QUINOA | 6 mos+ |🥇💪🔥🌱💩
Updated: Sep 21
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is actually a seed, rather than a “true” grain, as many people believe. Botanically, it’s a relative of swiss chard and beets. It’s originally from the Andes, where it has long been cultivated by the Incas. This “superfood” stores diverse health benefits, and it gives babies many of the required nutrients to grow properly.
DISCLAIMER: Each child has their own development timeline and specific needs. The content below is general information and for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional one-on-one advice. You are responsible for supervising your child’s health and for evaluating the appropriateness of the information below for your child. Please consult your healthcare provider regarding support or advice for your child's well being and health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
8. How to store quinoa
When can I give quinoa to my baby?
Babies can eat quinoa as soon as they are ready to start eating solid foods, which is usually when they are around 6 months of age and have met all the readiness signs for solids, unless otherwise advised by your baby's healthcare provider. This nutritious grain makes a great addition to your little one’s diet and it is very versatile. You can make it a cereal, a pilaf, or a “burger” for finger food!
You can give your baby a safe start to solid foods! This on-demand workshop will provide you with the knowledge and confidence you need to wean well.
So what is quinoa?
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wah’) is actually a seed, rather than a “true” grain, as many people believe. Botanically, it’s a relative of swiss chard and beets. It’s originally from the Andes, where it has long been cultivated by the Incas.
Quinoa is a small, light-colored round grain, similar in appearance to sesame seeds. But quinoa is also available in other colors, including red, purple and black. It has an excellent taste and many health benefits. This easy to swallow and easy to digest food is a favorite of a lot of mothers and babies.
It is also one of those foods that might start creeping into the meals for the entire family. And that is not a bad thing, since it is a nutritious option for all ages, and with the right recipe can be downright delicious.
Fun Fact: The ancient Incas called quinoa “the mother grain.”
Is quinoa a healthy food for babies?
Quinoa is a nutritious grain. It is filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, carbs, and water.
This “superfood” stores diverse health benefits. It gives babies many of the required nutrients to grow properly.
Quinoa is an excellent choice for your baby because of its high protein content. The seed is considered a complete protein containing the right amount of essential amino acids. The content of these nutrients is higher in quinoa than in common cereals. Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, and, thus, is a complete protein source. The protein works to build up the muscle of infants. It also aids in the growth of the bones, hair, nails, and supports the body to perform various functions significantly. Additionally, a good amount of lysine is also present in quinoa. Lysine is an essential amino acid that your baby needs for growth and repair systems in their body.
The fiber in quinoa works as a natural laxative that helps the digestion process, and prevents constipation and excessive gassiness.
Quinoa is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and some other minerals. Your baby needs all these minerals to grow: Calcium, phosphorous, and magnesium are crucial for bone growth. Quinoa is higher in iron than any other grain. Iron aids in the production of hemoglobin, an important cell for the proper distribution of oxygen in the body. Babies are at risk of iron anemia, so quinoa is a great addition in the diet to help them get the amount of iron they need to continue growing healthy.
This grain is full of vitamins. It contains a cluster of B group vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, and thiamine. All these are important for the production and release of energy, and support the baby’s physical and mental development.
Quinoa is rich with natural antioxidants that help to boost the immune system of infants, help prevent the formation of carcinogenic (cancer) cells, and keep the heart of your little one healthy.
Is quinoa a safe food for babies?
Quinoa does not contain any common food safety hazards. But be careful if your baby has a sensitive gut. The quinoa seed's exterior part is coated with saponin, which is a mild digestive irritant, and may be harmful to the gut lining.
Saponins are a naturally occurring phytochemical that gives unwashed quinoa a bitter taste. It is a protective compound of plants that protects the plant from birds and insects and fungus attack.
It is always recommended that quinoa be rinsed thoroughly before cooking and consumption to remove any remaining saponins. And remember to serve the quinoa in moderation, as excessive intake of quinoa could affect the gut lining. See the sections "How to buy" and "How to prepare and offer" for more information on how to safely serve quinoa to your baby.
Is quinoa a choking hazard for babies?
Quinoa is not listed on CDC's list of most common choking hazards for babies. However, the seeds can clump together in the cooking process. To reduce the risk of choking, once cooked, make sure to fluff and separate quinoa with a fork before serving it to your baby. Refer to the section “How to prep and offer” to learn more about how to prepare and offer quinoa to your baby.
This workshop covers everything you need to know for dealing with gagging, reducing the risk of choking during mealtimes, and offering safe food sizes and shapes to your child.
