Meat for babies: how to safely serve it as a finger food

Bonus Material: Free workshop (move from purées to finger foods without fear!)

Certain foods tend to cause parents a lot of anxiety and fear when it comes to baby led weaning, and one of them is meat. We get it, it’s a difficult texture to think about your baby eating!

But whether you’re choosing to start solids with puréed baby food, baby led weaning, or a combo of both, meat contains a lot of important nutrients for babies – most specifically iron. Knowing how to safely prepare meat for babies is key, so we’re giving you all the details you need.

Plus, we’re huge supporters of starting where you’re comfortable and ready to begin! Jump on our next workshop “Baby Led Weaning but make it purées!” to learn how to move from purées to finger foods – without the fear! Gradually progress in textures, and work your way up to serving meat as a finger food when both you and your baby are ready.

Table of Contents

For the purpose of this blog post, we’re going to say that meat includes: beef, lamb, pork, game meat, and poultry. Something you may not know is that it’s actually recommend as one of your baby’s first foods by both Health Canada and the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is because meat is high in iron, which is very important for babies to be getting right around 6-7 months via food through a consistent feeding schedule.

Believe it or not, babies and toddlers do not need meat for protein per say…they can get that easily through other foods like dairy, legumes, and even grains. Rather, it’s the iron and B12 that’s particularly important to be getting that meat provides so well.

Additionally, the type of iron in meat is heme-iron, which is actually the most easily absorbed in your body. While it’s not the only source of iron for your baby, if you’re a meat eating family at home, it’s definitely one of the easiest and most iron-rich sources you can provide.

Read more about the importance of iron and why we want to offer high iron foods twice a day to babies.

10 ways to serve meat to your baby

  • 1.

    Ground meat in sauce
  • 2.

    Ground meat in a patty or finger shape
  • 3.

    Pulled meat in a slow cooker or pressure cooker
  • 4.

    Braised meat
  • 5.

    Meat in a stew or soup
  • 6.

    Meat on a bone
  • 7.

    Grilled meat
  • 8.

    Pan-fried meat
  • 9.

  • 10.


When to introduce meat to babies

Baby eating a burger made from ground beef.

You can serve your baby meat as early as 6 months of age, or when they’re ready to start on solid foods. You could even give them some meat for their very first food if you wanted to! Once your baby is showing all of the readiness signs for starting solids, it’s safe to offer meat.

Starting where you’re comfortable, and continually progressing your baby onto more advanced textures is key. That’s why we have a free workshop to teach you how to gradually move along from easier to more advanced textures, without fear!

What meats can be served as finger foods?

One way to prepare meat as a baby food is to serve it as a meatball or burger cut into strips, with quartered baby tomatoes and yogurt for dipping.

Any type of unprocessed meat is safe for your baby! It doesn’t matter if it’s organic, grass fed, or conventional meat (although grass fed and organic will have a better fat profile, but it’s not a big deal if you can’t afford it).

One of the only things to aim for is meat that’s not pre-seasoned or marinated, as it’s almost guaranteed to contain a high amount of salt. I’d rather see you add seasonings and marinades at home where you can control the amount you put in.

Avoid all processed meats, such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, and sausages (unless homemade), as they’re very high in sodium and nitrites/nitrates, which increases the risk of cancer, and honestly, is not needed in a baby’s diet. Understandably, it can sneak its way in, especially after one year of age, and hey – nothing will happen to them from a few indulgences. But generally speaking, try and avoid them when you can.

Can baby eat meat with no teeth?

There are a couple of myths to bust about meat. First off, it’s not a choking hazard just because it isn’t puréed. Babies don’t need teeth to chew meat (or other solid foods!).

The goal is to cook and serve meat so that it passes what we call “the squish test”. This is when you place a piece of meat (or any other food for baby) between your thumb and forefinger and push down. If you’re able to squish the food, or break it into pieces with just the pressure of your two fingers, your baby will be able to do the same with their gums. Actually, their gums are much stronger so this test is playing it safe!

How to keep meat safe for babies

Babies can chew meat most easily when it’s both tender and moist. Here are our top tips on what to do when cooking and serving meat to make sure it can be safely served to your baby.

Cooking and preparing meat for babies safely by keeping it moist and tender.

#1: Keep it moist!

Try and maintain as much juice and fat on the meat as possible during cooking. It will not only keep it moist, but the fat is also beneficial for your growing baby. We recommend keeping skin on drumsticks, breasts, or chicken thighs when cooking them so that the fat from the skin keeps the meat moist. We would then remove the skin before serving it to your baby.

When possible, brown any meat on all sides first at a high temperature in a cast iron pan, or grill, and then cook it to completion on low heat. Whether that be in the oven, in a slow cooker, or braised/stewed over the stove. This will break down the collagen in the meat and tenderize it.

