Teff

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 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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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that help baby poop. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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a small pile of teff grains on a white background ready to be cooked for babies starting solids

When can babies eat teff?

Teff may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Teff is a gluten-free grain that can be offered to those with celiac disease and/or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.1

Where does teff come from?

Humans learned to grow and harvest the world’s smallest grain thousands of years ago in the Horn of Africa, where teff originated. Over time, teff’s cultivation led to new varieties with black, brown, cream, or red hues and subtle variations in taste, from malty to nutty to slightly sweet. Farmers in the plant’s native region continue to produce most of the world’s supply, though new growers in Asia, Australia, and North America are helping to meet the increasing demand for the gluten-free grain. Like fonio and millet, teff contains more iron and protein than wheat and is versatile in the kitchen. Teff is often ground into flour to make injera, a spongy sourdough bread eaten with tibs (stir fry) or wat (stew) in Eritrea and Ethiopia, where the grain continues to be a staple food.

Maya, 6 months, eats teff in the form of injera.
Cooper, 10 months, eats teff porridge with peaches.
Hawii, 15 months, eats teff in the form of injera.

Is teff healthy for babies?

Yes. This grain is a great source of energy from carbohydrates and a good source of protein, containing all essential amino acids.2 Teff also has noteworthy amounts of zinc, iron, B vitamins including folate and, unlike many grains, even contains some calcium.3 Additionally, teff offers a wide range of plant nutrients, particularly polyphenols, which play a protective role in the body.4 5 For gluten-free families, teff is an excellent, nutrient-dense grain and flour option. Teff flour is typically whole-grain, and as nutritionally dense as the grain itself.6

Teff does contain phytates, which can reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food. Many of these plant compounds break down during the cooking process and are mostly harmless in healthy people when consumed as part of a balanced diet.7 8 Fermenting teff (as in the process of making the traditional food, injera) helps reduce phytates and improves nutrient absorption and digestion.9

★Tip: Store teff flour in the refrigerator or freezer to keep it fresh longer. Teff grains may be stored like other whole grains—in a sealed container away from heat and light.

Can babies eat injera?

Yes. Injera, a fermented bread made from teff flour, is a traditional food with origins in Eritrea and Ethiopia and is very nutritious for babies. For babies just starting solids, try rolling a large piece of injera into a stick shape that is easier for baby to hold and let them munch on the end. For older babies and toddlers, cut or tear injera into bite-sized pieces, or continue to offer a large piece and encourage the child to take bites.

Is teff a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Teff is not a common choking hazard, though in theory an individual can choke on any food. 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 teff a common allergen?

No. Teff is not a common allergen, although allergies to teff have been reported.10

Fortunately, since teff is wheat- and gluten-free, it is appropriate for individuals with wheat allergies, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity to consume.11

As with all new foods, introduce teff in small amounts and watch closely as baby eats to see if any adverse reaction occurs. If all goes well, gradually increase the serving size over time.

Can teff help babies poop?

Yes. Teff is an excellent source of fiber, particularly insoluble fibers (which help bulk up bowel movements) and polyphenols. Together, these qualities contribute to overall digestive health and bowel regularity.12 13 Note that pooping patterns can vary significantly from child to child. Be sure to talk to your pediatric healthcare provider if you have concerns about baby’s pooping and digestive function.

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

6 to 9 months old: Make teff porridge and serve it two ways: cooled and sticky so you can roll it into a ball for baby to grab (cooking with coconut milk or other milks will help it stick more—see recipe), and in a bowl for baby to scoop with their hands. Alternatively, pre-load a spoon with teff porridge and pass it in the air for baby to grab. You can also use teff flour as a binder in oatmeal balls, fritters, meatballs, and patties—or as the base for baked goods like injera bread or pancakes. If serving injera at this age, try rolling a large piece of it into a stick shape that will be easier for baby to hold and munch on.

9 to 12 months old: At this age, babies develop the pincer grasp (where the thumb and forefinger meet), which enables them to pick up smaller pieces of food. Use teff to make fritters, injera, pancakes, or patties, and break the food into bite-sized pieces before serving. Of course, you may continue offering teff porridge.

12 to 24 months old: Use teff as the base for sauces, stews, and stir-fries. Or make injera or another teff-based bread or pancake and show the child how to dip it into the sauce or stew and take a bite. Eat some alongside the child to model how it’s done!

For more information on the most important nutrients for babies, see our Nutrient Cheat Sheet for Babies.

What are recipe ideas for cooking with teff?

Teff works well in most recipes that call for grains. Swap corn for teff to make grits, polenta, or pone. Use teff in place of barley to thicken soups and stews. Skip the wheat and opt for teff to bind bean burgers, fish cakes, and meatballs. Mix teff with onion, garlic, and spices to make a base for a grain bowl or a stuffing for bell peppers, portobello mushrooms, or tomatoes. Experiment with teff flour in your baked goods, dumplings, and homemade pasta. If you’d prefer to follow tradition, look for inspiration in Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. Try it in recipes like genfo, a sticky porridge served with berbere spice and butter, or injera, the famous spongy sourdough bread.

Recipe: Coconut Teff Porridge Two Ways

a square white bowl filled with teff porridge next to a ball of the teff porridge for babies starting solids

Yield: 1 cup (240 milliliters)
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (63 grams) dry whole grain teff
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) unsweetened full-fat coconut milk (ideally from a BPA-free can)
  • ½ cup (120 milliliters) water
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon (14 grams) ghee, butter, or niter kibbeh (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (2 grams) ground-up peanut (optional)

This recipe contains common allergens: dairy (butter, ghee, or niter kibbeh), peanut, and coconut (coconut milk). Only serve to a child after these allergens have been safely introduced. While coconut allergy is rare, it’s classified as a tree nut by the United States Food and Drug Administration. 

