Kale

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 raw lacinato kale on a white table before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat kale?

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

Kalani, 9 months, eats kale chips for the first time. You need not start with kale chips to introduce kale, but if you do, have a drink for your baby nearby as the flecks often cling to the back of the throat.
Sebastián, 11 months, eats shredded raw kale and has mixed feelings about it.
Max, 15 months, eats an omelet made with sautéed kale. Offering greens like spinach and kale more than one way (to empower your baby with choice) can increase the likelihood of consumption.

Is kale healthy for babies?

Yes. Kale is a type of leaf cabbage, and it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the market. The leafy green is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as calcium, which helps your baby build strong bones. Fun fact: one cup of kale has more vitamin C than an orange!

While kale is a nutrition powerhouse, it has its downsides. In 2019, kale was added to an annual “Dirty Dozen” list (a list by the Environmental Working Group with the fruits and veggies that tend to have the most pesticides). 1 Like spinach, kale also contains nitrates, which if consumed to regularly, can negatively affect oxygen levels in your baby’s blood. For this reason some doctors suggest waiting until your baby is 12 months old to introduce leafy greens (along with beets and other veggies high in nitrates). However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has not found any evidence that warrants a prohibition on introducing the leafy green to babies older than 6 months of age.2

To reduce the risk of exposure to pesticides and nitrates, buy organic frozen kale or very fresh organic kale. If organic produce is not possible with your budget, go for conventional broccoli, cauliflower, or sweet peas, which tend to have the least amount of pesticide residue.3

★Tip: If baby is rejecting leafy greens, try serving kale chips. Kids love the crunch! Most pre-made kale chips are too high in sodium for babies so make your own by chopping washed kale, coating it with olive oil, and then baking it in the oven until crispy. Kale chips are notorious for clinging to the back of the throat, so be sure to have some milk or water in a cup nearby.

Is kale a common choking hazard for babies?

Kale doesn’t pose a significant choking risk, though any food can be a choking hazard, so be sure to watch closely as your baby eats. Like all leafy greens, kale may cling to the back of your baby’s throat, which can cause discomfort and coughing. When this occurs, offer your baby some milk or water to aid swallowing.

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

Is kale a common allergen?

No. Allergies to kale are rare. In theory, however, any food can cause an allergic reaction, so always watch closely while your baby eats.

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

infographic showing how to cut kale for babies: cooked and minced kale or a whole rib for 6 months+, raw or cooked shredded kale for 9 months+, and raw chopped kale for 12 months +

6 to 9 months old: For babies who are just starting solids, try mincing sautéed kale and folding into an omelet or into a lentil or meat patty. While you can also serve the minced cooked kale on its own, leafy greens can cling to the back of the throat, so folding it into other foods will minimize coughing and gagging. If you’d like to expose baby to the whole kale leaf, go ahead and do so. Just keep the the leaves on the ribs for structure and resistance.

9 to 12 months old: This is a great age to try serving kale on its own to acclimate baby to the taste of leafy greens. Try shredding cooked or raw kale and encourage baby to pick up the thin strands with their fingers as a finger food. You can also explore kale chips (prepare for massive mess and coughing) or continue to fold minced sautéed kale into other dishes as you like

12 to 24 months old: Salad time! By this time many toddlers will be ready to work with chopped, raw greens with dressing. If your toddler seems to struggle with chopped kale, simply shred the kale into thiner strands. Alternatively you can serve cooked kale almost any way you like. Have a drink nearby for any pieces that cling to the tongue, roof of the mouth or back of the throat.

a hand holding a whole cooked kale leaf and minced, cooked kale for babies starting solids
A cooked kale rib along with minced cooked kale for 6 months+
a hand holding shredded kale pieces for babies starting solids
Shredded kale for 9 months+ (can be raw or cooked)

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Recipe: Kale & Onion Omelet

five thin rectangular pieces of kale omelet on a white background

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion or shallot
  • 1 bunch organic kale (defrosted if frozen)
  • 4 eggs
  • Olive oil or unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Finely chop 1/2 onion or 1 shallot, and sauté in a skillet with a splash of olive oil on medium heat until the onion is translucent.
  2. Finely chop 1 bunch of fresh kale or 1 package of defrosted kale, then add it to the skillet and sauté until bright green. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool in the skillet.
  3. Crack 4 eggs in a mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs, then stir in the cooled kale mixture.
  4. Reheat your skillet on medium heat for a couple minutes, then add a splash of olive oil. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet, and let the mixture cook uncovered for a few minutes, or until the eggs have started to set and the edge of the omelet is curling away from the skillet.
  5. Gently slide a spatula under one side of the omelet, and fold it over the other side. Cover the skillet and cook for a couple minutes, until the omelet is completely cooked. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the middle and gently turning the blade. There should be no liquid or runny egg.
  6. Turn off the heat and let the omelet cool in the skillet. When ready to serve, cut the omelet into one-inch strips for your baby.

Flavor Pairings

Kale pairs well with eggs, lamb, onions, and potatoes. Finely chopped kale is a healthy addition to lentil and quinoa dishes!

  1. Environmental Working Group. (2019, Mar. 20). Kale, on the list for the first time in a decade, ranks 3rd on the Dirty Dozen [Press release]
  2. Official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, The Role of Dietary Nitrate. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
  3. Environmental Working Group. (2019, Mar. 20). Kale, on the list for the first time in a decade, ranks 3rd on the Dirty Dozen [Press release]