Prepare meat by browning it on all sides to keep it moist enough to introduce meat to your baby.

You definitely need to make sure to serve fully cooked meat, especially for babies, but keep in mind this doesn’t mean cooking it so much that it becomes dry and hard. Aim to cook chicken and pork to 145°F (use a meat thermometer to check!) and have a holding time of 8.5 minutes before cutting into it, which will ensure any bacteria is killed off.

Higher than that, such as 165°F, will be okay for pieces of meat with more fat content that can withstand those temperatures, such as chicken thighs or drumsticks. However, it will likely produce tougher, drier meat for those pieces with less fat content, such as chicken breasts. Steak can be cooked a little bit under this (it’s okay to have a touch of pink inside if the steak hasn’t been poked with a fork and the outside is well-cooked).

Other ways to make meat more moist and easy to chew for your baby/toddler is to add sauces like tomato sauce, plain yogurt (we use that as a sour cream replacement all the time), salsa, pesto, and guacamole.

Healthy dip options for babies, toddlers, and picky eaters that can be used when eating meat.

You can use these as something to dip into, or mix the meat right into it. Topping the meat with the broth or juices it was cooked in is another option (for adults and kids!)…it’s just so much more enjoyable to eat when it’s moist!

#2: Keep it tender!

As mentioned earlier, you want to make sure that the meat can be easily mashed between your thumb and forefinger – aka that it passes the squish test (see the video below).

A big part of keeping meat tender is not overcooking it, but you can also choose more tender pieces of meat, like a pork or beef loin. You can further tenderize any piece of meat, including chicken, by putting it between two sheets of plastic wrap, or parchment paper, and pounding it while it’s still raw.

Other tenderizing techniques include marinating it in things like vinegar or yogurt. Ultimately, choosing more tender pieces of meat and chicken, like drumsticks, thighs, and legs (which are all higher in iron too!) is going to be the easiest way to ensure the meat being served is tender enough for your baby.

Another tip is in how you cut the meat before serving it to your baby. Some may say this is taking it too far, but we find it helps when you cut perpendicular (or across) the direction of the grain (where the muscle tissues run). That way, you get lots of shorter pieces of meat fibres that fall apart more easily in their mouth, making it easier to chew.

Check out this 7 month old baby enjoying some pulled chicken!

How to serve meat to your baby

If you’re purée feeding, you can easily purée cooked meat with a little broth, water, or breast milk, either on it’s own or mixed in with vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, tomatoes, etc. Feel free to add any seasonings and switch up the flavors for lots of taste exposure! 

For baby led weaning, you’ll want to form it/cut it in finger length sizes so it’s easy for your baby to hold, and generally speaking, at least 1-2” wide. Let’s go over some options for how to serve various types of cooked meat, plus give you some easy meal ideas!

Various options for serving meat to your baby, including as a homemade baby food mixed with breast milk, in finger strips, as a meatball, and offering a chicken drumstick.

Ground meat in sauce

The easiest place to start with babies is by offering ground meat. It’s crumbly, soft, and moist, especially if you choose one with a higher fat content. You can just take any ground beef, turkey, or chicken, and offer it either in its own juices (use some of that fatty juice to keep it moist) or in a sauce like tomato or pasta sauce. Your baby can eat it with their fingers, or with a spoon.

Ground meat in a patty or finger-shape

Offer ground beef as a patty or meatball for baby to eat meat, keep it moist by adding coconut milk or dairy milk to the recipe.

One of the easiest ways to serve ground meat is to actually form it into a patty and cut it into finger shapes, or even a large meatball. We also LOVE mini-meatloaves for babies and toddlers. Simply bake meatloaf in a muffin tin for easy to hold and moist meat.

A great trick to keep it extra moist is to add in some coconut milk or regular milk to your meatball recipe!! It makes it mushy even after it’s cooked (think IKEA Swedish meatball texture). If you’re adding any sort of breadcrumb to the meatball, soak your breadcrumbs in milk first before using them (called a panade), or just add in small amounts of milk to your meat mixture on its own!

Check out our Apple Sage Baby Burgers for one of our favorite ground beef recipes for baby led weaning, and a meal for the whole family!

Pulled meat in a slow cooker or pressure cooker

Pulled pork or beef as easy meat recipes for starting solids.

You’ll love how this turns out, and it’s perfect for babies because it just falls apart, is easy to chew, and stays really moist. You can pile up shredded slow cooked meat on the high chair tray to make it easy for your baby to grab onto with their fingers. Of course, you can also mix it into a sauce, or a purée like mashed avocado, salsa, or yogurt.

