Sausage

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 12 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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Common Allergen: No
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two pork sausage links before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat sausage?

Pork sausage can be a special treat for babies who are at least 12 months old. Similar to hot dogs, sausage is high in sodium and nitrates, neither of which are good for your baby (or you), so be sure you only serve it once in a while (if at all) and refrain from making it part of your regular meal rotation.

Callie, 14 months, eats sausage in bite-size pieces.
Max, 14 months, eats sausage cut up into bite-size pieces.

Is sausage healthy for babies?

Unfortunately, no. Sausage is high in sodium and it contains nitrates which have been found to increase the risk of cancer in some studies.1 While “no-nitrate” or “no nitrate added” sausage is available at grocery stores, the labeling law in the United States permits sausage producers to add naturally-occurring nitrates, often in the form of celery juice or extract.2 The Center for Science and Public Interest and Consumer Reports have petitioned the United States Department of Agriculture to revise the labeling rules, citing that the current labeling language misleads consumers.

When shopping for sausage, buy fresh or frozen organic sausage from a local butcher whenever possible. Pasture-raised pork is more nutritious, and your choice will support small farms and environmental sustainability. More importantly, you’ll help your baby develop a palette for farm-raised (vs. grain-fed and factory produced) foods, which can have a slightly more gamey flavor.

Is sausage a common choking hazard for babies?

Yes. Chunks and pieces of meat and sausage are common choking hazards. The smaller breakfast sausage links can actually pose even more of a hazard as a child is more likely to bite off and swallow a round piece whole. To prepare sausage for a child under the age of five, you should remove the outer casing and cut each piece of sausage into quarters.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is sausage a common allergen?

Pork sausage is not a common allergen, however studies have shown that there is a relationship between cat allergies and pork allergies. Cat serum albumin cross-reacts with pork albumin, which basically means if your baby is allergic to pork, the reaction may actually stem from an allergy to cats.3

Additionally, sausage is considered a “high-histamine” food, which can be problematic for our young ones who have compromised immune systems, skin conditions (such as eczema), and/or upper respiratory health concerns. If your baby has unresolved skin rashes, frequent upset stomach, or other unexplained symptoms, consider testing whether high-histamine foods may be a culprit.4

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

6 to 12 months old: Avoid due to nitrates and sodium.

12 to 24 months old: Sausage is not a healthy food for babies (or adults). As such, if you serve it, do so in limited quantities and only on occasion. To prepare it safely as finger food, cook the sausage until it is well done, remove the outer casing, and quarter each piece to lower the risk of choking. To do this, cut the sausage link into rounds and then cut each disc into quarters.

For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Sausage casing is easier to remove once the sausage is cooked—but before it is cut. Cook the whole sausage whole, then peel the casing. From there, cut the meat into discs and then cut each disc into quarters.

Recipe: Nonna's Sausage & Peppers

diced cooked sausage next to thin slices of cooked red and green peppers

Ingredients

  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Pasture-raised pork sausage
  • Avocado oil or olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash the bell peppers and cut each one in half. Scoop out the inner seeds and the pith, and add it to the compost pile.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the bell peppers with a splash of oil (avocado oil is terrific and healthy high-heat oil) and mix to coat.
  4. Place each pepper half cut-side down on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and roast until they collapse. If the peppers start to burn, turn the heat down to 350 degrees.
  5. Once the cooked peppers are cool, peel off the outer skin and then slice each one into thin strips. Set aside.
  6. Place a sauté pan over medium high heat, and add the whole sausage links.
  7. Cook covered for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating each link about halfway through the cooking time.
  8. Once the sausages are firm and evenly browned, remove them from the pan and let them cool on a cutting board.
  9. Remove the outer casing and discard.
  10. Cut the sausage into discs and then cut each disc into quarters.
  11. Combine the cut peppers and sausage, and serve in a bowl for your baby to hand-scoop. Try spearing the quartered sausage pieces with a baby fork to encourage practice with a utensil.

Flavor Pairings

Pork sausage pairs well with polenta, peppers, grilled vegetables, white beans, sautéed kale, marinara sauce, shellfish, and Brussels sprouts.

  1. National Cancer Institute, Cancer Trends Progress Report, Nitrate. (website) Retrieved December 30, 2019.
  2. Smith, P. (2010, September). Your “Nitrate-Free” Meats Are Fill of Nitrates. GOOD. (website) Retrieved October 21, 2019
  3. Pork Allergy. New York Allergy & Sinus Center. (website) Retrieved October 21, 2019.
  4.  Pork Allergy. New York Allergy & Sinus Center. (website) Retrieved October 21, 2019.