21 Baby Friendly Herbs and Spices to add to food

By Hannah Whittaker RD, PGDip | Feb 23, 2024

When introducing your baby to solid foods it can be an exciting and daunting time. Are they ready for weaning? What should you give first when starting solids? and Do I start with puree or finger foods? Another question that that I get asked frequently is,  Can I add herbs and spices to my baby’s food? 

Have you ever tried a plain baby puree? At the start it’s fine but imagine having the same flavour all the time, it can get a little boring. Adding a tasty herb or aromatic spices to your baby’s food is a new window and a great opportunity to support their taste development!

But what can you add to your baby’s diet? Are all herbs and spices safe? Let’s find out.

When can I start adding herbs and spices to my baby’s food?

The short answer is as soon as you start weaning.  Did you know that your little one has been able to taste the foods that you have been eating during pregnancy? If you had a spicy curry or  eaten Thai food flavoured with lemon grass and garlic, then your baby has been able to taste this in the amniotic fluid whist in the womb. 

This is also the same if you are breastfeeding. Your baby will be able to taste the different flavours in your breast milk. This is why having a variety of foods during pregnancy is a wonderful way to make sure your diet is balanced but also you’re developing your baby’s palate in the womb. 

What herbs and spices can babies have?

When your baby starts weaning I advise parents to add in a small quantities of herbs and spice to their foods and don’t be scared to explore the variety of different flavors. A pinch of spice or the addition of herbs can also have a variety of health benefits due to their antioxidant properties that can help to support your baby’s immune system. 

What herbs and spices are safe for babies?

Trying dried and fresh herbs in your baby’s meal as soon as you start weaning can be a great way to add a little excitement to bland baby food. They can be added to savory dishes or fruit purees, the options are endless.

Just be aware that some little ones can have an allergic reaction to herbs and spices (although rare) so I’d advise to introduce them slowly and seek help if you suspect a reaction.

21 Baby Friendly Herbs and Spices

Fresh Herbs

HerbTypeTasteSmellFoods to Add toHealth Benefits
BasilHerbMildly sweet with a hint of of mint.Aromatic, slightly sweet. Pureed vegetables, pasta sauce or mix with plant based soft cheese. Contains vitamins A and K, and also small amounts of Vitamin C to support the immune system. 
ChivesHerbMild onion flavour with a hint of garlic.Fresh and oniony, but milder than full-grown onions. Pureed potatoes, scrambled eggs or mashed vegetables. Contains fibre, folate, Vitamins A & C vitamin K and are also high in antioxidants. 
DillHerbFresh and slightly sweet, with a hint of citrus. Aromatic with a hint of citrusAdd to savoury dishes such as Carrots, potatoes or in white sauce with fish. Contains calcium, iron, and has also been known to support the digestive system. 
MintHerbRefreshing, cool, and slightly sweet flavour.  Cooling, and refreshingPureed carrots, peas, lentils, or in casserole. You could also try a little in some plant based soft cheese. Can help with digestive problems such as gas and reflux. 
ParsleyHerbMildly bitter with a fresh flavour and a hint of peppery spice.Fresh, grassy, and slightly peppery.Pureed peas, chicken, potato, fish, vegetable dishesContains vitamin K, beta carotene to support vision and can help to support the immune system. 
RosemaryHerbWoody, piney, and slightly bitter. Aromatic, pine-like, and slightly floral smell. Pureed potatoes, lamb casserole, and broccoliRich in antioxidants may have anti-inflammatory properties to support the immune system
SageHerbSavoury and slightly peppery, with a hint of eucalyptus and citrus. Aromatic, earthy, very similar to rosemary. Pureed chicken, butternut squash, sweet potato Contains vitamin K, can add a savoury flavor to sweeter dishes.
ThymeHerbHints of lemon and mint.Aromatic, and slightly floral with hints of citrus.Pureed butternut squash, chicken, soups and stews. Contains vitamin C, iron, and has antimicrobial properties.
Herbs and Spices for Babies

