This Ultimate Guide of Finger Foods for Baby has over 80 tasty finger food ideas that your baby can enjoy for their very first bite of solid food. The guide will also go into detail about the basics of finger foods - what to serve, how to serve it and when to start serving it. This guide is also great if you are doing the Baby-Led Weaning approach.
Before we dive into this post, I want to put a disclaimer out there because this is for sure is the longest post I have ever written. So grab a coffee (or glass of wine;) because I am about to download a whole bunch of information on you about finger foods.
But the thing is, finger foods can be tricky for a lot of parents.
I know they were for me.
You would think that being a baby food guru, I would have finger foods on lock down. Well, that wasn't the case at all.
Not only did I have a million questions about finger foods - what to serve, how to serve it and when can I start? I also was faced with my girls being completely different types of eaters. Ellie, my oldest, loved purees. So I had to softly wean her from her beloved purees and s-l-o-w-l-y introduce her to finger foods, which she mostly just gave the stink eye to. My youngest daughter, Parker, was the exact opposite. She literally ripped a piece of steak off my husbands fork when she was 7 months old. She was ready to eat finger foods and we better not get in her way!
But the questions were there the same with both of them - what foods should I give them first? What size should I cut their veggies and fruit into? Can I add spices to the finger foods?
After years of readers asking for help and having the exact same questions and concerns I had, I knew it was time for me to write a complete guide about finger foods.
Complete being the key word here!
So here it is, a zillion words talking about finger foods. Oh how you think I am kidding:)
Let's start with the basics before we move on to my delicious finger food ideas.
When to Start Finger Foods
When to start finger foods with your baby is completely up to you. You can start baby on finger foods from their very first bite (roughly 6 months of age), you can serve finger foods to your baby alongside their purees (roughly 8 months of age) or wait until they have mastered their chunky purees before you serve them finger foods (roughly 11 months of age).
Starting right from the first bite is a very popular way of approaching feeding baby these days, and is called Baby Led Weaning. I did not do this approach <----- hello I am the puree queen over here. But I know several families that did this approach and loved it. If you want a more in depth look at this approach, then check out this site for more information.
You can also start giving finger foods alongside baby's purees once they mastered the stage one or basic purees. This method worked great with Parker because she loved to do it herself (in fact, she still loves to do everything herself) but she wasn't very good at getting anything into her mouth until she was almost 10 months old. So I would spoon feed her some puree while she worked on her pincher grip and tried to feed herself. She was happy, I was happy. This method totally worked for us.
The third method is that you can wait until baby has completely mastered smooth purees and chunky purees and then start to introduce finger foods. I swear Ellie would have eaten purees until she went to college. She loved purees! So I had to slowly wean her off purees and feed her finger foods during snack times. Again, this method completely worked for her but would have never worked for my other babe.
Do you see what I am leading up to here?
Both of my girls dictated how they wanted to be fed.
As parents, we have an idea of how we want to do something with our child. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. You have to be flexible at all times. I certainly had to be when Parker would only eat if there were finger foods on her plate. I thought Parker would love purees for as long as Ellie did, but boy was I wrong!
How to Start Finger Foods
To start serving finger foods, the easiest thing is to do is to put a little of whatever you made right onto their tray and let them dig in. It's messy! They might get almost everything on the floor and nothing in their mouths! But it is so fun to watch their little faces focus with so much determination.
If they eat, or accidentally push all of their food onto the floor, then by all means serve them some more. Babies are in tune with their hunger trigger and know when they are full and when they want more.
If at anytime they are getting upset or are just over the idea, then you can stop the meal. If they are transitioning from purees to finger foods, you can offer them some of their beloved purees.
I also found that when transitioning from purees to finger foods, morning and afternoon snack time was a great time to try out their new finger foods. They had enough energy to try something new and because I wasn't pressed for time to get dinner on the table, I was also able to enjoy the experience more.
