Lentil

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 lentils before they have been prepared for a baby starting solid foods

When can babies eat lentils?

Lentils may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

What type of lentil is best for babies?

There are many kinds of lentils – each with a distinctive color, flavor, and texture. While there are slight variations in the nutrients from one type to another, all lentils are a fantastic first food because they add tons of plant-based iron and protein to a child’s diet. In fact, lentils have been sustaining humans since ancient times. The tiny legumes originated in the area around the Mediterranean Sea and were introduced to other parts of the globe through colonization and trade. Today, lentils are one of the most widely-used legumes and a staple food in Africa and South Asia, where lentils (called dal) are enjoyed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

★Tip: Lentils cook quickly, though cooking time varies. For example, whole lentils (such as Beluga lentils, Puy lentils, or Sabut Masoor dal) take longer to cook than split lentils (such as Dhuli Masoor dal, Moong dal, Urad dal). You can swap one for another, but pay attention when a recipe calls for a specific type. Whole lentils are great to mix with grains and vegetables because they keep their shape, while split lentils are excellent thickeners for soups and stews because they break down as they cook.

Amelia, 8 months, eats lentils on a pre-loaded spoon.
Isar, 14 months, eats lentils and mashed potatoes.
Max, 16 months, eats lentils with a spoon.

Are lentils healthy for babies?

Yes. It cannot be overstated how beneficial lentils can be for babies. The legumes are rich in B-vitamins, including folate to support the nervous system, as well as protein to fuel the muscles and fiber to nourish the gut microbiome. In fact, lentils contain traces of almost every vitamin and mineral that children need as they grow.

The best part about lentils: they are packed with iron and zinc, two essential nutrients that babies often don’t get enough of in their diets.1 Around 6 months of age, all babies, particularly breastfed babies, need iron- and zinc-rich foods on a regular basis because their reserves become naturally depleted.2 3 Lentils deliver these essential nutrients in spades. When served with foods that contain lots of vitamin C (berries, broccoli, cauliflower, citrus, red bell pepper), the body absorbs more of the iron in the lentils.4

You may have heard debate over the health implications of antinutrients such as lectins, oxalates, and phytates, which are naturally present in lentils.5 6 Fear not: these plant compounds are generally safe when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, and they also contain many beneficial properties.7 Plus, cooking lentils significantly decreases the antinutrients in lentils and other legumes.8

★Tip: Dried lentils do not need to be soaked, though it reduces cooking time for some varieties and improves digestion.

Are lentils a choking hazard for babies?

No. Lentils are not a common choking hazard, though they can solidify and form larger shapes when cooked with cheese or other sticky ingredients, so take care to break up any clumps that concern you. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are lentils a common allergen?

No. Lentils are not recognized as a common allergen in the United States. However, allergies to lentils are possible.9 10 In Spain, lentil allergy impacts a significant portion of the pediatric population.11 12

Being allergic to one type of legume, particularly pea and chickpea (and to a lesser extent, peanut), may increase the risk of allergy to lentils.13 14 However, cross-reactivity among legumes is more commonly seen on blood and skin testing than it is in practice. Children with lentil allergy do not necessarily need to avoid all other legumes. Individuals with allergies to birch tree pollen and/or Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called “pollen-food” allergy syndrome) may be sensitive to lentils.15 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity of lentils for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.

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

6 to 9 months old: Serve cooked lentils on top of foods that are easy to scoop, such as mashed vegetables, grain porridges, or yogurt. Encourage self-feeding by letting baby scoop with hands or by pre-loading a utensil for baby to grab. This is also a great age to explore using lentils to make burgers, patties, and other round foods, whose shapes are easier for babies to pick up and hold.

9 to 12 months old: Continue serving cooked lentils on scoopable foods and letting baby self-feed with hands or a pre-loaded spoon. At this age, baby may enjoy trying to pick up tiny lentils on their own so try any recipes that call for whole lentils, which retain their shape as they cook. You can also explore a range of seasoning and flavors: lentils marinated in citrus juice, lentils mixed with vitamin C-rich vegetables, or lentils tossed with minced herbs and served with yogurt.

12 to 24 months old: Utensil time! Help show how a spoon is used by pre-loading it and resting it next to the bowl or plate for the toddler to try to pick up. If the child is not interested in using a utensil, don’t worry. Using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils. Try not to apply too much pressure; consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time — probably between 18 and 24 months of age.

