When can babies eat mascarpone cheese?
Mascarpone cheese may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Low in sodium and soft in texture, mascarpone is a great alternative to high-sodium versions of American-style cream cheese.
Where does mascarpone cheese come from?
Mascarpone is a style of fresh unripened cheese made from the cream of cow’s milk. Full of flavorful milk fats, mascarpone is just a step away from butter, with fat comprising around 75% of the cheese compared to 80% in butter. In fact, mascarpone is so rich that it is often used like butter in polenta, risotto, and other dishes of Italy, the origin place of mascarpone cheese. It hails from the Lombardi region, where dairy farmers learned to coagulate the cream with tartaric acid—the tiny residual crystals at the bottom of a wine cork or barrel. Yes, that’s right: one of the world’s beloved drinks helps produce one of the world’s beloved fresh cheeses.
Is mascarpone cheese healthy for babies?
Yes. Because it’s made from cream, mascarpone cheese is a great source of fat, which babies need to build healthy cells and brain tissue at this early stage of life. It also contains a bit of protein and good amounts of vitamin A to support healthy skin and immunity. Finally, mascarpone has less sodium than most cheeses, which is important because early and excessive exposure to sodium is thought to play a role in the possibility of hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life.1
★Tip: Mascarpone cheese is quite similar to butter, so try using the cheese in place of butter in sauces and other recipes.
Is mascarpone a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Mascarpone cheese does not pose a major choking risk for babies thanks to its soft, smooth texture, though, in theory, an individual can choke on any food. Regardless, to minimize the risk, spread mascarpone thinly on other foods and refrain from serving on its own in 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 sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Is mascarpone cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Mascarpone is typically made from cow’s milk, which is a common food allergen in young children, accounting for about one-fifth of all childhood food allergies.2 Keep in mind that dairy products from other ruminants such as sheep, goat, and buffalo may provoke similar allergic reactions to cow’s milk dairy products.3 If baby is allergic to dairy, know that it is an allergy that often disappears with time. Research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6, and many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow’s milk as early as their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.4
Milk is a known cause of food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome, also known as FPIES. FPIES is a delayed allergy to food protein which causes the sudden onset of repetitive vomiting and diarrhea to begin a few hours after ingestion. Left untreated, the reaction can result in significant dehydration. Thankfully, like other forms of milk allergy, FPIES which presents early in life is generally outgrown by the time the child has reached 3-5 years of age.5 While the exact rates of FPIES are unknown, it is believed to be an uncommon condition (although better recognition of the disease has led to increased reporting in recent years).6
For those with older children who are lactose intolerant (keep in mind this is uncommon for infants and toddlers), some good news: mascarpone cheese may be better tolerated by those with lactose intolerance.7 Note that if your child is lactose-intolerant, it’s important to find calcium-rich foods to consume regularly to ensure a balanced diet and support bone health. Search for naturally low-lactose cheeses and dairy products labeled “lactose-free.”
If you suspect baby may be allergic to milk, consult an allergist before introducing dairy products like cheese. Based on baby’s risk factors and history, your allergist may recommend allergy testing, or may instead advise dairy introduction under medical supervision in the office. If the risk is low, you may be advised to go ahead and introduce dairy in the home setting. As with all common allergens, start by serving a small quantity on its own for the first few servings, and if there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare mascarpone cheese 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: Spread a thin layer of mascarpone on toast for baby to grab and munch on. You can also add mascarpone to egg strips or frittatas, or stir the cheese into mashed vegetables or grains for baby. A word of caution: while mascarpone tastes delicious in desserts and drizzled with syrups, try to hold off on foods with added sugar until after the second birthday—and steer clear of honey to minimize the risk of infant botulism.
9 to 11 months old: As baby’s fine motor control develops, try sticking age-appropriate pieces of fruit or vegetables in a bowl of mascarpone for baby to grab and dip. Continue to add mascarpone to egg strips or frittatas, or stir it into mashed vegetables or grains.
12 to 24 months old: Anything goes! Continue offering mascarpone on its own, stirred into mashed vegetables, added to sauces and stuffing, or mixed into batters for muffins, pancakes, and quick breads. For toddlers who can’t get enough of mascarpone, use the cheese as a vehicle to introduce new flavors from herbs and spices. You can also offer mascarpone with a small bowl of seasoning on the side, and invite toddlers to flavor the cheese as they see fit. Toddlers enjoy choice and like to test their independence, so if they reject seasoning, don’t fret. Simply presenting new flavors builds familiarity and positive associations with food over time.
Mix up your mornings with ideas from our guide, 50 Breakfasts for Babies & Toddlers.
What are recipe ideas for cooking with mascarpone?
Keep it simple and enjoy mascarpone with whatever fresh fruit you have on hand. For savory flavor, try using mascarpone to add rich, creamy texture to mashed potatoes, butternut squash risotto, sauteed mushrooms, or lemony sauce for pasta. Stir it into tomato soup and batter for zucchini fritters. Blend mascarpone with eggs and shredded kale to make a hearty frittata. Or whip it with herbs and citrus juice to make a creamy dip for vegetables or a rich spread for bagels, bread, and sandwiches. You can also use mascarpone in fillings for ravioli and other stuffed pasta of Italy.
Recipe: Blueberry Mascarpone Oatmeal
Yield: 1 cup (240 milliliters)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- ½ cup (48 grams) dry instant oatmeal
- ¾ cup (180 milliliters) whole milk
- ¼ cup (37 grams) blueberries
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) mascarpone cheese
- 1 lemon (optional)
This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (milk, mascarpone cheese). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. Always check for potential allergens in ingredients listed on the labels of store-bought processed foods, such as cheese and instant oats. Added ingredients may include common allergens, like wheat, as well as honey, which should not be given to babies under 12 months of age.
- Combine the oats and milk in a small pot.
- Set the pot on medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
- As the oats and milk are warming, wash the blueberries, then add to the pot.
- Cook uncovered and stir occasionally until the oats have thickened and the berries have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and mash any remaining whole berries. The oatmeal will turn a lovely purple color!
- Stir in the mascarpone cheese. If you like, add the zest of the lemon for extra flavor.
- Once the oats have cooled, scoop some oatmeal into baby’s bowl. Serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
- Offer the bowl to baby and let the child self-feed. To encourage the use of a utensil, simply preload a spoon and rest it next to the bowl for the child to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the preloaded spoon in the air for baby to grab.
To Store: Blueberry Mascarpone Oatmeal keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 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
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI: 10.17226/25353. Retrieved June 3, 2022
- Warren, C.M., Jhaveri, S., Warrier, M.R., Smith, B., Gupta, R.S. (2013). The epidemiology of milk allergy in US children. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 110(5):370-374. DOI:10.1016/j.anai.2013.02.016. Retrieved June 3, 2022
- El-Agamy, E. (2007). The challenge of cow milk protein allergy. Small Ruminant Research, 68, 64-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.smallrumres.2006.09.016. Retrieved June 3, 2022
- Mukkada, V. (2019). Cow’s milk protein allergy. GI Kids. Retrieved June 3, 2022
- Nowak-Węgrzyn A. (2015). Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome and allergic proctocolitis. Allergy Asthma Proc. 36(3):172-84. doi: 10.2500/aap.2015.36.3811. Retrieved June 3, 2022
- National Organization for Rare Disorders. (2019). Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome. Retrieved June 3, 2022
- InformedHealth.org. (2018). Living with lactose intolerance. Retrieved June 3, 2022