How to Prepare Finger Foods
You will see a ton of different ways to prepare different finger foods below. I tried to give you a ton of different options, but if you have a favorite way to cooking a vegetable or grain, then by all means go at it.
The main thing you have to remember is that finger foods need to be soft enough for baby to be able to gnaw on with only a couple of teeth, or no teeth whatsoever. So this means, most veggies will have to be cooked.
Finger foods will also have to be either chopped into small pieces (roughly the size of a pea) or cut into 2-3 inch strips. See the pictures of the food in this post for some visuals. The reason for these sizes is that they present less of a chocking risk for baby. Again, depending on your child, they might prefer one size to the other. Parker would only eat the finely chopped food and refused to touch big strips of food. Maybe I should write a post about how kids are completely bizarre?!?
Still with me here? Need to get another coffee? I told you I had a lot to say about finger food. I am always so much fun to talk to at parties... 'so Bob, it's nice to meet you, can I tell you about finger foods?'
This is the topic that most people want to know about and are usually completely freaked out about. Choking! Eeks!
So here is the deal, your baby will gag on finger foods. I hate to tell you this, but they will. For the most part, they will not actually choke on the food. Gagging and choking are not the same thing. The difference, is that gaging is the where the baby is actively trying to get the food out and sounds like a deep coughing sound. This is good. This is what they have to do in order to be able to learn how to eat, no matter how old they are when they learn it. Choking on the other other is when the baby is silent and their eyes start bugging out of their heads and they start turning a shade of blue. Not good. That's when your deep rooted mother instinct takes over and you slap the crap out of your baby's back until they cough up their food. I remember this happening to me when I was around 8 (I guess the fear never goes away as a parent) and I choked on some gum and boy did my mom slap my back so hard, but guess what, it worked! Here is an official guide if you want a more professional look on how to stop choking.
Did that just scare the crap out of you? Sorry about that.
But here's the thing, I have never had any of my kids actually choke on any finger foods. Gag, yes. Choke, no.
And for the very most part, if you stick to the size foods I recommend, cook your finger foods until tender and sit with your child while they are eating, then chances are that serving finger foods will be a very happy event for both you and baby.
What to Serve
What finger foods to serve baby is completely up to you. You can serve a variety of different veggies paired with a grain or protein. If your baby loves fruit, then you can serve serval different kinds of fruit for a sweet snack.
I like to think of finger foods as a start to getting baby on track for eating what I am eating, so I would usually serve the same items to baby that I was eating for that meal. Roasted veggies, rice, cooked chicken, etc. This didn't always work, but that is what the goal is - one family, one meal.
I would also like to try to hit all the four groups - a veggie, a carb, a protein and then a fruit for dessert or save the fruit for snack. This seemed to work for my girls. But that might not be the case with your babes. The key here is for them to try as many foods as you can, not all in the same day of course, while you have a captive and open baby willing to try foods.
Okay, enough speel, let's talk about yummy food!!! The very best part.
Below you will find over 24 different vegetables that are perfect for babies first finger foods and multiple ways you can cook and serve them. And while you can serve them plain, I love serving vegetables to my kiddos with added healthy fats and complimentary spices. My theory is that the better they taste, the more they will eat:)
I find that with most vegetables you will need to cook them in order for them to be soft enough for babies to eat (gnaw on) with their limited amount of teeth. You will find below my recommended cooking methods and spices that I love to add for each vegetable. If you have a favorite way to cook a vegetable or have a favorite spice you like to add in, then by all means make them and serve it to baby that way. And then please share your amazing recipe with the rest of us in the comments below.
Let me also mention, that you don't have to make these veggies just for baby. I would always make a big batch of cooked veggies for both my baby's meal and for also my own meal. Finger foods do not need to be boring. I was happy to be able to say I was having baby food for dinner!
- Broccoli - cook by gently steaming for 4-5 minutes or by roasting them in a little olive oil at 425 degree F for 20 minutes or until just tender. Serve chopped into small pieces or in tall, skinny and flat florets (cut florets lengthwise in half). Serve plain or add a drizzle of olive oil or coconut oil and a sprinkle of garlic, lemon juice, cumin or even a pinch of parmesan to the broccoli before serving.
