Scallops, when cooked and finely chopped to reduce the risk of choking, can technically be introduced as early as 6 months of age, but we would strongly encourage waiting until closer to 12 months of age. Here’s why: Scallops may contain varying levels of cadmium, a toxic metal that is particularly harmful when consumed by infants regularly. Scallops also present an elevated risk of foodborne illness. If scallops are an important part of your diet and you’d like to share with baby, aim for moderation, take care to cook them fully, and cut them for baby’s age and eating ability.
Scallops carry an elevated risk of foodborne illness, and babies are more at risk for severe symptoms. Never serve raw or undercooked scallops to babies. Scallops may also contain cadmium, a heavy metal that can affect children’s neurological development. Lastly, the firm, springy texture of scallops make them a potential choking hazard, so read our preparation suggestions carefully before serving.
A relative of clams, mussels, and oysters, scallops are free-swimming bivalves that live in coastal and deep-sea ocean regions around the world. There are more than 400 species—each with its own features and special taste. In the United States, bay scallops and sea scallops are the most common species available from fishmongers, grocery stores, and online retailers. Wild bay scallops are harvested from estuaries and bays along the east coast of North America, while wild sea scallops hail mostly from the Northern Atlantic and Alaskan coasts, and farmed scallops are growing in popularity.
Callie, 16 months, eats scallops.
Adie, 23 months, eats sautéed scallops.
It’s complicated. While scallops are rich in protein, choline, vitamins B6 and B12, zinc, and iodine, they also contain varying levels of cadmium, a heavy metal that can negatively affect neurological development when consumed regularly. Scallops also carry an elevated risk of food poisoning from vibriosis.
Depending on the preparation, scallops can also be high in sodium. Dried scallops, smoked scallops, as well as frozen scallops with added sodium tripolyphosphate (a preservative) are all typically high in sodium, which should be minimized in infant diets. “Wet” scallops typically have added sodium tripolyphosphate, while those labeled “dry” do not.
★Tip: Cook scallops until they become milky and opaque in appearance and have developed a firmer texture. They should cook to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F (63 C), which can take between 1 and 8 minutes depending on the size of the scallop.
Yes. Because scallops are springy and slippery, they present a high choking risk for babies. Smaller scallops pose even more of a risk, as a child is more likely to try and swallow the whole piece of food without chewing. To minimize the risk, cook scallops well then finely chop or thinly slice them. As always, make sure you create a safe eating environment, 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.
Yes, though it depends on where you live as to whether they are categorized as such. Scallops, a type of molluscan shellfish, are not considered to be a common allergen in the United States, which only recognizes crustacean shellfish (such as crab, shrimp, and lobster) as common allergens. However, many other regulatory agencies around the world do recognize mollusks as common food allergens. Individuals with a scallop allergy are more likely to experience reactions to other shellfish in the mollusk family (clam, mussels, octopus, oysters, snail, squid) and, to a lesser degree, in the crustacean family (crawfish, crab, lobster, shrimp). If you suspect baby may be allergic to shellfish, consult an allergist before introducing scallops. Interestingly, shellfish allergies commonly develop in adulthood, and for those who develop the allergy in childhood, most will not outgrow it.
Being allergic to shellfish doesn’t mean that an individual will also have a finned fish allergy, as they are not closely related. However, you may need to be careful about the risk of shellfish proteins cross contaminating finned fish and other seafood, as they are often prepared in the same facilities using shared tools and cooking materials.
As you would do with all potential allergens, introduce scallops by serving a small quantity at first, and watch closely. If there is no adverse reaction during the first few servings, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
In moderation after the first birthday, although a taste here and there before then is fine. Just make sure the scallops are cut for the child’s age and eating ability to reduce choking risk. Sharing foods as a family is important, just aim to offer fried foods in moderation, as they're often high in sodium and trans fats.
No. Do not serve uncooked shellfish, as doing so greatly increases the risk of foodborne illness, and babies are more susceptible to severe symptoms. Whether to serve raw scallops to a toddler or older child is a personal decision for which you must calculate risk. Raw scallops pose a very high risk of foodborne illness, especially Vibrio, a harmful bacterial infection for babies, children, and adults alike. The risk of severe illness is even higher in individuals with complex medical backgrounds, taking stomach acid reducing medications, and/or who are immunocompromised.
