Macadamia Nut

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
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May cause allergic reactions.

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a pile of macadamia nuts before being prepared for a baby starting solid food

When can babies eat macadamia nuts?

Macadamia nuts, if they are finely ground or served as macadamia nut butter mixed into other foods, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Whole and chopped macadamia nuts, as well as macadamia nut butter, are choking hazards for babies and children, so read our preparation by age section closely before serving.

Where do macadamia nuts come from?

Macadamia nuts grow on beautiful evergreen trees in rainforests around the world. The plant originated in Australia, where they have been known as bauple, boombera, gyndl, and jindilli by First Nations peoples for centuries. Long before European colonization of the region, the nut was prized for its multiple gifts—its nutrients aided lactating moms, its rich oils were turned into ceremonial paint, and the hard-to-crack shell made the nut a delicacy that could be traded between communities. In the 19th century, European colonizers learned how to graft the tree (which they named after a Scottish man named Macadam) and commercially process the nuts. This advance led to the plant’s introduction to other warm, rainy climates around the world, including Hawai’i, where much of the world’s production of macadamia nuts now takes place.

Hawii, 12 months, eats macadamia butter in yogurt.
Max, 15 months, eats Greek yogurt with finely ground macadamia nuts.
Adie, 15 months, eats Greek yogurt with finely ground macadamia nuts.

Are macadamia nuts healthy for babies?

Yes, if unsalted. Macadamia nuts are a rich source of thiamine, a B vitamin important for energy and nerve function. They also contain protein, healthy fats, and fiber, making macadamia nuts an excellent food for optimal growth and digestion.1 Lastly, macadamia nuts—like other nuts—are a great source of iron, making the nut particularly healthful for babies on plant-based diets.

Macadamia nuts are sometimes sold salted, and some brands of macadamia nut butter may be high in sugar and sodium. When introducing macadamia nuts to babies, opt for unsalted, unsweetened nuts or nut butter, if possible.

★Tip: Like most tree nuts, macadamia nuts can go rancid, so store raw nuts or open jars of macadamia nut butter in the refrigerator, purchase roasted unsalted macadamia nuts, or roast raw unsalted macadamia nuts yourself to extend their shelf life.2 Macadamia nuts can keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 year, and in the freezer for up to 2 years.3

Can babies drink macadamia nut milk?

No. Prior to 12 months, the only liquids an infant should consume are breast milk, formula, and, if the baby is older than 6 months of age, water in small amounts (less than 2-4 ounces a day) in an open cup.4 5 If macadamia nut milk is used as an ingredient in solid food (such as oatmeal), then it is acceptable to serve before 12 months of age.

If, after the first birthday, you’d like to introduce unsweetened macadamia nut milk as a beverage, it’s fine to do so, but know that macadamia nut milk lacks adequate calories, fat, and protein for a plant-based milk for toddlers (typically fortified soy or pea milk are more nutritious).6 See our Milk FAQs to learn more.

Are macadamia nuts a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Whole nuts, nut pieces, and globs of nut butters are choking hazards for babies and young children.7 To reduce the risk, finely grind macadamia nuts until no large pieces remain and sprinkle on other foods, or offer smooth macadamia nut butter thinned with other foods like applesauce or yogurt until smooth with no clumps. 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.

Are macadamia nuts a common allergen?

Yes. Macadamia nuts are considered to be tree nuts, and all tree nuts are common food allergens. However, macadamia nut allergy is less common than allergies to other tree nuts, comprising less than 5% of tree nut allergy in the U.S.8 Due to similarities in the protein structure of these nuts, individuals who are allergic to pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts may be somewhat more likely to be allergic to macadamia nuts.9 There also appears to be a strong relationship between allergy to macadamia and coconut.10 Reactions to macadamia can range from mild oral allergy symptoms to severe system-wide reactions (anaphylaxis). While only 1 to 3% of the population is allergic to tree nuts, it is usually life-long: only 9% of children with a tree nut allergy will outgrow it.11 12 13

Although an allergy to one tree nut increases risk of allergy to another, keep in mind that being allergic to one nut does not necessarily mean that all nuts need to be removed from the diet.14 Having as diverse of a diet as possible, even within the confines of food allergies, is important to get the nutrients we need to be healthy.

There is no recommendation to complete allergy testing before introducing tree nuts into the diet, even if there is a family history of food allergy. However, if you suspect baby may be allergic to nuts, make an appointment with your primary care clinician or a pediatric allergist before introducing nuts at home.

When it’s time to introduce the nut, offer a scant quantity (such as a pinch of finely ground nut or 1/8 teaspoon of smooth macadamia nut butter thinned with water) for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals. It is okay if baby does not consume each serving entirely. It is important to maintain common food allergens (such as tree nuts) in the diet regularly (about 1 gram twice weekly, if possible) once introduced. Don’t stop offering the nut unless the baby shows signs of a reaction.

Can macadamia nuts help babies poop?

Macadamia nuts and nut butter can help prevent constipation by promoting bowel movement regularity. They are a good source of fiber and magnesium, which help move stool along in the intestine.

