Cilantro, also known as coriander in other countries, is thought to have health benefits that are particularly good for baby. For this reason, cilantro was the first herb that I introduced to my baby in my homemade baby food experiments. Introducing your baby to a wider variety of flavors is certainly one advantage of making baby food yourself, and cilantro is one ingredient that is not often found in those jars on the shelf.
Health Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro is considered a great food additive for babies because of its potential to aide in healthy digestion. As an herb, cilantro is used as a natural remedy to relieve gas, bloating, nausea, and indigestion. All good things for baby, for sure. Cilantro is also a natural source of fiber, although this is a fairly minor point because the amount of fiber you obtain from cilantro is relatively small.
Cilantro is also a good source of phytonutrients and antioxidants that may not be in great abundance in milk or formula. Specifically, cilantro leaves contain phenols, which prevent oxidative damage, particularly in the gut. Other important nutrients provided by cilantro include vitamins A, C, K, and zinc.
Finally, cilantro has been shown to have antimicrobial properties and may specifically act against integral Salmonella proteins. There is additional evidence that its antimicrobial properties may also work against E. coli and MRSA. Perhaps we all need a bit more cilantro in our diet.
Cilantro Taste Perception
Of note, some people hate the taste of cilantro and it is thought that there is a genetic component (attributed to genetic variants of specific olfactory receptor genes) that causes some fraction of the population to perceive the flavor of cilantro to be similar to the taste of soap. There is also a great article in the New York Times that further explores the neuroscience behind cilantro taste perception.
Quick Baby Food Recipe with Cilantro
The most obvious way to use cilantro in baby food is with avocado. I first introduced my baby to cilantro using the following recipe once he was already comfortably enjoying avocado on a regular basis. I waited to begin introducing herbs and spices until he was 8 months old, after he had become accustomed to more traditional purees. I waited until 9 months to add lime juice into the recipe after he was introduced to more acidic fruits and vegetables.
For 2 servings:
1 Tbsp of cilantro leaves
Squeeze from ½ of a lime (after 9 months)
Blend ingredients in a Ninja, blender, food processor, or whatever until smooth (or your desired consistency for your baby’s age) and viola! Your baby is now on their way to becoming a guacamole connoisseur. I generally only serve half of this recipe to baby, and the other half I reserve for myself to have on toast since avocado does not save well.
Other potential foods to pair with cilantro: chicken, fish, melon, corn, carrots, yellow squash, zucchini, potato, brown rice.
How to Store Cilantro
When I buy a bunch of cilantro, there is always way too much of it to use before it goes bad, so I freeze it with little loss of flavor or potency. I always start by picking individual leaves off of the stem and then wash them thoroughly.
The typical way to freeze cilantro is to toss it in a little olive oil (the exact amount depends on how much cilantro you are freezing), then lay it flat in a Ziploc bag, making sure to seal the bag with as little air as possible and place it flat in the freezer. For baby, I was not introducing olive oil just yet the first time I froze cilantro for him, so I just omitted the olive oil from the process, and it worked out just fine.