the skin or reserve for another use, like crispy skin to crumble on salad or grains.
  7. Divide the fillet into age-appropriate sizes and place about 1 ounce on the child’s plate. One ounce is about equal to an adult thumb. Drizzle with a little of the reserved cooked liquid on top of the fish and cool to room temperature before serving.
  8. Serve and offer the plate and let the child self-feed by scooping with hands. If you’d like to encourage use of a utensil, simply pre-load a spoon or fork and rest it next to the bowl for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the pre-loaded utensil in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Coconut-stewed halibut keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for 2 months. The leftover fish can be used to make a simple fish salad or flaked and stirred into cooked rice or other grains.

Flavor Pairings

Halibut has a mild flavor that pairs well with rich, flavorful sauces and foods such as bacon, butter, capers, cilantro, coconut, dill, garlic, ginger, cheese, horseradish, olives and saffron as well as bright fruits like lime, mango, and orange.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)

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

  1. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2019, July). Advice about Eating Fish. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012). Retrieved September 1, 2020
  3. Bose-O’Reilly, S., McCarty, K., Steckling, N., Lettmeier, B. (2010). Mercury Exposure and Children’s Health. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 40(8), 186-215. DOI: 10.1016/j.cppeds.2010.07.002. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  4. Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Pacific Halibut. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  5. Alaska Department of Fish & Game. Pacific Halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis). Retrieved September 1, 2020
  6. Storelli, M. M., Barone, G., Piscitelli, G., & Marcotrigiano, G. O. (2007). Mercury in fish: concentration vs. fish size and estimates of mercury intake. Food additives and contaminants, 24(12), 1353–1357. DOI:10.1080/02652030701387197. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  7. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012). Retrieved September 1, 2020
  8. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish (1990-2012). Retrieved September 1, 2020
  9. United States Environmental Protection Agency. Basic Information about Mercury. Retrieved September 2, 2020
  10. Harvard T.F. Chan School of Public Health. Fish: Friend or Foe? Retrieved September 1, 2020
  11. Rice, K., Walker, E., Wu, M., Gillette, C., Blough, E. (2014). Environmental mercury and its toxic effects. Journal of Preventative Medicine and Public Health, 47(2): 74-83. DOI:10.3961/jpmph.2014.47.2.74. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  12. HealthyChildren.org. (2019). Healthy Fish Choices for Kids. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  13. Food Allergy Research & Education. Fish Allergy: Video. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  14. Sicherer, S. H., Muñoz-Furlong, A., & Sampson, H. A. (2004). Prevalence of seafood allergy in the United States determined by a random telephone survey. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 114(1), 159–165. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaci.2004.04.018. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  15. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis – Fish. Retrieved September 1, 2020
  16. Food Allergy Research & Education. Fish Allergy. Retrieved September 1, 2020