Top 20 Baby Led Weaning Vegan Foods From A Dietitian

Let’s start by addressing that it’s totally OK to start solids with baby led weaning vegan foods.

In recent years, with the rise of veganism there has been a mix of opinions and concerns about vegan babies, but there is no reason why your child’s health will suffer as long as their diet is carefully planned. 

Here are some of the common misconceptions and benefits of a vegan diet for babies.

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baby eating toast

Common Concerns and Misconceptions:

  • Nutritional Adequacy: One of the primary concerns is whether a vegan diet can provide all the essential nutrients for a growing baby, but with careful planning and knowledge, a vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate. Foods like fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, and recipes rich in iron, calcium, and omega-3s can provide many of the essential nutrients and a multivitamin supplement is often needed to provide the more tricky nutrients.
  • Protein Sources: Many wonder if plant-based diets offer enough protein for babies. The truth is, legumes, whole grains, and soy products like tofu are all protein rich and provide ample protein for your little one.
  • Growth and Development: Some believe that vegan babies might not grow. However, when a vegan weaning diet is well-planned and diverse, babies can achieve the expected growth milestones just like their non-vegan counterparts.
  • Dairy Alternatives: The misconception that dairy is needed to provide calcium and other nutrients is widespread. As long as the missing nutrients are being obtained from alternative sources, cow’s milk isn’t necessary

Benefits of a Vegan Diet for Babies:

  • Digestive Health: Plant-based diets are rich in fibre, which can promote healthy digestion and prevent constipation, a common concern in babies starting solids.
  • Ethical and Environmental Benefits: Raising a vegan baby aligns with many parents’ ethical beliefs, teaching children compassion and care for all living beings. Additionally, a plant-based diet has a lower environmental footprint, contributing to a more sustainable future for our little ones.

While raising a vegan baby does require careful planning and a bit of extra knowledge, it’s entirely feasible as well as being beneficial, but I strongly suggest consulting with a registered dietitian who specialises in paediatric nutrition who can offer guidance and peace of mind to parents.

A baby eating baby led weaning vegan foods

What is baby led weaning?

Baby-led weaning (BLW) is a method of introducing solids where your baby self-feeds with finger foods instead of traditional purées. 

Foods need to be given in a developmentally appropriate form to reduce the risk of choking and ensure a balanced nutrient intake.

A baby eating brocolli

Vegan baby nutrition

Raising a vegan baby requires a bit more attention to nutrition. These are the nutrients that you should pay special attention to:

  • Iron: Crucial for cognitive development as iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to the brain. Vegan sources include fortified cereals, legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas, and dark green leafy vegetables. Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C sources, like fruits and vegetables, will enhance it’s absorption.
  • Zinc: Essential for growth and immune function. Found in whole grains, legumes like beans, lentils and chickpeas, and nuts.
  • Vitamin D: Important for bone health. While sunlight is a natural source, in the northern hemisphere we don’t get enough and therefore an 8.5-10mcg vitamin D supplement is necessary for all babies.
  • Vitamin A: Crucial for vision and immune function. Vegan sources include orange and yellow vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.
  • Vitamin C: Enhances iron absorption and supports immune function. Found in fruits like oranges, strawberries, and kiwi but also vegetables such as potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Iodine: Important for thyroid function. Seaweed is often suggested for adults, but it’s not recommended for babies and children as it can contain too much!  Often I will recommend a supplement or foods fortified with iodine as it’s difficult to get from natural vegan food sources.
  • Vitamin B12: Essential for nerve function. As it’s not naturally found in plant-based foods, vitamin B12 fortified foods or supplements are needed.
  • DHA: An omega-3 fatty acid vital for brain development. Algal oil supplements are a vegan source.

Nutrients we often worry about but are easy to find:

  • Protein: While many worry about protein intake, many baby led weaning vegan foods are rich in protein. Legumes like beans and pulses, tofu, and tempeh are all protein sources but other foods also contain protein even if you don’t think of them as traditional protein sources such as bread, grains, nuts and seeds.
  • Calcium: Essential for bone health. Vegan sources include fortified plant-based milks (added to food, not as a main drink under 1), green leafy vegetables, tahini, and almonds.
Infographic for vegan baby led weaning

Baby led weaning vegan meal planning


Crafting a meal plan for your vegan baby requires a focus on essential nutrients, particularly iron1, vitamin C, and energy sources. If you focus on these nutrients, your baby will usually get the other nutrients along the way!

Here is how to do this:

1. Prioritise iron-rich vegan foods:

Because iron is so important for your baby’s brain development, start with these foods first when planning your baby’s meals. Vegan sources of iron include:

  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, and beans can be mashed or served as soft-cooked whole pieces.
  • Whole Grains: Quinoa and fortified breakfast cereals are excellent choices.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables: Spinach and kale can be steamed and mashed or incorporated into soups.

2. Boost iron absorption with vitamin C:

Next consider the vitamin C source. Pairing iron-rich foods with vitamin C enhances iron absorption, making it more available for the body.

  • Fruits: Citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, and bell peppers are high in vitamin C. These can be offered as finger foods or purees.
  • Vegetables: Broccoli and Brussels sprouts are not only rich in vitamin C but also contain iron.

3. Ensure adequate energy sources:

Finally make sure you have a good energy provider. Babies have high energy needs relative to their size. You need to include energy-dense foods to ensure they get the calories they need for growth and activity. Here are some examples:

  • Healthy Fats: Avocado can be sliced or mashed. Chia seeds can be incorporated into puddings or smoothies.
  • Starchy Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and oats provide sustained energy. These can be offered as soft-cooked pieces or porridges.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Nut butters, like almond or peanut butter, can be thinly spread on toast or mixed into porridges.

If you feel like you’re not sure if they’re getting the right mix of nutrients, seek the advice of a paediatric dietitian.

A baby trying allergen vegan foods

How to introduce allergens to a vegan baby

This is a common question as some of the common allergens such as egg, milk and fish are not vegan foods. 

Current advice is to introduce all of the common allergens to babies before their first birthday to reduce allergy risks. There isn’t a separate recommendation for vegan families.

Some vegan families, especially if their baby is at higher allergy risk, opt to introduce non-vegan allergens for future protection. If you do decide to do this, these non-vegan allergens should be a regular part of your baby’s diet to maintain protection.

Timely Introduction: 

Start introducing allergenic foods around 6 months, but not before 4 months. For baby-led weaning, you must ensure your baby can handle food chunks to reduce the risk of choking which makes a start closer to 6 months ideal.

One Allergen at a Time: 

Introduce allergens individually, waiting a few days between each to identify potential reactions. Your baby can still have other foods during the introduction.

Common Vegan Allergens:

  • Celery
  • Gluten-containing cereals
  • Lupin
  • Mustard
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soya
  • Sulphur dioxide

Monitor for Reactions: 

Watch for signs like skin rashes, hives, vomiting, diarrhoea, worsening of eczema or asthma or unusual fussiness post-introduction. If symptoms arise, seek medical help.

 

Once an allergen is well-tolerated, its important to continue including it in your baby’s diet to maintain their tolerance. You can read more about introducing allergens safely here.

Soya beans, soya milk and tofu

Should soya be limited in a baby’s diet?

Soya is a staple food when you are vegan as it offers protein and essential nutrients. However, its role in a baby’s diet often raises questions. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Nutritional Benefits: Soya is a protein and also provides iron, calcium, and omega-3s. Foods like tofu, tempeh, and fortified soy milk are beneficial for babies.
  • Phytoestrogens Concern: While soya contains phytoestrogens, which resemble oestrogen, moderate consumption is generally considered safe in babies over 6 months of age 
  • Allergies: Soya however is a common allergen. Introduce it following the guidance above.
  • Processed Foods: Opt for whole soy foods like tofu over highly processed ones such as soya meat alternatives.

Is soya milk ok?

Soya milk should not be offered as a main drink to babies under one year old. 

Before their first birthday, babies’ should only be drinking breast milk or infant formula, alongside small amounts of water. 

After one year, soya milk can be introduced as part of a balanced diet, but it’s important to choose one which complements your toddler’s diet.

When you need to add milk when making your baby’s meals, using breast milk or infant formula is the most nutritious choice however you can use soya milk instead.

A baby eating sweetcorn as a vegan baby led weaning foods

Are other plant milks ok?

Other plant milks such as oat, nut milk and pea milk as a main drink are best kept for older babies and ideally after their 2nd birthday because they are much lower in nutrients. Like soy, they can be used in cooking.

Avoid rice milk for under 5’s as it contains traces of inorganic arsenic naturally occurring from the rice paddy fields but in a form that’s too concentrated for little ones.

Choose unsweetened and calcium fortified plant-based milks where you can, but be mindful that they’re not very nutritious.

What are some first foods for baby led weaning vegan babies?


