When can babies eat longan?
Longan may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Both the flesh of the longan and the seed inside pose a choking risk, so see our suggestions for how to serve longan by baby’s age before introducing.
Where does longan come from?
Longan is the juicy fruit of an evergreen tree with origins in South Asia and now grows in the tropics of the Americas, Africa, and Asia, where it is also known as lumyai, nhãn, and mata kuching. The last name means “cat’s eye” in Malay, which hints at the fruit’s appearance: longans are small orbs that resemble eyes once the translucent flesh is shelled of its thin, leathery casing. There are different varieties to try, each with their own distinctive flavor, but most have a musky aroma and sweet taste, with notes of almonds, melon, and honey. Some say longans taste like lychee, a tropical fruit in the same family, although they tend to be sweeter without as much tang.
Is longan healthy for babies?
Yes. Longan is a good source of vitamin C and other antioxidants that have been studied for their anticancer and immune-boosting benefits, suggesting some of the reasons that longan has been used widely in traditional Chinese medicine.1 Longan also contains some fiber, which helps aid digestion by supporting baby’s gut microbiome. Just take care to remove longan’s inner seed, which is a choking hazard and contains toxic compounds.2
As with many fruits, longan is also processed into juice, dried pulp, jelly, and sweet syrup. It’s best to wait to offer any of these foods to babies—while dried longan can be minced and reconstituted to offset choking risk, all of these forms of longan are inappropriate for babies due to their high sugar content.
★Tip: How do you know when longan is ripe? Feel it—the fruit should give a little when pressed. Longans continue to ripen at room temperature. You can extend their shelf life by storing longans in a slightly open bag or container in the fridge for up to 7 days or in an air-tight container in the freezer for up to 1 year.
Is longan a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. You won’t find longan on lists of the top choking hazards for babies, but the fruit’s chewy, firm, and slippery consistency poses a risk, as do the seed and peel. To minimize the risk, take care to remove the fruit from its peel, remove the inner seed, and cut the flesh into small pieces. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Is longan a common allergen?
No. Allergies to longan are rare, but not unheard of.3 People who are allergic to pollen and individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy) may be sensitive to longan’s cousin – the lychee fruit – and potentially longan, by extension.4 5 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Fortunately, cooking the fruit can help minimize or even eliminate the reaction.6 7
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Can longan help babies poop?
Yes, longan has some soluble and insoluble fiber as well as prebiotic polysaccharides. Together, these qualities contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity.8 9 Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.
How do you prepare longan 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 9 months old: Finely chop fresh longan (shell and seed discarded) and fold the chopped fruit into a soft, scoopable food like congee, mashed plantains, or yogurt. At this age, refrain from offering dried longan or processed longan products like jam, jelly, paste, or syrup.
9 to 18 months old: Cut fresh longan into quarters to create bite-sized pieces (shell and seed discarded). Serve the pieces of longan on their own for the child to practice picking up or mix them into grain or fruit salads. Of course, you may continue to finely chop the pulp if it makes you feel more comfortable.
18 to 24 months old: Continue to offer fresh longan that has been shelled, deseeded, and quartered or finely chopped. You can also experiment with reconstituting dried longan in water, chopping the fruit, then adding to warm cereal dishes and yogurt. Encourage your child to chew well by modeling a dramatic chewing motion yourself.
24 months old and up: When you feel the child is ready and understands instructions, try working with whole longan that has been shelled and pitted, and coach how to take bites from the fruit. Be sure to stay within an arm’s reach if they need more help managing this consistency. If you would like to offer dried longan, we would recommend waiting until at least 24 months, as the consistency, similar to many dried fruits, is quite challenging to chew. You may want to wait until your child has molars and has demonstrated the ability to grind with their molars before offering dried longan.
Read more about Sugar and Taste Preferences to help your child build a healthy relationship with sweet foods.
What are recipe ideas for cooking with longan?
