What Is Edamame?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Edamame soy beans with a dusting of sea salt

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In This Article

Edamame is soybeans that are young and green when they are picked. Because of this, edamame is soft and edible, not hard and dry like the mature soybeans used to make soy milk and tofu. The word edamame is Japanese for "beans on a branch" and they are most often found in East Asian cuisine. Edamame is sold both in the pods and hulled. Although the pod itself is not edible, it adds flavor, making edamame in the pod an ideal snack. The hulled version is great for adding to rice dishes and salads. Edamame is inexpensive with the cost of hulled being slightly higher.

Edamame served in the pod is a popular appetizer at most Japanese food restaurants. It is a good choice for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone wanting to eat healthy, particularly since it is packed with low-fat soy protein. Edamame is sold both fresh and frozen.

Fast Facts

Nutritional Benefits: a good source of protein

Sold As: fresh and frozen (more common)

Most Common Cuisine: Japanese

Edamame Uses

Edamame can be served as an appetizer or snack and eaten straight from the pod, or the shelled soybeans can be incorporated into a recipe. To eat edamame still in the pod, the beans can be squeezed out of the pod directly into your mouth. The pods are usually salted, which adds to the flavor and experience of eating edamame. Edamame can be eaten hot or cold.

How to Cook With Edamame

Edamame can be cooked in several ways including boiling, steaming, microwaving, and pan-frying. To boil, add fresh, in-shell edamame to a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the beans are tender. Boil frozen edamame for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and rinse the pods with cold water if desired.

To steam edamame, place an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Place the edamame in a steaming basket, steam tray, or colander above the boiling water. Cover the pot and steam for 5 to 10 minutes for fresh edamame and 3 to 8 minutes for frozen edamame, until tender. Rinse to cool down if desired. For the microwaving method, place frozen edamame in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle with water. Cover the bowl and microwave on high for approximately 3 minutes, checking at 1-minute increments. Allow the edamame to cool before handling.

To give the edamame a smokey taste, cook in a hot frying pan over medium-high heat. Allow the pods to cook until they are lightly charred, then turn them over to char the other side. Cook until tender. Serve warm or hot.

The edamame pods can be seasoned or the seasoning can be added after shelling. Try different varieties of sea salt, red pepper flakes, or sesame seeds.

how to cook edamame illustration
Illustration: © The Spruce, 2018

What Does It Taste Like?

Although edamame is the same soybean that makes tofu, it has more taste than the bland bean curd. It is faintly reminiscent of peas and is buttery with a hint of sweetness and nuttiness. The texture is firmer than a pea, however—soft, but with a bite.

Edamame Recipes

Although edamame may be associated with Japanese food and other Asian cuisines, the soybean's popularity has made it a welcomed ingredient in dishes from all over the globe.

Where to Buy Edamame

Frozen edamame is more readily available than fresh. Although most often sold in the pod, frozen edamame is also offered hulled. Bags of frozen shelled and unshelled edamame can be found in grocery stores in the freezer section. Some Japanese markets will have fresh edamame in stock when in season, which is the end of summer. If buying fresh, look for plump pods that have a slightly fuzzy exterior and do not choose any that have turned brown as that's a sign of over maturity.

Storage

Fresh edamame begins to lose its flavor as soon as it is picked, so it is best to eat the soybeans as soon as possible. Store in the refrigerator for a day or two, or cook and refrigerate for about a week. Edamame can also be frozen for later use; first cook the edamame in their pods, cool, and either place in a zip-top bag as is, or shell the beans and store in an airtight container. Place in the freezer and use within a year.

Nutrition and Benefits

Edamame is a healthy snack and a good source of protein, especially for those on a plant-based diet. It is low in calories, free of cholesterol, and high calcium, iron, and fiber. Edamame is a good source of healthy fats like omega-3 as well as vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K and folate.