Edamame, which are fresh soybeans, are a quick and easy, protein-packed, tasty snack or appetizer. Whether you buy them fresh or frozen, you can cook them up in a snap and flavor them to your taste. If you can't find fresh edamame, don't worry—frozen is just fine. It is actually difficult to tell the difference between the two.
When it comes to cooking fresh in-shell soybeans, you have a few choices: boiling, steaming, microwaving, and pan-searing. All take about the same amount of time; the difference comes down to what kind of equipment you want to use. No matter how you cook them up, season them to taste with flaky sea salt, red pepper flakes, togarashi, and/or sesame seeds.
A simple method that only requires a pot and some water, boiling edamame is a popular cooking choice. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add enough salt so the water tastes as salty as sea water. Add in-shell edamame and cook until the beans inside the pods are tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool, and season to taste before serving.
Steaming the soybeans is also done on the stovetop and requires the addition of a steamer basket (or bamboo steamer if you own one and want that authentic look). First, bring about an inch of water to a boil in a pot. Put the edamame in a colander, steam basket, or bamboo steam tray. Once the water is boiling, add the vessel to the pot, cover, and steam the edamame until they are heated through and tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove insert from the pot. Serve the edamame warm or rinse with cold water to cool off first. Season to taste and serve.
If you are looking for a slightly quicker method, or don't have any more room on the stovetop, microwaving the edamame is a good option. Start with the edamame in a microwave-safe bowl. If cooking fresh edamame, splash the soybeans with a few drops of water—use wet hands and flick your fingers at the bowl to splatter a few drops of water here and there on the pods. Cover the bowl with a paper towel and microwave on high in 1-minute increments until the edamame is tender, about 3 minutes total in most microwaves. Let sit until cooled off enough to handle. Season to taste and serve.
Pan-searing is a less common method, but a decidedly tasty one. Heat a large frying pan (cast iron is ideal if you have it) over high heat until it's nice and hot. Wet your fingertips and flick drops of water onto the surface; the droplets should "dance" and sizzle immediately. Add the edamame to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook, undisturbed, until the pods are lightly charred on the bottom. Turn the pods over and cook, shaking the pan a bit but not stirring them around too much, until both sides are charred and the edamame beans inside are tender. Season to taste and serve hot or at least warm. (This method doesn't lend itself as well as the others to cooling and serving at room temperature or cold.)