Tacos

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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three soft tacos next to each other, one filled with avocado, black beans, and tomato, the other filled with black bean, lettuce and queso fresco, and the last with cabbage, squash, and cilantro

When can babies eat tacos?

Tacos made with soft corn tortillas and age-appropriate fillings can be modified and shared as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Toddlers can start practicing eating whole, soft tacos at around 12 months of age (but deconstructed tacos will likely result in more consumption). Hold off on wheat tortillas until after the first birthday, as they tend to get gummy in the mouth and present a higher choking risk.

Where do tacos come from?

Tacos are as diverse as the kitchens in which they are made. While the exact origin of the taco is unknown, Indigenous peoples across the Americas have been wrapping food in corn tortillas long before Taco Tuesday entered weekly meal plans worldwide. In Mexico—home of the modern taco—tortillas may be filled with beans, vegetables, fish, or offal meats like heart, liver, and tongue, then topped with mole or salsa. Global interest in Mexican cooking has led to new taco interpretations influenced by different cultures and ingredients, such as wheat tortillas stuffed with spicy Korean barbecue, crispy tacos filled with tangy Filipino sisig, and French tacos that resemble a burrito stuffed with doner kebab.

Milo, 6 months, eats half a corn tortilla with mashed black beans spread on it.
Riley, 24 months, explores her first taco.
Julian, 2.5 years, eats tacos al pastor (soft corn tortilla with pork).

Are tacos healthy for babies and kids?

Yes, as long as they are made with low-sodium ingredients and stuffed with nutrient-dense fillings like beans, fish, meat, and vegetables. Some tacos can be high in sodium because of ingredients like cotija, queso fresco, some taco seasonings, and wheat tortillas. Avoid or minimize these ingredients until 12 months of age, as sodium is not healthy when consumed in excess.1 2 However, they can also include lots of the nutrients that young children need. For example, a simple bean and cheese taco can offer good amounts of fiber, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, and folate.

Taco ingredients are endless, so get creative as your child’s eating skills develop. For example, experiment with proteins such as meat, fish, or tofu, grains like rice and quinoa, and vegetables such as mushrooms, nopales, peppers, or squash. Top tacos with your favorite sauces like chimichurri, guacamole, or plain yogurt, herbs like cilantro and chives, and low-sodium cheeses.

Are tacos a common choking hazard for babies?

It depends. Wheat tortillas can get gummy in the mouth, and some tacos (with hard taco shells or challenging-to-chew fillings like cubes of meat or chunks of cheese) pose a higher risk of choking. To reduce the risk, use soft, corn tortillas and make sure all fillings are cut in age-appropriate sizes. As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment and stay within arm’s reach of baby at mealtime. For more information on choking, visit our sections on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with the list of common choking hazards.

Do tacos contain common allergens?

Sometimes. Depending on the type of tortilla used and the varieties of fillings inside, tacos may include dairy, egg, finned fish, shellfish, sesame, soy, and wheat. Corn tortillas may contain wheat; wheat tortillas may contain wheat or soy, and taco fillings may contain dairy, fish, sesame and shellfish allergens.

Prior to sharing tacos with baby, it is important to introduce common food allergens on their own and rule them out as an allergen before serving them together in a prepared food like tacos. This way, you’ll be able to identify which allergen is responsible if baby has a reaction. Then, when you are ready to offer tacos, you will be confident that they have already safely eaten any common allergens in the food.

Can babies eat taco seasoning?

Yes—as long as the seasoning is low in sodium. Many pre-packaged taco seasonings are extremely high in sodium, which is not healthy when consumed in excess.3 4 Look for options with less than 300 mg of sodium per serving. Alternatively, use only some of the seasoning packet, or try making your own seasoning at home with no salt added. Most spices are healthy and safe to introduce to babies starting at 6 months of age. When offering food with taco seasoning to baby, consider starting with small amounts to let baby get used to the flavors, particularly if the seasoning contains hotter spices.

Can babies have hot sauce?

It depends on the specific type of hot sauce and baby’s individual tolerance for spicy food. Hot sauces can cause a burning sensation in the mouth, and we want to try and offer enjoyable eating experiences early on in baby’s solids journey. That said, some hot sauces are quite mild, and every person’s individual tolerance to spice is different, so whenever you do decide to let a child taste hot sauce, start with a very tiny amount of a mild variety and let them choose how much they would like (i.e. drip a small amount onto their plate for dipping rather than drizzling onto their food).

What are kid-friendly taco seasonings?

You can’t go wrong with a simple blend of garlic and onion powders with a pinch of cumin and paprika. This spice combination is the basis of many store-bought taco seasonings, which usually contain lots of added salt. Try to choose low-sodium taco seasonings when buying them at the store, or make your own version at home. And don’t assume a child won’t like taco seasoning—many kids love the flavor!

How do you deconstruct tacos for toddlers?

Try offering small amounts of the taco’s components separately on a plate for toddlers. For example, you could place cooked ground meat, a slice of avocado, small scoops of salsa and sour cream, and a bit of shredded cheese on the child’s plate, as well as an age-appropriate piece of tortilla on the side. See our serving by age section for more details on how to offer deconstructed tacos that are safe for babies and kids.

