Vinegar

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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a small glass pitcher a third full of balsamic vinegar

When can babies have vinegar?

Vinegar may be introduced as an ingredient in solid food in small amounts as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Just read labels to ensure the vinegar does not contain honey, which is unsafe for babies under 12 months of age, and know that the acidity may irritate baby’s skin and cause a harmless facial rash. Acidic foods can also cause or worsen diaper rash when consumed in excess.

How is vinegar made?

An ancient ingredient, vinegar is made when bacteria convert the sugar in foods or liquids into an acid with a distinctive tart and tangy flavor. A diverse array of foods can provide the source material for vinegar, changing the taste and nutritional profile of the final product: some are made from grapes (like balsamic, champagne, raisin, sherry, and wine vinegars), some made from other fruits (like apple cider or persimmon vinegars), and others from grains (like distilled, malt, or rice vinegars).

Mila, 11 months, eats a pickle spear (cucumber pickled in vinegar).
Cooper, 19 months, tastes vinegar mixed with beans, tomato, and mozzarella after seeing his mom model trying the dish.
Julian, 2.5 years, eats a pickle (cucumber pickled in vinegar).

Is vinegar healthy for babies?

In moderation. Vinegar used as an ingredient in meals offers plenty of benefits for baby. Each variety contains different nutrients based on the fruit or grain that was fermented, as well as amino acids and other unique flavor compounds, like polyphenols.1 Generally, vinegar is known to improve digestion and help break down carbohydrates and proteins.2 3 4 5 Some vinegars, including apple cider vinegar, can help reduce inflammation in the body.6

Vinegar’s high acidity can cause health issues including tooth erosion and digestive upset when consumed in excess, so do not use vinegar as a home remedy for children or serve vinegar on its own in large amounts.7

★Tip: When shopping for vinegar, read the ingredients and avoid products that contain honey (which carries the risk of infant botulism for babies under 12 months of age) and added sugar.

When can kids have vinegar in drinks?

After a child’s first birthday, vinegar-based drinks (vinegar tonics, vinegar tea, etc.) can be offered in small amounts, diluted with water, in an open cup. Because vinegar is highly acidic, it may cause tooth erosion and digestive upset when consumed in excess, unless watered down significantly.8 9

Does vinegar contain alcohol?

Some vinegars do contain alcohol, but only in trace amounts. Unless alcohol has been added, most vinegars are safe to share with baby when small amounts are used in an age-appropriate way, such as in dressings or cooked dishes.10

Does balsamic vinegar contain lead?

Yes, in very small amounts. However, as long as baby is not consuming excessive amounts of balsamic vinegar and has an overall varied diet, balsamic vinegar is perfectly safe to offer babies. Many foods contain heavy metals in trace amounts, and vinegar is a concentrated form of grapes, so whatever heavy metals are present in the grapes will get concentrated in the final product.

Can babies have vinegar that contains sulfites?

Yes, as long as the child does not have a sensitivity to sulfites. Sulfites are naturally present in many vinegars and are also added to other foods as a preservative.11 12 Sulfite quantities in foods and their impact are a topic under consideration by some regulatory bodies. In the United States, sulfites are generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration when used according to legal regulations such as to preserve certain foods.13

In sensitive individuals, consuming sulfites can cause an allergy-like reaction and cause asthma flare-ups. If you suspect baby is sensitive to sulfites or would like to avoid them, look for the phrase “contains sulfites” on labels and avoid. If sulfites are a concern, avoid ingredients such as sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfate, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite to name a few and talk to your pediatric healthcare professional for further guidance.14

Is vinegar a common choking hazard for babies?

No, though in theory an individual can choke on any food or liquid. 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 vinegar a common allergen?

No. Allergic reactions to vinegar are rare. However, vinegars are commonly preserved with sulfites. In sulfite-sensitive individuals, consuming sulfites can cause an allergy-like reaction and/or asthma flare-ups. If you suspect baby is sensitive to sulfites or would like to avoid them, read labels for the phrase “contains sulfites.”

Note that vinegars may also have added ingredients that contain common food allergens, so be sure to read ingredient lists thoroughly.

Vinegar is naturally high in histamine and can also promote the release of histamine from white blood cells in the body’s tissues.15 In sensitive individuals, excessive intake of high-histamine foods can result in symptoms similar to those of an allergic reaction, such as rashes and gastrointestinal discomfort. If you find that your baby is sensitive to foods that are high in histamine, symptoms may be alleviated by offering the food in smaller quantities.

