When can babies eat onions? It’s a question we’re often asked, particularly since onion is included in some recipes on our site. This page looks at how and when to introduce onion to baby, as well as some of the benefits of this veggie that make it a useful addition to baby’s menu.
PLEASE NOTE: The information given here is meant as a guide and does not replace professional medical advice. It is important to discuss the introduction of any new foods with your child’s doctor.
The humble onion forms the basis of recipes in just about every cuisine across the world. Cheap and abundant, onions add flavour to every dish in which they’re used… and a surprising amount of health benefits, too.
Onions are a member of the ‘allium’ family and are related to leeks, shallots, garlic and chives. The most common onions tend to be yellow, but onions come in a range of colours – and sizes.
The general information on this page applies to all onions, including red onions and green onions (also known as spring onions or scallions) – which are actually just regular onions harvested before the bulb is fully formed.
Onions are – unsurprisingly – not ideal served as one of baby’s first foods, but can be introduced at some point after 6 months of age, when baby is already enjoying a range of fruits and vegetables (with your doctor’s consent, of course).
The chief concern about introducing onion to baby is NOT the risk of allergy – allergy to onions is, thankfully, relatively rare – but is mainly the affect that they may have on baby’s digestive system. In some babies (and adults, too), onions may cause gas!
As with adults, the extent to which onions cause gas varies from child to child. The effect is less pronounced when onions are cooked rather than raw, so we definitely recommend giving raw onions a miss until your baby is at least 1 year of age.
But a small amount of cooked onion can be mixed with foods your baby is already enjoying once he’s comfortably digesting the more typical ‘first foods’. This tends to be at around 7 to 8 months of age.
By introducing just a little at first, you will be able to gauge if the onion has any adverse affect on your little one – if all is well, then you can begin including onion in larger quantities.
If you are concerned that your little one has a delicate tummy…
…then by all means wait until later to introduce him to onions. But do bear in mind that onions are not necessarily a ‘no-no’ in your baby food recipes – many babies around the world enjoy them from an early age without any detrimental side effects.
More advice about introducing the typical ‘gassy’ foods on our blog
Introducing new foods separately – what about onions, garlic etc?
More information about the research into the benefits of onions (external link)…
Quantitative evaluation of the antioxidant properties of garlic and shallot preparations
So which type of onions should you use in your homemade baby food recipes?
Well, in terms of their health benefits, shallots and pungent onions are best… but we preferred to start our little ones on the sweeter tasting varieties, like Spanish onions, Vidalia or Sweet Imperial.
The sweeter varieties are usually labelled as such in the stores – they also tend to be the most expensive!
Look for onions with dry, papery skins and no mouldy spots. They should feel firm – not at all squashy.
Keep your onions in a cool, dry place at home – a hanging wire basket is ideal because it allows the air to circulate. You don’t need to keep onions in the fridge (with the exception of green/spring onions, which won’t last long unrefrigerated).
You can also peel and chop onions and store them in the freezer. It can be a real time-saver… but do remember that this may cause a little nutrient and flavour loss.
When preparing onions for your little one, there’s one very important thing to remember –most of the ‘good stuff’ in an onion is contained in the outer layers!
Although the papery skin of an onion can be difficult to remove and it’s easier to pull of just the first couple of layers, don’t be tempted to do it! You’ll be losing LOTS of valuable nutrients!
When you cut an onion, you release gases that irritate your eyes. Here are a few steps to keep the problem to a minimum…
Another common suggestion is to cut the onion under running water… BUT this can make the onion mushy AND it may wash away some of the water-soluble nutrients.
One of the easiest ways to cook onions for your baby is to saute them over a low heat in a little olive oil until tender and golden. Another yummy method – which really brings out their sweetness – is to cut them into wedges and roast them at around 350 deg F for about 45 to 50 mins.
Sauted or roasted onions can really add flavour to an otherwise bland dish and we’ve never hesitated to add them to all sorts of foods for our little ones, from savoury to sweet! Broccoli, apple and onion puree has been a big hit with all our babies, for example!
Onions also make a tasty way to add interest to grains – just try sauteing them in a low sodium or homemade stock instead of oil, then mixing with rice or barley, for example. Yum!
And, of course, onions can form the basis for your stocks themselves, as well as homemade soups and stews.
And one of the great things about preparing dishes like these with onions is that the water soluble nutrients of the onions don’t go to waste. They leach into your cooking liquid and are then consumed by your little one!
This is a method for cooking delicious onions which can then be added to other dishes. Vidalia onions are perfect for this method of cooking!
1 large onion
pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp unsalted butter
4 oz (1/2 cup) cooked, fresh peas or frozen peas (thawed)
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp unsalted butter
4 fl oz (1/2 cup) water
2 fl oz (1/4 cup) milk or soy milk (or, for a treat, cream!)
A simple finger food for older babies who are biting and chewing confidently.
1 large onion
2 fl oz (1/4 cup) natural yogurt
1 oz (1/4 cup) whole wheat flour
4 oz (1/2 cup) dried whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp wheat germ
The goodness of garlic for baby (from our blog)
Lentil baby food – information and ideas