Children are not consuming sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables in their habitual diet. Methods derived from associative learning theories could be effective at promoting vegetable intake in pre-school children. The objective of the present study was to compare the effectiveness of different learning strategies in promoting the intake of a novel vegetable. Children aged between 9 and 38 months were recruited from UK nurseries. The children (n 72) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions (repeated exposure, flavour–flavour learning or flavour–nutrient learning). Each child was offered ten exposures to their respective version of a novel vegetable (artichoke). Pre- and post-intervention measures of artichoke purée and carrot purée (control vegetable) intake were taken. At pre-intervention, carrot intake was significantly higher than artichoke intake (P< 0·05). Intake of both vegetables increased over time (P< 0·001); however, when changes in intake were investigated, artichoke intake increased significantly more than carrot intake (P< 0·001). Artichoke intake increased to the same extent in all three conditions, and this effect was persistent up to 5 weeks post-intervention. Five exposures were sufficient to increase intake compared to the first exposure (P< 0·001). Repeated exposure to three variants of a novel vegetable was sufficient to increase intake of this vegetable, regardless of the addition of a familiar taste or energy. Repetition is therefore a critical factor for promoting novel vegetable intake in pre-school children.