Pecans

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 help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: Yes (
  • Nut
  • )

May cause allergic reactions.

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a pile of pecans before being prepared for babies starting solid food

When can babies eat pecans?

Pecans, if they are finely ground or served as pecan butter, may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Whole pecans, chopped pecans, and pecan butter are choking hazards for babies and children, so read our preparation by age section closely before serving.

Where do pecans come from?

Pecans originated in North America, where they have grown on towering, long-lived trees that were first cultivated by Native Americans. In fact, the name “pecan” is adapted from similar sounding words in the languages of the Algonquian peoples, who not only consumed the nuts, but used them as currency for trade. While pecans grew wild in America for centuries, their success as a commercial crop owes much to someone known to the historical record only as Antoine, an enslaved man in Louisiana. Antoine’s reputation as an accomplished gardener led others to seek his expertise, and the trees he created through grafting formed the foundation of today’s pecan industry in the United States.

Cooper, 8 months, eats ground pecans in yogurt. If introducing pecans for the first time, start with a very small quantity, as pecans are a common allergen.
Amelia, 10 months, eats oatmeal with ground pecans.
Adie, 19 months, eats pecan-date balls.

Are pecans healthy for babies?

Yes, if unsalted. Pecans are an excellent source of zinc and thiamine, important nutrients for baby’s immune health and metabolism. Pecans also contain protein, healthy fats, and lots of fiber to support optimal growth and digestion.1 Like all nuts, pecans are also a great source of iron, making them a particularly healthful food for plant-based babies. Lastly, pecans are one of the top nuts for flavonoids—antioxidants that support the immune system.2

Pecans are sometimes sold salted, and some brands of pecan butter may be high in sugar and sodium. When introducing pecans to babies, opt for unsalted, unsweetened pecans or pecan butter, if possible.

★Tip: Like most tree nuts, pecans can go rancid, so store raw pecans and open jars of pecan butter in the refrigerator, purchase roasted unsalted pecans, or roast raw unsalted pecans yourself to extend their shelf life.3 Pecans can keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 9 months and in the freezer for up to 2 years.4

Can babies drink pecan milk?

No. Prior to 12 months, the only liquids an infant should consume are breast milk, formula, and if the baby is older than 6 months of age, water in small amounts (less than 2-4 ounces a day) in an open cup.5 6 If pecan milk is used as an ingredient in solid food (such as oatmeal), then it is acceptable to serve before 12 months of age.

If, after the first birthday, you’d like to introduce unsweetened pecan milk as a beverage, it’s fine to do so, but know that nut milk often lacks adequate calories, fat, and protein for a plant-based milk for toddlers (typically fortified soy or pea milk are more nutritious).7 See our Milk FAQs to learn more.

Are pecans a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Whole nuts, nut pieces, and globs of nut butters are choking hazards for babies and young children.8 To reduce the risk, finely grind pecans until no large pieces remain and sprinkle on other foods or offer smooth pecan butter thinned with other foods like applesauce or yogurt. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment and stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals. For more information on choking, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Are pecans a common allergen?

Yes. Pecans are considered to be tree nuts (even though they are actually seeds), and all tree nuts are common food allergens. Many individuals who are allergic to pecans also have a walnut allergy, since these two tree nuts share similar protein structures.9 While only 1 to 3% of the population is allergic to tree nuts, it is usually life-long: only 9% of children with tree nut allergy will outgrow it.10 11 12

Although an allergy to one tree nut increases risk of allergy to another, keep in mind that being allergic to one nut does not necessarily mean that all nuts need to be removed from the diet.13 Having as diverse a diet as possible, even within the confines of food allergies, is important to get the nutrients we need to be healthy.

There is no recommendation to complete allergy testing before introducing tree nuts into the diet, even if there is a family history of food allergy. However, if you suspect baby may be allergic to nuts, make an appointment with your primary care clinician or a pediatric allergist before introducing nuts at home.

When it’s time to introduce pecans, offer a scant amount (such as a pinch of finely ground pecan or 1/8 teaspoon of pecan butter thinned with water) for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals. It is okay if baby does not consume each serving entirely. It is important to maintain common food allergens (such as tree nuts) in the diet regularly (about 1 gram twice weekly, if possible) once introduced. Don’t stop offering the nut unless the baby shows signs of a reaction.

Can pecans help baby poop?

Pecans and pecan butter can help prevent constipation by promoting bowel movement regularity. They are a good source of fiber and magnesium, which help move stool along in the intestine.

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

6 to 12 months old: Offer smooth, unsweetened pecan butter thinned with water or finely grind pecans in a food processor until completely fine and no large pieces remain. If you do not have a food processor, you can pound the nuts in a cloth with a hammer, a mortar and pestle, or the end of a wine bottle until finely ground. To serve the ground nut, sprinkle a little into warm cereal or onto slippery foods like mango pits or avocado slices. When serving pecan butter, spread a very thin layer onto other age-appropriate foods. You can thin it with breast milk, formula, water, or foods like applesauce or yogurt before using as a spread to further reduce the choking risk. Keep in mind that adding even a thin layer of nut butter to a food can make that food more challenging for baby to manage. Toast with nut butter can be particularly challenging for young babies, which can increase the risk of choking.

