Lychee

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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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Nut
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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pile of lychee fruit before being prepared for a baby starting solid food

When can babies eat lychees?

Lychee may be introduced as soon as baby is ready for solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. It’s important to note that lychees contain a poisonous seed and are classified as a tree nut (a common allergen) by the U.S. FDA and can be a choking hazard. See our serving suggestions for how to safely introduce this delicious drupe to babies.

Background and uses of lychee

Native to southeastern China, lychee (aka Chinese cherry, lychee nut, or “litchi”) grows in humid climates on tall evergreen trees. The fruit has a beautiful pink bumpy exterior and firm, jelly-like flesh. All parts of the lychee have traditionally been used therapeutically to alleviate a number of illness-related symptoms, from sore throat to diarrhea.

In China and much of east Asia, lychees are most often eaten fresh and on their own as a snack or dessert, and their short harvesting season means they are prized as an ephemeral summer treat. That said, in traditional Chinese medicine, which categorizes all food as either yin (cold) or yang (hot), lychees are considered a hot food, which means they’re eaten sparingly on hot days. Their natural sweetness makes them an ideal dessert, but it also makes them an excellent ingredient in savory stir fries and other dishes.

Callie, 13 months, eats lychee for the first time.
Adie, 16 months, eats sliced lychee.
Leila, 17 months, eats lychee for the first time.

Are lychees healthy for babies?

Yes, in moderation. While lychees are a good source of a few important nutrients, they can be harmful if eaten in excess, particularly for underweight children. Lychees are high in vitamin C and polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that promote immune function and healthy cells. They also contain vitamin B6 and a small amount of folate, important nutrients for baby’s growth and development.

Beware of unripe lychees or offering lychees on an empty stomach, which can cause stomach pain, contribute to hypoglycemia, and possibly lead to serious complications such as lychee associated encephalopathy, which can be deadly, if eaten in excess.1 Lychee may not be safe for underweight children who are skipping meals.2 To tell if a lychee fruit is ripe, the outer flesh should be pink or rosy red. Be sure to peel the fruit and remove the inner seed, which are both poisonous to humans. Lastly, avoid canned lychees as they are often preserved in thick sugary syrup, which is not appropriate for babies or toddlers.

★Tip: Lychees keep exceptionally well. They may be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Are lychees a choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Both the firm flesh and the inner seed are choking hazards. To reduce the risk, chop or slice the flesh and remove the inner seed before serving. 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 sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are lychees a common allergen?

It’s complicated. Although the FDA classifies lychee as a tree nut, it is actually a fruit and does not commonly cross-react with nuts. Allergies to lychee are rare, but possible.3 People who are allergic to birch, grass, or mugwort and individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as pollen-food allergy) may be sensitive to lychee fruit.4 5 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. There have been some reports of people developing itchy rashes after direct skin contact with lychee fruit or its juice.6 It’s a good idea to wash your hands after handling lychee, as well as washing baby’s hands and face after mealtime. For babies with sensitive skin, applying a barrier ointment to the face before eating can help prevent mild skin reactions.

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.

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

6 to 9 months old: Finely mince lychee fruit (shell and seed discarded) and fold fruit into foods containing healthy fats and protein such as coconut, creamed cashews, or full-fat yogurt, to balance the meal.

9 to 18 months old: Quarter lychee flesh or cut into bite size pieces. Serve small amounts with foods containing healthy fats and protein, such as coconut, creamed cashews, or full-fat yogurt, to balance the meal.

18 to 24 months old: Continue to quarter lychees and, if you feel the child’s eating skills have advanced, you can offer halved or whole pitted lychees. Encourage good chewing by modeling a dramatic chewing motion yourself.

How to prepare lychee for babies 6 months+
How to prepare lychee for babies 9 months+

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

Recipe: Lychee Parfait

a square bowl filled with yogurt and minced lychee, dusted with shredded coconut

Yield: 3/4 cup (177 milliliters)
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh lychees
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) desiccated coconut

Note: This recipe contains coconut, which is classified as a tree nut (allergen) by the FDA. Coconut allergy is rare.

Directions

  1. Peel and pit 4 lychees, then finely chop the flesh and add to a bowl along with the Greek yogurt and desiccated coconut.
  2. Serve: Place several tablespoons of the mixture in a bowl and allow the baby to feed themselves. Or, preload a spoon and allow the baby to grab it off the table or out of the air from your hand to practice their utensil use.

To Store: Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Flavor Pairings

Lychees pair well with other tropical fruits and nuts, such as banana, cashew, coconut, macadamia, mango, and pineapple.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS

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

  1. Spencer, P. S., & Palmer, V. S. (2017). The enigma of litchi toxicity: An emerging health concern in southern Asia. The Lancet Global Health, 5(4), e383–e384. DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30046-3. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  2. Shrivastava A, Kumar A, Thomas JD, et al. (2017). Association of acute toxic encephalopathy with litchi consumption in an outbreak in Muzaffarpur, India, 2014: a case-control studyLancet Global Health, 5 (4), e458-e466. DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30035-9. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  3. Raap U, Schaefer T, Kapp A, Wedi B. (2007). Exotic food allergy: anaphylactic reaction to lychee. Journal of Investigational Allergology & Clinical Immunology, 17 (3), 199-201. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  4. Raap U, Schaefer T, Kapp A, Wedi B. (2007). Exotic food allergy: anaphylactic reaction to lychee. Journal of Investigational Allergology & Clinical Immunology, 17 (3), 199-201. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  5. Valsecchi R, Leghissa P. (2012). Contact allergy due to Lychee. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 93 (1), 90-91. DOI: 10.2340/00015555-1379. Retrieved April 28, 2021.
  6. Valsecchi R, Leghissa P. (2012). Contact allergy due to Lychee. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 93 (1), 90-91. DOI: 10.2340/00015555-1379. Retrieved April 28, 2021.