When can babies eat sapodilla?
Sapodilla may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Remove the seeds before offering sapodilla to babies, as sapodilla seeds are a choking hazard and may be toxic when ingested.1
Where does sapodilla come from?
Like canistel and zapote, sapodilla grow on evergreen trees that originated in Central American rainforests, where the plant has provided communities with food and medicine since ancient times. For the Aztec and Mayan peoples, sapodilla not only offered abundant fruit, but leaves to boil into medicinal tea, wood to build structures, and a sticky white resin that could be processed into chewing gum called chicle. Sapodilla remains a beloved food in the Caribbean, where the fruit is known by different names—chico zapote, dilly, mispel, muy, naseberry, and nispero, to name a few. It’s also called baramasi, chico, and chikoo in Asian tropics, where the seeds were introduced in the 16th century. Today, most sapodilla comes from India, the world’s top producer.
★ Tip: If you can’t find the fresh fruit, look for canned sapodilla (often labeled as chikkoo pulp). The ripe fruit does not travel well over long distances, so unless you live near an orchard, it may not be easy to find. When using canned fruit in syrup, rinse with water to remove some of the added sugar.
Is sapodilla healthy for babies?
Yes. Sapodilla is a good source of many nutrients ranging from most B-vitamins (including folate and B6) to potassium and iron. Not only is it rich in antioxidants, sapodilla also contains a dash of calcium and a hefty dose of vitamin C, in addition to plenty of carbohydrates to support baby’s energy levels.2 In addition, sapodilla is an excellent source of fiber to aid the digestive system and regular bowel movements, one of the many reasons why the fruit is being studied for its protective effects on gastrointestinal health.3
Sapodilla is often used in jams, juices, and desserts, many of which contain added sugars (which are not ideal for babies). Read labels carefully, consider waiting until a child is older to introduce foods with added sugar, and ideally, avoid serving juice until a child is at least 2 years old.
★Tip: If you have an unripe sapodilla, you can put it on the counter or in a brown paper bag for a few days until it is ready. Just be patient! Unripe sapodilla is very astringent due to the presence of substances called saponins, meaning that it will draw moisture out of the mouth and leave it feeling dry, much like an unripe banana.4 You’ll know when the fruit is ripe when the sandy texture of the skin easily rubs off, the skin is fully brown and lightly wrinkled, and the flesh is soft when gently pressed, but not mushy.
Is sapodilla a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Ripe sapodilla flesh is not a common choking hazard, but unripe, firm sapodilla and the hard, hooked seeds inside each fruit certainly are, and in theory an individual can choke on any food. To minimize the risk, make sure the sapodilla is fully ripe and de-seeded before offering to baby. 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 sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.
Is sapodilla a common allergen?
No. Allergies to sapodilla are not common.5 However, there have been rare reports of individuals experiencing localized Oral Allergy symptoms after consuming fresh sapodilla.6 7 Such reactions may be more likely in individuals with pre-existing allergy to olive, grape, kiwi, bell pepper, or tobacco. Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching, tingling, or burning in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction. Cooking the fruit can help minimize the reaction.8 9 10
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
Can sapodilla help baby poop?
Ripe sapodilla is rich in natural sugars like fructose and fiber, which makes it a very poop-friendly food. However, it is best to start with small quantities, as too much may cause abdominal cramping and bloating, as well as very loose stools.11
How do you introduce sapodilla to 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 9 months old: Offer ripe, peeled, and de-seeded sapodilla cut into quarters or spears. Sapodilla can be slippery, so try rolling the fruit in ground-up nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes to add grip. Alternatively, mash the fruit and mix it into soft, scoopable foods like porridge or batter for baked goods like muffins or pancakes. If you are using canned sapodilla in syrup, rinse the fruit to remove some of the added sugar. While sapodilla tastes delicious in desserts, it would be wise to wait until after the second birthday to serve foods with added sugar.
9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies develop their pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. When you see signs of this development, try moving down in size to smaller, bite-sized pieces of ripe sapodilla (seeds and skin removed) rolled in ground-up nut or unsweetened coconut flakes to add grip. If you prefer, keep offering peeled quarters or spears, which give baby the chance to practice taking bites and learning how to spit when the bites are too big.
12 to 24 months old: Utensil time! Continue to serve small, bite-sized pieces of ripe sapodilla and show the child how to pierce the fruit with an age-appropriate fork. Alternatively, serve ripe, de-seeded sapodilla halves in their skin, which acts as a natural cup for the sweet fruit, and show the child how to use a spoon to scoop the flesh.
