When can babies eat peas?
Peas may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Did you know that peas are actually seeds and, botanically speaking, that a pea pod is a fruit because it grows from a flower? It’s true! And like many fruits, peas contain plenty of vitamin C. Plus they have lots of iron! This is an important combination for babies because vitamin C helps our bodies absorb iron from plant sources. In fact, garden peas are one of the most common ingredients in processed baby foods, but quite fun when served on their own… and even better when tossed with a little butter. That said, the small, roly-poly shape can be tricky for the youngest eaters—so read on for age-appropriate preparation suggestions.
Are peas healthy for babies?
Yes! Peas are a powerhouse food for little ones. They’ve got lots of fiber, protein, and an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. They also have tons of vitamins and minerals, with exceptionally high levels of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and zinc. Peas are also a fantastic source of B-vitamins, especially B6 and folate, which are often insufficient in babies’ diets. Lastly, peas contain a wonderful assortment of phytonutrients that offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
When shopping for garden peas, choose fresh or frozen over canned. Canned peas often contain excessive amounts of sodium—upwards of 650 to 800 milligrams per cup. Plus canned peas are often packaged in containers lined with BPA, a toxic chemical. Whichever kind you buy, be sure to purchase from a trusted source and always wash before serving: garden peas are among the top produce with the most residue of pesticides at sale.1 Chronic exposure to pesticides appears to affect how a child’s brain and nervous system develop, especially as a child grows.2
There is usually an expiration date on frozen peas, so aim to serve them shortly after purchase to maximize the amount of nutrition in your baby’s meal. You can also serve them up to 6 months past the expiration date with the knowledge that fewer nutrients will be available.3
Are peas a common choking hazard for babies?
They can be. You won’t find garden peas listed among the common choking hazards for babies, but their perfectly round shape can pose a risk. Peas, like loose corn kernels, can be accidentally swallowed whole and the average diameter of a pea is close in size to the diameter of the trachea of babies.4 5 To minimize the risk, serve peas without a container so it forces your baby to pick up individual peas (rather than fistfuls from a bowl) or flatten peas gently with the back of a fork. As always, stay within an arm’s reach of your baby during meals.
Are peas a common allergen?
No. Allergies to other legumes (including chickpea, lentil, lupine, peanut, and soybean) are more common.6 Luckily, individuals with peanut allergy are no more likely to be allergic to garden peas or other legumes.7 That said, if you suspect your baby is allergic to legumes, talk with a pediatric allergist before introducing peas on your own and as always, start by offering a small quantity for the first couple of servings.
How do you prepare peas 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 9 months old: Mix smashed or flattened peas into other foods, such as frittatas, grains dishes, or casseroles like shepherd’s pie. Encourage your baby to self-feed with their hands.
9 to 12 months old: Around this age babies develop a pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet), which enables them to pick up peas more easily. If you are concerned about choking, flatten each pea slightly with the back of a fork or between your fingers before serving.
12 to 24 months old: At this age your baby should be able to chase after peas with their little fingers and pick up foods with more dexterity. Try serving peas on their own and as your baby’s skills develop, encourage fork practice by spearing peas. Good fun for all!
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★ Tip: Serve foods that are challenging for babies to pick up (like garden peas!) alongside foods that your baby can easily eat. This way there are options if your baby becomes frustrated or fatigued with chasing peas around the plate.
Recipe: Garden Pea Risotto*
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 1 cup fresh or frozen garden peas
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup Arborio rice
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (12 months+)
- 1 tablespoon chives (optional)
- Warm the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Mince the onion, then add to the pot. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garden peas and sauté, stirring occasionally until the peas have brightened in color, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer half of the onion-pea mixture to a blender. Add 1/2 cup of the stock, then purée. Place the other half of the onion-pea mixture in the pot, and use a spoon to gently smash the peas if your baby is under 12 months of age.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large pot, then add the rice. Stir to coat, then cook until the rice is opaque, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and the pea purée. Bring to a simmer.
- Cook the rice until the grains are plump and toothsome, about 15 minutes. Add the remaining onion-pea mixture and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the rice is fully done, about 10 minutes more.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining butter and cheese if you’re using. Mince the chives or your favorite fresh herb and sprinkle on top before serving in a bowl that suctions to the table. Encourage your baby to self-feed by either scooping with hands or practicing with a baby spoon.
*Note: This recipe contains cheese, which is a common allergen. Only serve after dairy allergy has been ruled out.
Let the sweet, grassy flavor of garden peas balance both rich proteins like beef, lamb, pork, sardines, or lighter ones like chicken, eggs, and shellfish. Garden peas taste delicious with creamy foods like avocado, butter, cheese, and yogurt. They also pair well with alliums like garlic, leeks, onions, and shallots and other spring produce like artichokes, asparagus, fava beans, and new potatoes. Fresh herbs add depth; try chives, mint, or tarragon!
- Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2020 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Retrieved July 10, 2020
- Liu, J., & Schelar, E. (2012). Pesticide exposure and child neurodevelopment: summary and implications. Workplace health & safety, 60(5), 235–243.
- Babatola, L.A., Ojo, D.O., Lawal, I.O. (2008). Influence of Storage Conditions on Quality and Shelf Life of Stored Peas. Journal of Biological Sciences, 8(2), 446-450.
- Griscom, N.T., Wohl, M.B. (1986). Dimensions of the Growing Trachea Related to Age and Gender. American Journal of Roentgenology, 146, 233-237.
- International Journal of Pure & Applied Science. (2018). Some Physical Properties of the Green Pea.
- Verma, A. K., Kumar, S., Das, M., & Dwivedi, P. D. (2013). A comprehensive review of legume allergy. Clinical reviews in allergy & immunology, 45(1), 30–46. doi:10.1007/s12016-012-8310-6. Retrieved July 14, 2020
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Peanut Allergy. Retrieved July 14, 2020