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First Flavors: Five More “Baby-Friendly” Spices

by Leena D. Saini

Last month, I wrote about the importance of diversifying your baby’s palate and how to use “baby-friendly” spices at mealtime (First Flavors: How to Safely Introduce “Baby-Friendly” Spices).   I talked about five great spices for your baby.  This month I continue the conversation with five more spices that are great for gently flavoring your little one’s meals:


6. Garam Masala

            Garam (“hot”) masala (“spice mixture”) is a combination of several ground spices used mainly in Southeast Asian and Indian cooking.  The spices used in the mixture vary greatly from region to region, but a typical blend contains ground coriander seed, cumin seed, turmeric, cinnamon, clove and cardamom.  The blend is not necessarily “hot” or spicy as the name suggests.


Baby Food Pairings:

A pinch of garam masala in any vegetable or meat puree is wonderful! Any savory dish can be enhanced with this spice blend.  Potato, carrot, cauliflower or pea purées are great examples and serve as baby’s first introduction to Southeast-Asian curries.  Add a splash of coconut milk for a Thai-inspired flair. 



Since each spice has a healing property of some sort, this spice mixture is most beneficial for the body.  It promotes digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties.


7. Paprika

            Paprika is a ground spice made from the pods of Capsicum annuum.  There are a few different kinds.  Hungarian paprika, that country’s national spice, is actually a blend of peppers and comes in varying degrees of heat (you will see Hungarian sweet paprika often on grocery shelves here in the US).  Hungarians use it to flavor and color goulash, a celebrated national dish.  Spanish paprika, on the other hand, is often smoked and has a distinctly different taste.  It is most often found in the famous paella rice dish from the region. 


            A good bet for baby food is the kind most often found on US grocery shelves—a small tin or jar simply labeled “paprika.”  This is usually a mild and sweet paprika that has Hungarian or Californian origins and can be used in just about any baby food preparation.


Baby Food Pairings:

Warm rice porridge with puréed vegetables is a great way to introduce paprika to your little one.  It is much like a “baby paella”.  A pinch in scrambled eggs, when your little one is allowed eggs by her doctor, is our favorite way to use paprika.  Any savory vegetable purées adapt well to this spice.



Paprika is high in luteins and carotenoids, two compounds known for promoting eye health.


8. Saffron

            Saffron is a beautiful and aromatic spice that is popular in Persian, Indian, Turkish and European cuisines.  The taste is unique, a bit sweet, and the color of the saffron infuses itself into whatever dish you are making.  Saffron grows from a special type of iris flower.  It takes 75,000 flowers to harvest only 1 pound of saffron!  Hence it is a very prized spice. 


            Saffron was one of the first spices I introduced to my daughter.  She loved it.  The red-orange color it imparts is so eye-catching for a little one’s eyes.  The flavor is also sweet and mild, making it a great introductory spice for baby. 


Baby Food Pairings:

Saffron can be added to both sweet and savory purées.  For fruits, try mango, apple, pear or even banana purée.  Rice porridge and chicken meals adapt well to this spice.  Saffron added to potato (both white and sweet potatoes), carrot purées and butternut squash purées are wonderful as well.



Saffron is an anti-oxidant and supports eye and brain health.


9. Ground Cumin

            Cumin seeds are relatively tiny seeds, brown in color, that most resemble fennel or caraway seeds.  They grow on a thin leafy plant mainly in India (70% of the world’s crop is grown here) but is thought to be native to the Middle East.

Savory, slightly bitter or acidic, but certainly not in a bad way.  It is considered a warming spice and therefore can be used in a multitude of savory dishes.  You have tasted cumin in Indian curry dishes, Middle Eastern and Moroccan lamb dishes, and Mexican dishes of all sorts.  In Europe, cumin can be found in certain cheeses and breads.


Baby Food Pairings:

A pinch of ground cumin is a wonderful addition to mashed avocado and puréed cooked tomatoes and green bell peppers (think baby salsa).  For Indian-inspired and Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes, cumin powder pairs well with potatoes, eggplants, carrots and lentils.  Middle Eastern-style and Indian-style lentils pair wonderfully with a pinch of cumin powder.


Also, the next time you make a chili dish for the family, set some aside and purée in a blender for your little one.   You can assemble and cook the ingredients and set aside a portion before adding all the spices.  Then, add only a pinch of cumin to the dish before serving for baby.  In this way, the seasoning is mild and you can gently introduce a new flavor to baby.  You can do this with any of the individual spices of the dish.  The same goes for curry dishes.  A pinch of cumin or coriander powder, two common spices in curry blends, are a great thing to add to boiled and mashed potatoes, cauliflowers or cooked meat dishes.



Treats colic, indigestion, gas and is also an appetite stimulant.


10. Ground Coriander

            Coriander, or cilantro, as it is also commonly known, is a leafy green somewhat bushy plant that resembles parsley.  When the plant blooms flowers, they form seeds which look like tiny round, brown bb pellets.  The seeds, when dried are what is ground into a powder and used in recipes.  The leaves and the powder have two entirely different tastes. The seeds, in my opinion, are stronger and taste a bit grassy.  A little bit goes a long way.


Coriander is anti-bacterial, treats colic, bad breath and rheumatism.


Baby Food Pairings:

For Southeast Asian-inspired dishes, coriander powder pairs well with any vegetable, including eggplant, potatoes, and carrots.  Lentils are a nice way to introduce this spice as well.


As always, get creative!  This list is certainly not exhaustive.  You will be surprised at how well your little one will take to certain flavors.  Remember, it can take 10-15 tries for your baby to get used to new flavors, so don’t give up if you see a grimace or two in the beginning.  Have faith that you will be raising an adventurous eater.


From my baby’s highchair to your little one’s, bon appétit!


For more information visit me on my blog www.masala babyfood.wordpress.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/masalababyfood



Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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