24 months old and up: Smoothie time! Ripe sapodilla contains plenty of natural sugar, so try mixing it with coconut milk and tart tropical ingredients like lime, passion fruit, or tamarind to balance the sweetness. Of course, you may also continue serving sapodilla halves, quarters, or spears and remove the seeds before serving. In some cultures, sapodilla is eaten before the seeds are removed and the seeds are spat out. Only offer sapodilla with the seeds if you are confident in your child’s chewing and listening skills, and practice coaching your child to spit out the seeds.
Avoid the common pitfalls that can lead to picky eating. See our Do’s and Don’ts of Raising a Happy, Independent Eater.
What are recipe ideas for sapodilla?
When ripe, sapodilla tastes sweet with hints of date, caramel, and squash and a soft, grainy texture like an overripened pear. The fruit does not need much preparation: simply cut open a fresh sapodilla and eat the fruit out of hand or mix it into fruit salads with a sprinkle of lime juice and, if you’d like, a little chile pepper for kick. If you want to step it up a notch, use sapodilla in batidos or lassis (smoothies) or blend it to make helado or kulfi (ice cream) or gola or paletas (ice pops). Sapodilla tastes delicious with coconut, so try offering sapodilla in dishes made with coconut milk, like warm grain cereals, chia seed puddings, or quinoa.
Recipe: Sapodilla with Lime and Coconut
Yield: ½ cup (170 grams)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 1 ripe sapodilla
- 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) lime juice
- 1 teaspoon (2 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
This recipe contains a common allergen: coconut (coconut flakes). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been safely introduced. While coconut allergy is rare, it’s classified as a tree nut by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
- Cut the sapodilla in half along the equator, then remove and discard the seeds.
- Scoop the flesh from its skin, then cut the flesh into quarters or bite-sized pieces.
- Drizzle the lime juice over the fruit.
- Roll the sapodilla pieces in coconut flakes to add grip.
- Serve the sapodilla rolled in coconut flakes as finger food and let baby self-feed by trying to pick up the pieces with their hands. To encourage the use of a utensil, simply preload an age-appropriate fork or spoon and place it next to the food for baby to try to pick up. Alternatively, pass the preloaded utensil in the air for baby to grab.
To Store: Cut sapodilla keeps in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP
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
- Singh, P. D., Simon, W. R., & West, M. E. (1984). Acute toxicity of seeds of the sapodilla (Achras sapota L.). Toxicon : official journal of the International Society on Toxinology, 22(1), 145–147. DOI: 10.1016/0041-0101(84)90147-8. Retrieved November 8, 2021
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- Ansari, S. F., Khan, A. U., Qazi, N. G., Shah, F. A., & Naeem, K. (2019). In Vivo, Proteomic, and In Silico Investigation of Sapodilla for Therapeutic Potential in Gastrointestinal Disorders. BioMed research international, 4921086. DOI: 10.1155/2019/4921086. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- Devatkal, S. K., Kumboj, R., & Paul, D. (2014). Comparative antioxidant effect of BHT and water extracts of banana and sapodilla peels in raw poultry meat. Journal of food science and technology, 51(2), 387–391. DOI: 10.1007/s13197-011-0508-8. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- Ashok Kumar, H. G., Hegde, V. L., Shetty, S. M., & Venkatesh, Y. P. (2013). Characterization and gene cloning of an acidic thaumatin-like protein (TLP 1), an allergen from sapodilla fruit (Manilkara zapota). Allergology international : official journal of the Japanese Society of Allergology, 62(4), 447–462. DOI: 10.2332/allergolint.12-OA-0522. Retrieved November 8, 2021
- Hegde, V. L., Venkatesh, Y. P. (2002). Oral allergy syndrome to sapodilla (Achras zapota). Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 110, 3, 533-534. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- Hegde, V. L., Ashok Kumar, H. G., Sreenath, K., Hegde, M. L., & Venkatesh, Y. P. (2014). Identification and characterization of a basic thaumatin-like protein (TLP 2) as an allergen in sapodilla plum (Manilkara zapota). Molecular nutrition & food research, 58(4), 894–902. DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201300261. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Oral allergy syndrome (OAS). Retrieved November 8, 2021.
- Sussman, G., Sussman, A., Sussman, D. (2010). Oral allergy syndrome. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 182(11), 1210–1211. DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.090314. Retrieved April 1, 2021.
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- Chareoansiri R, Kongkachuichai R. (2009). Sugar profiles and soluble and insoluble dietary fiber contents of fruits in Thailand markets. Int J Food Sci Nutr, 60 Suppl 4:126-139. DOI: 10.1080/09637480802609376. Retrieved November 8, 2021.