No. In general, scallops are rich in protein and lack fiber, qualities that typically slow the processes of digestion and pooping. Remember that pooping patterns can vary significantly from baby to baby. If you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function, talk to your pediatric healthcare provider.
No. While the citrus juices typically used in ceviche do have antimicrobial properties that reduce the risk of bacterial pathogens, they cannot fully eliminate them. This means that the seafood in ceviche is still considered raw, so it carries the same risks of foodborne illness as any other raw seafood dish. There is no clear age at which the risk of foodborne illness is eliminated. Ultimately, there is no “best” age to introduce raw or undercooked shellfish or finned fish to toddlers; rather, it is a personal decision for which you must calculate risk.
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience.
Avoid due to the risk of foodborne illness and cadmium exposure. An occasional taste is fine, as long as the shellfish is fully cooked and finely chopped to reduce choking risk.
Offer thin slices of cooked scallop on their own, or chopped and mixed into other foods as desired. At this age, canned scallops cut into age-appropriate pieces may also be served in moderation. Refrain from serving whole scallops that are small, such as bay scallops.
Serve bite-sized pieces of cooked scallops or continue with thin slices of cooked scallop and encourage the toddler to spear them with a fork or to pick them up with trainer chopsticks. Model thorough chewing of your own scallop pieces to discourage the child from attempting to swallow bite-size pieces whole. Refrain from serving whole scallops that are small, such as bay scallops.
At this age, many toddlers are ready to try a whole large sea scallop. For small scallop varieties, such as bay scallops, continue to slice in half so they are no longer round until you are confident in the child’s ability, which may be closer to 4 years old.
Only offer whole sea scallops when you are confident in the child’s ability to chew what is in their mouth, spit out food that isn't well chewed, and eat other challenging foods. Start with a large sea scallop so that you can coach how to take small bites. Demonstrate how to take a small bite of the scallop with your front teeth. Then, offer a second whole sea scallop to the child and let them follow your lead. Likely, they will bite it in half as you did, though if the child shoves the whole thing in their mouth, refrain from gasping or yelling. Remain calm and say, “That’s a very big bite. You need to chew it.” Then wait patiently as they chew and swallow or spit out the too-big bite.
If you would like to share bay scallops and other smaller varieties with toddlers, cut the scallops in half or thinly slice so that they are no longer round. Smaller scallops present more of a choking risk than large scallops because they are closer in size to the toddler’s airway.
How to prepare scallops for children 12 months+
For more information, see the Solid Starts Fish guide—the world’s only guide to seafood for babies and toddlers younger than age 2.
6 sea scallops
12 months +
Pat the scallops dry, then sprinkle them with pepper.
Warm the oil in a large cast-iron or steel skillet set on medium-high heat.
When the oil shimmers, gently lay each scallop in the skillet. Make sure they are evenly spaced.
Sear the scallops by letting them sit in the hot oil without stirring. They are ready to flip when the bottoms are browned and they easily release from the pan. If they stick, keep browning them. Flip the scallops and lightly brown the other side. Cook time ranges between 1 and 8 minutes depending on the size of the scallops.
Cut some scallops into age-appropriate sizes for the child, then toss them with pasta, polenta, or risotto–or serve them on their own as finger food. Your choice!
Serve the Scallops
Offer scallops and let the child self-feed.
If help is needed, pre-load an age-appropriate utensil and let the child try to pick it up.
Eat some scallops alongside the child to model how it’s done.
To Store: Seared scallops are best enjoyed shortly after that they are prepared. If you have leftover cooked scallops, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 day.
Pediatrician & pediatric gastroenterologist
Pediatrician & pediatric allergist/immunologist
Pediatric occupational therapist, feeding & swallowing specialist, international board-certified lactation consultant
Speech-language pathologist, feeding & swallowing specialist
Pediatric registered dietitian & nutritionist
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