Dried 

Herb/SpiceTypeTasteSmellFoods to Add toHealth Benefits
Bay leafHerbSubtle, earthy, and slightly bitter, with a hint of sweetnessAromatic, herbal, and slightly floral.Bay leave are added to Soups, stews, rice dishes, fish pie but should be removed before eating. Contains antioxidants, Vitamin A & E to support the immune system. 
CardamomSpiceSweet, warm, and slightly spicy. Aromatic, sweet, and slightly peppery with hints of citrus and herbs.Rice cereal, oats, pureed fruit – don’t give whole cardamon pods to babies as can be a choking hazard. Contains fibre and has antibacterial and supports the immune system.  
CinnamonSpiceWarm, sweet, and slightly spicy, with hints of woodiness and floral notes.One of the fragrant spices. Sweet, spicy, and aromatic. Oats and porridge, yogurt, muffins, cookies, lentil dishes. You’ll only need a small amount due to it’s bold flavours. Rich in antioxidants, may help to support the immune system. 
CorianderSpiceWarm, citrusy, and slightly sweet. Aromatic, citrusy, and slightly spicy with hints of sweetness.Pureed lentils, rice, bean dishes, mashed vegetables. Contains Vitamin C, K & A. Coriander can also be found fresh. 
CuminSpiceEarthy, nutty, and slightly spicy. Aromatic, warm, and slightly smoky with hints of earthiness.Pureed lentils, rice, cauliflower, carrots, lentilsContains iron, may aid digestion, and has a warm, earthy flavor.
FennelHerbSweet, slightly licorice-like, and herbal. Aromatic, sweet, and slightly licorice-like. Pureed carrots, squash, white flaked fish. Contains vitamin C and antioxidants, may aid digestion, and has a mild licorice flavor. Should be used in moderation due to high level of nitrates if given in large amounts.
Garlic powderSpiceStrong smelling, savoury, and slightly sweet, with hints of warmth and earthy flavour. Strong smell, savoury, and aromatic with hints of sweetness.Pureed vegetables, soups, pasta sauce. Contains antioxidants, Vitamin C & B6 and calcium. It may also have antimicrobial properties.
GingerSpiceSpicy, warm, and slightly sweet. Aromatic, spicy, and slightly sweet. Mashed sweet potatoes, carrot & apple pureeMay help alleviate nausea, aid digestion, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
NutmegSpiceWarm, nutty, and slightly sweet. Aromatic, nutty, and slightly sweet. Pureed butternut squash or sweet potato and sprinkle on porridge Contains antioxidants, may aid digestion, and can add a warm, nutty flavor to dishes.
Onion powderSpiceSavoury, slightly sweet, and strong smelling. Savoury, and slightly sweet with hints of warmth and earthiness.Pureed vegetables, soups, pasta sauces. Contains antioxidants and may have antimicrobial properties.
OreganoHerbPungent, slightly bitter, and herbaceous. Aromatic, pungent, and slightly spicy with hints of earthiness. Tomato based sauce, roasted vegetables, eggs, broccoli, parsnip pureeRich in antioxidants, may have antimicrobial properties, and can aid digestion.
Paprika (mild)SpiceMildly sweet, slightly smoky, and slightly spicy, with hints of warmth and earthiness.Slightly smoky, and sweet with hints of warmth.Lentils, rice, sweet potato, carrot.Contains vitamin A and antioxidants and may have anti-inflammatory properties.
Cayenne pepper (small amounts)SpiceSpicy, hot, and strong tasteAromatic, spicy, and pungent with hints of warmth and sweetness.Add cayenne pepper to meals for the rest of the family and give your baby a little taste. This could be foods such as pureed vegetables, soups or stews.  Contains capsaicin, which may have anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting properties.
TurmericSpiceEarthy, slightly bitter, and mildly spicy, with hints of warmth and sweetness.Aromatic, earthy, and slightly spicy with hints of warmth.Scrambled egg, cauliflower, can also add to pancakes, muffins and breadsContains curcumin, iron and manganese which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Herbs & Spices for Babies

Fresh vs Dried Herbs – Pros & Cons?

Your baby can have both fresh and dried herbs to transform bland food into an exciting taste bud journey. Some herbs such as mint, basil, and parsley come in both dried and fresh. When using fresh herbs these are added towards the end of the cooking. Fresh herbs can be a little more expensive than dried and don’t keep fresh for very long, however you can grow these at home quite easily.

With dried herbs these will need to be cooked a little to release the flavour, however they can be kept for a while in the cupboard at home and tend to be a lot cheaper than fresh!

