Onion

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 promote healthy pooping patterns. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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a yellow onion before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat onions?

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

Kalani, 7 months, eats an onion omelet with sautéed onions on the side.
Adie, 11 months, eats an onion quiche.
Zeke, 11 months, eats sautéed red onions with a couple of raw onions on the side.

Background and origins of onions

For thousands of years, humans have cultivated onions as food, as medicine, and as symbols of eternity and life. Sometimes called alliums (their Latin name), onions are part of the same family of plants that includes chives and garlic, and there are more than 500 species that grow in a range of climates. Onions range in pungency, from bright, grassy green onions like leeks and scallions, to milder pearl onions and shallots, to sharp red and yellow cooking onions, to juicy, sweet onions like the Vidalia and Walla Walla varieties. Omnipresent and versatile, onions are one of the world’s most important ingredients in cooking around the world. They are eaten fresh in salads, sandies, and salsas; baked in chapati, pletzel, and tarts; cooked in curries, moles, and sofrito; and preserved in kimchi, jam, and pickles. They are even dried and ground into a powder to be used on its own, to flavor salt, or to mix with other seasonings to make spice blends like adobo, Cajun spice, or jerk.

★Tip: Storage depends on type! Cooking onions like cippolini, shallots, and white onions can be stored at room temperature in a cool dark place, where they will last up to four weeks. Green onions with their roots (leeks, ramps, scallions, spring onions) can be lightly wrapped and stored in the fridge, or on the countertop with the roots submerged in a glass of water.

Are onions healthy for babies?

Yes. Onions offer lots of vitamin C, which helps our bodies absorb iron from plant foods like hearty greens and legumes. Onions also contain three important members of the B vitamin family: biotin to power the nervous system, folate to support baby’s brain development, and vitamin B6 to process protein.

Onions, particularly red onions, are an incredible source of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and polyphenols—antioxidants that have been widely studied for their ability to prevent and fight cancer.1 An onion’s outer layers contain more of these plant nutrients than those closer to the inner bud, so try to peel only the skin.2 Note that organic onions may have higher amounts of these plant nutrients than those grown with fertilizers and pesticides.3

★Tip: Buy organic onions to minimize exposure to toxins when possible. Onions grow underground, where they absorb heavy metals (such as lead) from agricultural practices and pollution.4

Are onions a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Well-cooked onions are not a choking hazard, though raw onions can be, and in theory, an individual can choke on any food. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and always stay near baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions!

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

Are onions a common allergen?

No. Onion allergies are rare, but they are not unheard of.5 Individuals with allergies to the lily flower or who have Oral Allergy Syndrome (also known as Pollen-Food Allergy Syndrome) may be sensitive to onions.6 7 8 People who are sensitive to garlic or chives may also be sensitive to onions as they are members of the same plant family.9

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

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

6 to 12 months old: Mix well-cooked minced, chopped, or sliced onion into other foods, such as casseroles of grains, legumes, or rice; egg dishes like frittatas, omelets, or salads; or protein-rich preparations like bean burgers, fish patties, or meatballs. If you’d like to try serving onion on its own, go for it! You can roast or sauté onion in large pieces or serve finely chopped in a bowl for hand scooping. Don’t be surprised if baby loves it!

12 to 18 months old: Work onions into your cooking liberally and look for ways to feature them as well. One easy way to do this is to offer mejadra, a Middle Eastern lentil salad that prominently features cooked onions (see recipe). Keeping onions in regular rotation also helps build familiarity with savory flavors.

18 to 24 months old: At this stage of development, larger pieces of well-cooked onion can help children build chewing and swallowing skills. Try serving well-cooked slices of onion and other vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, beets, or potatoes.

a hand holding a small pile of minced, cooked onion for babies starting solids
Minced, cooked onion for folding into foods for babies 6 months+

Learn if your baby is ready for solid foods on our Readiness to Start Solid Food FAQ page.

Recipe: Mejadra

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onion

baby's hand reaching into a frying pan filled with lentils, sitting on a countertop with a wooden spoon in the pan

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 large onions
  • 10 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Salt (12 mos+)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Greek yogurt (optional)

Directions

  1. Add the lentils to a medium-sized pot and pour in the vegetable stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a lively simmer and cook covered for 10 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.
  2. Peel the onions. Cut off and discard the root and stem ends. Thinly slice the bulb.
  3. Add 6 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet set on medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the sliced onion. Stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are glistening and starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and completely soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the onions are cooking, prepare the rice. Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a medium-sized pot set on medium heat. Add the rice and stir to coat. Toast the rice in the oil for about 1 minute, then add the ground spices and a pinch of salt. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring continuously.
  5. Add the cooked lentils to the pot with the rice and spices and stir to mix. Add 3/4 cup of water, cover, and turn up the heat to a boil. Once boiling, immediately turn down the heat to low. Cover and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 15 minutes more. If after 15 minutes the rice seems undercooked, sprinkle in 1/4 cup of water more, stir, cover and cook 2-5 minutes more.
  6. While the rice and lentils are cooking, mince half of the cooked onions. Add to the pot with lentils and rice. Mix well. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes covered to let the flavors come together.
  7. To serve: Scoop some mejadra into a bowl. Add the remaining sliced caramelized onions on top. If you like, add a dollop of Greek yogurt next to the mejadra for extra nutrition and flavor. Let your child scoop with hands or encourage utensil practice by placing a spoon on the side of your child’s bowl or plate. Season your own portion with salt to taste and eat alongside your child to show how it’s done!

To store: Store leftover mejadra in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month. Note that you may need to add a teaspoon or two of water when you reheat it to combat any dryness.

Flavor Pairings

Onions complement all kinds of foods, but they taste particularly delicious with hearty proteins like beefchicken liveregglamb, and oily fish like anchovysardine, and salmon; dairy products like goat cheesemascarpone, and yogurt; vegetables like bell peppercabbagecarrotcucumbergarden pea, and potato; and flavorful seasonings like cilantro, garlic, ginger, mint, nutmeg, orange, rosemary, and sage.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD

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. Nicastro, H. L., Ross, S. A., & Milner, J. A. (2015). Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties. Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 8(3), 181–189. DOI:10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-14-0172. Retrieved October 20, 2020
  2. Nicastro, H. L., Ross, S. A., & Milner, J. A. (2015). Garlic and onions: their cancer prevention properties. Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 8(3), 181–189.
  3. Ren, F., Reilly, K., Gaffney, M., Kerry, J. P., Hossain, M., & Rai, D. K. (2017). Evaluation of polyphenolic content and antioxidant activity in two onion varieties grown under organic and conventional production systems. Journal of the science of food and agriculture, 97(9), 2982–2990.
  4. Hadayat, N., De Oliveira, L. M., Da Silva, E., Han, L., Hussain, M., Liu, X., & Ma, L. Q. (2018). Assessment of trace metals in five most-consumed vegetables in the US: Conventional vs. organic. Environmental pollution (Barking, Essex : 1987), 243(Pt A), 292–300. DOI:10.1016/j.envpol.2018.08.065. Retrieved October 20, 2020
  5. Albanesi, M., Pasculli, C., Giliberti, L., Rossi, M.P., Di Bona, D., et al. (2019). Immunological characterization of onion (Allium cepa) allergy. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii, 36(1), 98–103. DOI:10.5114/ada.2019.82829.
  6. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Garlic. [Updated 2018 Dec 3]. Retrieved October 20, 2020
  7. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (2020). Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved October 20, 2020
  8. Asakura K, Honma T, Yamazaki N, Ishikawa T. [Relationships between oral allergy syndrome and sensitization to pollen antigen, especially to mugwort]. Arerugi = [Allergy]. 2006 Oct;55(10):1321-1326. Retrieved October 20, 2020
  9. Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); 2006-. Garlic. [Updated 2018 Dec 3]. Retrieved October 20, 2020