Can Babies Eat Pesto? Safety and Best Types

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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With all of its ingredients to keep track of, such as pine nuts, oil, and cheese, it makes sense that you may be uncertain if you can feed your baby pesto. 

Overall, pesto is safe for your baby as long as it is relatively ground up and smooth. However, only give them a little bit at a time because of the high salt content. 

Read on for more information about the types of pesto that are best for your baby and how to serve it to them safely. 

Is Pesto Safe for Babies to Eat? 

In general, pesto is safe for babies to eat and also provides them with healthy fats. Ensure the pine nuts are ground up well for homemade pesto to reduce the risk of them choking on large nut pieces. 

However, pesto can be very high in sodium, which is not healthy for babies. Therefore, make your own at home if you can and only serve it in small amounts. 

Traditional pesto is usually made with the main ingredients of basil, pine nuts, oil, and cheese. 

homemade pesto sauce with basil and pine nuts in white mortar

Basil is a leafy herb that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K. Basil also contains antioxidants, which can protect against inflammation and oxidative stress in the body (source: Journal of Food Science and Technology). 

Additionally, pesto typically contains extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil is an excellent source of healthy fats that your baby needs to grow. However, too much of these fats can be unhealthy for them.

Pesto also often contains parmesan cheese, which is safe for babies but is high in saturated fat, which should be limited. 

The primary ingredient of concern for parents of young babies is pine nuts. Pine nuts are a part of the tree nut family, one of the top most common allergens. In addition, many pesto brands contain cashew nuts, which is another tree nut.

So, should you avoid feeding your baby pesto in case they are allergic? No! It is now advised to expose your child to common allergens, such as tree nuts, to allow them to become tolerant to the food. It may even prevent food allergies (source: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). 

Of course, this advice does not apply to babies who have been formally diagnosed with a tree nut allergy. 

It is simply important to keep your eye out for symptoms of a food allergy, such as hives, rashes, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, and more (source: American Academy of Pediatrics). If you notice these signs, contact your baby’s pediatrician. Likewise, if you notice breathing problems, seek medical attention immediately. 

Start with a small amount and gradually increase over time as you notice no reaction.

What’s The Best Kind of Pesto for Babies? 

While store-bought pesto is easy and convenient, the healthiest pesto you can give your baby is one you make at home. 

With homemade pesto, you can add less oil to lower the amount of fat your baby is consuming. Additionally, put less salt since store-bought, and commercially-made pesto tends to be high in salt. 

On that note, if you purchase store-bought pesto, just make sure you feed small amounts less frequently since it is difficult to find a “Low-sodium” pesto brand at the typical grocery store. 

pesto pasta with basil

Dishes Containing Pesto for Babies

Since we typically imagine pasta when we think of pesto, it is important to note that pasta with pesto sauce is also safe for babies at the appropriate age.  

Babies typically begin having soft and chewable pieces of food around ten months old (source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

Make sure the pasta is very soft and well-cooked. Avoid long pasta and stick with smaller pieces such as macaroni noodles or small elbow noodles. Additionally, you could cut up long pasta such as linguine or spaghetti. 

At this age, pesto pasta can be a good option for baby-led weaning because your baby can easily grasp and pick up the noodles. 

Before the finger-foods stage at ten months old, you can still give your baby pesto since it is a pureed consistency. However, avoid feeding pasta until they are eating chewable pieces of food. 

I hope you found this article informative on how to safely and healthfully feed your baby pesto.