Octopus

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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Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Shellfish & Arthropods
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May cause allergic reactions.

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two octopus arms before being sliced for babies starting solids

When can babies eat octopus?

Octopus may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age, though you may want to consider waiting until closer to 12 months to serve octopus regularly as it contains moderate levels of mercury and is naturally quite high in sodium.

Background and origins of octopus

Octopus is a highly intelligent sea creature with exceptional eyesight, a complex nervous system, shape-shifting behaviors, and remarkable problem-solving ways. Our world is home to several hundred species that live in a diverse range of habitats, from coral reefs and tidal pools to deep ocean waters. The cephalopods hold mythical status in ancient art and folklore, appearing as mischievous monsters or divine deities depending on the culture. They are also a prized food in many parts of the world: in Greece, octopus is sundried and grilled over hot coals; in Japan, tako is served as sashimi and sushi; on the islands of Southeast Asia, they are marinated in adobos and braised in curries; and in Korea, the slippery creatures are sometimes eaten while still moving.

Raw octopus is not a safe food for babies and toddlers, but there are plenty of ways to cook and serve this special seafood to young eaters. Check out nutrition information and age-appropriate serving ideas!

★Tip: Fan of calamari? They are squid, not octopus. The word evolved from the Italian and Spanish names for squid. Today it functions as a culinary term to describe a variety of preparations, including the ubiquitous battered-and-fried appetizer at seafood joints.

Max, 12 months, eats octopus for the first time.
Callie, 12 months, explores a whole baby octopus. Note: Offering a baby the whole creature like this is mainly for exploration purposes. If you choose to do this, stay with in an arm’s reach so you can take away any pieces that concern you.
Julian, 16 months, eats octopus for the first time. Note: To reduce the risk of choking, cut octopus lengthwise so the shape is no longer round.

Is octopus healthy for babies?

Yes, in moderation. Octopus is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also loaded with essential nutrients like vitamin B12 to power the nervous system, iron to fuel the brain, and selenium to support immune health.

That said, like most seafood these days, octopus contains moderate levels of mercury and other toxins resulting from chemical pollution that washes into the planet’s oceans and other bodies of water.1 The United States Environmental Defense Fund suggests that up to three servings of octopus per month is safe for children up to 5 years of age, assuming no other fish is consumed.2

There are a few considerations to keep in mind when purchasing octopus and other seafood.

Choose fresh or frozen octopus instead of canned octopus when possible to avoid BPA. Bisphenol A (or BPA, as it is commonly called) is a chemical used to line the interior of cans and plastic bottles that can disrupt a baby’s bodily functions. While many brands include a “BPA-free” label on other food products, cans of octopus often do not specify if BPA is used, so it would be wise to err on the side of caution by purchasing fresh or frozen octopus.

If canned seafood is your best option, watch the salt. Many canned products—from vegetables to fish to meats—often have high levels of sodium. Octopus packed in olive oil or water is generally a less salty option than octopus seasoned with sauces and flavorings. You can also try rinsing canned octopus, which may reduce the sodium content somewhat.

★Tip: Don’t want to cook a whole octopus? Fresh or frozen octopus from your local fishmonger or online retailer is a great alternative. Check out our easy recipe!

Is octopus a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Cooked octopus is firm and, when not cooked just right, rubbery in texture—two qualities that can be tough for young eaters with emerging chewing skills. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, to stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals, and to check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is octopus a common allergen?

Yes. Octopus is in the mollusk family, which is a type of shellfish. Shellfish is one of the most common food allergens.3

If you have a strong family history of shellfish allergies or suspect baby may be allergic to shellfish, consult an allergist before introducing octopus. Shellfish allergy commonly develops in adulthood, but for those who develop it in childhood, most will not outgrow it.4 Individuals with allergies to mollusks (abalone, clams, mussels, octopus, oyster, scallops, snail, and squid) are more likely to react to other shellfish in the mollusk family and, to a lesser degree, crustaceans like crab, lobster, prawn, and shrimp.5 6

As you would do with all new allergens, introduce octopus by initially serving a very small quantity and watching closely. If there is no adverse reaction during the first few servings, gradually increase the amount over future meals. Once a common food allergen group such as shellfish has been successfully introduced into baby’s diet, it is advisable to keep offering it regularly (weekly, if possible).

★Tip: A shellfish allergy doesn’t mean that your child is automatically allergic to finned fish, as the two allergens are not closely related.7 However, shellfish are often prepared in the same kitchens as finned fish, so be cautious when consuming seafood outside of your home.

