When can babies eat ricotta cheese?
Fresh ricotta (not ricotta salata or other types of dried and hardened ricotta) may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of ricotta cheese
Soft and sweet, the cheese traditionally hails from Italy, where it is made of whey, a liquid byproduct from producing curds with cow, goat, sheep or water buffalo milk. In the United States, most ricotta is made from cow’s milk. No matter the source, fresh ricotta tends to be much lower in sodium than most cheeses and is safe for babies to eat as soon as they are ready for solids.
Is ricotta cheese healthy for babies?
Yes! Fresh ricotta is high in calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. Ricotta also offers other key nutrients that babies need to thrive, including vitamin A, selenium, and zinc.
Most types of cheese are high in sodium and not appropriate for young babies. Not fresh ricotta! Naturally low in sodium and soft and smooth in texture, it is truly a perfect first food for babies.
When shopping for fresh ricotta (or any cheese, really), look for the following:
- Low sodium (less than 100mg per serving for babies younger than 12 months old)
- Made from whole milk
Is ricotta a choking hazard for babies?
No. Fresh ricotta is not a common choking hazard for babies thanks to its soft, smooth texture. Harder forms of ricotta such as ricotta salata could pose a risk. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of baby during meals.
Is ricotta a common allergen?
Yes. Fresh ricotta is a dairy product, and all dairy products are common food allergens. Research shows that the majority of children with cow’s milk allergy will outgrow it by age 6 and many babies with milder symptoms of milk protein allergy (which can show up as painless blood in stool) are able to successfully reintroduce cow’s milk as early as their first birthday, with the guidance of their doctors.1 2
If you have a family history of allergies, or suspect your baby may be allergic to dairy products, consult an allergist before introducing fresh ricotta.
As with all new foods, introduce ricotta cheese in small amounts the first couple of times and watch closely as your baby eats. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future servings.
How do you prepare ricotta cheese 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: Serve fresh ricotta in a bowl that suctions to the table and encourage hand-scooping. Let them get messy! To encourage self-feeding with utensils, pre-load a baby’s spoon and hand it to your baby in the air or rest it on the edge of a bowl for your baby to pick up. Note that it’s common for babies to toggle back and forth between eating with their fingers and trying out utensils. Utensils require a lot of mental energy and fine motor skills, so don’t be surprised if your baby tires quickly and resorts back to their fingers. This is also a great age to spread fresh ricotta on baby crackers or thin-style rice cakes.
12 to 24 months old: The possibilities are limitless! However, if you are still using baby crackers or thin rice cakes, this is a good time to wean baby (and yourself) off of these as they offer little nutrition. Try adding tart fruits like cranberry or lemon into ricotta, incorporate fresh ricotta into your recipes, and by all means, introduce lasagna!
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Fresh ricotta is creamy and sweet, which makes it a great vehicle for introducing sour and tart flavors such as cranberry (see recipe).
Recipe: Ricotta with Fresh Cranberry Sauce
- Fresh or frozen cranberries
- Fresh ricotta
- Place a large handful or two of cranberries in a colander and rinse under cold water, picking out any inedible stems or leaves.
- Transfer the cranberries to a small saucepan and add a generous splash of water.
- Cover and bring to a boil, then quickly reduce the heat to medium low. Remove the cover and gently simmer until the cranberries have burst and are completely softened, about 30 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, and use a fork or a potato masher to smash any remaining chunks of berry. Pick out any large skins or pieces that remained intact. Divide the portion you want to serve right away, and freeze the rest in a small sealed container for a future mealtime.
- Scoop a dollop or two or fresh ricotta in a bowl that suctions to the table. Add the cranberry sauce on top, and invite your baby to self-feed by pre-loading a spoon or encouraging the child to dip their own fingers in the food.
Ricotta is delicious on its own, but so versatile as an ingredient in cooking. Try pairing it with tart flavors like lemon, mixing it into tomato sauce for a creamy texture, spreading it on Ezekiel bread, or serving it as a dessert topped with finely-ground nuts and sliced fruit.
- GiKids – Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy. (2020, February 26). GiKids. https://gikids.org/digestive-topics/cows-milk-protein-allergy/
- Wood, R. A., Sicherer, S. H., Vickery, B. P., Jones, S. M., Liu, A. H., Fleischer, D. M., Henning, A. K., Mayer, L., Burks, A. W., Grishin, A., Stablein, D., & Sampson, H. A. (2013). The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 131(3), 805-812.e4. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060