When can babies eat walnuts?
Walnuts may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age, as long as they’re finely ground or blended into smooth walnut butter (and then thinned out with breast milk, formula, or yogurt to reduce the choking risk).
Background and origins of walnuts
There are two major species of walnut: the widely available Persian walnut (native to the Middle East and now commercially cultivated around the world) and the less common black walnut native to North America. Both are equally delicious and can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Are walnuts healthy for babies?
Absolutely. Walnuts are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats like those found in avocado and olive oil. Walnuts are also one of the best plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids (critical nutrients to support your baby’s brain development) as well as a whole host of minerals and vitamins, including calcium, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc.
Are walnuts a common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. All nuts, nut pieces, and nut butters are choking hazards for babies and children.1 To prepare walnuts for a baby, finely grind them then sprinkle on avocado, banana, oatmeal, or another food, or serve as a nut butter thinned out with a liquid such as breast milk, formula, or yogurt.
Are walnuts a common allergen?
Yes. Walnuts are considered tree nuts, and all tree nuts (e.g., almonds, cashews, macadamias, pecans, pistachios, and more) are common food allergens. The good news: only 1 percent of the American population is allergic to tree nuts.2 The bad news: only 9 percent of children who are allergic to tree nuts will outgrow their allergy.3 And unfortunately, an allergy to one tree nut increases risk of allergy to another tree nut.4 If you have a family history of allergies or suspect your baby may be allergic to nuts, make an appointment with a pediatric allergist before introducing walnuts.
To introduce walnuts, start with scant amounts, such as ⅛ teaspoon of ground walnut sprinkled on your baby’s meal, and watch for any adverse reaction. If there is no reaction, gradually increase the amount over time, working your way up to 1 teaspoon of ground walnut sprinkled on other foods.
How do you prepare walnuts for babies 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 12 months old: Purchase smooth walnut butter or finely grind walnuts in a food processor until completely fine and no pieces remain. If you do not have a food processor, you can pound the nuts in a mortar and pestle (or with a end of a wine bottle!) until completely ground. When serving walnut butter, thin it with breast milk, formula, or yogurt to reduce the choking risk. When serving the ground nut, sprinkle a little in warm cereal or on fruit.
12 to 24 months old: Continue serving walnut butter that’s been thinned out with a liquid or sauce, or ground walnut sprinkled on other dishes and foods. At this age your baby is ready to try nut butter spread on toast. To serve, make sure the butter is very thinly spread and that no clumps remain.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Walnuts spoil easily and warm temperatures can cause the nuts to develop mold. Store walnuts in a cool, dry cupboard or in the refrigerator, where they should last up to one year.
Recipe: Walnut Pesto
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves (or arugula, kale, parsley, or any other leafy green)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic (optional)
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (optional, 12 months+)
- Add all of the ingredients with the zest and juice of half a lemon to a food processor.
- Pulse until ingredients are completely broken down and combined. Taste and adjust ingredients to reach your preferred flavor and texture.
- Serve with brown rice or pasta, or as a dip with steamed vegetables. Scoop extra pesto into a jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks, or in ice cube trays in the freezer.
Walnuts are quite versatile and taste particularly good with fruits like apple, apricot, and peach, grains like oats and brown rice, greens such as arugula and spinach, sharp cheeses like cheddar, as well as spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and pepper.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, HealthyChildren.org. Choking Prevention. Retrieved April 4, 2020
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Everything You Need to Know about Tree Nut Allergy. Retrieved April 4, 2020
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree Nut Allergy. Retrieved April 4, 2020
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Tree Nut Allergy. Retrieved April 4, 2020.