For adults, longans are typically eaten fresh out of hand by peeling the shell and sucking the flesh from the inedible seed. Minced or chopped longan fruit makes a delicious addition when sprinkled onto or stirred into savory and sweet warm cereals, coconut rice, smoothies, and chia puddings. Or take a cue from cheng tng, a broth of barley, mushrooms, and dried longan enjoyed in Singapore, and use fresh or dried longan to add a sweet note to savory dishes.
Recipe: Longan Coconut Rice
Yield: 3 cups (450 grams)
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- ¼ cup (16 grams) longan flesh (about 4-6 whole fresh longan fruits)
- 1 cup (180 grams) dry Basmati rice
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (ideally from a BPA-free can)
- ¾ cup (180 milliliters) water
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
This recipe contains coconut, which is classified as a tree nut by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. While coconut allergy is rare, only serve to a child after coconut has been safely introduced.
- Peel the longan fruits, then separate the flesh from the seeds. Finely chop the flesh. Discard the shells and seeds. If you are working with canned longan, drain the longan flesh and rinse to remove excess sugar.
- Rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear.
- Place the longan flesh, rice, coconut milk, and water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid.
- If you like, stir in a pinch of cinnamon to add another layer of flavor.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to create a gentle simmer.
- Cover and cook until tender, between 15 and 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Keep the pot covered while the rice rests for 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff the rice.
- Scoop some rice into baby’s bowl. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child decide how much to eat.
- Let the child’s rice cool, and serve warm or at room temperature. Let the child try to self-feed. If baby is struggling to pick up the rice, try forming it into large balls.
To Store: Longan Coconut Rice keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days.
J. Truppi, MS, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and Nutritionist
K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist
Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Yi, Y., Liao, S. T., Zhang, M. W., Shi, J., Zhang, R. F., Deng, Y. Y., & Wei, Z. C. (2011). Physicochemical characteristics and immunomodulatory activities of three polysaccharide-protein complexes of longan pulp. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 16(7), 6148–6164. DOI: 10.3390/molecules16076148. Retrieved September 8, 2021
- Isenberg, S. L., Carter, M. D., Hayes, S. R., Graham, L. A., Johnson, D., Mathews, T. P., Harden, L. A., Takeoka, G. R., Thomas, J. D., Pirkle, J. L., & Johnson, R. C. (2016). Quantification of Toxins in Soapberry (Sapindaceae) Arils: Hypoglycin A and Methylenecyclopropylglycine. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 64(27), 5607–5613. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jafc.6b02478. Retrieved September 8, 2021
- Rank, M. A., & Li, J. T. (2007). A case of food allergy due to longan fruit. Annals of allergy, asthma & immunology : official publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, 98(4), 402. DOI: 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60890-3. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Raap U, Schaefer T, Kapp A, Wedi B. (2007). Exotic food allergy: anaphylactic reaction to lychee. Department of Dermatology and Allergology, Hannover Medical University. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Valsecchi R, Leghissa P. (2012). Contact allergy due to Lychee. Departments of Dermatology and Occupational Medicine, Bergamo General Hospital. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Nowak-Regrzyn, A. (2021). Patient Education: Oral Allergy Syndrome (Beyond the Basics). Up to Date. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Mankad, V. (2015). Living with food allergies: If allergic to one food, do you have to avoid related foods? Kids with Food Allergies. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Chareoansiri R, Kongkachuichai R. (2009). Sugar profiles and soluble and insoluble dietary fiber contents of fruits in Thailand markets. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 60 Suppl 4:126-139. doi:10.1080/09637480802609376. Retrieved April 25, 2022
- Huang F, Liu H, Zhang R, et al. (2019). Physicochemical properties and prebiotic activities of polysaccharides from longan pulp based on different extraction techniques. Carbohydr Polym. 206:344-351. doi:10.1016/j.carbpol.2018.11.012. Retrieved April 25, 2022