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

Recipe: Whole Lentils with Yogurt

Yield: 2 cups (400 grams)
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (90 grams) whole lentils
  • 1 ½ cups (360 milliliters) water or unsalted meat or vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) olive oil
  • ½ cup (140 grams) unsweetened full-fat Greek-style yogurt or fortified plant-based yogurt (for dairy free, swap in mashed potatoes)
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, or spice of choice (optional)

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy. Only serve to a child after dairy has been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Rinse the lentils to remove any dirt and debris.
  2. Combine the lentils and the water in pot set on medium-high heat. When the pot comes to a boil, lower the heat to create a gentle simmer.
  3. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, between 20 and 30 minutes.
  4. Drain the lentils, then transfer them to a mixing bowl. Add the oil and stir to coat.
  5. Scoop the yogurt into the child’s bowl and stir in some lentils. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determined how much is eaten.
  6. If you like, stir in the spice to add extra flavor.
  7. Serve: Let the child self-feed with hands. If you’d like to encourage the use of a utensil, simply pre-load a spoon and rest it next to the bowl for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass a pre-loaded spoon in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Cooked lentils keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 1 week or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Lentils taste earthy and nutty with a starchy texture that soaks up the flavors from foods in which the legumes are cooked. Try cooking lentils with carrot, chicken, garlic, ginger, onion, pork, potato, and tomato and season them with lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus; fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, or parsley; and bold spices like cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, mustard seed, or star anise. The possibilities are truly limitless! Serve lentils with foods that are rich in vitamin C like bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, or spinach to help a baby absorb more plant-based iron from the legumes.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

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

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

  1. Hilger, J., Goerig, T., Weber. P., Hoeft, B., Eggersdorfer, M., et al. (2015). Micronutrient Intake in Healthy Toddlers: A Multinational Perspective. Nutrients. 7(8), 6938-55. DOI:10.3390/nu7085316. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  2. Marques, R.F., Taddei, J.A., Lopez, F.A., Braga, J.A. (1992). Breastfeeding exclusively and iron deficiency anemia during the first 6 months of age. Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira, 60(1):18-22. DOI:10.1590/1806-9282.60.01.006. PMID: 24918847. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  3. Dumrongwongsiri, O., Suthutvoravut, U., Chatvutinun, S., Phoonlabdacha, P., Sangcakul, A., et al. (2015). Maternal zinc status is associated with breast milk zinc concentration and zinc status in breastfed infants aged 4-6 months. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 24(2):273-80. DOI:10.6133/apjcn.2015.24.2.06. PMID: 26078244. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Iron. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  5. Petroski, W., Minich, D. M. (2020). Is There Such a Thing as “Anti-Nutrients”? A Narrative Review of Perceived Problematic Plant Compounds. Nutrients, 12(10), 2929. DOI:10.3390/nu12102929. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  6. Pal, R.S., Bhartiya, A., Yadav, P., Kant, L., Mishra, K.K., et al. (2017). Effect of dehulling, germination and cooking on nutrients, anti-nutrients, fatty acid composition and antioxidant properties in lentil (Lens culinaris). Journal of food science and technology, 54(4), 909–920. DOI:10.1007/s13197-016-2351-4. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  7. Petroski, W., Minich, D. M. (2020). Is There Such a Thing as “Anti-Nutrients”? A Narrative Review of Perceived Problematic Plant Compounds. Nutrients, 12(10), 2929. DOI:10.3390/nu12102929. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  8. Pal, R.S., Bhartiya, A., Yadav, P., Kant, L., Mishra, K.K., et al. (2017). Effect of dehulling, germination and cooking on nutrients, anti-nutrients, fatty acid composition and antioxidant properties in lentil (Lens culinaris). Journal of food science and technology, 54(4), 909–920. DOI:10.1007/s13197-016-2351-4. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  9. Martínez San Ireneo, M., Ibáñez, M.D., Sánchez, J.J., Carnés, J., Fernández-Caldas, E. (2008). Clinical features of legume allergy in children from a Mediterranean area. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology: official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 101(2), 179–184. DOI:10.1016/s1081-1206(10)60207-4. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  10. Lyons, S.A., Clausen, M., Knulst, A.C., Ballmer-Weber, B.K., Fernandez-Rivas, M., et al. (2020). Prevalence of Food Sensitization and Food Allergy in Children Across Europe. The journal of allergy and clinical immunology. In practice, 8(8), 2736–2746.e9. DOI:10.1016/j.jaip.2020.04.020. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  11. Pascual, C.Y., Fernandez-Crespo, J., Sanchez-Pastor, S., Padial, M.A., Diaz-Pena, J.M., et al. (1999). Allergy to lentils in Mediterranean pediatric patients. The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology, 103(1 Pt 1), 154–158. DOI:10.1016/s0091-6749(99)70539-7. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  12. Crespo, J.F., Pascual, C., Burks, A.W., Helm, R.M., Esteban, M.M. (1995). Frequency of food allergy in a pediatric population from Spain. Pediatric allergy and immunology: official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 6(1), 39–43. DOI:10.1111/j.1399-3038.1995.tb00256.x. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  13. Chan, E.S., Greenhawt, M.J., Fleischer, D.M., Caubet, J. C. (2019). Managing Cross-Reactivity in Those with Peanut Allergy. The journal of allergy and clinical immunology. In practice, 7(2), 381–386. DOI: 10.1016/j.jaip.2018.11.012. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  14. Ibanez MD, Martinez M, Sanchez JJ, Fernandez-Caldas E. (2003). Legume cross-reactivity. [Spanish] Allergologia et Immunopathologia, 31(3):151-61. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  15. Kashyap, R.R., Kashyap, R.S. (2015). Oral Allergy Syndrome: An Update for Stomatologists. Journal of allergy, 2015, 543928. DOI:10.1155/2015/543928. Retrieved May 24, 2021.