Although not an allergic reaction, acidic foods like vinegar can cause contact skin rashes. If this occurs, consider applying a thin layer of a barrier ointment, such as pure petroleum jelly or a plant-based oil/wax combination, to baby’s skin before meals and clean up shortly after eating to minimize the reaction. Acidic foods can also cause or worsen diaper rash when consumed in excess. If this occurs, apply a thick barrier cream or ointment to the diaper area and limit prolonged contact with a wet/dirty diaper. As always, talk to your pediatric healthcare professional for individualized guidance and care.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity of vinegar for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

Can vinegar help babies poop?

No. Despite the fact that vinegar is a fermented food, vinegar has little to no effect on poop frequency or consistency when consumed in normal amounts (small quantities).

How do you introduce vinegar to babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 12 months old: Use any form of vinegar, in small amounts, as you normally would in cooking: mixed into marinades and sauces, drizzled on fruits and vegetables, or to pickle foods. Read labels to ensure that the vinegar does not contain honey, which is not safe for babies under 12 months, and check for common food allergens that have not yet been safely introduced. At this age, refrain from offering vinegar as a drink.

12 months old and up: Continue cooking with vinegar as desired in meals, experimenting with different types of vinegar to enhance baby’s palate and build appreciation for tart and sour flavors. At this age, you may also introduce vinegar as a beverage in small amounts in an open cup and only when diluted significantly with water to reduce acidity.

Learn about what to feed vegan and vegetarian babies in our guide, Best & Worst Plant-Based Foods for Babies.

Recipe: Baby's First Pickle

five pickled cucumber spears on a marble background for babies starting solids

Yield: ½ c (120 ml)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Age: 6 months+

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Cut the cucumber into age-appropriate sizes.
  2. Toss the cucumber and vinegar in a bowl.
  3. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Wash, dry, and finely chop the dill fronds.
  5. Mix the olive oil and chopped dill into the cucumbers.

Serve the Cucumber

  1. Offer some quick-pickled cucumber to baby and let the child self-feed.
  2. If help is needed, pass a cucumber in the air for baby to grab from you.
  3. Eat some pickles alongside baby to model how it’s done.

To Store: Quick-pickled cucumbers keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.

Flavor Pairings

Vinegar pairs well with the flavors of broccoli, cabbage, garlic, lemon, onion, and tomato.

Reviewed by

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

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP. Board-Certified Pediatric Dietitian and 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. Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019). Vinegar. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  2. Pownall, H. J., Rosales, C., Gillard, B. K., & Gotto, A. M., Jr (2015). Alcohol: a nutrient with multiple salutary effects. Nutrients, 7(3), 1992–2000. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu7031992. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  3. Urbinati, E., Di Nunzio, M., Picone, G., Chiarello, E., Bordoni, A., & Capozzi, F. (2021). The Effect of Balsamic Vinegar Dressing on Protein and Carbohydrate Digestibility is Dependent on the Food Matrix. Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 10(2), 411. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods10020411. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  4. Johnston, C. S., & Gaas, C. A. (2006). Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine, 8(2), 61. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  5. He, H., Wang, L., Qiao, Y., Zhou, Q., Yang, B., Yin, L., Yin, D., & He, M. (2021). Vinegar/Tetramethylpyrazine Induces Nutritional Preconditioning Protecting the Myocardium Mediated by VDAC1. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2021, 6670088. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/6670088. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  6. Yagnik, D., Serafin, V., & J Shah, A. (2018). Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1732. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  7. May, M. E. Vinegar is not always safe. National Capital Poison Center. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  8. Vinegar. Missouri Poison Center. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  9. Anderson S, Gonzalez LA, Jasbi P, Johnston CS. (2021). Evidence That Daily Vinegar Ingestion May Contribute to Erosive Tooth Wear in Adults. J Med Food. 24(8):894-896. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2020.0108. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  10. Tan, S. C. (2005). Vinegar fermentation. Louisiana State University. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  11. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). Sulfites: A sensitive issue. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  12. Vally H, Misso NL. (2012). Adverse reactions to the sulphite additives. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 5(1):16-23. PMID: 24834193; PMCID: PMC4017440. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  13. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2011). Sulfites: A sensitive issue. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  14. Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Sulfite sensitivity. Retrieved July 11, 2022
  15. Kacik J, Wróblewska B, Lewicki S, Zdanowski R, Kalicki B. Serum Diamine Oxidase in Pseudoallergy in the Pediatric Population. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1039:35-44. doi: 10.1007/5584_2017_81. PMID: 28804811. Retrieved July 11, 2022