When can babies eat tofu?
Tofu is a processed product made from coagulated soy milk, similar to how cheese is made from milk. Also known as bean curd, it is sold as silken, soft, firm, extra firm and fermented. While the English name “tofu” is derived from the Japanese word for the food, tofu originated in China some 2,000 years ago.
Packed with nutritional value and ranging in texture, tofu may be eaten as soon as your baby is ready for solids, which is generally around 6 months old. Silken and soft styles can be mixed into other dishes, while firm tofu may be eaten as a finger food.
Is tofu healthy for my baby?
In moderation, organic tofu can be healthy for most babies. Tofu is an excellent source of calcium, iron, and zinc—nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive. Tofu also contains protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and all of the essential amino acids, which our bodies use to make proteins for developing cells and tissues. It’s important to buy organic tofu to minimize your baby’s exposure to toxins: upwards of 90% of all soy is genetically modified and sprayed with pesticides, both of which have been shown to contribute to a number of adverse health conditions, including (but not limited to) impaired liver and kidney function.1
If you can find it in the grocery store, purchase organic “sprouted” tofu for your baby. Though tofu contains valuable nutrients, it also is one of many foods with naturally occurring “antinutrients,” such as lectins, oxalates, and phytates. Antinutrients interfere in different ways with digestion and absorption of nutrients. Sprouted tofu is easier to digest because the antinutrients are partially broken down. As we age, this is less of a concern but for our little ones, sprouted tofu helps their bodies absorb the nutrients.
Is tofu a choking hazard for my baby?
Tofu is not on the list of common choking hazards, though any food can be a risk if not prepared properly for a baby. To minimize the risk of choking on tofu, cut it into wide, thin strips; chop it into little squares as finger food; or mash it and mix it into other dishes.
Is tofu a common allergen?
Yes. Tofu is made from soybeans, and soy is a common allergen. Tofu in restaurants also tends to be non-organic and prepared with other high allergenic foods (such as peanut and sesame oils) so introduce tofu on its own, at home, where you can isolate the ingredient and watch for any adverse reactions.
While soy is one of the most common allergens, less than one percent of children are allergic to it.2 Unfortunately, however, a large percentage of children with peanut allergies will also be allergic to soy. Unlike with peanuts though, about 50% of children outgrow their soy allergy by age seven.3
How do you prepare tofu as finger food for babies or with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. 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 cooked or raw tofu (“firm” styles will be easiest for your baby to pick up) in strips the size of an adult finger.
9 to 12 months old: At this age your baby’s pincer grasp is developing and as such it’s possible to move down in size to small cubes of food.
12 to 24 months old: Chopsticks time! At this age your toddler will have fun practicing with trainer chopsticks made for kids as well as forks. If your child is struggling with their fork, help them along by pre-loading it and resting it on the edge of the plate for them to pick up independently.
★Tip: When cooking with tofu, try using a spatula or a spoonula to stir it while cooking. Even firm tofu tends to break easily.
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Recipe: Peanut Tofu Cubes*
- 1 package extra firm or firm tofu
- Avocado or peanut oil
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- Slice the tofu into bite-size cubes and set aside on a paper towel.
- Heat a generous pour of oil in a wok or non-stick pan on medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gently add in the tofu, taking care not to break it. Using a spoonula, stir every couple of minutes until the tofu is lightly browned (this may take 10 minutes or so.)
- Mix 1 tablespoon peanut butter with a small pour of avocado or peanut oil and whisk until it becomes a sauce. Add the cooked tofu to the peanut sauce and gently mix to coat the tofu cubes in the peanut sauce.
Cool completely and serve as finger food or as cubes with baby forks.
*This recipe contains food allergens. Only serve after you have safely introduced peanut and soy and ruled out any allergy.
Tofu is versatile. It can be added to almost any dish, but in general, it pairs well with egg, garlic, ginger, miso paste, peanut oil, and sesame oil.
- Séralini, G., Mesnage, R., Clair, E. et al. Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environmental Sciences Europe 23, 10 (March 2011) doi:10.1186/2190-4715-23-10
- Soy Allergy. Food Allergy Research & Education. Retrieved November 11, 2019. (website)
- Savage JH, Kaeding AJ, Matsui EC, Wood RA. The natural history of soy allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. (Mar 2010) 125(3):683-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2009.12.994.