When can babies eat jalapeño peppers?
Babies may be introduced to fiery foods as soon as they are ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. However, fresh jalapeño peppers (and their smoked form, chipotle peppers) can have intense heat, so you may want to wait until after your baby’s first birthday to introduce the hot peppers.
Contrary to popular belief, babies do not need to eat bland foods when they are starting solids. Babies learn with every bite, developing knowledge of individual ingredients and their distinct tastes. In fact, studies show that children who experience diverse flavors as babies are more likely to accept new foods later on in life.1
That said, introducing jalapeños and other hot peppers after the first birthday can have its benefits. A jalapeño pepper’s powerful fire can mask the flavors of other foods when its mixed into dishes, which can confuse your baby, causing the child to associate heat with foods that may not actually be hot. The heat from jalapeños can also cause a burning sensation on the tongue, which can be scary for young eaters. Food should be fun and joyful!
Whenever you decide to introduce jalapeños to your baby, make sure to offer a scant amount at first, and taste before you serve. Read on for tips on introducing hot peppers!
Are jalapeño peppers healthy for babies?
Yes. Jalapeño peppers are incredibly high in vitamin C, a super-nutrient that powers blood development, bone strength, immunity, skin and tissue growth, and healthy organs. The hot peppers also contain vitamins A, B, E, and K plus a whole bunch of antioxidants, thought it’s unlikely your baby will consume enough to make a measurable difference.
Are jalapeño peppers a choking hazard for babies?
When finely chopped and added to other foods, jalapeño pepper is not a choking hazard, though it can make babies (and adults!) cough quite a bit. When serving foods with jalapeño pepper, be sure to have an age-appropriate milk drink (such as breast milk, cow’s milk, or formula) or plain yogurt on hand to balance the heat, as well as another, milder food that your baby loves to eat as a complimentary choice.
Are jalapeño peppers a common allergen?
No. Allergies to jalapeño peppers are rare, though people who are sensitive to plants in the nightshade family (includes bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes) may be sensitive to jalapeño peppers, cayenne pepper, paprika, and other chili peppers.
How do you prepare jalapeño peppers 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 12 months old: Refrain. You want to avoid causing your baby any pain as you begin your solid food journey together. In these early months, it’s important that your baby discovers that food is fun. You don’t want your baby to worry that food might cause pain.
12 to 18 months old: Introduce a scant amount of finely minced jalapeño pepper or even a drop of jalapeño juice into your baby’s meal. Try adding a tiny amount to homemade chili that the whole family can eat, and add a dollop of sour cream to help cut down any burn. You can also experiment with adding a scant amount of hot pepper to cream cheese and spreading that on bread or thin rice cakes.
18 to 24 months old: Continue to offer dishes that call for jalapeño peppers, adjusting the volume as desired. At this age, many babies are leaning into their power of choice (hello, picky eating!) so don’t be disheartened if your child rejects food. And don’t stop serving it! Try different recipes to help your baby learn that an ingredient can taste different depending on how it’s prepared: jalapeño corn bread, meatballs with jalapeño, jalapeño queso, jalapeño peppers stuffed with meat or cheese—there are lots of recipes to try!
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★ProTip: Creamy foods like cashew cream, cream cheese, goat cheese, or plain yogurt are great vehicles for offsetting the heat and burn from hot peppers.
Recipe: Jalapeño Cheese Spread
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 log of goat cheese
- Heavy cream
- Wash and destem a jalapeño pepper. Slice lengthwise.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in the pepper. Remove after 3 minutes and place in a small bowl. Add a 3:1 solution of water and apple cider vinegar (i.e. 1 cup of water to ¼ cup of vinegar) and let stand for an hour, then drain. This process removes some of the heat of the pepper while maintaining its herbal flavor.
- While the pepper is soaking, add ¾ of the log of goat cheese and a splash of heavy cream to a food processor. Add the cooked pepper (discard soaking liquid). Blend until smooth.
- Taste the spread. If it’s too spicy, add the remaining goat cheese or plain yogurt. Spread thinly on whole grain bread, corn bread, crackers or use as a dip for raw veggies.
Heat aside, jalapeño peppers have a bright, grassy flavor that pairs well with creamy foods like avocado, coconut, cheese, and squash; and hearty foods like bacon, beef, beans, chicken, eggs, and sardines. The heat can balance sweet and tart flavors, so try serving alongside fruits like mango, papaya, pineapple, and tomatoes. Add herbs like cilantro, mint, and scallions for extra flavor!
- Birch, L. & Fisher, J. (1998). Development of eating behaviors among children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 3(2), 539-49. Retrieved April 22, 2020.