Lean, green, and high in protein, edamame—Japanese for “beans on a branch”—are a type of soybean that’s picked when young, plump, and tender (as opposed to field soybeans, which are harvested when mature and dry). Edamame have a sweet, nutty flavor that goes especially well with beer—in Japan, edamame are often served as a bar snack.
Because they’re popular in Japan, edamame pods can be found fresh there. But here, it’s more common to find frozen parcooked edamame, either shelled or still in the pod. Some markets also carry fully cooked shelled edamame in their produce sections. Parcooked edamame require just a quick warm-up to be ready to eat.
To prepare edamame for snacking out of hand, heat the frozen pods in boiling water until hot or in a dry skillet over high heat until thawed and slightly charred. Sprinkle the pods with kosher or sea salt. As your guests shell the edamame, the salt will stick to their fingers and season the beans.
Edamame aren’t just a snack, though; they go well with other foods. Think of them as an alternative to fava beans or lima beans, as in the recipe for Seared Rib-Eye Steaks with Edamame & Garlic. Another use for edamame is “soyccotash”: Sauté shelled edamame in butter with a mix of fresh vegetables and herbs, like sweet onion, fresh corn, summer squash, bell pepper, tomatoes, fresh marjoram, and a little jala peño or serrano for kick.