Introduce chicken to your baby with confidence with these cooking tips and recipes! Whether you are doing purees, baby led weaning, or both, chicken is a wonderful first food, loaded with iron.
When to introduce
Chicken can be offered to babies as soon as they’re ready to start solids, usually around 6 months. It’s important to remember that your baby is unique and that rather than going by the calendar, you need to make sure your baby is DEVELOPMENTALLY ready to start solids.
If you’re unsure, be sure to grab my FREE handout!
Just like with beef, chicken is an excellent source of iron, arguably THE most important nutrient for babies. It's also a great source of (highlighting a few):
- Zinc - Necessary for making protein and DNA, aids in immune function and cognition
- Choline, vitamins B6 and B12 - Important for optimal brain development, metabolism and maintaining a healthy nervous system.
- High-quality protein - Chicken contains all the essential amino acids, or building blocks, of protein that are necessary for our babies to grow and thrive!
Related: Best First Foods for Babies
Is chicken safe for babies?
First, I want to reassure you that babies do NOT need teeth to eat meat or any other finger food for that matter. You’ll be amazed by how strong and capable their gums are! Will your baby gag? Most likely, just like with any food, even purées! And this is actually a good thing!
I discuss more in this post - how to start baby led weaning.
However, you need to make sure chicken is cooked properly and served in an age-appropriate way.
I highly encourage you to Invest in a good meat thermometer so you can check the internal temperature for not only chicken but any meat/poultry.
Chicken is safe to eat when its juices run clear, the inside is no longer pink (although sometimes it can still have a pinkish tint), and the thickest part of the meat reaches at least 165° Fahrenheit.
How to serve the right size and texture
Top 4 Cooking Methods
Here are the top ways to prepare chicken, including the cooking times. I am specifically showing you how to cook chicken breast, as it is the most difficult cut to cook properly. Say no more to dry, tough meat.
Important tip: To avoid overcooking and uneven cooking, take the chicken out 30 minutes before cooking. Don't worry. It can safely sit on the countertop for up to 2 hours (or 1 hour if inside temperature is above 90°F). Otherwise, if you cook an ice cold piece of chicken, the outside will dry out before the inside gets fully cooked.
In a pot, place the chicken breasts in a single layer. Cover with water or broth. You can add some herbs or a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Make sure the thickest part of the meat reads 165°F.
Roasting (with a twist!)
Juicy, tender, flavorful chicken breast - here we go!
If you haven't tried steam roasting yet, you MUST! Here's an in-depth explanation of this cooking method.
It's seriously the BEST way to cook meat/poultry and vegetables for babies and toddlers!
Not only will it save you time and energy but it will also result in that perfectly safe texture for babies.
Another big advantage of this method is that you can season your chicken for extra flavor before putting it in the oven. I actually prefer this over poaching.
Simply add the chicken (seasoned or not) to a baking dish, cover, and allow for it to bake in its own juices!
Marinate with yogurt
I know it may sound strange BUT this method of cooking is AH-MAZING! Be sure to give it a try!
Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker
Add water to the IP, insert trivet, and add chicken. Cook on high pressure for 8-10 minutes. Once it beeps, wait 5 minutes then release pressure.
How to Serve for Baby Led Weaning
Cook the chicken using any of the methods above or try my recipes that your ENTIRE family can enjoy together (sharing below). Then make modifications according to your baby's age.
6-8 months baby
Chicken puree - Cook chicken and blend with broth, water, or breastmilk. Serve on its own or mixed with veggies. And don't forget to add seasonings.
Do keep in mind, it’s important to move forward with texture by 9 months at the latest. Here’s how to transition baby from puree to table food.
Serve as a finger food - Big strips (1-2 inch wide), drumstick, a whole meatball are all great!
I know this might sound counterintuitive, BUT bigger is better and safer for this age! Your baby will grab with their palm and suck on the juices, which is wonderful! Your baby is getting exposed to flavor, texture, and iron.
These are my top meatball recipes. You can easily substitute with ground chicken
- Asian Turkey Rice Meatballs
- Butternut squash baby beef meatballs
- Baked quinoa and mushroom meatballs
- Turkey beet meatballs
Finely chopped/minced - If you are anxious about serving a large piece, then go really small. You can do this by hand or I like to use this mini manual food chopper!