Can babies have herbs and spices?

What herbs and spices are safe for babies?

Most herbs and spices are safe for babies and you can add a variety to homemade baby food to encourage your adventurous eater. New flavors will delight your baby’s taste buds, but you may need to be a little careful with some spices. 

Chilli (hot) – When you first start introducing spices to your baby it is probably best that you avoid hot spices as it may be that it could cause tummy upset.  

However, in some cultures, strong flavours and spices are used from when weaning starts at 6 months. Try mild spices when you start introducing them. Remember if you loved your spicy food when you were pregnant then your baby may also have a taste for these flavours and love their foods spicy too!

Black pepper – Pepper can be added to your baby’s food but again just watch how much as it may be too spicy and could cause tummy upset. 

Salt – Avoid adding salt to your baby’s diet. There are many other ways that we can make our babies food more flavorsome without adding salt. This also goes for meals for the whole family. Too much salt can affect heart health and can lead to raise blood pressure. In place of salt in recipes you could use a variety of herbs above including chives, dill, basil or a little paprika. 

Premixed packets – Watch out for premixed packets of whole spices and herbs as they may have added salt. Make sure you check your labels and if salt is added definitely avoid adding this to your baby food recipes. 

How do I start adding herbs and spices to my babies diet?

Start slowly when adding herbs and spices to your babies food. It is a good idea to add very small amounts as it is an easy way to check that your baby can tolerate this spice.  If you use too much early on when introducing new flavours, this may cause stomach upset. 

Try starting off with the milder herbs and spices, these are things like basil, parsley, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you find that your little one isn’t keen on the change in flavour then this is fine. But, did you know it can take up to 10 tries for your little one to accept a new food so keep going. Adding a range of spices to your babies foods can also reduce the likelihood of them being a picky eater and developing poor eating habits. 

Can babies have allergies to herbs and spices

Allergies to herbs and spices are very rare, however if you feel your baby is having an allergic reaction to a specific herb or spice then seek medical help. You may find that your baby may experience tummy upset or reflux when spices are introduced if this is too much for them to tolerate. 

They are a great addition to your babies diet! Not only for increasing exposure to different tastes but they are also have so many health benefits.

If you try to introduce flavours when your little one is older this can be a little tricky, did you know that children are more likely to accept these tastes at a younger age? 

It also means that you don’t have to make different meals for the family. If you are adding herbs and spices to your families diet and you know that your little one can tolerate this too then the whole family can enjoy together. This may be meals such as Spaghetti Bolognese with oregano and garlic or curry with garam masala and cumin.

Embarking on the journey of introducing herbs and spices to your baby’s diet is not only exciting but also incredibly beneficial. From the moment they start weaning around 6 months of age, babies can explore a world of flavors, thanks to their early exposure to diverse tastes through breast milk and family foods.

As you venture into the realm of baby-led weaning, remember to start with small quantities of herbs and spices, gradually introducing them to your baby’s palate. Whether you’re enhancing purees with a pinch of cinnamon or sprinkling nutmeg over mashed vegetables, each addition will help to develop them tiny tastebuds. 

By including a variety of herbs and spices into your baby’s meals, you not only introduce them to different textures and flavors but also help to reduce the likelihood of them being a picky eater. 

Next time you prepare a family meal, consider how you can include herbs and spices that are suitable for your baby. From savory dishes seasoned with rosemary and thyme to sweet treats infused with cinnamon and nutmeg, there are endless possibilities to explore together.

Hannah Whittaker Dietitian Bump2baby Nutrition
Expert Pregnancy & Paediatric Dietitian at | info@bump2babynutrition.com | Website | + posts

Hannah is an Expert Registered Dietitian specialising in Vegan Family Nutrition and Cows Milk Protein Allergy. 

She is a respected figure in the field of nutrition and a captivating speaker and sought after media spokesperson being featured in esteemed publications including the Sunday Times, Independent and Huffington Post.

Credentials

  • Registered Dietitian
  • First Class Degree in Nutrition

Experience

  • Over 15 years experience working in the field of nutrition
  • Respected Media Spokesperson both in the UK & USA; quoted online, TV and in local and international news
  • Writer & Researcher, supporting the BDA and PEN Nutrition

 

 

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