- Peppers (Red, Yellow, Orange or Green) - serve raw in long 2-3 inch strips.
- Corn - serve raw, cooked or even grilled. Serve by cutting kernels off of the cob for younger babies and on the cob (cut into 2 inch rounds) for older babies. Serve plain or with a drizzle of grass-fed organic butter, olive oil and a tiny sprinkle of garlic powder, paprika, chili powder or onion powder to corn before serving.
- Zucchini - cook by gently steaming for 2-4 minutes and chopped into small pieces or 2-3 inch strips. You can also slice zucchini into coins and sauté them in a pan with some grass-fed butter, olive oil or coconut oil under just tender.
- Asparagus - cook by gently steaming for 3-4 minutes or by roasting them in a little olive oil at 400 degree F for 15 minutes or until just tender. Serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips (you can cut these strips in half lengthwise for younger babies). Serve plain or with a pinch of lemon zest, parsley, thyme or chives.
- Cauliflower - cook by gently steaming for 4-5 minutes or by roasting them in a little olive oil at 425 degree F for 20 minutes or until just tender. Serve chopped into small pieces or in tall, skinny and flat florets (cut florets lengthwise in half). Serve plain or with a pinch of tarragon, parsley, paprika, tandoori or fresh lemon juice. You can also serve cauliflower to baby as rice cauliflower and this Cauliflower Fried 'Rice' recipe is a fun way to make a flavorful meal for baby (use low-sodium soy sauce).
- Cherry Tomatoes - serve raw and cut into quarters or eighths.
- Radishes - serve raw and chopped into small pieces.
- Sweet Potatoes - cook by steaming for 7-9 minutes or roasting them in a little olive oil at 425 degree F for 30 minutes or until just tender. Serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips (like fries). Serve plain or with a pinch of paprika, cinnamon, cloves, thyme, Italian seasoning or garlic powder.
- Parsnips - great when peeled, chopped and tossed in a little olive oil or coconut oil and roasted at 450 for 30-40 minutes. Serve chopped into small pieces or cut into 2-3 inch strips (think parsnip fries here). Serve plain or with a pinch of thyme, rosemary, paprika, garlic powder or pink salt.
- Beets - there are so many ways to cook and serve beets. The simplest way is to simply grate beets, rinse them under cold water until the water runs clear, pat dry and then serve. You can also steam small chunks of beets for 7-9 minutes or until tender (I still recommend rinsing and patting the beets dry so the beets don't bleed all over baby). The third method is to roast the entire beet in the oven, this is an easy recipe. And finally, the forth and probably the easiest is to buy the pre-roasted beets at the grocery store (not the canned ones). They sell these packaged in the produce section in most grocery stores. Whichever method you make, serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips. Serve plain or with a pinch of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme or a splash of lemon or orange juice. I will like to point out that while red beets are the most common type of beet on the market, there are a ton of different beets out there that are fun to try as well. Golden beets are one of my girls favorite foods, plus they don't leave as much red mess for me:)
- Carrots - cook by steaming for 10-12 minutes or by roasting them in a little olive oil at 400 degree F for 30 minutes or until just tender. Serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips. Serve plain or with a pinch of dill, garlic, thyme, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, nutmeg or parsley.
- Peas - cook by gently steaming for 3-4 minutes or by sautéing them in a little grass-fed butter or olive oil in a skillet for 2-3 minutes. You can also thaw frozen peas in the microwave with a splash of water until warm. Serve plain or with a pinch of cumin, mint, cardamom or with a splash of lemon juice,
- Cucumber - serve raw in small pieces or 2-3 inch stripes with seeds removed. Pickles (love this quick pickle recipe for babies. I do not add any sugar to my batches) are also a fun way to serve cucumbers to babies.
