Olive Oil

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: No
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A glass pitcher of olive oil before being served to babies starting solid food

When can babies have olive oil?

Olive oil may be introduced as soon as a baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

Liquid gold

Greek philosopher Homer referred to olive oil as liquid gold, which is a fitting way to describe the healthy fat extracted from the fruit of the olive tree – an ancient plant that originated in the lands around the Mediterranean Sea millions of years ago. The plant’s exact origin is unknown, but archaeological evidence suggests people living in the region learned to press olives for their oil as early as 8,000 B.C. The innovation created more than food; historical texts show how olive oil was widely used as medicine, as fuel for lamplight, and as a symbol and tool in rituals and ceremonies.

Hundreds of varieties of olives are grown globally, from Australia to Chile to Israel to South Africa to New Zealand, which means this staple food offers a world of flavor to use in your sweet and savory cooking. Try using olive oil in place of butter in baking, drizzle your favorite flavor on fruit or grains, or take a cue from Greek lathera, a catch-all term meaning “the olive oil ones” that is used to describe any vegetable cooked in olive oil.

Sebastián, 8 months, tastes olive oil for the first time on it’s own.
Cooper, 13 months, learns to dip bread in olive oil.
Zeke, 18 months, eats pita bread with olive oil.

Is olive oil healthy for babies?

Yes. Olive oil is a good source of healthy fats and the antioxidant vitamin E, which supports healthy immune and neurological development in growing babies. Olive oil also contains polyphenols – plant compounds that offer anti-inflammatory benefits and support heart health.1 Olive oil retains its nutritional value after production if it is kept in a cool, dark environment so refrain from keeping olive oil on the countertop and store bottles away from light and heat.2 Like many oils, olive oil is perishable so don’t let an open bottle languish in the back of the pantry. Once a bottle of olive oil is opened, the flavor begins to expire within four months.3

The nutritional profile of olive can change depending on how it was processed and stored. For example, extra virgin olive oil is the least strained during production, which means that it is the richest in beneficial nutrients and the highest-priced variety. Virgin olive oil and bottles marked “olive oil” are also excellent choices and will be gentler on the budget. To get the most bang for your buck, only use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oils for seasoning a finished dish or making salad dressing and use plain olive oil for cooking.

Olive oil has a smoke point around 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) which means it’s an appropriate all-purpose oil to cook food on the stovetop and in the oven. If you’re frying or grilling or searing at higher heats, use an oil with a higher smoke point, like avocado oil, ghee, or peanut oil.

★Tip: When shopping for olive oil, look for oils stored in glass containers if possible. Plastic containers can contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical or similar chemicals called BPS, BPAF, and BPF and may negatively affect the brain and prostate gland of infants and children.4 5 6 Additionally, because plastic containers are permeable to oxygen (which can degrade oil quality), glass containers are a more effective way to store olive oil over time.

Which kind of olive oil is best for babies?

Choosing olive oil can be overwhelming. Good news: all olive oils (extra virgin, virgin, cold-pressed, first press, flavored, and just plain olive oil) are comparable in terms of nutrition (as long as they are the real thing) and can be used to cook food for babies and toddlers.

How do I know if olive oil is real or fake?

While it is illegal to mislabel bottles, some bottles marked as “olive oil” have been found to be stretched with other oils from nuts, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and other plants to increase profit.7 While these adulterated olive oils are perfectly fine to use when cooking food for babies, they may not be safe for those with soy or nut allergies. Governments around the world are taking steps to address the adulteration of olive oils but regulation is not globally coordinated or enforced.

Unfortunately, for the average consumer, detecting an adulterated olive oil can be difficult to do, though products with a “Protected Designation of Origin” logo or statement, which often is used with the acronyms PDO, PGI, DOP, DO, AOC, can offer some assurance, as they indicate that the ingredients come from a specific region in Europe. Similarly, some producers in the United States label their bottles with logos from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), the Extra Virgin Alliance (EVA), and the Olive Oil Commission of California (OOCC). While these certifications generally suggest the product had a higher level of scrutiny, even government certification standards are voluntary and inconsistent around the world.

If this topic is of concern to you, don’t think twice about asking your supplier for their point of view. It is your supplier’s job to keep tabs on the brands that they are selling, and people who work in food often love to talk about food. You can also follow the American Olive Oil Producers Association and the International Olive Oil Council, which advocate for fair and consistent rules in the markets for olive oil.

Is olive oil a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Olive oil is not a common choking hazard, though, in theory an individual can choke on any food. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby at mealtime.

For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Is olive oil a common allergen?

No. Olive oil is not a common allergen. However, some olive oils are mixed with oils from other more allergenic plants like hazelnut and soybeans, so if your child has known allergies to other foods, read labels carefully.8

Rare cases of contact dermatitis and food allergy to olive have occurred in areas where olives are commonly harvested.9 Certain individuals allergic to the pollen from olive trees, the Oleaceae family of plants, such as ash, privet, jasmine, and forsythia, or who have Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen food allergy syndrome) may also be sensitive to eating olives.10 11 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, burning, or tingling in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. While this sensitivity could, in theory, extend to cold-pressed or extra virgin olive oils, most individuals with allergy to the olive fruit are able to tolerate olive oil.

