When can babies eat pine nuts?
Pine nuts and pine nut butter that have been prepared in an age-appropriate way may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Nuts and nut butters are common allergens as well as choking hazards and must be modified to be safe for babies. Whole pine nuts must be finely ground, and pine nut butter must be completely smooth and thinned with breast milk, formula, or yogurt.
Background and origins of pine nuts
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine cones. Also called pignoli, piñon, and pinyon nuts, they grow in the Northern Hemisphere, where there are 18 varieties of pine trees with nuts that are suitable for human consumption. Compared to other nuts and seeds, pine nuts are soft in texture and buttery in taste, which makes them a tasty way to add nutritional value to sauces (like pesto!) and texture in grain dishes for older babies.
★Tip: Pine nuts are expensive! And because of the high fat content of pine nuts, they turn rancid at a much faster rate than other nuts. Keep them fresh by storing in an air-tight container in a cool, dark environment. They keep in the refrigerator for up to two months.
Are pine nuts healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Pine nuts are full of antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, and minerals that babies need to thrive. They contain B-vitamins to power your baby’s cell growth, vitamin E to fortify the immune system, vitamin K to boost bone strength, copper to aid iron absorption, and magnesium to support healthy bones and tissues. Pine nuts also contain noteworthy amounts of iron, folate, and zinc, as well as a plant compound called lutein, which is critical for healthy eyes and vision. For their tiny size, pine nuts pack a punch.
Are pine nuts a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. All nuts and nut butters are choking hazards for babies and children.1
To reduce the choking risk of nuts and seeds, purchase “smooth” nut butter and thin it with yogurt or applesauce. (You can also use breast milk or formula). Never serve straight up nut butter and be sure to purchase “smooth” nut butter varieties as “chunky” styles can increase the choking hazard further.
Alternatively, you can finely grind raw or roasted pine nuts in a food processor (or by hand with a mortar and pestle) then sprinkle on other foods, such as avocado, bananas, or oatmeal.
Are pine nuts a common allergen?
In the world of food allergies, pine nuts are classified as a tree nut (even though it is technically a seed), and all tree nuts are common allergens.2 However, allergies to pine nuts are relatively rare: less than 5% of people with tree nut allergies in the United States are allergic to pine nuts.3 However, if your child is allergic to pine nuts, the reaction tends to be severe.4
Interestingly, some pine nut varieties can cause “pine nut mouth” which temporarily alters the way things taste. Pine nut mouth typically occurs 12 to 24 hours after consumption and can last a couple of days.5 The quirky condition is most commonly associated with the Pinus armandii or Chinese white pine variety, which is native to China.6
For more detailed information on how to introduce common food allergens, check out our guide, Introducing Allergens to Babies.
How do you prepare pine nuts for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Purchase “smooth” pine nut butter and mix a small amount into yogurt (applesauce works too if your baby is not able to tolerate dairy) to reduce the choking risk. 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 edge of your baby’s bowl or plate for your baby to pick up. Alternatively, you can finely grind raw or roasted pine nuts in a food processor (or by hand with a mortar and pestle) then roll other foods (such as avocado or banana) in the ground nut. You can also sprinkle small amounts of ground pine nuts into warm cereal and grain dishes. And don’t forget pesto! (Just hold the parmesan, which is high in sodium, until your baby is 12 months old.)
12 to 18 months old: Continue to thin smooth pine nut butter with yogurt or applesauce and encourage self-feeding (if still needed) by pre-loading your baby’s spoon and resting it on the bowl for your baby to pick up. You may also continue to finely grind pine nuts and add to other dishes and fruits. This is a great age range to also explore a variety of pesto sauces to your regular pasta rotation.
18 to 24 months old: At this age, if you feel your baby has become an advanced eater (picks up small pieces of food well and doesn’t “shovel” food into their mouth, chews precisely and swallows carefully), you can try introducing whole pine nuts. Just be aware that all nuts are choking risks until age four or five, though commercial pine nuts tend to be smaller than most nuts. Still, consider the risks, and decide what you feel comfortable with.
Introducing common allergens to babies can be scary. We have a First 100 Days plan that walks you through exactly when to introduce each one with the right amount of time between them.
Recipe: Pine Nut Parfait
- Greek yogurt (organic, whole milk)
- Nectarine, peach, or mango
- Pine nuts
- Choose a fruit that is ripe and soft. Remove the skin, stem, and core. Finely chop the fruit.
- Use a mortar and pestle or a small food processor to finely grind a spoonful of pine nuts. Make sure that no large bits of nuts remain.
- Add a dollop or two of yogurt to a baby bowl that suctions to the table. Sprinkle the ground pine nut over the top, then add the finely chopped fruit. Serve and encourage self-feeding by pre-loading your baby’s spoon as necessary.
Pine nuts are oily, fatty, and expensive—the perfect accent to nut to use in small quantities in tart dishes that need a little balance. Try sprinkling whole or ground pine nuts on pasta with tomato sauce. They also pair well with plain steamed green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and spinach tossed in a simple lemon butter sauce.
- HealthyChildren.org. (2019, September 30). Choking Prevention. (website) Retrieved January 7, 2020.
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree Nut Allergy. Retrieved February 10. 2020 (website).
- Weinberger, T. & Sicherer, S. (2018, Mar. 26). Current perspectives on tree nut allergies: a review. Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 11: 41- 51. doi: 10.2147/JAA.S141636
- Cabanillas, B. & Novak, N. (2015). Allergic Reactions to Pine Nut: A Review. Journal of investigational allergology & clinical immunology: official organ of the International Association of Asthmology and Sociedad Latinoamericana de Alergia e Inmunología, 25(5):329-33. Retrieved February 10, 2020 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26727761
- Risso, D., Howard, L., VanWaes, C., & Drayna, D. (2015, Oct. 5). A potential trigger for pine mouth: a case of a homozygous PTC taster. Nutrition Research, 35(12): 1122–1125. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.09.011
- Risso, D., Howard, L., VanWaes, C., & Drayna, D. (2015, Oct. 5). A potential trigger for pine mouth: a case of a homozygous PTC taster. Nutrition Research, 35(12): 1122–1125. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2015.09.011.