12 to 24 months old: Continue to finely grind pecans and sprinkle on fruits and vegetables or incorporate pecan butter into other foods like yogurt, warm cereals, or mashed vegetables. When serving pecan butter on toast, make sure the butter is thinly spread and offer milk or water in an open cup to help wash down any sticky pieces of food.

24 months old and up: Continue to finely grind pecans and use pecan butter as you wish. If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouths, and finally, the ability to identify and spit out foods when they are not well chewed) they may be ready to learn how to eat whole pecans. Just remember that nuts and nut pieces are considered choking hazards until age 4 and even beyond by all governing medical bodies.

Only serve nuts when your child is seated in an upright seat and is actively engaged in mealtime and not distracted. It is important to help your child stay engaged with the task, and part of that is modeling that safe chewing takes place when we are not talking, singing, etc. A highly animated child who is talking, yelling, or singing while practicing eating nuts increases choking risk. Do not serve nuts in a stroller, car seat, or while toddler is on the move (walking around).

To model how to eat whole pecans safely, start by telling your child: “This is a hard one. Watch me.” Then, show your child how to bite into a pecan. Hold the pecan between your thumb and index finger and place it in-between your front teeth and exaggerate taking a small bite of the nut. Then, show how you move the nut piece to your molars with your tongue. Chew with your mouth open so it’s visible. Once you have chewed the nut well, open your mouth to show your toddler how it has been broken down. Say, “I moved it to my big strong teeth to chew it. It needs a lot of chewing.” Demonstrate this a couple of times before offering your child a pecan to do the same.

To coach your child through eating a whole nut safely, say, “Your turn to try.” For the very first attempt, firmly hold on to the nut for your child to take a bite from it (without you letting go of the nut). DO NOT PUT THE NUT IN THEIR MOUTH. Don’t let go until they have used their teeth to actively take a bite. This ensures that they initiate chewing. Continue but only serve one or two nuts at a time to pace the practice. If your child insists on holding the pecan themselves, allow them to self-feed and take a bite if you feel comfortable. If you do not feel comfortable or if your child does not bite or attempt to break down the pecan with your support, we’d recommend waiting a few weeks more.

After practicing nuts with your child, make sure their mouth is clear before taking them out of the highchair. Never allow your child to walk around with nuts or nut pieces in their mouth.

Check out our video, Introducing Allergens, and take the guesswork out of introducing common allergens like tree nuts.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with pecans?

Grind pecans to make an earthy topping that you can sprinkle on vegetables or use to coat proteins to make chicken nuggets, fish sticks, or tofu strips. Blend pecans to make a creamy dairy-free butter to spread on toast or eat with fresh fruit. You can also follow the cue of the Algonquian peoples, who ground, soaked, and strained pecans to make a nutritious nut milk called powcohicora. When baby gets a bit older, try offering pecans as a thickener in soups and stews like kanuchi, a blend of corn and pecans sweetened with maple syrup that has roots in Cherokee culture.

★Tip: When shopping for pecans, buying the nuts from bulk bins (rather than pre-packaged) or purchasing the nuts in their shell may be more affordable.

Recipe: Steamed Sweet Potato Wedges with Pecan Butter

five sweet potato wedges coated with pecan butter for babies starting solids

Yield: ¾ cup (170 grams)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet potato (150 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon (20 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) ground pecan
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon or spice of choice (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter) and tree nut (pecan). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced.

Directions

  1. Wash, dry, and peel the sweet potato. Cut the potato into wedges.
  2. Add enough water to a medium pot to cover the bottom by 1 inch. Fit the pot with a steamer basket. Place the pot on high heat.
  3. Add the potato wedges to the steamer basket.
  4. Cover and cook until the potatoes are soft and easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.
  5. While the potatoes are cooking, mix the butter, ground pecan, and spice if you are using it in a small bowl.
  6. When the potato wedges are done, transfer them to the bowl with the butter. The heat from the potatoes will melt the butter. Toss to coat. Cool to room temperature.
  7. Scoop some potato wedges onto the child’s plate. Exact serving size is variable. Let a child’s appetite determine how much is eaten.
  8. Serve and let the child self-feed. If help is needed, pass a potato wedge vertically in the air for the child to grab from you.

To Store: Sweet potato wedges with pecan butter keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Pecans taste delicious with acorn squash, blueberries, green beans, oats, ricotta cheese, and sweet potato.

Reviewed by

E. Cerda, MSN, CNS, LDN

A. Gilbaugh, RD, CNSC

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT

Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

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  11. Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree Nut Allergy. Retrieved March 22, 2020.
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