- Green Beans - cook by steaming for 3-4 minutes or by sautéing them in a small pan with a drizzle of olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips. Serve plain or with a pinch of garlic, parsley, cumin powder, mild curry powder or a splash of lemon juice.
- Squash (butternut, acorn, etc) - cook by steaming the squash (peel and de-seeded) for 10-15 minutes or by roasting the chopped squash lightly coated in grass-fed butter, olive oil or coconut oil in the oven at 400 for 25-30 minutes or until completely tender. Serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips. Serve plain or with pinch of thyme, rosemary, chives, garlic powder, cinnamon or cloves. Squash can either go savory or sweet, so try them both ways and see if baby prefers them one way or another.
- Pumpkin - cook by steaming the squash (peel and de-seeded) for 10-15 minutes or by roasting the chopped pumpkin that is lightly coated in grass-fed butter, olive oil or coconut oil in the oven at 450 for 25-30 minutes or until completely tender. If you don't want to purchase an entire pie pumpkin for finger foods, I have found that most grocery stores have pre-chopped and packaged pumpkin chunks during the fall months. Serve chopped into small pieces or in 2-3 inch strips. Serve plain or with a pinch of thyme, rosemary, chives, garlic or tarragon for a savory flavor. For a sweet flavor try adding a pinch cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg.
- Potatoes - cook by steaming, boiling, mashing or roasting the potatoes. There are a ton of different ways to cook potatoes, but one of our favorites is to cut new potatoes or fingerling potatoes into quarters (the long way so they are more like strips then chunks), toss in a little olive oil or coconut oil alone with garlic, rosemary, pink salt, pepper and a little paprika and roast at 450 for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
- Turnips - great when peeled, chopped and tossed in a little olive oil or coconut oil and roasted at 450 for 30-40 minutes. Serve chopped into small pieces or cut into 2-3 inch strips. Serve plain or with a pinch of thyme, rosemary, paprika, garlic powder or an Italian seasoning mix.
- Mushrooms - cook by sautéing the mushrooms with a little grass-fed butter, olive oil or coconut oil in a pan for 4-5 minutes. Serve in long thin strips or in small pieces.
- Eggplant - cook by sautéing chunks of eggplant for 10 minutes in a little olive oil.
Fresh fruit is by far the easiest finger food to feed baby. The reason is that for the most part, fruit does not have to be cooked in order for baby to enjoy it. Which makes it the perfect finger food to bring with you while you are spending the morning at the park, traveling or when you need a meal for baby in the next 10 seconds before baby completely losses it on you:). Fruit is also filled with a ton of essential vitamins and minerals and is naturally sweet so babies tend to love eating it, which makes your life a little bit easier.
Feel free to use fresh or frozen fruit that has been thawed.
- Apples - ripe, peeled and finely chopped into small pieces or cut into 2-3 inch strips. I also love to sauté apple slices in a little coconut oil or butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon for 1-3 minutes for a fun warm treat.
- Honeydew - ripe and finely chopped
- Strawberries - finely chopped or cut into quarters
- Blueberries - cut in half or quarters
- Peaches - ripe, peeled and finely chopped or cut into 2-3 inch strips
- Nectarines - ripe, peeled and finely chopped or cut into 2-3 inch strips
- Plums - ripe, peeled and finely chopped or cut into 2-3 inch strips
- Raspberries - cut in half or quarters
- Pineapple - served finely chopped or in the ring form. My kids loved double fisting the a ring of pineapple and munching away on it like that.
- Kiwi - ripe, peeled and finely chopped
- Oranges - can be served peeled and finely chopped or in quarters with the peel on. I found leaving the peel on gave the little ones a nice way to grip the orange
- Banana - can be served peeled and finely chopped or by leaving the stem on and peeling 2-3 inches of the banana peel back. This method gives the little ones a nice way to grip the banana.
