Turmeric

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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Common Allergen: No
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Whole turmeric before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat turmeric?

Turmeric can be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.

Background and origins of turmeric

Turmeric is a tropical plant in the ginger family that is native to southeast Asia and thrives all over the world in warm climates with lots of rain. While its leaves are edible, the plant is often cultivated for its rhizomes, which are root-like stems that grow below ground and are used to make dye, food, medicine, and ceremonial symbols. Golden yellow in color and earthy in taste, turmeric can be consumed fresh, pickled, or dried and ground into a powder that is used as a spice in cooking. Turmeric is included in advieh, curry, ras el hanout, vadouvan, and many other spice blends.

While turmeric has been revered in Indian and southeast Asian cultures for centuries, in recent years the plant has grown in popularity around the world. Turmeric now shows up in all sorts of products, from beauty supplies to health supplements. For our purposes, the information here refers to the ground spice made from the dried rhizome. Talk to a pediatrician before giving your baby a supplement made with turmeric (or any supplement for that matter).

★Tip: To remove turmeric stains from clothes, try sprinkling baking soda or corn starch on the fabric and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Then soak the affected area in white vinegar for up to an hour. White vinegar can also help to remove stains from plates and countertops.

Hawii, 15 months, tastes pickled turmeric and doesn’t like it.
Adie, 23 months, eats salmon and squash seasoned with turmeric.

Is turmeric healthy for babies?

Yes. A dash of turmeric in food is a perfectly healthy addition to your baby’s diet. Turmeric contains iron and manganese and studies show that small amounts of turmeric added regularly to one’s diet have beneficial effects.1

Turmeric also contains curcumin, a naturally occurring chemical that is believed to alleviate inflammation, provide the body with antioxidants, regulate blood sugar, improve cell functionality, and support digestive and brain health. Interestingly, however, our bodies have a hard time on their own absorbing curcumin, which is why turmeric is often coupled with other ingredients that help increase the bioavailability. One of them is black pepper: it’s been found to increase bioavailability by up to 2,000 percent.2 Not a fan of black pepper? Don’t worry: turmeric is still a healthy spice to add on its own to your food. Just be sure to purchase your spice from a reliable supplier. Spices like turmeric are sometimes supplemented with lead and other heavy metals for financial gain during the trade process.3

Is turmeric a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Ground turmeric is not a choking hazard, though fresh turmeric (which looks a lot like fresh ginger) can be if babies get their hands on it. Always stay near your baby during meal prep and mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

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

Is turmeric a common allergen?

No. Allergies from ingesting turmeric are not common, though it may cause a rash on skin it touches.4 This is usually not a true allergic reaction, though in theory, an individual can be allergic to any food. As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

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

6 to 12 months old: Season your baby’s food with turmeric in small amounts as desired. Turmeric tastes great with a number of foods that are healthy and easy for babies to self-feed at this age, including cauliflower, salmon, sweet potato, tofu, and Greek yogurt. Just keep in mind that it easily stains little hands, textiles, and almost anything it touches!

12 to 18 months old: Curry time! This is a great age to explore a wide range of spices, including those featured in curries. When serving spicy foods with heat to your toddler, it’s a good idea to give them a heads up to expect the flavor sensation and ensure other foods are available at the same time. You can also add yogurt or sour cream to ease any burn from a spicy dish.

18 to 24 months old: Try adding turmeric to your next smoothie! Just a pinch can add a boost of antioxidants. While technically toddlers can consume smoothies at 12 months of age, we find it’s best to wait until closer to the 18-month mark, so that drinks don’t replace opportunities to practice chewing and swallowing. After all, starting solids is all about weaning toddlers from a liquid diet!

★ Want more guidance as baby starts solids? Check out our comprehensive Video Library for on-demand videos on topics from responsive food feeding to introducing allergens.

Recipe: Turmeric Salmon with Golden Rice

a small pile of rice cooked with turmeric and golden raisins next to three finger-sized pieces of salmon cooked with turmeric and lemon

Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rice of your choice
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup chopped golden raisins
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 lemon

Directions

  1. Make the rice. Start by rinsing the rice in a colander until the water runs clear below it. Add the rice to a pot along with the 2 cups of water.
  2. Cover the pot and bring it to boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until rice is chewy and all water has evaporated, about 25 to 30 minutes. The time will depend on the variety of rice being used. When the rice is finished, remove from heat. Stir in golden raisins and pinches of black pepper and turmeric. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the salmon while the rice is cooking. Start by pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees. Use a little butter or cooking oil to grease the bottom of a casserole dish or baking sheet with rims.
  4. Rinse the salmon fillets and pat them dry, and make sure all bones have been removed. Then place them on your baking vessel, skin side down. Dust each fillet with the spices. Place two lemon slices on top of each fillet. Use a cheese grater to shred the butter and sprinkle the flakes over the top of the fillets.
  5. Bake the salmon fillets, uncovered, until fully cooked, between 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. You can test for doneness by gently inserting the tip of a knife into the thickest part of the fillet and twisting slightly to separate the flakes. If the interior flesh is opaque and no bright pink color remains, the fish is done.
  6. Scoop a little rice onto your baby’s plate, along with the salmon. Be sure to remove any lingering bones and section the fish into small pieces for your baby. Spoon the butter sauce from the pan over the fish, then serve immediately. If you like, add a dollop of plain, Greek yogurt as a garnish to the meal.

Note: We generally suggest waiting until 18 months+ to introduce raisins as they are a choking hazard and high in sugar. That said, chopping and cooking them significantly reduces the risk.

Flavor Pairings

Turmeric has a musky, earthy flavor that goes well with sweet and savory dishes alike. Try it with chickpeas, chicken, and cauliflower, grains and rice, and almost any fish. It also pairs beautifully with other spices and fats, such as whole milk, yogurt and coconut cream.

  1. Prasad S, Aggarwal BB. Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 13. Retrieved July 10, 2020
  2. Hewlings, S.J., Kalman, D.S. (2017). Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods, 6(10), 92. doi:10.3390/foods6100092. Retrieved July 7, 2020
  3. Cowell, W., Ireland, T., Vorhees, D., & Heiger-Bernays, W. (2017). Ground Turmeric as a Source of Lead Exposure in the United States. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 132(3), 289–293. doi.org/10.1177/0033354917700109. Retrieved July 7, 2020
  4. Chaudhari, S. P., Tam, A. Y., & Barr, J. A. (2015). Curcumin: A Contact Allergen. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 8(11), 43–48. Retrieved July 7, 2020