What Is Edamame?

Edamame soy beans with a dusting of sea salt

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Edamame are young soybeans, usually still in the pod. Because the beans are young and green when they are picked, edamame soybeans are soft and edible, not hard and dry like the mature soybeans which are used to make soy milk and tofu.

Some grocery stores such as Trader Joe's also sell green edamame that has been hulled and is outside of the pod. This hulled edamame is great for adding to green salads, making edamame salads, or adding to rice dishes or Japanese food, but the flavor of the pod is great if you just want a quick edamame snack. (Note that the pod itself is not edible). 

Edamame served in the pod is a popular appetizer at most Japanese food restaurants and is a great choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone wanting to eat healthy particularly since it is packed full of healthy and low-fat soy protein. More and more health-conscious restaurants and delis are adding edamame to their selections. They are a healthy vegan snack and a great source of protein for vegetarians. 


Watch Now: 2 Tasty Ways to Make Your Own Edamame

How to Cook Edamame

To cook edamame that is still in the pod, boil the pods in salted water, or, steam your edamame, then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. You can eat edamame hot or cold.

  • Boiling: Add fresh, in-shell edamame to a pot of boiling, salted water. Boil frozen edamame for one to two minutes and fresh edamame for five to six minutes until the beans are tender. Drain and rinse the pods with cold water.
  • Steaming: Place an inch of water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Place the edamame above the boiling water in a steam basket, steam tray, or colander. Cover the pot and steam for five to 10 minutes for fresh edamame and just a couple of minutes for frozen edamame. Steam until tender. You can rinse to cool if desired.
  • Microwave: Place frozen edamame in a bowl and sprinkle with water. Cover the bowl and microwave on high for approximately three minutes. You may want to do it in one-minute increments to see how long is enough for your microwave. Allow them to cool before handling.
  • Pan-searing: Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add the edamame and reduce the heat to medium-high. Allow the pods to cook until they are lightly charred, then turn them over to char the other side. Cook until tender and charred. Serve warm or hot.
how to cook edamame illustration
Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

How to Eat Edamame as a Snack or Appetizer

  • Eating from the pod: To eat edamame which is still in the pod, bring the pod to your lips, then squeeze or bite the beans into your mouth. You don't eat the pod, just the edamame beans inside, which will easily pop out. The pods are usually salted, which adds to the flavor and experience of eating edamame. Be sure you have a separate dish handy where you can place the edamame pods after you've eaten the beans inside.
  • Seasoning and shelling: You can season the edamame pods or season them after shelling. Try different varieties of sea salt, red pepper flakes, or sesame seeds.

Edamame Recipes

If you like edamame, you might also want to try some more vegan Japanese food recipes, or, browse a few of the recipes using edamame below: