Best Baby Cereal (Homemade and Purchased)

quinoa baby food with strawberries


Find the best baby cereal options, both homemade recipes and store-bought, with this collection of trusted recommendations. Get tips on how to lower heavy-metal exposure, prepare each cereal, increase iron absorption, and add flavors and nutrients as baby grows.

quinoa baby food with strawberries

Best Baby Cereal

Baby cereal is a classic early baby food, especially for Stage 1, and I thought I would share my top picks for recipes and products since there are just so many options to choose from. Plus, with all of the scary headlines about heavy metals in baby food in recent years, it can be hard to know which ones are safest.

I’m going to share easy baby cereal recipes to make at home. Then, I will share baby cereals you can buy at the store. I have options for each, including different grains, so you can choose what works best for your family.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends serving a variety of cereal types, not just rice cereal since it can have the highest risk of heavy metals such as arsenic. A very straightforward way to relax about that concern is to mix up what you serve from day to day and week to week.

And when you look at serving baby cereal in the mix with a lot of other baby food recipes, that decreases the risk from any one food or ingredient even more.

Baby Cereal Recipes

Below are my three favorite homemade baby cereal recipes. There is one made with oatmeal, one made with rice, and one made with quinoa. All store well so you can make a batch, then use it in future weeks as needed.


Baby Rice Cereal

This is delicious and creamy when made with short-grain brown rice. See the recipe for easy ways to prepare this cereal for a Stage 1 baby food, then add flavors and nutrients as a baby food combination.

Best Homemade Baby Rice Cereal

Soaking the rice is optional but recommended. It may help it be a little easier for baby to digest, but as long as you cook the rice until very soft, it is not 100% necessary if you’re short on time. The directions, timing, and liquid used here are based on soaking the rice and using the short grain brown rice from Lundberg.

Get the recipe


Baby Oatmeal

Making homemade baby oatmeal is so easy and so fast. This is my go-to method. (Note that homemade baby oatmeal lacks the iron that store-bought baby cereals have, so you may need to add iron another way if you use exclusively homemade baby cereals.)

Easy Baby Oatmeal (and Best Ways to Flavor It)

The initial portion on this recipe is small to avoid potential waste, though increase it according to the hunger of your child. Their appetite is your best guide for how much is the right amount for them to eat.

Get the recipe


Quinoa Baby Food

This easy quinoa cereal is sort of like cream of wheat in texture, but it’s packed with vegetarian protein and fiber. Plus, there’s an easy method for leaving the texture thicker and serving it as a Stage 3 baby food, too.

Quinoa Baby Food (Easy Baby Cereal, 2 Ways)

Transform nutrient-rich quinoa into a delicious baby food—with options for older kids and parents to share it—using this simple method. (Find flavor variations and storage tips too.)

Get the recipe

baby cereals in grid of 6 images

Baby Cereal to Buy

There are so many options at the store for baby cereals, and these are my favorites. I’ve chosen them for their mix of grains (a mixture of grains will have less potential risk of exposure to heavy metals than rice-based cereals alone), their accessibility (so you can find most of them at regular grocery stores), affordability, and iron inclusion.

Babies are born with stores of iron in their blood, but it starts to run out around age 6 months. From that age, it’s important to include iron-rich foods in their diets. There are many foods that are appropriate, including fortified baby cereals.

TIP: You certainly don’t have to do baby cereal, but one benefit from purchased baby cereals is that they contain iron, which babies need to be eating soon after 6 months, as the iron stores they are born with start to run out.

Baby Cereal without Heavy Metals (or Arsenic)

The easiest way to lower potential exposure to heavy metals in baby food is to choose ones made with grains other than rice—rice is the one with the highest potential risk of arsenic—and to vary the foods served to baby from day to day and week to week.

So one week you may try one cereal and a few weeks later you can choose a different brand with a different mixture of grains. And then when you look at the whole of what baby is eating—because presumably they’d be eating other foods at lunch and dinner—to see that the intake of any one single food (and it is associated individual risks) is quite low.

Brands that are more transparent about testing their baby foods are included in my Best Baby Food story.

Best Baby Cereal Stage 1

You can offer any of the cereals I’ve included above as a Stage 1 baby food if prepared with enough liquid until very smooth and creamy. This stage is usually very smooth and easy for baby to eat off of a spoon.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best baby cereal to start with?

You can start with a single-grain baby cereal, such as rice, oat, or quinoa. If you are concerned about heavy metals in baby food, you can start with oat or quinoa as those grains naturally have less risk.

What is the safest cereal for babies?

The safest cereal for babies is one that they are not allergic to, is prepared properly according to the recipe or package directions, and served according to each baby food stage. Beyond that, you can choose one made with a mix of grains or one made with oats or quinoa to lower the risk of arsenic that may be present in a rice-based baby food.

Is rice or oatmeal cereal better for babies?

Both are easy options, though oat, quinoa, or a multi-grain cereal may have less potential risk of arsenic (which is potentially more common in rice).

Which cereal is best for 1-year-old?

One-year-olds can enjoy any oatmeal or cooked breakfast cereal, or dry cereals including Cheerios and Chex. As the get closer to 18-24 months, options such as Kix and Shredded Wheat, if softened with a little milk, can be included, too. You can read more about the Best Cereals for Kids.

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