Zucchini

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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two raw zucchini before being prepared for babies starting solid food

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. 

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.

Money Saver Icon 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.

Kalani, 6 months, eats cooked zucchini for the first time.
Amelia, 6 months, eats cooked zucchini for the first time.

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 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 below.

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

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?

6 to 12 months old: Cook zucchini to a soft consistency and serve on its own as spears or sticks. Roasting or steaming sticks of zucchini makes a great meal for a baby and a delicious side dish for the rest of the family. And don’t bother peeling the skin—at this age, your baby may scrape the soft zucchini flesh away from the skin… and maybe even spit out the skin. Once your baby develops the pincer grasp (where the finger and thumb meet), try moving down in size to bite-size pieces. 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.

12 to 18 months old: 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 baby 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 to 24 months old: At this age, you’ll likely be able to increase the size of the zucchini pieces that you are serving as your toddler may be getting better at tearing apart and taking bites of food. Zucchini sticks are a fun way to serve the squash, and zucchini fritters and pancakes are still a great way to go. Try serving bite-size pieces of cooked zucchini in your favorite dish to put the spotlight on all of zucchini’s glory! Depending on your baby’s chewing skills, by 24 months you may be able to introduce sticks of raw zucchini as a snack to dip in hummus or nut butters!

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

Zucchini Quinoa Fries with Yogurt Dip*

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Flavor Pairings

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.

Reviewed by:

Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS

Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD

Kary Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. 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. 
  2. 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.
  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved August 27, 2020
  4. Mayo Clinic. Food Allergy. Retrieved August 27, 2020