When can babies eat mascarpone cheese?
Mascarpone cheese may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. One of the best cheeses for babies because it is naturally low in sodium, mascarpone can be spread on thin rice cakes and baby crackers and is a fantastic alternative to American cream cheese.
Background and origins of mascarpone cheese
Mascarpone is a creamy, buttery cheese that’s made from the cream of cow’s milk. Its name hints at its origins: mascarpone hails from the Lombardi region of Italy, where dairy farmers skim the thick cream from cow’s milk as it’s processed to make other varieties of cheese, such as Parmigiana-Reggiano. Instead of coagulating the cream to separate solids (curds) from liquid (whey), it was traditionally mixed with tartaric acid—the tiny residual crystals at the bottom of a wine cork or barrel. Yup! It’s no coincidence that one of the world’s most beloved wine regions also invented one of the world’s most beloved fresh cheeses.
With a mild, slightly sweet flavor and just a hint of tang, mascarpone cheese has a short shelf life and must be used shortly after it is produced. That means it can be difficult to find true Italian mascarpone cheese in the United States, but there are a few American companies that offer a great product.1 Just be sure to follow the Italian way and use mascarpone cheese in savory and sweet recipes alike.
Is mascarpone cheese healthy for babies?
Yes! Mascarpone cheese is a great source of fat and protein, which your baby needs to grow and thrive at this early stage of life. It also contains lots of calcium to build strong bones and vitamin A to support your baby’s immunity. Plus mascarpone has less sodium than most cheeses, which is important as early and excessive exposure to sodium is thought to play a role later on in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.2
As with all dairy products, the animal whose milk is used to make the product directly impacts flavor and nutritional value. In Italy, mascarpone cheese is made of cream from cows that forage in fields, eating grass, herbs, flowers, and other meadow plants. In the United States, many dairy products are made of milk from cows who spend their lives packed into commercial dairy farms designed to maximize production. You don’t have to guess at which one has fewer toxins, more nutrition, and deeper flavor. Bottom line: purchase dairy products from a reliable source when possible.
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. Always watch your baby carefully when eating and remain within an arm’s reach.
Is mascarpone cheese a common allergen?
Yes. Mascarpone cheese is a dairy product, and cow’s milk is one of the most common food allergens. 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.3 4
As with all new foods, introduce mascarpone cheese in small amounts the first couple of times and watch closely as your baby eats. 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 12 months old: Spread on thin rice cakes, Ezekiel bread, or baby crackers—or try mixing a dollop into mashed vegetables to add creaminess and a boost of healthy fats and protein. Let your baby get messy!
12 to 24 months old: Spread on toast and use mascarpone cheese as an alternative to cream cheese in recipes that call for it. You can also try whipping mascarpone cheese with flavor boosters, like citrus or spices, and serving alongside fresh fruit or veggies.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Mascarpone cheese is one step away from butter, so try using the cheese in place of butter in sauces and other recipes. A dollop of mascarpone cheese mixed into pasta is a beautiful thing!
Recipe: Blueberry-Mascarpone Oatmeal
- Whole milk
- Cook the oats according to the instructions, substituting milk for water.
- Wash a handful of blueberries and add to the oats once they begin to thicken. Mash the berries with a fork or a potato masher. The oatmeal will turn a lovely purple color!
- Scoop a dollop of mascarpone cheese into your baby’s bowl. Add a squirt of lemon and stir to combine.
- Once the oats are done, add a spoonful or two to the bowl with the lemony cheese. Cool to room temperature and serve. Invite your baby to use both hands or offer a little help by pre-loading a spoon.
Mascarpone is creamy, buttery, and slightly sweet with a just a hint of acidity. Treat it as a balance to tart flavors, and try serving it alongside fruits and veggies that make your mouth pucker, such as blueberries, citrus, cranberry, pineapple, plum, and tomato. It works beautifully as a dip to serve with flavor-forward veggies, like broccoli, carrots, and sweet peppers. Try playing with flavors by adding ground spices, such as cardamom, garlic, or ginger, or fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, or mint. Ground nuts, such as pistachios and pine nuts, are also a delicious pairing.
- D’Errico, N. (2014). Italian Cheese: Magical Mascarpone. Culture: The Word on Cheese. Retrieved April 18, 2020.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
- GiKids – Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. (2020, February 26). GiKids. https://gikids.org/digestive-topics/cows-milk-protein-allergy/
- Wood, R. A., Sicherer, S. H., Vickery, B. P., Jones, S. M., Liu, A. H., Fleischer, D. M., Henning, A. K., Mayer, L., Burks, A. W., Grishin, A., Stablein, D., & Sampson, H. A. (2013). The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 805-812.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060