When can babies eat leeks?
Leeks may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Mild in flavor, leeks are often used to flavor soups and stocks, but they are powerful prebiotic vegetables that offer an array of digestive benefits on their own.1
Background and origins of leeks
Leeks are a member of the allium family, which means they are related to onions, garlic, chives, and ramps. Leeks are an ancient food, and evidence shows they were regularly eaten across the ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian empires. They continue to play a significant part in dishes across Europe, the Middle East, and southeast Asia. Like other members of the allium family, leeks are excellent at building flavor in a dish, as in soups like Scottish cock-a-leekie or French potage parmentier, but because they are milder than some of their onion relatives, leeks can also be cooked and served more or less on their own, as in the Turkish dish zeytinyağlı pırasa. White on the bottom, green on the top, the whole leek plant is edible, although the bottom is more tender and has a stronger flavor, while the upper, outer leaves are tougher and milder.
Are leeks healthy for babies?
Yes. Leeks are a great source of folate and vitamin A, nutrients supportive to baby’s healthy growth and vision. Leeks also contain fiber and are a source of plant-based iron, making them beneficial for gut health and development. Powerful sulfur-containing compounds give leeks and other allium plants (scallions, chives, ramps, and onions) their distinctive scent, while polyphenols offer antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties to help keep you and baby healthy.2 3
★Tip: Leeks are typically grown in dirt mounds, which means that they do need a thorough rinsing before cooking. To best clean leeks, trim the roots and the very tops of the leaves, cut the leeks down the middle lengthwise, and swish the halves in a bath of cool water. Then, give them a final rinse in a colander.
Are leeks a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Leeks, when chopped and incorporated into other foods, are not a common choking hazard, though in theory, an individual can choke on any food. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Are leeks a common allergen?
No. Allergies to leeks are rare, though there is some evidence that allergies to plants in the onion family are increasing.4 Of note, some allergens in foods in this family are sensitive to heat, meaning that well-cooked leeks might be well-tolerated in an individual who is sensitive to raw leeks. Individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen fruit syndrome), and in particular, those with sensitivities to grass pollen or mugwort pollen (a weed) may also be sensitive to leeks.5 6 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by serving a small quantity for the first couple of times. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare leeks 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: Mix a small amount of finely-chopped sautéed leeks into scrambled eggs or quiches, and try using them in place of onions in meatballs and patties. You can also sauté finely-chopped leeks in butter or olive oil and spread the mixture on bread, chicken, or fish or mix it into pasta or a grain dish for baby to scoop with their hands.
12 to 18 months old: Continue to incorporate chopped, sautéed leeks into omelets, potato, and vegetable dishes. You may want to explore the wide world of tarts and casseroles, using leeks paired with fish, seafood, poultry, or beans to offer different combinations and textures. Leeks also make a tasty addition to risotto and other rice dishes.
18 to 24 months old: Soup time! At this age, toddlers may be interested in learning how to eat soup (and will be less likely to throw it, too). Explore thick potato-leek soup recipes and continue to incorporate leeks into your cooking as desired. The possibilities are limitless!
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Recipe: Leek Frittata
Yield: 8 servings
Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6+ months
- 1 large leek
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter
- 6 large eggs
- ⅓ cup (78 ml) whole milk or non-dairy milk
- Optional: ½ cup (2 oz / 60 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
This recipe contains common allergens: eggs and dairy (optional). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Trim the root ends off the bottom of the leek, and the tough leaves off the top. Slice it in half lengthwise, then clean the leaves thoroughly under running water.
- Cut each leek in half again lengthwise, then thinly slice.
- Melt butter in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until very tender.
- Meanwhile, stir together the eggs, milk, and parmesan cheese if desired in a large bowl until combined. Stir the mixture into the leeks.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until no longer wobbly.
- Allow to cool, then slice and serve.
- Serve: For 6+ months, cut 2” fingers of frittata and allow baby to feed themselves. For 9+ months, offer the long fingers again, but also offer small bite-sized pieces. For 12+ months, offer a triangle of the frittata, like a slice of pizza, and let toddler feed themselves and practice taking bites.
To Store: Allow to cool completely, then slice and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To freeze, allow to cool then wrap pieces of frittata in aluminum foil. Reheat in the oven, wrapped in foil, on 350°F (175°C) for 12 to 15 minutes.
E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN
A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD. FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Kalala, G., Kambashi, B., Everaert, N., Beckers, Y., Richel, A., Pachikian, B., … Bindelle, J. (2017). Characterization of fructans and dietary fibre profiles in raw and steamed vegetables. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 69(6), 682–689. DOI: 10.1080/09637486.2017.1412404. Retrieved April 7, 2021
- Kothari, D., Lee, W.-D., & Kim, S.-K. (2020). Allium Flavonols: Health Benefits, Molecular Targets, and Bioavailability. Antioxidants, 9(9). DOI: 10.3390/antiox9090888. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Fattorusso, E., Lanzotti, V., Taglialatela-Scafati, O., & Cicala, C. (2001). The flavonoids of leek, Allium porrum. Phytochemistry, 57(4), 565–569. DOI: 10.1016/s0031-9422(01)00039-5. Retrieved April 12, 2021
- Cantisani, C., Visconti, B., Paolino, G., Frascani, F., Tofani, S., et al. (2014). Unusual food allergy: Alioidea allergic reactions overview. Recent Patents on Inflammation & Allergy Drug Discovery, 8(3):178-84. DOI: 10.2174/1872213×08666141107170159. Retrieved May 13, 2020
- Armentia A, Martín-Armentia S, Pineda F, Martín-Armentia B, Castro M, Fernández S, et al. Allergic hypersensitivity to garlic and onion in children and adults. Allergol Immunopathol (Madr). 2020;48(3):232-6.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved April 12, 2021