Note: Keep in mind that any food can present a risk for choking if not prepared correctly. You are responsible for following age and food modification guidelines provided in order to reduce your baby’s risk for choking.
Is quinoa a top food allergen for babies?
Quinoa allergy is not very common. It does not cause any harm to your baby, but saponin, a protective compound present on the surface layer of the seed, may cause reactions in the body.
Saponin is a bitter compound that may cause irritation and toxicity in some people. The reaction may vary from mild to severe. It all depends on the body’s reaction to the compound. Virtually all of the quinoa sold in the United States is completely pre-rinsed so the bubbly, bitter saponins are limited.
Quinoa sensitivity may also be developed due to the protein or oxalate present in the seed. Symptoms include facial swelling, low blood pressure, inability to breathe, pale skin, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, eczema. Report to the doctor as soon as you find any allergic reaction developing in your baby.
If your baby has celiac disease or any family member has grain sensitivity, check with your pediatrician before introducing quinoa into the baby’s diet.
Whenever you give your baby quinoa (or other foods) for the first time, offer it in small quantities, and watch for any signs of a reaction. If your baby seems to tolerate the food well and you see no adverse reaction, then continue to gradually increase portion sizes when you offer it again to your baby. If your baby shows any symptoms like diarrhea, skin hives, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, swelling of mouth, weakness, or dizziness after the consumption of quinoa, consult your healthcare provider. These symptoms can be a sign of allergy or intolerance.
Note: Always consult with your healthcare provider regarding introducing solid foods to your baby, and specifically discuss any foods that may pose allergy risks for your baby.
How to buy quinoa for babies
You may purchase quinoa whole, in flakes, crisps, and even as a flour. Virtually all of the quinoa sold in the United States is completely pre-rinsed so the bubbly, bitter saponins are limited.
Quinoa is sometimes sold in bulk bins. If you buy it from a bulk bin (which is often the most economical option), then make sure that the bin is kept adequately covered so that it is safe for your baby. It’s also better if the store you buy it from is busy enough to ensure that the stock is regularly turned over… you don’t want to buy stale quinoa!
More often, though, you’ll find quinoa sold pre-packed, and it tends to be displayed along with rice and other grains. You will find different colors of quinoa in a grocery store - white, red, black, and tri-color or rainbow quinoa. White quinoa has the least bitter taste.
★If your baby has celiac disease or gluten sensitivity - look for the “gluten-free” label on the quinoa package. Quinoa is considered gluten-free, but some strains of quinoa may contain a measurable amount of gluten due to cross contamination.
How to store quinoa
Keep quinoa in a cool, dark, and dry place. Store it in an air-tight container to prevent microbial growth and insect attack. Preferably store it in a refrigerator. Refrigeration prevents the natural oils, which come from the grain, from turning rancid. Regardless, if you are purchasing whole quinoa, quinoa flour, or quinoa flakes, go by the expiration date on the packet. If you are buying pre-milled whole grain, buy it in small quantities and use it before they get rancid.
Refrigerate cooked quinoa within two hours of cooking it. Place it in an air-tight container. You can use this quinoa for up to 5-6 days.
How to prepare and offer quinoa to babies
In their natural state, quinoa seeds have a bitter coating called saponin. Pre-packed quinoa has usually been thoroughly rinsed to remove this coating, but it’s still a good practice to rinse the quinoa yourself to remove any additional bitterness and toxicity of saponin. You can do this by placing them in a very fine-mesh strainer and running cold water over them.
Once rinsed, the quinoa is ready to be cooked. Quinoa is cooked in a similar way to rice. Usually, you use twice the quantity of liquid to the quantity of quinoa (i.e. 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa). Do check the instructions on the packaging, however, as the amount of liquid required and the cooking time do tend to vary from one brand to another.
Food demo video: preparing and offering quinoa for babies
When fully cooked, the quinoa seeds are translucent in appearance and soft in texture.The seeds expand a bit when cooked, so be careful how much you use! And the seeds are still very small and messy. Make sure you use a good bib (preferably one with a crumb tray or pocket) and cover the carpets when quinoa is on the menu!
You may also toast the quinoa after you rinse it. Heat a frying pan on medium flame and put quinoa in it. Make sure quinoa is completely dry before toasting it. Keep stirring until the quinoa turns golden brown. This will give the quinoa a richer, ‘nuttier’ flavor.
