When can babies eat kimchi?
Kimchi may be introduced in small amounts as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of kimchi
Kimchi is a popular dish in Korean homes and restaurants alike—both within North and South Korea, and in countries around the world. Globally kimchi is widely recognized as a spicy cabbage dish with lots of garlic, scallions, and heat from chili peppers. But for Koreans (and fans of Korean cooking) kimchi means “fermented vegetables” and describes a wide variety of dishes in which vegetables have been pickled.
Cooks like to make kimchi with all kinds of plants, from cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes; to greens like chives, cilantro, mustard leaves, and spinach. In many homes, kimchi is eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and widely beloved for its savory crunch and healthy probiotics.
Is fermented food safe for babies?
Yes. In fact, fermented foods like kimchi are not only safe, they offer numerous health benefits for babies.1 When purchasing kimchi for your baby, look for refrigerated kimchi and check the use-by date to be safe.
Is kimchi healthy for babies?
Yes, in moderation. Kimchi, because it is fermented, supplies your baby with essential bacteria (probiotics) that helps to diversify the gut microbiome, where the majority of the immune system originates. Since babies are born with microbiome DNA—but not the bacteria themselves—it’s important to help cultivate friendly flora in their gastrointestinal tracts. Kimchi can help, but take care to start with a small amount, as it can be high in sodium and very spicy. (Rinsing the kimchi under water will help remove some of the sodium and heat.)
While the nutritional profile depends on the type of vegetables and flavorings used to make the dish, in the United States and other countries that have embraced Korean cooking, kimchi commonly refers to fermented cabbage leaves with chili peppers, garlic, and salt. This variety of kimchi offers lots of B vitamins, along with some vitamin K and iron.
Is kimchi a common choking hazard for babies?
No, preserved/fermented cabbage is not a common choking hazard, though in theory, an individual can choke on any food. Always stay near your baby and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Is kimchi a common allergen?
Yes. Many kimchi recipes contain anchovy or other salted seafood. While allergies to cabbage itself are extremely rare, babies allergic or sensitive to mustard greens (or mustard seed) may have an allergic reaction to kimchi.2 Be sure to read the labels when you’re buying store-bought kimchi, as there are often many ingredients.
As you would with any new food, introduce kimchi by serving a scant quantity the first couple of times. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings. And of course, if you have a family history of allergies, or suspect your baby may be allergic, consult an allergist before introducing kimchi.
How do you prepare kimchi for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Purchase fresh kimchi (it will be refrigerated) and look for the lowest sodium brand you can find. Rinse the kimchi in a colander to remove some heat and excess salt before preparing. Finely chop the rinsed kimchi, then serve on its own or fold into other dishes.
12 to 24 months old: Continue to rinse kimchi to reduce the heat and salt. As your toddler’s eating skills develop, try serving larger pieces of kimchi to encourage biting, tearing, and chewing.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Kimchi changes with the seasons! There are different methods of making kimchi that reflect the time of year and the availability of vegetables—from winter kimchi made of salted and rinsed cabbage, to spring kimchi made of fresh herbs. Seek out a couple of different kinds of kimchi to offer a taste test to your kids!
Recipe: Kimchi with Coconut Rice
Kimchi (small pinch)
2 cups long grain rice
1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
1 ½ cups water
Note: This recipe contains coconut, which is classified as a tree nut (allergen) by the FDA. Coconut allergy is rare.
- Rinse the rice in a fine mesh colander until the water below runs clear.
- In a saucepot, heat up the coconut milk, water, and rice together. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, rinse a pinch of kimchi. The longer you rinse, the less spicy and salty it will be.
- Finely chop the rinsed kimchi, and once the rice is done, mix together with a fork. Young babies (6 to 12 months) can scoop up the rice with their hands; older babies may enjoy a pre-loaded spoon or age-appropriate fork. And toddlers will love trainer chopsticks!
Kimchi offers crunch and a funky, savory (sometimes spicy!) taste that pairs well with meats and fish, pasta and grain dishes, and creamy foods like avocado, coconut, and yogurt. Think of kimchi like a “spice” and try pairing it with your favorite dishes. The possibilities are limitless!
- Caregivers’ Knowledge and Use of Fermented Foods for Infant and Young Children Feeding. NCBI Website. Retrieved April 4, 2020.
- Blaiss, MS., McCants, ML., Lehrer, SB. (1987). Anaphylaxis to cabbage: detection of allergens. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 58(4):248-50. Retrieved April 2, 2020