Check out our recipe for boneless leg of lamb in the slow cooker for a delicious meal the whole family can enjoy!

Braised meat

If you want super flavorful, tender meat, this is a great way to go – especially if you have more time on your hands to dedicate to this.

Learn more about how to braise meats if this is something new for you to try!

Meat in a stew or soup

You can make any soup or stew and just strain the meat, veggies, grains etc. from the broth and serve the soft pieces of meat to your baby! It’ll be soft from the long cooking time, and moist from the broth it’s been sitting in.

Meat on a bone

Chicken drumsticks are a safe meat for your baby as the bone is not a choking hazard.

People always freak out when they hear this one, but it’s a great option because meat on a bone (like a drumstick or lamb chop) has an integrated handle that your baby or toddler can hold onto and take bites out of! Keep in mind…it’s large bones we’re talking about that they can’t take bites off of or break into pieces. Not small ones that can break, which would make them a choking hazard.

We bake chicken drumsticks often with a few types of roasted veggies all on one pan. This is something that your baby can enjoy eating the exact same way you do! As long as you know how to safely serve it (which I show you how to do in my Baby Led Feeding online course) you’ll find this to be a low hassle way of offering meat!

Grilled meat

Grilling meat is trickier to keep moist and tender, but can definitely be done. Grill chicken breast in a covered state, like covered with a silicone mat, a lid, or with an aluminum foil tent over it. This will keep all the steam and moisture on the meat versus evaporating into the air, and will ensure you don’t overcook it.

Again, feel free to offer a dip to keep the meat moist and easier to chew for your baby. You can also spread some on top before serving if your baby isn’t ready to try dipping just yet.

Learn more about barbecuing food for your baby and how to do so safely.

Pan-fried meat

Pan-frying meat (like steak!) can work as a great food for your baby to gnaw and chew on, in larger pieces, when they don’t have teeth. If you ever have a tougher meat for dinner, like steak, this is great for them to just suck and gnaw on.

Believe it or not, by sucking the juices out of it, and gnawing on it, they can actually extract a decent amount of iron from it, so it’s a great nutritious option even if they don’t ingest much (or any).

If they have teeth and can chew better (around 12 months +), you can cut more tender pieces of steak into small 1-2” pieces for easier chewing and to reduce the risk of choking.


Baking is easy and can work if you douse the meat in lots of fat (again, we suggest keeping the skin on the chicken to keep the fat sizzling on it while cooking). You can also cover it with foil to keep the juices in, and the steam on the meat, so it stays nice and juicy!


Offer liver pâté on a rice rusk, cracker, or toast as a simple baby food option, serve with a side of sweet potato.

We love pâté for babies and toddlers! It’s a nutritional powerhouse with every pâté containing at least some liver, and so it delivers a jam packed amount of iron, b12, zinc, and so on. It’s easy to spread on pieces of toast or crackers, and doesn’t require any chewing!

However, because liver is SO nutrient dense, there is a possibility of overdosing on Vitamin A if it’s eaten more than once a week. Try not to offer it more than that, but otherwise…it’s a beautiful way to serve meat!

Hopefully this gives you TONS of ideas on how to serve meat to your babies and toddlers and really helps you see that this is not a food group you need to avoid or be scared of!

Again, you can start solids gradually with your baby, beginning where both you and your baby are comfortable, and then progress from there. If you want to learn about how to move on from purees to more advanced textures, register for our free workshop “Baby Led Weaning (but make it purees!)”.

We’ll teach you all about our signature Texture Timeline™ that will help you gradually move on without getting stuck, plus you’ll learn all about gagging and choking (and why we don’t need to be scared of gagging), and get our free Starter Guide just for watching! Seats fill up fast, register now to save yours!

Baby led weaning (but make it purees!) workshop by My Little Eater.

FAQ's about meat for babies

No, not necessarily, provided you’re following the recommendations outlined above to serve it safely. Remember to keep the meat moist, tender, and serve it in baby-safe formats, like as a meatball, shredded into strips, or cut into finger length pieces.

There are certain cuts of meat and certain preparations that will be a choking hazard for your baby, such as cubed pieces of steak, for example. So again, follow proper preparation methods and consult our Texture Timeline™ Video Library for how to serve all foods safely depending on the phase of the timeline you’re in, if you’re ever unsure. This can be found inside our Baby Led Feeding online course and once you’re in you have lifetime access to search any food you need!

Meat is one of the first foods we recommend when starting solids because it provides an excellent source of heme iron. This is the type of iron that is more easily absorbed by the body, compared to non-heme iron that comes from plant sources like beans or tofu.

