When can babies eat edamame?
Edamame may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. Edamame beans are packed with nutrition, but take care in introducing them, as they are a choking hazard and common allergen.
Edamame is the Japanese word for young soybeans (also called soya beans and green vegetable soybeans) that are picked from their fuzzy pods when the legumes are tender and green. The United States is the global leader in the production of soybeans, which are native to Asia, where they have been cultivated as a staple food for centuries.1 Soybeans are nutritious and incredibly versatile. When left to mature on the stalk, soybeans become dry and hard—desirable qualities for grinding the legumes into animal feed and making food products like soy milk, miso, plant-based protein, soy sauce, tempeh, tofu, and vegetable oil. In contrast, edamame beans are plump and soft when harvested, which means they require very little preparation to make a healthy meal for you and your little ones.
Frozen edamame beans are delicious, quick to prepare, and easier to store for longer periods. Read on for nutritional information and serving suggestions!
Is edamame healthy for babies?
Yes! Edamame beans are a nutrient powerhouse. The tender beans offer plenty of protein and essential amino acids to power cell and tissue growth in your baby’s growing body. They also contain omega-3 fatty acids (for healthy brain development and cell structure) and loads of folate and other B-vitamins, vitamin K, copper, iron, and zinc—important nutrients that your baby needs to thrive.
When shopping for edamame, buy organic if you can. More than 90% of all soybean seeds planted in the United States have been genetically modified to withstand pesticides.2 Studies show that genetically modified foods and pesticides appear to contribute to impaired liver and kidney function in animal testing.3
Lastly, take care in restaurants: edamame beans are often boiled in salty water and topped with more salt to enhance the flavor. If your child is younger than 12 months of age, pass on the restaurant edamame or offer just a tiny amount. Early and excessive exposure to sodium can prime your baby’s palate for salty foods, increase the risk of obesity, and put your child at greater risk of developing hypertension later in life.4
Is edamame a choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Edamame is round and firm, two qualities that can greatly increase the risk of choking. To reduce the risk, smash each bean between your thumb and finger, mash with a fork, or blend them into a smooth paste, picking out any skins as you go.
Is edamame a common allergen?
Yes. Edamame are soybeans, and soy is a common allergen. The good news: less than 1 percent of children are allergic to soy.5 More good news: close to 50 percent of children outgrow their soy allergy by the age of six.6
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity of edamame on its own for the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How do you prepare edamame for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline. The preparation suggestions below are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional, nutritionist or dietitian, or expert in pediatric feeding and eating. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 9 months old: Boil or steam edamame, remove the beans from the pods, mash the beans, and mix in a heart-healthy fat such as avocado oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil. Serve mashed edamame on its own or spread on a baby cracker. You can also try blending cooked edamame with a little breast milk or formula to make a nutritious dip!
9 to 18 months old: Time for finger food! At this stage, babies develop their pincer grasp (where the thumb and pointer finger meet). To encourage practice picking up foods, serve whole beans that have been cooked and flattened using a fork or your fingers. Your baby will enjoy picking them up, one by one!
18 to 24 months old: At this stage, try serving whole beans (removed from the fibrous pod) without flattening or smashing if your baby has developed chewing and swallowing skills. Make sure to set up a safe eating environment and that you remain within an arm’s reach of your child during mealtime. If you’re worried, you can also continue to mash them to decrease the risk of choking. Once your child understands instructions (usually around the 2nd birthday), try offering edamame in the pod and teach how to scrape out the beans with your teeth. What fun!
For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.
★Tip: Kids get hangry, too. Serve a variety of foods that range in size—some that are easy to pick up, others that are more challenging, like whole edamame. This way, there is less frustration when all your child wants to do is eat to satisfy hunger!
Recipe: Easy Edamame
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon lime juice (optional)
- Place the edamame in a colander. Rinse under warm water to defrost the beans. Set aside.
- Mince the garlic and ginger.
- Add the oil to a medium skillet set on medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger once the oil is shimmering. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the edamame to the skillet. Cook until the beans brighten in color, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let cool. If you like, sprinkle the lime juice on top to add flavor. Serve according to age-appropriate preparations noted above.
Edamame beans have a sweet, grassy taste that pairs well with all sorts of ingredients and flavors. Try serving edamame on its own, seasoned with your family’s favorite herb and spice combinations. Or try mixing edamame with grains, pastas, or other legumes. Edamame’s mild taste also makes it an easy ingredient to mix into sweet or savory dishes alike. Try adding it to your next fruit salad!
Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS
Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD
Kary Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC
Sakina Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)
Rachel Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- Lee, J.Y., Popp, M.P., Wolfe, E.J., Nayga, R. M., Popp, J.S., et al. (2018). Information and order of information effects on consumers’ acceptance and valuation for genetically modified edamame soybean. PLoS ONE, 13(10). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206300. Retrieved August 12, 2020
- Recent Trends in GE Adoption. (2020). United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved August 13, 2020
- Séralini, G., Mesnage, R., Clair, E., Gress, S., Spiroux de Vendômois, J. et al. (2011). Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environmental Sciences Europe, 23,10. DOI:10.1186/2190-4715-23-10. Retrieved August 13, 2020
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press
- Food Allergy Research & Education. Soy Allergy. Retrieved August 13, 2020
- Savage, J.H., Kaeding, A.J., Matsui, E.C., Wood, R.A. (2010). The natural history of soy allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 125(3), 683-686. DOI:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.12.994. Retrieved August 13, 2020