When can babies eat zucchini?
Zucchini may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of zucchini
From curries to dolmas to ratatouille, zucchini shows up in dishes from all over the world. The dark green, oblong variety are popular, but zucchini comes in all sorts of colors, shapes, and sizes—a perfect pick for taste tests babies! It’s also a great way to teach older kids about history: this abundant summer squash has origins in Central America, where gourds have been grown for agricultural, ceremonial, and domestic purposes for thousands of years. A staple food for Native Americans, squash was brought by Spanish colonizers to Europe, where the gourds called ayohtli by the Nahuatl people of Mesoamerica changed in shape and size through cultivation by Italians, who called the squash by the diminutive of zucca, their word for squash. Today, zucchini have different names depending on where you live: calabacín, courgette, marrow, and quả bí ngòi to name a few.
Zucchini plants thrive in the sun and typically produce lots of fruit (yes, botanically speaking, zucchini is a fruit!), making this prolific squash an economical and nutritious addition to your baby’s diet. You can even eat the blossoms (delicious on frittatas, quesadillas, and pizzas) though they’re best reserved for toddlers who have developed chewing and swallowing skills.
Store your zucchini in a paper bag to keep it fresh! Zucchini needs access to air to slow down the skin from becoming slimy and soft.
Is zucchini healthy for babies?
Yes. Zucchini is loaded with beta-carotene that our bodies convert to vitamin A, which supports our immune system and powers our eyesight along with the lutein and zeaxanthin that are also present in the summer squash. Zucchini also offers plenty of vitamin C, which helps our bodies absorb iron from plant-based foods to create healthy blood cells. Lastly, zucchini contains vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K, and copper—important vitamins and minerals that your baby needs to thrive. Vitamin B6 is essential for brain development and folate is vital for growth, and both nutrients can be insufficient in toddlers’ diets.1
Is zucchini a common choking hazard for babies?
No. You won’t find zucchini listed as a common choking hazard, and the risk is low when the squash is cooked to a soft consistency. That said, an individual can choke on any food, so be sure to create a safe eating environment, always stay near your baby during mealtime, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Is zucchini a common allergen?
No. Cases of zucchini allergy have been reported but it is not a common allergen.2 However, individuals with ragweed allergy may experience symptoms of Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) after consuming raw or lightly cooked zucchini.3 4 Symptoms can include oral itching and tingling and occasionally mild abdominal pain. The good news is that Oral Allergy Syndrome is only rarely associated with serious reactions.
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 zucchini for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 months+: Cook zucchini and serve on its own as spears or sticks. Roasting or steaming spears of zucchini makes a great meal for baby and a delicious side dish for the rest of the family. And don’t bother peeling the skin—at this age, baby can scrape the soft zucchini flesh away from the skin and the skin will help it hold the piece together in baby’s hand. Shredded zucchini is another way to offer this nutritious vegetable to your baby. It can be served on its own with a pre-loaded spoon or easily mixed into other foods like grain dishes, mashed legumes or root vegetables, scrambled eggs, or yogurt.
9 months+: Once baby develops the pincer grasp (where the finger and thumb meet), try moving down in size to bite-size pieces of cooked zucchini. If you’d like to continue to offer cooked spears or sticks, by all means do so; these shapes offer great practice for learning how to bite, tear and spit, all critical skills for becoming a safe eater.
12 months+: Continue serving bite-size pieces of cooked zucchini and mixing this nutritious squash into your casseroles, egg, grain, and lentil dishes. At this age, zucchini fritters, noodles, or pancakes are a great choice, too. As your toddler grows older, keep introducing zucchini in identifiable ways, such as in roasted sticks described above to build familiarity with the squash in its whole form. It can be tempting to hide shredded zucchini in breads or muffins—a fine option when served in moderation—but offering the squash in this way may not build familiarity with the taste of zucchini on its own.
18 months+: At this age many toddlers are ready for raw zucchini. Try bite size pieces or sticks. A great pre-dinner snack! If you’ve mostly been doing bite size pieces of cooked zucchini up until now, try going back up in size to spears so your toddler can practice biting and tearing skills as well.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
Recipe: Zucchini Quinoa Fries with Yogurt Dip*
- 2 small zucchini
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs or cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chickpea flour or flour of choice (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced cilantro (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil, safflower oil, or high-heat oil
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit / 250 degrees Celsius. Grease an oven-safe dish or tray with a high-heat oil, such as avocado or safflower oil.
- Wash and dry the zucchini. Cut off the stem ends. Quarter the zucchini lengthwise, then cut crosswise to create spears that are about the length of your fingers. Set aside.
- Crack the egg in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine the yolk with the whites. Add the breadcrumbs (or cornmeal) to a separate shallow bowl and, if you’d like to add a little flavor and nutrition, mix in the quinoa, flour, herbs, and cumin. If the mixture is too clumpy, add more flour.
- To make the zucchini fries, dip each spear in egg, then roll in the breadcrumb mixture and place on the prepared tray. If the mixture is not sticking to a spear, use your hands to press breadcrumbs around the spear. Continue until all spears are coated.
- Bake until the fries are crispy and golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool before serving. Serve alongside the yogurt and encourage your baby to dip.*This recipe contains food allergens (egg, dairy, and wheat) so introduce with care.
Zucchini are mild in flavor and develop a slightly sweet taste when cooked, which makes the squash a versatile ingredient that can act as a blank canvas for your favorite flavors and seasonings. Try mixing cooked zucchini pieces into amaranth, quinoa, or your favorite grain; serving spears alongside iron-rich foods like black beans or lentils; adding shredded zucchini to eggs, or stirring zucchini into pasta.
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Dewey, K. G. (2013). The Challenge of Meeting Nutrient Needs of Infants and Young Children during the Period of Complementary Feeding: An Evolutionary Perspective. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(12), 2050–2054.
- Reindl, J., Anliker, M. D., Karamloo, F., Vieths, S., & Wüthrich, B. (2000). Allergy caused by ingestion of zucchini (Cucurbita pepo): Characterization of allergens and cross-reactivity to pollen and other foods. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 106(2), 379–385.
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved August 27, 2020
- Mayo Clinic. Food Allergy. Retrieved August 27, 2020