And because babies need more iron than an adult male beginning at around 6 months of age when their iron stores start to deplete, it’s incredibly important that we’re serving iron at each meal when starting solids

That said, we do support those that would prefer to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or those who avoid meat for other reasons. It will be more difficult for your baby to get all of the nutrients they need, like iron, which means you’ll have to be more intentional with their menu. Feel free to reach out for a custom plan as we do offer one-on-one counselling as well!

As discussed above, we don’t recommend serving processed meats to babies or toddlers due to the higher levels of sodium and the fact that they contain nitrates/nitrites which are linked to negative health outcomes. Processed meats include things like pepperoni, salami, bologna, hot dogs, store-bought sausages, etc.

Of course, occasionally these will be offered for birthdays, summer BBQs, etc. and that’s ok! But in general, we don’t want to be offering these regularly, and if you can avoid them completely for babies under 12 months of age, that’s what we would recommend.

Yes, you can! When storing meat after cooking, we recommend storing it in the fridge with broth. When reheating the meat be sure to spoon some of the broth in with the meat before warming it up. The broth helps rehydrate the meat so it stays moist and tender for your baby.

You can safely store meat in the fridge for a maximum of 3 days in an air-tight container. After this point, we wouldn’t recommend serving the meat to your baby.

Our favorite way is to slow-cook the meat. Not only is this an easy, hands-off method for busy parents like you, it produces really tender, moist pieces of meat for your baby.

You can use this with chicken, beef, pork, turkey, or lamb – and we’ve got the perfect lamb recipe for you to try below! If you want more ideas for serving meat to your baby, including completely balanced meals, grocery lists for each week, and tips on safely serving the meal to your baby, check out our 60 Day Baby Led Feeding Meal Plan. We’ve even got a simpler version of this lamb recipe in the plan (and this one is already SO easy!), with tips for how to serve it and what to serve it with!

Lamb roast cooking in a crockpot with herbs, garlic, and onions.

Slow-Cooker Boneless Leg of Lamb

The easiest recipe for busy parents - just dump and go! It makes the lamb juicy and tender, perfect for shredding to serve to your baby (and the whole family!).
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 5 people


  • 1 crockpot


  • 1 boneless leg of lamb
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions (roughly chopped)
  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 2 tsp dry rosemary
  • 2 tsp dry thyme
  • 2-4 cups low-sodium beef broth (enough to cover everything)


  • Place the leg of lamb in the slow cooker. Do not trim the fat before cooking, keeping the fat on helps ensure the meat turns out moist enough for baby to eat safely. You can always remove any excess once it's done cooking.
  • Add the spices and herbs, garlic, and onion to the crock pot. Pour the beef broth on top, ensuring that everything is covered with broth.
  • Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
  • Once cooked, remove from the slow cooker and shred before serving to baby. Offer the meat in finger-length strips with a bit of the broth from the slow cooker on top to keep it moist and juicy!



Don't worry too much about adding some salt to this recipe. For something like this that is being made for the whole family, it's ok to add a bit of salt knowing that baby is only getting a portion of it and that you're cutting salt by choosing a low-sodium beef broth as well. Learn more about the truth about salt for babies.
Keyword baby friendly, baby led weaning recipe, crockpot meal, family meal, holiday recipes, toddler friendly
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How to serve baby meat safely.
Picture of Edwena Kennedy, RD

Edwena Kennedy, RD

Founder and lead Registered Pediatric Dietitian at My Little Eater Inc., creator of The Texture Timeline™, and mom of two picky-turned-adventurous eaters.

Picture of Edwena Kennedy, RD

Edwena Kennedy, RD

Founder and lead Registered Pediatric Dietitian at My Little Eater Inc., creator of The Texture Timeline™, and mom of two picky-turned-adventurous eaters.

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  • Going from a purée to a chunk of meat seems like too much of a leap. (As an older grandmother taking care of LO, baby led weaning is not something I’m comfortable with). She just turned 10 months, we are starting on chunkier fruits and veggies, but I struggle with how to prepare meat. She’s not used to really chewing yet, but I’d like to make it chunkier than a purée. Any suggestions? ( we already watched the video)
    Thank you.

    • We completely understand being nervous about making that jump from one texture to another, so you can certainly start more gradually. What about doing ground meat and then mixing it into something like whole fat yogurt. The yogurt helps keep the meat moist making it easier for baby to manage, and it will give the texture of a lumpier puree without having to play around with pureeing the meat to the right consistency. If you search “ground beef” on our blog page we have another blog with info on this option 🙂


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meet edwena

Registered pediatric dietitian, mom of two picky-turned-adventurous eater, and the creator of the Texture Timeline™ – an exclusive tool to help move your baby through easy to more advanced purees and finger foods to prevent picky eating.

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