- Blackberries - cut in half or quarters
- Grapes - cut in half or quarters
- Mango - ripe and finely chopped or cut into 2-3 inch strips
- Pear - ripe, peeled and finely chopped or cut into 2-3 inch strips. I also love to sauté hard pear slices in a little coconut oil and a sprinkle of nutmeg for 1-3 minutes for a fun warm treat.
- Cherries - seeded and cut in half or quarters. Rainer cherries tend not to be as messy;)
- Apricots - ripe, peeled and finely chopped
- Watermelon - ripe and finely chopped or cut into 2-3 inch strips. You can also give them a pie shaped piece with the rind on for them to hold onto. My girls loved to eat it this way because it wasn't as slippery.
- Cantaloup - ripe and finely chopped
- Avocado - ripe, peeled and chopped into chunks (can't be too small of pieces or they won't be able to pick them up) or cut into 2-3 inch strips. I also found that by gently pressing avocado chunks with a paper towel helped them not be so slippery.
- Papaya - ripe, peeled and finely chopped
While the best source of protein for your baby for the first year of their life is through breast milk or formula, it is still essential to introduce protein rich foods to baby early on. Protein is a major building block that is essential for proper growth and development in babies and toddlers. It helps increase muscle mass, repair muscle tissue and is present in your baby's blood, organs and skin.
With that said, your baby doesn't need a protein centered diet like the fad diets out there for adults today. A little protein at every meal along with a heavy offering of other vegetables and fruits is usually a good fit for most babies.
Along with fruits and vegetables my main goal when serving finger foods to baby is to open them up to as many tastes, textures and foods as possible before they entered the 'picky' eating phase, which happens to most kids around 2 years of age.
- Scrambled Eggs - go with the entire egg unless someone in baby's immediate family has an egg allergy, then just use the yolk. Scramble plain or with a little cheese.
- Chicken - roasted, baked or grilled. Serve chopped in small pieces or cut into 2-3 inch strips. I love to toss my chicken into homemade pesto sauce or coconut thai sauce for a little extra flavor.
- Turkey - roasted, baked or grilled. Serve chopped into small pieces or cut into 2-3 inch strips
- Sliced Cheese - cheddar, gouda, swiss, etc. Have fun serving different slices of cheese to baby.
- Black beans - cooked or canned, strained and dried completely. Serve by cutting beans in half or quarters. A would always serve black beans with a sprinkle of cumin, garlic powder or mild chill powder on them.
- Chickpeas - cooked or canned, strained and dried completely. I like to serve chickpeas by smashing them with the back of a fork so baby can pick them up easier. Serve with a dash of cumin, paprika, or garlic powder for a fun flavor.
- Hard boiled Eggs - served chopped or in quarters. Serve plain or with a pinch of pink salt or white pepper.
- Tofu - pan seared or baked. Served by chopping into small pieces or cut into 2-3 inch strips. When shopping for a tofu, look for sprouted tofu as it holds the most nutrients for baby (and you).
- Salmon - cooked your favorite way and then gently flaked off with a fork (make sure there are no bones present). This and this are some of my favorite ways to cook salmon for baby. These salmon cakes are also a fun way to serve fish to your little one (my toddler loves this recipe).
- White Fish - cooked your favorite way and then gently flaked off with a fork (make sure there are no bones present). This and this are one of my favorite ways to cook white fish for baby that still have a ton of flavor. These baked fish sticks are great for toddlers. Get a guide to which fish is sustainable here.
- Beef - cooked your favorite way (I found medium doneness the best for baby). Served chopped into small pieces or cut into long 3-4 inch strips.
- Ricotta - serve spread on a piece of toast.
- Edamame - de-podded, cut into quarters or smashed with the back of fork. I like to serve mine with just a pinch of himalayan sea salt or a little mild curry powder.
- Feta - serve the big crumbles or buy the block of feta and slice of long strips or chunks. Feta was literally Parker's favorite food when she was a baby and she would demand feta at every meal!
