Is It Okay To Eat Edamame Shells?

When we hear the word "soybean" chances are we'd think about the many things this versatile legume can be made into — from plant milk to tofu, a staple source of protein for vegans and vegetarians around the world. But before the tofu and the soymilk, there is edamame — the bright green, pea-looking snack whose Japanese name, per Britannica, translates into "bean branch." And even if there are those of us who might not have known what it was called, regulars to Japanese restaurants and bars are likely to recognize the snack as one that waiters serve up nearly as soon as orders have been taken.

Edamame is classified as an "otsumami" or a snack that is paired either with an alcoholic beverage, usually a sake or beer (via All About Japan). And while we're used to having edamame served up in little bowls, Britannica says the snack was once sold with its stems attached, so it could be consumed while someone was either standing or on the go. Because the bean and its shell are softer, edamame is much easier to eat than mature soybeans, which are white, small, and hard, according to My Fearless Kitchen.

Preparing edamame for consumption is easy

Preparing edamame is a straightforward exercise. The beans can be purchased fresh or frozen, and once they are trimmed, they are either pre-seasoned with coarse salt before being cooked in boiling water, per All About Japan. They can also be seasoned after they have been boiled, and before being consumed (via Japan Centre). To eat the edamame, simply pick up a pod and suck out the succulent beans, without consuming its outer shell. If you're not in the mood to eat the edamame straight out of its shell, you can also remove the beans and mash them, before spreading the mash on toast, according to Epicurious

More enterprising cooks have even been known to attempt to use frozen edamame beans to make blocks of tofu, per Mary's Test Kitchen. No matter how you prepare it, edamame is a winner because it is rich in protein and iron and low in carbs, and sugars making it a dream snack (via Healthline). But whatever you do, you won't want to eat edamame shells, no matter how green, vibrant, or alluring they might appear. While Epicurious notes that the shells themselves aren't toxic, they are difficult to chew and will likely be a challenge to swallow and digest. This makes them inedible, in contrast to the succulent beans they come with.