How do you cut octopus for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Consider waiting until closer to 12 months of age due to mercury and sodium levels. When ready, offer large segments of cooked octopus or fold minced octopus into other foods that baby can scoop with hands or practice picking up with utensils. At this age, thicker octopus pieces will be easier for baby to independently pick up and hold. If the size worries you, cut the pieces in half lengthwise before serving. Know that babies at this age will likely lick, munch on, and explore cooked octopus, and may not swallow much at all. This is okay—and an excellent developmental activity to build chewing strength and coordination.

9 to 12 months old: Slice cooked octopus lengthwise (any size is fine) and try moving down in size to bite-sized pieces once baby has developed a pincer grasp.

12 to 24 months old: Offer bite-sized pieces of cooked octopus arms that have been cut lengthwise so they are no longer round or cylindrical in shape. Try introducing a fork or trainer chopsticks. If your child is not interested in using utensils, don’t worry; utensil practice can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with fingers and utensils. Try not to apply too much pressure and know that consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time—probably between 18 and 24 months of age.

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

Octopus is simpler to cut after it is cooked. The trick is cooking it just right to avoid a rubbery texture. You have two choices: cook quickly—a minute or so in a very hot pan—or go low and slow, which softens the collagen in the meat. Slow-cooked octopus is ready when the flesh is tender and a knife easily pierces the thickest part.

Recipe: Butter Lemon Octopus Salad

short thin pieces of octopus tentacle drizzled with a light orange liquid and sprinkled with herbs

Yield: 5 ½-cup servings. (5 child-size servings or 2.5 adult)
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pre-cooked octopus arms*
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon ground smoked or sweet paprika (optional)
  • 4 sprigs fresh parsley (optional)

Directions

  1. Thaw the octopus in the fridge if it is frozen.
  2. Cut the arms into age-appropriate sizes—see our suggestions.
  3. Warm the butter and olive oil in a skillet set on medium-low heat. When the butter is done foaming and the oil is shimmering, add the octopus. Stir to coat, then cook, stirring frequently, until the meat has warmed, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Squeeze the juice of the lemon half into the skillet, taking care to remove any seeds that fall into the pan. Stir to combine. If you’d like to add flavor, mince the parsley and mix into the octopus along with the paprika. Let cool to room temperature before serving.
  5. To Serve: Scoop some octopus into a baby bowl or serve directly on the table or tray. Encourage self-feeding by letting baby eat with hands or utensils. This recipe makes plenty of leftovers for you to enjoy, too. Add a dash of salt or your favorite seasoning to your portion and eat alongside baby to show how it’s done!

To Store: Octopus salad keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 day.

* Fresh or frozen uncooked octopus can be used in this recipe, too. Just be sure to account for the increase in cooking time. Cooking octopus until tender can take up to 1 hour depending on size.

This recipe contains dairy and shellfish, which are common allergens. Only serve to a child after dairy and shellfish have been safely introduced and ruled out as allergies.

Flavor Pairings

Octopus has a mild flavor with a hint of salty sweetness and nuttiness. Its versatile flavor pairs well with all sorts of fruits and vegetables, from bright and grassy asparagus, bell pepper, and garden pea; to tart and sweet pineapple, tamarind, and tomato; to rich and creamy avocado, cannellini bean, and sweet potato. Octopus easily absorbs seasoning, so try cooking with galangal, garlic, ginger, or lemongrass and adding a pinch of bold spice—cumin, pepper, saffron, or star anise, for example—and sprinkling with fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, makrut lime, mint, or parsley. Season with citruses like calamansi, lemon, lime, orange, or yuzu to bring more flavor!

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

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. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Mercury Emissions: Global Context. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved January 4, 2020
  2. Environmental Defense Fund. EFF Seafood Selector: Octopus. Retrieved January 4, 2021
  3. Food Allergy Research & Education. Shellfish Allergy. Retrieved January 4, 2021
  4. Food Allergy Research & Education. Shellfish Allergy. Retrieved January 4, 2021
  5. Lopata, A.L., O’Hehir, R.E., Lehrer, S.B. (2010). Shellfish allergy. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 40(6):850-858. DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2222.2010.03513.x. Retrieved January 4, 2021
  6. Food Allergy Research & Education. Shellfish Allergy. Retrieved January 4, 2021
  7. Food Allergy Research & Education. Shellfish Allergy. Retrieved January 4, 2021