Picky eating tips for interesting kids in tacos

If your child is hesitant to try tacos, giving them more control over their meal may help. Children can assist in making the menu for a “build your own taco” night by choosing and shopping for ingredients. They can also engage in safe, age-appropriate meal prep like crumbling cheese or putting fillings into bowls. When it comes to your child building their own taco, offer the fillings family-style, laid out in separate containers so that the child can choose what goes on their plate, and let them assemble and eat it how they want to, whether that’s all together or each component separately. It is okay if the child chooses to try only one or two ingredients, such as cheese or shredded meat. Being empowered with choice is still a positive experience with food.

How to serve tacos to babies and kids

6 to 8 months old: Cut a soft corn tortilla into halves or strips about the width of two adult fingers pressed together, then offer with fillings cut into age-appropriate sizes, such as avocado spears, chayote spears, cooked bell pepper strips, mashed beans, or sweet potato wedges. You can offer a small drizzle of crema, mole, or salsa once ingredients in the sauces have been safely introduced. Make sure any seasonings or sauces on baby’s food are low in sodium and suited to baby’s tolerance for spicy food. Try to avoid wheat tortillas at this age, as they tend to be higher in sodium and get gummier in baby’s mouth. Crispy or hard-shelled tacos pose a higher risk of choking, so hold off on serving these until age 2.

9 to 11 months old: Serve bite-sized pieces of soft corn tortilla and low-sodium fillings to encourage baby to practice their developing pincer grasp (where the index finger and thumb meet). Avoid flour tortilla and cubes of meat or cheese, as these foods pose a higher risk of choking. If you’re not sure how to prepare part of the taco, search for the specific food in the First Foods database to see age-appropriate serving suggestions. Continue to expose baby to a variety of fillings, flavors, and spices.

12 to 24 months old: Continue to offer bite-sized pieces of taco filling to hone the pincer grasp and encourage utensil practice. Soft corn or wheat tortillas may be offered whole or cut into strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together to help the child develop tearing and biting skills. Continue to avoid crispy or hard-shelled tacos due to choking risk. When you and your toddler feel ready, try offering a whole taco made with soft tortilla and fillings cut into age-appropriate sizes. The taco may fall apart, but that’s okay—practice is part of the journey. The smaller the taco, the more success a young toddler is likely to have in consuming it, so consider using small tortillas or cutting a taco in half.

24 months and up: At this age, feel free to serve whole tacos, but don’t worry if a child continues to deconstruct the taco and eat the components on their own. If your child has developed mature eating skills (taking small bites with their teeth, moving food to the side of the mouth when chewing, chewing thoroughly before swallowing, not stuffing food in their mouth, and spitting out food when it is not well chewed) they may be ready to practice eating hard taco shells, if desired. It’s important to note that swallowing part of an unchewed crispy taco shell can certainly be uncomfortable, but is most likely not harmful to the esophagus.

Prevent picky eating, help foster your child’s independence, and much more with our Toddlers at the Table bundle.

Recipe: Black Bean Tacos for Two

Yield: 3 tacos
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Age: 12 months+

Ingredients

This recipe contains a common allergen: dairy (queso fresco). Only serve to a child after this allergen has been introduced safely.

Directions

  1. Rinse the beans to remove excess sodium and mash them with lime juice, oil, and cumin. A little texture is okay.
  2. Scoop the beans onto corn tortillas: two for you and one for your toddler. If you want to offer the whole taco to your toddler, go ahead. It’s okay if the taco falls apart as the child eats. Alternatively, spread a thin layer of mashed bean on corn tortilla, then cut it into strips about the size of two adult fingers pressed together.
  3. Cut cooked bell pepper into bite-sized pieces to add to the tacos.
  4. Break queso fresco into small crumbles and finely chop cilantro leaves to sprinkle on top.

Serve the Tacos

  1. Offer a taco to your toddler, then let the child self-feed.
  2. If the taco falls apart as your toddler eats, let the child practice picking up the pieces of food. Alternatively, deconstruct the taco, then hold the tortilla or a pre-loaded utensil with bean or pepper in the air in front of the child and let your toddler grab it.
  3. Eat your tacos alongside the child to model how it’s done.

To Store: Black Bean Tacos are best enjoyed the day they are made. If you have leftover black beans, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for 2 months.

Flavor Pairings

Tacos pair well with avocado, beef, cilantro, pinto bean, queso fresco, and sweet potato.

Reviewed by

C. Aycinena, MS RD Dietitian and Public Health/Clinical Nutritionist

K. Tatiana Maldonado, MS, CCC-SLP, CBIS, CLEC. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT. Pediatric Feeding Therapist

Dr. S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Dr. R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Baker, S.S., Baker, R.D. (2015). Early Exposure to Dietary Sugar and Salt. Pediatrics, 135(3), 550-551. DOI:10.1542/peds.2014-4028. Retrieved August 17, 2022
  2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI: 10.17226/25353. Retrieved August 17, 2022
  3. Baker, S.S., Baker, R.D. (2015). Early Exposure to Dietary Sugar and Salt. Pediatrics, 135(3), 550-551. DOI:10.1542/peds.2014-4028. Retrieved August 17, 2022
  4. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. DOI: 10.17226/25353. Retrieved August 17, 2022