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

6 to 12 months old: Grind macadamia nuts in a food processor until completely fine and no large pieces remain. If you do not have a food processor, you can pound the nuts in a cloth with a hammer, with a mortar and pestle, or with the end of a wine bottle. To serve the ground nut, sprinkle a small amount on other foods, such as fish, quinoa, warm cereal, or yogurt. You can also roll slippery foods like sliced fruit in the ground nut, which adds texture that makes it easier for baby to pick up. If you’d like to make a baby-friendly nut butter, keep the food processor going until the nuts form a paste, then add yogurt, water or another baby-friendly liquid to thin the nut butter into a non-sticky, smooth spread with no clumps. This can be spread very thinly on other age-appropriate foods. Keep in mind that adding even a thin layer of nut butter to a food can make that food more challenging for baby to manage. Toast with nut butter can be particularly challenging for young babies to manage, which can increase the risk of gagging and choking.

12 to 36 months old: Continue to finely grind macadamia nuts and sprinkle on fruits and vegetables or to incorporate macadamia nut butter into other foods such as yogurt and warm cereals. At this age, you can also try serving nut butter on toast. When serving toast with nut butter, make sure the butter is thinly spread and offer milk or water in an open cup to help wash down any sticky pieces of food.

36 months old and up: Continue to serve finely ground macadamia nuts and use macadamia nut butter as you wish. If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouths, and finally, the ability to identify and spit out foods when it is not well chewed, AND is able to eat softer nuts like walnut and pecans with ease, they may be ready to learn how to eat whole macadamia nuts. Just remember that nuts and nut pieces are considered choking hazards until age 4 and even beyond by all governing medical bodies.

Macadamia nuts are particularly risky and challenging to eat as they are firm, difficult to take a bite out of, and are small and round. We’d recommend starting with other whole nuts before offering macadamia nuts.

To model how to eat macadamia nuts safely, start by telling your child: “This is a hard one. Watch me.” Then, show your toddler how to place the macadamia nut in-between your front teeth. Hold the nut between your teeth and exaggerate moving the nut to your molars with your tongue. Chew with your mouth open (you can even demonstrate by opening and closing your hands at the same time). Once you have chewed the nut well, open your mouth to show your toddler how it has been broken down. Say, “I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing.” Demonstrate a couple of times before offering your toddler a macadamia nut to do the same.

To coach your child through eating a whole macadamia nut safely, say, “Your turn to try.” NEVER PUT A NUT IN YOUR TODDLER’S MOUTH. If your child takes a bite and chews thoroughly (they may spit the nut out for many months as they get used to the texture), offer one or two more nuts at a time (but never more) to keep the pace slow. If your child does not use their teeth to bite or attempt to move the nut to the molars to break it down, we recommend coaching the child to spit the nut out and waiting a few weeks more to practice chewing other nuts that are less challenging.

It is important to help your child stay engaged with the task, and part of that is modeling that safe chewing takes place when we are not talking, singing, etc. A highly animated child who is talking, yelling, or singing while practicing eating nuts increases choking risk. After practicing nuts with your toddler, make sure their mouth is clear before taking them out of the highchair. Never allow your toddler to walk around with nuts or nut pieces in their mouth.

Our Introducing Allergens page offers all the guidance you need for dealing with common allergens.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with macadamia nuts?

The macadamia nut has the world’s hardest shells, and cracking it is worth the effort. The nut contains lots of healthful oil with a delicate buttery flavor. That means that the nut blends beautifully into a creamy nut butter to spread on toast or eat with fresh fruit. You can also grind the nut to make an earthy topping to sprinkle on vegetables, a thickener for congee and other grain porridges, or a coating for proteins like chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or tofu strips. You can also grind and soak the nuts to make macadamia nut milk, which can add creamy flavor and lots of nutrition to grains, porridges, and smoothies.

Recipe: Macadamia Nut Pesto

a square bowl filled with green macadamia nut pesto with three sticks of zucchini sticking into the bowl and two zucchini sticks dipped into the pesto next to the bowl

Yield: 3/4 cup (160 grams)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup (53 grams) fresh basil
  • ¼ cup (28 grams) unsalted macadamia nuts
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) parmesan cheese (optional for children 12 months+)
  • 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) olive oil
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (parmesan cheese) and tree nut (macadamia nut). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Pick the basil leaves from their woody stems. Wash and thoroughly dry the leaves. Discard the stems.
  2. Add the basil and nuts to a food processor along with the cheese and pepper if you are using it. Pulse a few times to roughly chop the basil and nuts.
  3. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil and blend until smooth and saucy, about 1 minute. If the mixture seems thick, add more oil to reach the desired consistency.
  4. Set aside a spoonful or two of pesto to serve to the child. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten. Store the rest of the pesto in an air-tight container in the fridge for future meals.
  5. Serve the pesto as a dip for veggie spears; drizzle it on cooked fish or meat; or mix it into soft, scoopable foods like mashed vegetables, pasta, or legumes such as cannellini beans, fava beans (broad beans), or lima beans (butter beans).

To Store: Macadamia nut pesto keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days or 1 month in the freezer. Keep in mind that freezing pesto dulls the vibrant color of the basil, but the flavor stays just as bright. To brighten up the color after defrosting frozen pesto, blend in some additional basil.

Flavor Pairings

The buttery flavor of macadamia nuts pairs well with chicken, coconut, pineapple, pork, rice, and sweet potato.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

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

Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

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