Can Babies Eat Pepperoni? Is It Safe? Pizza and More

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Pepperoni is a popular topping, whether on pepperoni pizza, consumed on crackers, or just on its own. However, is this beloved processed meat safe for your baby?

When it is cut into small bite-sized pieces, pepperoni is safe for babies who are at least ten months old. However, make sure it is cooked until steaming or until it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In this article, we will talk about the safety of pepperoni, the different forms of pepperoni, and the nutritional information. 

Can Babies Eat Pepperoni? When is it Safe? 

Babies can safely eat pepperoni when they are ten to 12 months old (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). First, make sure the pepperoni is chopped into small bite-sized pieces. Here we are referring to thin deli pepperoni slices, often used for pizza or sandwiches.

It is best to avoid giving your baby thicker and denser pepperoni sausages because they can be tougher to chew — unless sliced very thin. 

pepperoni pizza

If you would like to give pepperoni to a baby between six and nine months of age, you can puree the meat until smooth.

For babies who are six months old and just beginning to have solid food, make sure you add some breast milk or infant formula to make the puree a thin and watery texture (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). 

Since pepperoni is classified as a deli meat or a luncheon meat, it has an increased risk of contributing to foodborne illnesses, such as listeria monocytogenes.

Therefore, before chopping or pureeing your baby’s pepperoni, make sure to heat it until steaming hot or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (source: United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA]).

If cold pepperoni is served, it is best to heat it, such as in the microwave, because listeria can grow even in refrigerated temperatures. Reheating the meat will destroy the bacteria if it is present. However, this listeria is not a concern for kinds of foods containing cooked pepperoni, such as pizza.

Is Pepperoni Good or Bad for Babies? 

While pepperoni is safe when appropriate preparation measures are taken, such as heating and chopping, it may not be the most nutritious option for your baby. Pepperoni is highly processed and therefore is high in sodium and saturated fat.

For example, an ounce of pepperoni contains 13 grams of total fat, five grams of saturated fat, and a whopping 442 milligrams of sodium (source: United States Department of Agriculture [USDA]). 

Pepperoni pizza with olives  on the kitchen table

While pepperoni does contain some protein, vitamins, and minerals, excessive amounts of salt are not good for your baby’s kidneys (source: National Health Service [NHS]). At the same time, saturated fat can contribute to unhealthy weight gain.

Cured and processed meats, such as pepperoni, also contain nitrates and nitrites, which have been linked to health conditions, like thyroid problems, when consumed in excess (source: American Academy of Pediatrics). 

Therefore, it is best to replace pepperoni in your baby’s diet with other meats, such as chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, or lean beef. Hopefully, this article was helpful in discussing the nutritional implications and safety of feeding pepperoni to your baby.