- Shrimp - cook your favorite way. Serve by chopping the meat of shrimp into bit size pieces. For more advance finger food eaters, you can serve whole deveined and peeled shrimp. This is a fun way to serve shrimp to the kiddos. It has some spice to it but isn't spicy. I chopped everything up for my girls and they devoured it, plus I got to eat tacos for dinner. One dinner for everyone for the #win!
- Lentils - Serve cooked, drained and cooled. Love this Lentil Spinach Pancakes recipe for easy eating.
- Meatballs - cooked turkey, beef, chicken or lamb meatballs. Serve chopped into quarters or crumbles. Here is my favorite Chicken + Carrot Meatballs for Baby recipes.
- Ground Meat - can be turkey, beef, lamb, pork or chicken. Sauté in a pan until cooked and add in your favorite seasoning. Try to have some bigger clumps of cooked meat because they are easier for your little one to grab onto.
- Sausage - I'm talking about handmade good quality butcher sausage here, not the processed Jimmy Dean variety. Loved serving this because most of the time fancy sausage is already loaded with spices and flavor, just make sure it isn't too spicy for your babes. Cook your favorite way, and then peel of any causing and chop into small pieces.
- Eggs some other Ways - omelets, frittatas or cups. These are all great to add in other veggies and cheeses into. Serve cooled and cut into strips.
- Nut Butters - Serve spread on a piece of toast. While it may be scary to introduce baby to peanuts and nuts at a young age, new studies have come out concluding that by serving nuts early to baby will prevent baby from developing nut allergies as they grow. As always, consult your pediatrician for more information.
- Hummus - served on a piece of bread or on a plate for baby to dip veggies into.
Don't let the new adult diet craze of no carbs fool you, babies need carbohydrates in their diets. Carbs are essential for baby's proper growth and development and is their main fuel source. But let's be clear, I am not talking about refined white bread and sweet carbs for baby. No way! Babies need complex (or ancient grains) in their diets.
- Rice balls - I have found that rice balls are easier for baby to handle then just grains of rice, but you can serve anyway you want. To make rice balls, cook rice and let cool slightly. Then with wet hands, take a teaspoon or two of rice and roll it in the palm of your hand pressing gently until a rice ball forms.
- Quinoa - cooked, cooled and served plain or with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil and a pinch of parsley, chives or basil mixed in.
- Toast - whole wheat or sprouted grains are the best. Serve finely chopped or in long strips.
- Waffles - Homemade whole wheat are the best. But if you are in a rush, look for brands of pre-made waffles with only ingredients you can pronounce. I like this and this brand of store bought waffles. Here is a recipe for my Sweet Potato Waffles.
- Millet - cooked, cooled and served plain or jazzed up into this delicious vegetable 'fried' millet rice or these millet cakes. Yum!
- Farro - one of my favorite grains for baby because it is big enough for most babies to pick up on their own. Cook, cooled and served plain or with a drizzle of olive or coconut oil and a pinch of cilantro, basil or oregano mixed in. This creamy farro with spinach looks amazing for baby (and you!).
- Pancakes - whole wheat are best for baby. Here is my recipe for whole wheat pancakes and also my families favorite Spiced Blender Pancakes. Serve plain, with a spread of nut butter, ricotta or Greek style yogurt on top. Serve in strips.
- Pasta - whole wheat, rice or quinoa pasta is best for baby. Cooked to al denta, cooled and served plain or with your favorite tomato sauce (here is our favorite sauce, has extra veggies in it!), pesto (our favorite homemade one) or with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of cheese.
- Couscous - whole wheat couscous is best for baby and can be found in most health food stores. Cooked, cooled and fluffed with a fork. Serve plain or with a drizzle of butter and a pinch of mild curry powder mixed in.
- Barley - cooked, cooled and served to baby plain or with a pinch of parsley, cilantro or dill mixed in.
Phew, that was a ton of ideas!
Did I miss anything? Do you have more questions for me to answer? Then leave a comment in the box below.