What Is Edamame and Is It a Vegetable?

You know those foods that are meant to be a snack, but are so good you can turn them into a meal? I’m thinking of things like a bag of chips, movie theater popcorn, and a bowl of salted nuts. I’d like to add another food to that list: edamame. What’s usually an appetizer, I could eat for an entire meal. So why are they so dang good? Here’s everything you should know about edamame.

What is edamame?

Is edamame soy? You bet it is. But it’s young soy, the kind that plays Nintendo in their parents’ basement. Not that old soy that files taxes and runs the dishwasher. That stuff is used to make soy sauce and other products. Edamame is hip and fresh!

As the soybean grows, it sprouts pods similar to a green bean. If left to mature, the pod and the beans inside it dry out and turn brown. These are then harvested to create a wide variety of soy products like soy sauce, tofu, and so on. Edamame is an immature soybean pod that is still green.

The name edamame actually refers to the dish that is popular in Japanese cuisine. The pods are usually boiled or steamed and then served with a sprinkling of salt. It’s the perfect appetizer for a sushi dinner. To eat them, you use your teeth to slide the beans out of the pod; it’s kind of like eating shrimp with the tail on.
The beans themselves are sometimes removed from the pods and used as an ingredient in dishes. In the United States, edamame has become more popular as a salad ingredient and in frozen, Asian-inspired dishes like Trader Joe’s Fried Rice.

Is edamame a vegetable? A legume?

I’ve written before about the semantic labyrinth that is involved in distinguishing between legumes, seeds, and beans. Since edamame is the actual soybean, that makes it a legume.

However, their cousin the green bean is technically a legume, but it is classified as a vegetable. So…what does that mean? What does anything mean? Where am I? Who am I?!

Let’s just call edamame a vegetable. It’s green, after all. 

Can you eat edamame pods?

“Can” is a tricky word. If you ate an edamame pod, would it kill you? No, so you can eat it. You also can eat an orange like an apple, rind and all. Will the experience be a pleasurable one? I don’t think so.

The more appropriate question is “should you eat edamame pods?” No, you shouldn’t. The pods are very tough, to the point where chewing them will not do the work required to swallow them. And, if swallowed, they can really gum up your gears. It’s best to stick to the beans only.

How do you pronounce edamame?

Eh-duh-maa-may. Think of it like “Ma, may I please have some more edamame?”

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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