If you think about it, most first weaning foods are vegan as the recommendations are to start with a vegetables first approach.  Here are some vegan first finger foods to explore:

1. Vegetables:

  • Sweet Potato: Soft-cooked sweet potato sticks are not only easy for little hands to grasp but are also rich in vitamin A and fibre. They’re also a great energy provider. Cut into 5 cm battens before cooking so that they are the perfect size for little hands.
  • Butternut Squash: Soft, roasted cubes of butternut squash are another excellent choice, offering a naturally sweet flavour that babies often love. Ensure your cubes are big enough for little fists to pick up.
  • Broccoli: Steamed broccoli florets provide iron and come with a natural built in handle, making it easy for babies to explore.

2. Fruits:

  • Banana: Sliced lengthways or chopped into chunks, bananas are soft and easy to gum and are a good source of potassium and vitamin B6.
  • Avocado: Offer this creamy fruit, rich in healthy fats and a great energy provider for growth, as slices or spread on a piece of toast.
  • Pear: Soft-cooked or ripe pears sliced lengthways (core removed) are gentle on a baby’s gums and provide essential vitamins and fibre.

3. Grains and Cereals:

  • Oats: Make up a batch of oat fingers, from a mixture of oats, your babies usual milk or a fortified plant-based milk such as soya milk, and mashed fruits.
  • Quinoa: Soft-cooked quinoa patties are protein-rich and introduce a new texture to your baby.

4. Legumes and Pulses:

  • Lentils: Make lentil patties in the shape of burgers or sausages for a finger food that is an excellent source of protein and iron.
  • Chickpeas: Blend chickpeas together with tahini (which is sesame paste so is an allergen) olive oil, and herbs and spices to make a baby friendly hummus offering both protein and essential minerals. Your baby might enjoy it spread on toast.

5. Other Vegan Options:

  • Tofu: Soft-cooked tofu cubes are a versatile option, providing calcium and protein. Lightly season with herbs and spices to add flavour.
  • Nut Butters: Spread smooth nut butters, such as almond or peanut butter, on bread or toast for a perfect treat. Choose those with no added sugars or salt.
A baby taking vegan multivitamin drops

Should your vegan baby take a multivitamin?

In the UK, experts recommend that children between 6 months and 5 years of age take supplements for Vitamins A, C and D, unless they consume more than 500ml of infant formula daily.

For vegan babies, this recommendation is the same but there are a few extra nutrients that I recommend alongside this.

  • You should supplement vitamin B12 and iodine in your baby’s vegan diet to ensure they receives a reliable amount, as these are not sufficiently available through vegan foods alone.
  • Vegans typically have low intakes of DHA fats from natural sources. Supplementation with the omega 3 nutrients EPA and DHA from microalgae is also something I consider essential given the significance of its effect on brain health.

Keep in mind that infant formula already includes a multivitamin. Before introducing an additional supplement to your baby’s diet, it’s important to check the label because it is possible to have too much!

Vegan infant formula

Can you get vegan baby formula?

In the UK, a 100% vegan baby formula isn’t available. Even the soy-based formulas contain animal-derived ingredients.

Currently, SMA Soya is the only soy-based formula available in the UK, and it is not recommended for babies under 6 months old.

SMA Soya sources its vitamin D from lanolin derived from the wool of living sheep.

Although many formulas contain omega-3 fatty acid DHA from animal sources, SMA Soya opts for a plant-based approach by utilising algae (seaweed) and fungi (mushrooms) instead.

Sweet potato wedges as a vegan baby led weaning food

Extra considerations for nursery

Most nurseries should be able to accommodate your baby’s vegan weaning diet if you speak to them before your little one enrols. 

However, the nurseries that I have encountered have rarely had a Registered Dietitian advise on their menus so theres no guarantees that nutritional needs are going to be met. There are some nutritional guidelines that nurseries should follow but they’re vague to say the least!

Ask the nursery for a copy of their menu and look across the day to make sure that the nutrients we have discussed above are represented in meals and snacks. 

Nurseries are often used to dealing with special diets for allergies and medical conditions and most are happy to accommodate with alternative suggestions where they can. 

One of the biggest issues I’ve had is them replacing a home cooked meal with a processed vegan alternative like a burger or sausage which often contain more salt and additives than young children need.

Be aware that some parents will bring in birthday cakes and your little one might feel excluded when they can’t join in.  You could leave a small supply of vegan fun foods at nursery to be given to your little one on these occasions so they can join in with their friends.

Extra considerations for birthday parties

These can be tricky to navigate if your little one is vegan but their friends aren’t.  Young babies might not notice but older ones will spot that their friends are eating different foods.