As you would do when introducing any new food, start by offering a small amount for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the amount served over future meals.

How do you introduce olive oil to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Use olive oil liberally in your cooking and drizzle olive oil on fish, meat, grains and other foods for an extra boost of nutrition. If you like, pour a small amount directly on their tray or a plate and let baby finger paint and taste along the way.

12 to 24 months old: This is a great age to introduce olive oil on its own as a dipping sauce with bread to teach toddlers about the taste of the oil.

How often should you offer solids? See our sample feeding schedules for babies of every age.

Recipe: Citrusy Olive Oil Dressing

seven thin cooked carrot slices drizzled with olive oil and orange juice next to an orange half and wedge and a small glass container of olive oil

Yield: 1 cup (150 grams)
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cassava (yuca), carrot, zucchini, or vegetable of choice
  • 1 tablespoon (13 grams) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) lemon, lime, or orange juice or citrus juice of choice

Directions

  1. Wash, dry, and cut the vegetable into age-appropriate sizes.
  2. Place the veggies in a steamer basket in a pot. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pot by 1 inch.
  3. Cover and bring the pot to a boil.
  4. Cook until the veggies are soft, between 5 and 20 minutes depending on the size of the cut veggies. Larger, wider cuts take longer than smaller, bite-sized pieces.
  5. When the veggies are done, uncover the pot and transfer the veggies to a mixing bowl.
  6. Drizzle the oil and citrus juice directly on the veggies or if you prefer, whisk the oil and citrus juice until the dressing is emulsified. Your choice! If you like to meal prep, make a big batch of dressing by scaling up the ratio of 1 tablespoon (13 grams) to 1 teaspoon (5 grams).
  7. Gently toss to coat the veggies in the dressing. Cool to room temperature before serving.
  8. Scoop some vegetables onto the child’s plate. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
  9. Serve and let the child self-feed by scooping with hands. If help is needed, pass a piece of vegetable in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Leftover steamed veggies seasoned with olive oil and citrus juice keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Flavor Pairings

Olive oil has hints of bitterness and spice that compliment sweet and tart flavors in fruits and vegetables like apple, artichoke, asparagus, butternut squash, cherries, mango, nectarine, onion, papaya, peach, pear, romanesco, and sweet potato. Olive oil can also balance the acidity in foods like blueberry, lemon, lime, pineapple, pomegranate, tomato, and yogurt. When olive oil is used to cook, the pungent flavor mellows and adds smoothness to foods; try using olive oil to cook protein-rich legumes like black eyed-peas, cannellini bean, chickpea, fava bean, garden pea, green bean, lentil, or lima bean and hearty meats and fish like bison, chicken, egg, lamb, pork, salmon, or venison. Or simply use olive oil to season a bowl of pasta or grains like couscous, freekeh, quinoa, or rice.

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. Romani, A., Ieri, F., Urciuoli, S., Noce, A., Marrone, G., et al. (2019). Health Effects of Phenolic Compounds Found in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, By-Products, and Leaf of Olea europaea L. Nutrients, 11(8). DOI:10.3390/nu11081776. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  2. de la Torre-Robles, A., Monteagudo, C., Mariscal-Arcas, M., Lorenzo-Tovar, M. L., Olea-Serrano, F., et al (2019). Effect of Light Exposure on the Quality and Phenol Content of Commercial Extra Virgin Olive Oil during 12-Month Storage. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 96(4), 381–389. DOI:10.1002/aocs.12198. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  3. United States Department of Agriculture. (2019). What is the expiration date for cooking oil? Retrieved June 4, 2021.
  4. European Food Safety Authority. Bisphenol A. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  5. California Office of Health Hazard Assessment. Bisphenol A (BPA) and Proposition 65: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  6. Mayo Clinic. What is BPA and what are the concerns about BPA? Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  7. Srigley, C.T., Oles, C.J., Reza Fardin Kia, A., Mossoba, M.M. (2015). Authenticity Assessment of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Evaluation of Desmethylsterols and Triterpene Dialcohols. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 93(2), 171-181.  DOI:10.1007/s11746-015-2759-4. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  8. Srigley, C.T., Oles, C.J., Reza Fardin Kia, A., Mossoba, M.M. (2015). Authenticity Assessment of Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Evaluation of Desmethylsterols and Triterpene Dialcohols. Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 93(2), 171-181.  DOI:10.1007/s11746-015-2759-4. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  9. Esteve, C., Montealegre, C., Marina, M.L., García, M.C. (2012). Analysis of olive allergens. Talanta, 92, 1–14. DOI:10.1016/j.talanta.2012.01.016. Retrieved June 8, 2021.
  10. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) – Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  11. Unsel, M., Ardeniz, O., Mete, N., Ersoy, R., Sin, A.Z., et al. (2009). Food allergy due to olive. Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, 19(6), 497-9. PMID: 20128426. Retrieved June 8, 2021.