And then the sky’s the limit! Add to oatmeal, lentils, pasta, mashed avocado, etc.
8-12 months old baby
Once your baby is able to tear or break off a large chunk of meat, it is no longer safe. Go smaller by serving thinner strips (about the size of your pinky finger) or shred.
At this age, you can cut into bite-sized pieces, making sure they are not cubed. Also, encourage the use of utensils by providing them with plenty of opportunities to practice. Be consistent and patient as it's a skill that takes a while to master.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both dark and white meat are excellent! Dark meat does have a higher fat content, though, which helps keep the meat juicy and tender. But by following the cooking instructions I shared above, chicken breast can also provide a great flavor and texture experience for your baby.
Absolutely! I highly advise you to have fun with all kinds of herbs and spices! It's such an easy way to invite variety and flavor, without the use of salt.
You can slice, shred, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months
I've found that the best way is on the stove. Add enough water (or broth) to a skillet over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add chicken, cover, and cook until warmed through.
Transfer to a freezer safe bag or container. I recommend freezing in individual portions. It will keep for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
Chicken Recipes for Baby
Here are some baby-friendly dishes that the entire family can enjoy together! Once cooked, modify the chicken by following the serving suggestions according to your baby's age as mentioned above.
- Instant Pot peanut chicken
- Chicken quinoa spinach casserole
- Instant Pot Korean chicken and potatoes
- Orange sesame chicken with vegetables
- curry chicken avocado salad
- Low sodium moo goo gai pan
There are more recipes in my cookbooks.
- getting ready to start or at the beginning stage of introducing solid solids and feeling overwhelmed?
- stuck on purees and having a really difficult time transitioning to table food?
- or tired of serving the same foods on repeat and want to offer more variety of foods to your older baby or toddler?
Here's my 3 MONTH Baby Led Feeding Journey Program!
It's a complete roadmap that would show you through daily videos and photos of what foods and how to serve them to your baby AND the rest of the family at the same time. Everything you need to know all in one place!
Do you want to minimize picky eating and set a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits?
Check out this 3 month mastering self-feeding program! It’s the closest thing to me being in your kitchen
Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!
How to Cook Chicken for Babies
- 1 (6-8 ounce) chicken breast, or more if you want to make a large batch (See note)
- Optional: herbs and spices of choice, don't be shy
- Place chicken in a pot and cover with water. If cooking more than one breast, make sure to place them in a single layer.
- Bring water to a boil. Quickly reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. It's done when the thickest part of the meat reaches 165°F.
Steam Roasting Chicken
- Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly grease the bottom of a raised baking pan. Pat the chicken dry and rub with oil and any herbs/spices you desire.
- Place chicken in the pan and cover with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. You can use foil if you prefer.
- Place in the oven and cook for 25-35 minutes, until the thickest part of the meat reaches 165°F.
Instant Pot Chicken
- Place inner pot into the IP and pour 1 cup of water or broth. Place the trivet and place chicken (seasoned or not) on top of the trivet in a single layer. Close the lid.
- Make sure valve is set to sealing. Pressure cook on high for 8-10 minutes.
- When it beeps, allow the IP to release naturally for 5 minutes then quick release remaining pressure.
- Insert a thermometer and make sure the thickest part of the chicken reads 165°F. If not, secure the lid and cook for an additional 2-5 minutes on high pressure.
- Tip: save the liquid for homemade chicken broth! If you want to shred, leave about ½ cup liquid at the bottom of the pot, place chicken back in and shred.
- For all of these cooking methods, take the chicken out 30 minutes before cooking.
- Once done cooking, let it rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.
- You can slice, shred, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months
I kept it on manual mode and pressure cooked on high for 10 minutes. learned that i shouldn't microwave them to reheat but just steam them a bit.
Hey, I made chicken with yogurt marinade using insta pot. It turned out to be so tender and excellent for babies. Love the fact that I got some chicken broth too using this method. And it helps me keep chicken ready to add into pastas or anything I am whipping up fast. Thank you ❤️
Thanks for sharing! I will def need to try in the IP too! What setting did you use?