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What is Edamame?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Edamame is a popular Asian food that has caught on in other parts of the world as well. It is made from soybeans that are harvested before they start to harden, and then quickly parboiled and frozen to retain their fresh flavor. There are a number of ways to eat these soybeans, ranging from plain out of hand snacks to processed in sweets and savories. Many Asian grocers stock them, as do large grocers in many areas, along with health food stores.

Soybeans have been cultivated as a source of food for thousands of years. There are a wide range of ways to use them, ranging from the fermented and aged ones in soy sauce to the milked beans used to produce soymilk, a popular dairy alternative. Many people eat soy products because the beans are believed to be beneficial to human health, since they carry lots of protein, calcium, and vitamin C. In many cases, these products are also high in fiber, especially when whole beans are eaten.

Typically, soybeans are allowed to mature on the vine to form hard beans that can be easily harvested and stored. They can also be picked at the peak of ripeness, right before they start to harden; these are called edamame in Japan or mao dou in China. The beans are tender, soft, high in nutritional value, and they have a delicate flavor that some consumers find quite enjoyable. As a general rule, a field of soybeans will be used to produce either shell beans or edamame, but not both.

One of the most traditional ways to eat the beans is in a lightly steamed or boiled form, whole in the pod. The beans may be shelled and added to salads, sandwiches, and soups as well. The cooked beans can be eaten hot or cold, and some consumers pack them into lunches as an easily consumed snack food. The fresh soybeans may also be seasoned with salt, soy sauce, and other ingredients.

In Japan especially, edamame is also used to make desserts. Many Japanese desserts use savory vegetables that may be sweetened or spiced, depending on what the dessert is. Soybeans make a rich and intriguing textural filling for rice cakes and similar dessert foods, and they may be dyed or blended with other ingredients. In addition to being interesting to eat, desserts with edamame are also nutritious and very light in flavor.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon989904 — On Mar 27, 2015

Is edamame high in salicylates?

By Kristee — On Feb 23, 2013

Dry roasted edamame is pretty awesome. It makes a better snack than potato chips. I buy the unsalted kind, because I am on a low sodium diet, but salted edamame is available, too.

By OeKc05 — On Feb 23, 2013
@cloudel – No, those are most likely sugar snap pea pods. Edamame has nutritional value, but I believe that this lies in the actual beans instead of the pods. I've never heard of anyone eating the outer covering.

I like to order edamame as an appetizer at a Japanese restaurant. They always put plenty of salt on the little green beans, so they have a lot of flavor.

It's easy to scarf down a bowl of these before my meal arrives, but I try to pace myself. Since they contain a good bit of protein, they are rather filling, and I don't want to spoil my appetite before the main course arrives.

By cloudel — On Feb 22, 2013
Are those green bean pods that you see in lots of Asian stir fry dishes edamame? I know that edamame is very nutritious, so I'd like to think that I've been eating it in these dishes.
By seag47 — On Feb 22, 2013

I've had some green edamame ice cream before in a Japanese restaurant. It was mixed with vanilla ice cream, and it was actually pretty good!

I know we tend to think of soy beans as salty and savory, but unless you add salt to them, they really aren't. You can add sugar instead and take them in an entirely different direction.

By anon315107 — On Jan 21, 2013

Can edamame be given to infants and kids?

By anon95057 — On Jul 11, 2010

"Are these worms harmful to him and where would they have come from?"

I don't think so. I mean, it's just kind of icky. I imagine they're the same type of worms that you find in sunflower seeds and various nuts when you leave them for too long. Not poisonous to eat, just gross.

"I accidentally ate some edamame pods (didn't realize they weren't supposed to be eaten). Will I get sick?"

If you eat a lot of them you may feel sick. The pods are indigestible for our systems which is why you're not supposed to eat them. You could have a tough time passing them is all.

By anon45928 — On Sep 21, 2009

my husband keeps edamame in his car in a ziploc baggie. Today he noticed very tiny worm-like creatures in the ziploc baggie, that he had eaten out of earlier in the day. Are these worms harmful to him and where would they have come from?

By anon42328 — On Aug 20, 2009

I accidentally ate some edamame pods (didn't realize they weren't supposed to be eaten). Will I get sick?

By surreallife — On Jan 08, 2009

Edamame is high in fiber and vitamin C. It might even be good to keep skin healthy.

By anon17002 — On Aug 20, 2008

Does edamame have salicylate?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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