Get all your burning questions about serving lentils to your baby answered! Regardless of whether you are doing purees or baby led weaning, these tips and EASY recipes will help boost your baby's iron levels while inviting fun and variety!
When can babies eat lentils?
Lentils 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.
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Are lentils good for babies?
Lentils are SO amazing for babies as they’re an excellent source of two most essential nutrients, iron and zinc. They are also high in protein and fiber and packed with B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium.
Iron is particularly important for babies starting at around 6 months as neither breastmilk nor formula alone are sufficient to meet the baby's high nutritional needs.
½ cup of cooked lentils provide about 3 milligrams of iron (varies slightly depending on the variety).
It is important to note that plant-based sources of iron aren't as easily absorbed compared to the animal products. One way you can enhance absorption is by pairing with vitamin C rich foods, like berries, mangoes, broccoli, and bell peppers. I can't emphasize this enough!
Related post: Best iron rich foods for babies and toddlers
What about antinutrients?
It’s true that legumes contain antinutrients, such as phytic acid, lectins, saponins, and tannins, that reduce the absorption of certain nutrients, including iron, zinc, and calcium.
However, many other healthy foods, like grains, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds all contain antinutrients. So does this mean we should limit or avoid them? Absolutely not.
Instead, always aim for variety and balance! Unless lentils are all you are serving to your baby, the benefits outweigh the risks of consuming antinutrients. Not to mention cooking will decrease the amount of antinutrients significantly.
All this to say, DON'T WORRY!
Which Lentils are the best for babies?
All varieties of lentils are an amazing first food with slight differences in the nutrients. Since introducing your baby to a wide variety of flavors and textures from the start is important in setting a strong foundation for healthy eating, I encourage you to try to introduce them all. They all have a unique flavor, color, and texture.
I will say that for the no-recipe recipes I'm sharing here, red and yellow lentils (moong dal) work best. They are smoother in texture so will be easier to shape into balls.
Note that yellow lentils and yellow split peas are not the same. Here’s a really great guide with pictures to explain the differences!
Do lentils cause constipation?
First, know that constipation is common and to be expected when your baby first starts solids. They’ve only been drinking breastmilk/formula up to this point and their digestive system needs time to adjust to processing real food.
Keep in mind that not having daily bowel movements is NOT a sign of constipation. If stool is soft and your baby doesn’t seem too distressed, there’s no need to worry. I
If your baby is in excessive pain or having hard/pebble-like poops then lentils can definitely help! That’s because it’s a great source of fiber.
There's no official recommended amount of fiber for babies. Fiber is great for the gut and overall health, but you do want to add them into your baby’s diet slowly. Not to mention, their tummies are small! And too much fiber can be too filling, leaving little room for other important nutrients.
Need to Presoak?
Unlike many other legumes, they don’t need to be soaked prior. If you’d like to you can. You do want to rinse before cooking to eliminate any impurities.
How to Cook Lentils for babies
Stovetop vs. Instant Pot
While you can cook in an Instant Pot, I recommend cooking on the stovetop because you'll have better control over the texture. While stirring, if desired texture has been reached, simply remove from heat and drain any remaining liquid.
Water to lentils ratio
Generally, the lentils to water ratio for cooking on the stovetop is 1:3. However, for these recipes, I suggest a 1:2 ratio. This will ensure that the lentils don't get too mushy. You want the texture to be slightly firm.
This is very important if you want to shape into balls as I suggest. You'll be adding other ingredients that will add moisture, so if the lentils are already mushy, then you won't be able to shape them into balls that can be picked up easily by tiny hands.
In other words, it's better for the lentils to be on the drier than mushy side.
Add lentils and water to a pot (make sure it's high enough to prevent overflow). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to LOW, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender/firm.
Yellow lentils: 20-25 minutes. I like to stir occasionally to check on the texture.
Red lentils: 5-7 minutes.
I suggest cooking a big batch to enjoy throughout the week. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze for up to 1 month. I recommend freezing in ¼-1/2 cup containers so that you can easily pull out single serving portions, whenever you need!
EASY lentil recipes for babies 6 months and up
What can you mix with lentils for baby food? Here are some fun ways to invite variety into your little one's diet! So EASY!
While I give measurements for the ingredients below, these really are no-recipe recipes. You can add more or less depending on your preferences.
How to serve to baby
If you're doing purees, add all the ingredients and blend until smooth. I do want to emphasize that it is really important to move forward with texture by 9 months.
If you feel like you're stuck on purees and need extra guidance, I'm here to help!
When you and your baby are ready, skip the extra step of blending and follow the instructions below. For baby led weaning, here are two options:
- Combine all the ingredients. Thin out with ingredients suggested below, if necessary. Serve in a bowl. Will be easy to scoop with their hands. Can also preload onto a spoon.
- Shape into balls (just like these oat balls). I recommend refrigerating for at least 30 minutes as doing so helps them to firm up and hold their shape better. These are especially great for babies just starting to self feed as they are easier for them to grab with their palm and bring to mouth.
Another recipe to try - Iron-rich Baby Pasta
As mentioned, you don't need to measure all the ingredients exactly. Taste as you go. If the mixture is too soft/mushy, simply add more lentils. You can also add ground nuts and/or seeds like flax seeds and hemp seeds.
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Lentils for babies
- 1 cup red or yellow lentils
- 2 cups water
- Add lentils and water to a pot (make sure it's high enough to prevent overflow). Bring to a boil, reduce heat to LOW, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender but not mushy. Stir occasionally.
- Cooking time for red lentils: 5-7 minutes / yellow lentils: 20-25 minutes.
- Combine ¼ to ½ cup cooked lentils with add-ins of choice. Suggestions below to help get you started.
- If you want to thin it out, add water, breastmilk/formula, or unsweetened full-fat milk of choice (you can use cow's milk in recipes. Just don't offer as a drink). If it's too soft/mushy, add more lentils and/or ground nuts/seeds.
- Serve in a bowl and allow baby to eat with their hands, preload onto a spoon, or shape into balls (refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The balls will firm up and hold shape better).
- 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon mashed banana
- 1 tablespoon hemp hearts
- ⅓ cup finely grated carrots
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 tablespoon ground walnuts
- 1 tablespoon finely minced beef
- 2 tablespoons chopped cooked broccoli
- 2 teaspoons tahini
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Cook a large batch of lentils to keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or the freezer for up to 1 month. I recommend freezing in ¼-1/2 cup containers (I like to use the tray above) so you can easily pull out single-serving portions and add all kinds of fun mix-ins.
- Once you add in the other ingredients, start by offering a small portion to your baby. You can always offer more as you follow your baby's lead. That way you can store untouched leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.