Directions

  1. If you like, toast the teff to deepen the nutty flavor. Start by warming a dry skillet on medium heat for 2 minutes, then add the teff. Dry roast the teff until the grains start to pop, about 2 minutes.
  2. Pour the coconut milk and water into a saucepan, then stir in the toasted teff.
  3. If you like, add the cinnamon stick for extra flavor, use another favorite spice, or skip this step.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to create a steady simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to thicken into a porridge, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove the saucepan from the heat, discard the cinnamon stick, cover the saucepan, and let the porridge rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Scoop some porridge into baby’s bowl. Exact serving size varies. Let the child decide how much to eat.
  7. If you like, stir in ghee for extra flavor and nutrition.
  8. Use a spoon to scoop some porridge from the saucepan. Rest the spoon on the counter for a minute or two to cool, then use your hands to roll the porridge into a ball.
  9. If you like, roll the ball in finely ground peanut or any ground nut that has been safely introduced. If you are introducing peanut for the first time, use a scant amount – about ¼ teaspoon (~1 gram).
  10. Serve the porridge two ways—in the bowl and the ball placed next to it—and let baby try to self-feed. If you’d like to encourage baby to use utensils, pre-load a utensil and place it next to the food for the child to pick up. Alternatively, pass a pre-loaded utensil or the ball in the air for the child to grab.

To Store: Use any leftover Coconut Teff Porridge to make more balls, then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to 5 days.

Flavor Pairings

Teff pairs well with the flavors of beef, bell pepper, carrot, collard greens, ghee, and lentils.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS. Certified Nutrition Specialist®

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian & Nutritionist.

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

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

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

  1. Niro, S., D’Agostino, A., Fratianni, A., Cinquanta, L., & Panfili, G. (2019). Gluten-Free Alternative Grains: Nutritional Evaluation and Bioactive Compounds. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 8(6), 208. DOI: 10.3390/foods8060208. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  2. Gebremariam MM, Zarnkow M, Becker T. (2014). Teff (Eragrostis tef) as a raw material for malting, brewing and manufacturing of gluten-free foods and beverages: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 51(11):2881-95. doi: 10.1007/s13197-012-0745-5. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  3. Gebremariam MM, Zarnkow M, Becker T. (2014). Teff (Eragrostis tef) as a raw material for malting, brewing and manufacturing of gluten-free foods and beverages: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 51(11):2881-95. doi: 10.1007/s13197-012-0745-5. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  4. Shumoy, H., Raes, K. (2016). Antioxidant potentials and phenolic composition of tef varieties: An indigenous Ethiopian cereal. Cereal Chemistry 93, 5: 465-470. DOI: 10.1094/CCHEM-10-15-0210-R.  Retrieved February 25, 2022
  5. Upadhyay, S., & Dixit, M. (2015). Role of Polyphenols and Other Phytochemicals on Molecular Signaling. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 504253. DOI: 10.1155/2015/504253. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  6. Dingeo, C., Difonzo, G., Paradiso, V. M., Rizzello, C. G., & Pontonio, E. (2020). Teff Type-I Sourdough to Produce Gluten-Free Muffin. Microorganisms, 8(8), 1149. DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms8081149. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  7. Deol, J. K., Bains, K. (2010). Effect of household cooking methods on nutritional and anti nutritional factors in green cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) pods. Journal of food science and technology, 47(5), 579–581. DOI:10.1007/s13197-010-0112-3. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  8. Chitra, U., Singh, U., Rao, P.V. (1996). Phytic acid, in vitro protein digestibility, dietary fiber, and minerals of pulses as influenced by processing methods. Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 49(4), 307–316. DOI:10.1007/BF01091980. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  9. Dingeo, C., Difonzo, G., Paradiso, V. M., Rizzello, C. G., & Pontonio, E. (2020). Teff Type-I Sourdough to Produce Gluten-Free Muffin. Microorganisms, 8(8), 1149. DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms8081149. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  10. Wojas, O., Krzych-Fałta, E., Samel-Kowalik, P., Żalikowska-Gardocka, M., Majsiak, E., Mari, A., & Samoliński, B. (2020). A case of allergy to Silybum marianum (milk thistle) and Eragrostis tef (teff). Allergy, asthma, and clinical immunology : official journal of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 16, 23. DOI: 10.1186/s13223-020-00421-5. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  11. Niro, S., D’Agostino, A., Fratianni, A., Cinquanta, L., & Panfili, G. (2019). Gluten-Free Alternative Grains: Nutritional Evaluation and Bioactive Compounds. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 8(6), 208. DOI: 10.3390/foods8060208. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  12. Kumar Singh A, Cabral C, Kumar R, et al. (2019). Beneficial Effects of Dietary Polyphenols on Gut Microbiota and Strategies to Improve Delivery Efficiency. Nutrients. 11(9):2216. doi:10.3390/nu11092216. Retrieved February 25, 2022
  13. Carboni J, Reed S, Kolba N, Eshel A, Koren O, Tako E. (2020). Alterations in the Intestinal Morphology, Gut Microbiota, and Trace Mineral Status Following Intra-Amniotic Administration (Gallus gallus) of Teff (Eragrostis tef) Seed ExtractsNutrients. 12(10):3020. doi:10.3390/nu12103020. Retrieved February 25, 2022