Another option is to powder the toasted quinoa in a food processor or a coffee grinder, and use this powder to prepare smooth-textured baby cereal or sprinkle some on top of other foods.
Once cooked, let quinoa cool down completely, and offer it in a form that is appropriate to your baby’s age, stage of development, and feeding skills. See serving suggestions below.
★Soak and/or sprout the quinoa to reduce the phytic acid content, which binds to the minerals and makes them less absorbable. Soaking and sprouting increase the availability of the minerals to the body and also increase the antioxidant levels.
Purees: cook quinoa as recommended above. Make cooked quinoa into a puree using breast milk, formula, cow's milk, or water, and serve it to your baby via spoon-feeding or by preloading a spoon and letting them self-feed. You will most likely not be able to puree it to a completely smooth texture by using a blender or food processor. Add more or less liquid to achieve the consistency desired. The teeny-tiny cooked quinoa seeds, stirred into a fruit or vegetables puree, make a great stepping stone between smooth and lumpy textures, bridging the gap quite nicely!
★If, however, your little one flatly refuses to eat anything with texture, you can grind your quinoa to a powder in a food processor, grain grinder or coffee grinder, and use it as baby cereal to make purees.
6+ months: porridge or puree or mixed into creamy foods on a baby spoon or suction bowl
Don't get stuck on purees! It's completely ok to start with only pureed foods, if that feels more comfortable to you. However, keep in mind that purees are just a transitional phase into finger foods. It shouldn't last for more than a few days or a couple of weeks. Aim to start exposing your baby to lumpy and finger foods no later than 8 months, unless otherwise advised by your baby's health care provider.
Finger food 6 to 9 months old: at this stage babies use their whole palm or full fists to hold food, so the best way to offer quinoa as a finger food at this stage is by preparing it as a thick porridge. Serve porridge in a suction bowl so baby can scoop it with their hands and bring to their mouth independently, or preload a spoon and place it on baby’s tray or hand to encourage self-feeding. You can also add some cinnamon or nutmeg powder for flavoring.
Another easy option is to fold quinoa into a “scoop-able,” like mixing it with whole milk plain yogurt, mashed avocado, or in a thick tomato sauce. As recommended above, you may serve it in a suction or preloaded spoon.
Quinoa balls or adding it to an omelet is also a great option for quinoa without spreading a bunch of seeds for you to clean up later. Mix the cooked seeds with a food that can act as a binding agent— like cheese, eggs, yogurt, tomato paste —and form balls the size of your baby’s fist for easy grabbing and holding. If using tomato paste, eggs, or cheese for binding, you will need to bake the balls before offering to baby so the seeds actually stick together, and in the case of eggs, any bacteria present is killed. You don't have to cook it once tomato sauce or cheese is mixed with the seeds, but to make it easier for baby to grab, it might be a good idea to coat balls in baby cereal, bread crumbs, shredded coconut, ground nuts, or any other baby-friendly edible flower/powder-like ingredient. To make a quinoa omelet, simply beat an egg in a small bowl, add a couple tablespoons of cooked quinoa or powder, mix well, and cook. Once cooked, cut the omelet into little strips about the length and width of an adult finger. Place strips on baby’s tray or hand for self-feeding.
6+ months: thick porridge or mixed into creamy foods shaped like ball/sausage/patties; or in preparations like an egg omelet and cut into strips
Baby Z, 6 months, eating quinoa omelette
Baby L, 6 months, eating veggie quinoa cakes
Finger food 9 to 12 months old: you can continue to offer cooked quinoa as suggested above. However, at this stage, babies begin to use their pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) to pick up small pieces of food, and some babies might not be as interested in strips or ball shapes. So you can move into bite sizes of food about the size of a garbanzo bean.
You can cut a quinoa omelet into little squares instead of strips. You may also make some “baked quinoa”, and serve bite-sized pieces to your baby.
9+ months: in preparations like an egg omelet and cut into bite-sized pieces
Continue encouraging the use of utensils by preloading a baby spoon and resting it on the edge of your baby’s bowl so they can grab it and bring it to their mouth independently. If your baby is not interested in using the spoon, then offer shaped quinoa as suggested above.
This is also a great stage to start mixing quinoa with other foods and making preparations, since your baby should have already been exposed to a few different foods and you have probably ruled out some possible food allergies or intolerance.