My best advice is to prepare ahead, chat to the parents to find out what food they are going to be offering and take a ready plated meal to closely match the birthday food that’s on offer.  

Most hosts will welcome this as it stops them having to prepare a suitable alternative, you could even offer to share a dish with the rest of the party so they can all experience something new together!

Some families choose to let their little one experience the party and the food without restriction.  This might mean that they experience non-vegan foods and this is a big decision for families to make. 

The last thing you want is for your little one to end up with an empty plate.  What’s really important for children is not to make them feel different, excluded or isolated from their group of friends.

Planning in advance is usually necessary for such events.

20 baby led weaning vegan recipes

Here are our top 20 recipes that are suitable for vegan baby led weaning and pack nutrition and flavour, perfectly crafted for little hands.

Warm vegan breakfasts:

  1. Quinoa Porridge Quinoa porridge is a warm option that’s rich in protein and iron, essential for your baby’s growth. The soft texture is perfect for babies learning to eat on their own.
  2. Banana oat pancakes These pancakes naturally sweeten with banana and contain no added sugar, offering a healthy, energy-packed breakfast or snack.
  3. Sheet pancake Cut a single-sheet pancake into strips to make it easy for babies to handle and munch on, providing a versatile base for various toppings.

Nutritious mains:

  1. Sweet potato and black bean bites Sweet potatoes provide vitamins while black beans add fibre and iron. Together, they make a delicious and wholesome finger food.
  2. Lentil spaghetti bolognese Lentils are an excellent iron source, and when served with spaghetti, they make for an easy-to-eat dish that encourages babies to practise their pincer grip.
  3. Mini chickpea flour frittata (omit the salt) These frittatas are a great way to introduce a variety of vegetables and are rich in protein from the chickpea flour, making them a satisfying meal.
  4. Zucchini pasta: Introducing courgette, or zucchini, pasta is an enjoyable and clever method to incorporate more vegetables into your baby’s diet. Courgette is also packed with essential vitamins that are beneficial for growth and development.
  5. Tofu and broccoli stir fry. (omit sugar and salt) This dish is a powerhouse of nutrients, offering protein from tofu and a host of vitamins from broccoli, all in a baby-friendly form.
  6. Vegan omelette Made with chickpea flour, a vegan omelette is a different way to provide a protein source that’s also rich in iron.
  7. Vegetable lentil loaf This loaf is a hearty source of iron and protein, and the texture is ideal for babies who are mastering the art of chewing.
  8. Tahini mac n cheese Tahini gives a creamy texture and a calcium boost, while the pasta shapes are perfect for little fingers to pick up and self-feed.

Finger food ideas:

  1. Sweet potato wedges with avocado dip Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, and when served with an avocado dip, they provide healthy fats necessary for brain development.
  2. Chickpea pancakes. These savory pancakes offer a dual benefit; they are not only rich in protein but also high in fiber, thereby providing a hearty option for babies eager to discover new textures.
  3. Baby falafels You can easily make falafels into a tasty finger food that’s rich in protein and fiber. Shape them into finger-friendly sizes perfect for baby-led weaning.
  4. Hummus with pitta and fruit Hummus is a great source of plant-based protein and healthy fats, and when paired with soft pitta and fruit, it’s a balanced meal.
  5. Porridge fingers These are easy to hold and chew, providing a good source of fibre and healthy fats. The raspberries add a burst of vitamin C, aiding iron absorption from the oats. They’re also a great way to use up leftover porridge!
  6. Baked seasoned tofu nuggets Tofu is a complete protein and these nuggets are a fun way for babies to enjoy it. They’re also easy to grasp and can help develop fine motor skills.
  7. Bean and beetroot patties Packed with protein and the goodness of beetroot, these patties are not only nutritious but also visually appealing to babies, encouraging them to explore new foods.
  8. Polenta bites (omit the salt) These bites are soft yet hold their shape, making them ideal for little hands. Polenta provides a good source of energy and pairs well with a variety of flavors.
  9. Quinoa and veggie balls (omit the salt) These balls combine the protein-rich quinoa with veggies for a nutrient-dense meal. Make them into finger shapes for babies to easily pick up and self-feed.
Sarah Almond Bushell MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA – Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist
Sarah Almond Bushell MPhil, BSc (Hons) RD MBDA – Registered Dietitian & Children’s Nutritionist

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meet Sarah

I’m Sarah, a Registered Dietitian, Children’s Nutritionist and mummy from East Sussex. My blog is to guide & inspire you with information about weaning, nutrition, food and toddler feeding. Learn more about me here.

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