Are Runny Egg Yolks Safe for Kids to Eat?

updated Dec 1, 2022
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I believe a soft-cooked, runny egg — and all that rich, saucy goodness you get from breaking the yolk — is truly one of breakfast’s (and sometimes dinner’s) greatest pleasures.

Eggs do run the risk of carrying food-borne illnesses like Salmonella, though, and the only way to completely kill any dangerous bacteria that could be in eggs is to cook them all the way through. This is a risk that I’ve always felt is one I am personally willing to take, since I have a generally healthy immune system.

But is it safe for kids? Here’s what you need to know.

Why Soft-Cooked Eggs Are Not Safe for Kids

The USDA states that soft-cooked eggs with runny yolks are not safe for children to consume. While they really recommend that all people (both young and old) cook their eggs fully, until both the whites and yolks are completely firm, to prevent the risk of food-borne illness such as Salmonella, certain individuals — pregnant women, elderly folks, people who are sick — are at significantly greater risk.

Registered Dietitian Sally Kuzemchak of Real Mom Nutrition says, “I know runny egg yolks are trendy right now, but I’d play it safe where kids are concerned. According to the CDC, kids under the age of 5 have higher rates of Salmonella than any other age group. The risk for serious illness from Salmonella is especially high for babies because their immune systems are still developing.”

Alternatives and When to Transition

While a sunny-side-up or over-easy egg yolk may be out of the question, there are still plenty of options. “If the bad news is that you can’t serve runny yolks to kids under 5, the good news is that you can still introduce them to a variety of cooking methods for eggs,” says our Associate Food Editor and busy mom, Meghan.

“Over-hard eggs are an easy way to introduce young kids to fried eggs (my 3-year-old is a big fan), while chopped hard-boiled eggs are ideal for toddlers who are still picking up food with their fingers. Introducing them to these egg varieties while they’re young will not only keep them interested in eggs, but also help them appreciate the beauty of a runny-yolked poached egg when they’re old enough.”

After age 5, the risk goes down as kids naturally begin to build a stronger immune system. At this time, Sally recommends looking for pasteurized eggs (which are heated to help reduce the chance of salmonella) as you slowly incorporate soft-cooked, jammy egg yolks into the diet.

5 Hard-Cooked Egg Recipes That Are Kid-Approved

What ways to do you serve eggs to your young children? Let us know in the comments!