Perhaps you have eaten them at sushi bars or seen them in the snack aisle at grocery stores. Just what are these popular green beans? Edamame comes from a special variety of soybean plant—these are not the same soybeans you see growing in Midwest farm fields (those varieties are typically processed for oil, tofu, and animal feeds). Until recently, most edamame soybeans were imported, but American farmers are starting to grow these specialty crops, too. Unlike regular mature soybeans, which become dry and brown, beans inside edamame pods are soft, green, and edible. They require just a few minutes of cooking. Only the beans are to be eaten, because the outer pod is too fibrous.
Edamame is a relative newcomer to the U.S. food scene, but it's been served for centuries in Asia. With the growing popularity of Asian foods, including sushi and soy products, chefs and cooks are discovering these versatile legumes. Best of all, they are easy to prepare for the home cook.
Once you’ve learned how to cook edamame, you’ll think of all kinds of ways to enjoy it. For example, season edamame with a sprinkle of salt or a favorite seasoning blend as an appetizer or side dish. Or serve the beans in salads, stir-fries, and dishes with grains. Some people describe the taste as nutty and buttery, with its own unique flavor.
Here’s a plus: Edamame is good for you! That fact alone should make learning how to cook edamame rise a few notches on your list of cooking goals.
A 1/2-cup serving of shelled edamame has 100 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 8 grams of protein. These numbers are great for snack-food lovers. In comparison to another popular snack, a 1-ounce serving of peanuts (a small handful) has 170 calories and 14 grams of fat. Also, as a boon to vegetarians, soy protein is a complete protein, meaning it has all of the essential amino acids. Because it is a whole bean, edamame has a lot of fiber—3 grams, or about as much as you would find in a slice of whole grain bread.
Edamame is rich in phytochemicals and plant sterols, both associated with lowering cancer risk. While these are not the miracle cholesterol-lowering compounds once believed, the American Heart Association recommends substituting soy protein to replace other foods high in saturated fat (such as meat and cheese) for heart health.
If you enjoy popping edamame into your mouth straight from the pod, you might have to learn how to cook fresh edamame—frozen and refrigerated edamame are most often found without the pods.
Look for fresh edamame pods at farmers markets or Asian groceries in late summer. Some home gardeners plant edamame as well. The whole pod is cooked because it's difficult to remove the beans prior to cooking; they slip out easily once the pods are cooked.
Here's how to cook fresh edamame pods:
How to cook fresh edamame to use in recipes: Once you’ve cooked and shelled the edamame as directed above, they are ready to use in recipes. Check out some of our favorite recipes below. Or improvise and use the cooked, shelled beans in salads, soups, stir-fries, side dishes, toasts, or anywhere else you seek little extra freshness and texture in the mix.
Try to cook edamame pods as soon as possible after purchasing. They can be stored a day or two in the refrigerator before cooking. Once cooked, the edamame pods should be stored in the refrigerator for up to several days. Freezing is another option—you can freeze whole cooked pods, or shell the beans and freeze them. To reheat the frozen beans, cook them in boiling water for a few minutes.
You can find other forms of edamame—including frozen shelled edamame; frozen unshelled edamame; and cooked, refrigerated, and shelled edamame—in the grocery store year-round.
How to cook frozen edamame (shelled): The beans have already been cooked and just need to be reheated for 2 to 3 minutes in a pan of boiling water.
How to cook frozen edamame (unshelled): You might have to head to a natural foods store to find frozen edamame still in the pod. Cook according to package directions. Serve, pods and all, sprinkled with a little salt and drizzled with soy sauce for a great snack or appetizer. (Remember, you don’t eat the pods—rather, put the pod in your mouth, and as you pull the pod out of your mouth, use your teeth to pop the beans out of their pods. Discard the pods.)
How to cook frozen edamame to use in recipes:
If adding edamame to salads, sandwiches, or other recipes that don’t require cooking, simply thaw the beans first. That’s the strategy in this Asparagus, Edamame, and Parsley Salad.
How to cook refrigerated edamame: Look for fully cooked, shelled edamame in the produce section of your grocery store. Just a few minutes in the microwave is all it takes to warm them up. Individual snack sizes are also available.