When can babies eat peanuts?
Unsalted peanuts and peanut butter may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Whole nuts, nut pieces, and nut butters are major choking hazards for babies and children and must be modified for safe consumption. Peanuts can be finely ground, and peanut butter must be a “smooth” variety that you have thinned with applesauce, breast milk, formula, yogurt, or another baby-friendly liquid.
Real talk: peanuts make people nervous. And for good reason! They’re one of the most common food allergens detected in infancy and early childhood. However, there is evidence that introducing peanuts in a baby’s diet early and frequently may significantly reduce the risk of developing a peanut allergy.1 In other words, delaying the introduction of peanuts may actually increase the likelihood of a peanut allergy later on in life.2
As with all high-risk food allergens, it’s best to start small: serve scant portions for the first few of servings (reactions don’t always occur on the first exposure) and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity of the serving over next couple days. Avoid serving other new foods during the introduction period, so that you can isolate your baby’s reaction to the peanuts. If you believe your baby may have a peanut allergy or if your baby as eczema or asthma (which increase their risk of having a food allergy), schedule an appointment with your baby’s pediatrician before introducing peanuts on your own.
Are peanuts healthy for babies?
Yes. Unsalted peanuts and peanut butter are a terrific plant source of fat, iron, protein, and many micronutrients, such as copper, vitamins E and B (B1, B3, biotin, and folate), and zinc. These nutrients protect the heart (with more antioxidant capacity than blackberries and strawberries!), support metabolism, and work in tandem to aid brain development. In short, unsalted peanuts can power multiple functions in your baby’s growth and development.
There are many forms of peanut butter on the market. Some brands add other nuts and oils, such as palm oil. Real the label and choose a brand with few ingredients, making sure that there are no added sugars or salt. It’s best to serve the 100% pure unsalted peanut butter—either raw or roasted—and be sure to purchase the “smooth” variety because “crunchy” peanut butters increase the choking hazard.
There are few considerations as you plan your baby’s diet. First, peanuts contain naturally occurring oxalates. These are plant compounds found in many foods, such as berries, citrus peels, leafy greens, grains, legumes, and nuts. When overconsumed and with a number of other potential factors (health, genetic, and/or high consumption with calcium), oxalates may contribute to the formation of kidney stones.3 This is rare in children yet recent studies shown an increase in pediatric kidney stones, with no known cause.4
Second, peanuts are susceptible to fungi and molds. While the FDA regulates these toxins in our foods, there are ways to minimize the risk: keep raw peanuts and open jars of peanut butter in the refrigerator, purchase roasted unsalted peanuts, or roast raw unsalted peanuts by yourself.5
Finally, there are many studies and diets that caution against peanuts due to certain inherent compounds, such as their level of arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and lectins (which may contribute to systemic inflammation and adverse heart health). Given the known health benefits of peanuts—including that early introduction potentially offsets the risk of allergy—we encourage you to serve unsalted peanuts to your baby as part of a wide variety of ground nuts and seeds.
Are peanuts a choking hazard for babies?
Yes. All nuts and nut butters are choking hazards for babies and children.
To introduce peanuts safely, purchase smooth peanut butter and thin it with applesauce, breast milk, formula, yogurt, or another baby-friendly liquid to reduce the choking risk. (Our favorite method is with yogurt.) Alternatively, finely grind raw or roasted unsalted peanuts in a food processor (or by hand with a mortar and pestle) then sprinkle on other foods, such as avocado, bananas, or oatmeal.
Are peanuts a common allergen?
Yes. Peanut allergies in children are on the rise, and for kids whose family members have an allergy, they face a greater risk.6 Peanut allergies tend to be lifelong; only about 20% of children will outgrow their peanut allergy.7 Unfortunately, kids who are allergic to peanuts have a greater chance (between 25 and 40%) of being allergic to tree nuts.8
A recent groundbreaking study demonstrated that the early introduction of peanuts to babies could prevent an allergy from developing by as much as 81%. Following the study, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases now recommends that peanuts be introduced before a baby’s first birthday.9
For more detailed information on how to introduce common food allergens, check out our guide, Introducing Allergens to Babies.
How do you prepare peanuts for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months: Mix small amounts of smooth peanut butter with Greek yogurt or applesauce or spread thinly on fruit. Do not serve “chunky” peanut butter to your baby because the bits of peanut are a choking hazard. To encourage self-feeding, pre-load your baby’s spoon and either offer it in the air for your baby to grab, or set the spoon down on the table or bowl for your baby to pick up.
12 to 24 months: This is a great age to introduce peanut butter on toast. You may also, of course, continue mixing peanut butter into yogurt.
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Peanut Butter Yogurt with Banana Sticks
- Greek yogurt (full fat, plain)
- Smooth unsalted peanut butter
- Flax seed oil (optional)
- Add a spoonful or two of yogurt into a bowl that suctions to the table.
- Add a small dollop of peanut butter and stir with a fork until it’s completely mixed with the yogurt. If you like, stir in 1 teaspoon of flaxseed oil, which helps prevent constipation and contains healthy nutrients.
- Peel the banana and cut it in half. Split each half vertically. Poke a couple of the banana pieces into the yogurt like sticks propped upright. This will encourage your baby to grab and hold the fruit. Let your baby eat the banana with their hands and offer pre-loaded spoons of the yogurt mix to encourage self-feeding.
Peanut butter pairs well with apples, banana, celery, chicken, noodles, oatmeal, and yogurt. It’s a great way to boost the amount of iron and protein in a dish. Just be sure you are familiar with choking hazards and modifying the recipe in an age-appropriate way for your baby.
- FARE, Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP). [website]. (Retrieved March 3, 2020)
- Fleischer, D., Spergel, J., et al. Primary Prevention of Allergic Disease Through Nutritional Intervention. (2012). The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice (Volume 1 Issue 1). New York, NY: Elsevier.
- McGee, H. On Food and Cooking. (2014). New York, NY: Scribner
- Cleveland Clinic. Pediatric Kidney Stones. (website) Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- National Cancer Institute. Aflatoxins. (2018, December 18). (website) Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- Savage, J. & Johns, C. Food Allergy: Epidemiology and Natural History. (2015). Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America. (Volume 35, Issue 1). New York, NY: Elsevier.
- FARE, Facts and Statistics. [website]. (Retrieved March 3, 2020)
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Peanut Allergy. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
- National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease. Guidelines for Clinicians and Patients for Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States. (website). Retrieved January 8, 2020.