Finger food 12+ months old: continue to offer quinoa as previously suggested. Encourage the use of utensils. This is a great time to have your baby practice eating quinoa with a spoon. Serve a quinoa salad or pilaf. Add a splash of olive oil to the cooked quinoa (which causes the seeds to stick to the utensil) and let your baby scoop with the spoon independently, or pre-load your baby’s spoon for them, if necessary. Experiment adding quinoa to different preparations like muffins, burgers, salads, soups, and more. Quinoa is a very versatile grain, so use your imagination!
12+ months: quinoa salad or pilaf with a splash of olive oil to help seeds stick to utensil
Note: Finger foods are small pieces of food that your baby can pick up and eat easily. Introducing finger foods early, as soon as starting solids, helps your baby get used to different food textures, improves coordination and encourages self-feeding. These are important feeding skills. Babies can enjoy soft finger foods before they have teeth. They can mash foods into smaller pieces using their gums.
⚠️Avoid putting finger foods or whole foods in your baby's mouth for them. Your baby must do this at their own pace and under their own control.⚠️
Quinoa meal ideas for babies:
Change things a bit and make a filling quinoa porridge instead oatmeal or add quinoa to your baby's oatmeal.
Add quinoa to stews, soups and casserole.
Use cooked quinoa as a substitute for fresh breadcrumbs when used as a binder.
Add cooked quinoa to fruit or veggie puree and serve it by the spoon or shape it like balls.
As always, discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider. This post and this site is not meant to be a substitute for medical advice. The materials and services provided by this site are for informational purposes only.
Library Symbol Legend
Here in our Food Library we use some symbols or emojis to make it easier for you to find what you need. Listed below are the symbols we use and what they mean.
🔥 - this is a high-calorie food. You should include a high-calorie food at each meal.
💪 - this is an iron-rich food. You should include an iron-rich food at each meal.
🌈 - this is a colorful food. You should include a fruit and/or a vegetable at each meal.
🥇 - this food is a great choice for baby's first food.
🌱 - this food is a great choice for plant-based babies.
💩 - this is a food that helps prevent or treat constipation.
🥜 - this food contains peanuts, a common food allergen.
🍳 - this food contains egg, a common food allergen.
🐄 - this food contains cow's milk, a common food allergen.
🌾 - this food contains wheat, a common food allergen.
✳️ - this food contains soy, a common food allergen.
💮 - this food contains sesame seed, a common food allergen.
🌰 - this food contains tree nuts, a common food allergen.
🐠 - this food contains fish, a common food allergen.
🍤 - this food contains shellfish, a common food allergen.
⚠️ - this food is a common choking hazard. Make sure to follow age and preparation guidelines.
★ - tips, tricks, and hacks.
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Choking Hazards. (2021, September 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 9, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/choking-hazards.html
el Hazzam, K., Hafsa, J., Sobeh, M., Mhada, M., Taourirte, M., el Kacimi, K., & Yasri, A. (2020). An Insight into Saponins from Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd): A Review. Molecules, 25(5), 1059. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25051059
Filho, A. M. M., Pirozi, M. R., Borges, J. T. D. S., Pinheiro Sant’Ana, H. M., Chaves, J. B. P., & Coimbra, J. S. D. R. (2015). Quinoa: Nutritional, functional, and antinutritional aspects. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(8), 1618–1630. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2014.1001811
Lamothe, L. M., Srichuwong, S., Reuhs, B. L., & Hamaker, B. R. (2015). Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa W.) and amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus L.) provide dietary fibres high in pectic substances and xyloglucans. Food Chemistry, 167, 490–496. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.07.022
Legislative control of Quinoa in the United Kingdom and European Union. (2017, February 27). Madridge Publishers. Retrieved January 16, 2021, from https://madridge.org/journal-of-food-technology/mjft-2-1000108.php#:%7E:text=This%20assertion%20is%20supported%20through,reported%20adverse%20food%20safety%20incident
Quinoa, Q. (2016, March 23). What’s the Deal with Saponins? Quinta Quinoa. Retrieved January 16, 2021, from https://quinta.ca/2016/03/23/whats-deal-saponins/
Reinagel, N. D. M. (2016, November 5). Are Saponins in Quinoa Toxic? Scientific American. Retrieved January 16, 2021, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-saponins-in-quinoa-toxic/
Whole Grains A to Z | The Whole Grains Council. (n.d.). Whole Grains Council. Retrieved January 16, 2021, from https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/whole-grains-z
Yawadio Nsimba, R., Kikuzaki, H., & Konishi, Y. (2008). Antioxidant activity of various extracts and fractions of Chenopodium quinoa and Amaranthus spp. seeds. Food Chemistry, 106(2), 760–766. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.06.004