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.
Background and origins of edamame
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. Check out 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 common choking hazard for babies?
Yes. Edamame is round and firm, two qualities that can greatly increase the risk of choking. To reduce the risk, halve each bean by pressing them between your thumb and finger or by pressing with the back of a fork. Alternatively, 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, and blend in a food processor until smooth to make a hummus-like spread. Explore mixing in heart-healthy oils such as avocado oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil. Serve edamame spread on its own on a pre-loaded spoon or spread on a thin rice cake. 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) enabling them to pick up smaller pieces of food. As such this is a great age to serve boiled or steamed edamame beans as a finger food. To reduce the risk of choking, remove the beans from the pod, flatten with the back of the fork to split them into half and remove the thin outer skin, and serve on its own. Many babies will enjoy picking up the small pieces, one by one!
18 to 24 months old: At this stage, if your toddler is chewing well and pacing themselves when they eat (not shoveling or stuffing food), you can try serving whole edamame beans (removed from the fibrous pod) without halving the beans or removing the papery skin on each bean. 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 halve each bean to decrease the risk of choking or blend the beans into a spread.
24 months and older: Once your child understands instructions (usually around the 2nd birthday), you can offer edamame in the pod and teach how to scrape out the beans with your teeth. If you are not ready for this yet, try teaching your toddler how to remove the beans from the fibrous pod independently.
For more information on how to cut food for babies, visit our page on Food Sizes & Shapes.
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: Edamame Two Ways
Yield: 1 cup
Time: 10 minutes
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil, olive oil, or sunflower oil
- ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger (optional)
- 1 teaspoon lime juice (optional)
- Place the edamame in a colander. Rinse under warm water to defrost the beans. Set aside.
- Grate small knob of ginger on a microplane and measure out ½ teaspoon.
- Add the oil to a medium skillet set on medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the edamame and ginger. Cook until the beans brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. If you like, sprinkle the lime juice on top to add flavor.
- Set aside the portion of edamame you’d like to keep intact. (Parents, this could be your portion if your child is not ready for whole edamame beans). Put the rest into a food processor and blend, drizzling in a small amount of oil to until it reaches a hummus like consistency.
- Serve: Spread the edamame “hummus” on thin rice cakes or teething rusks or use as a dip. Serve the whole edamame intact if you feel your child is ready for whole beans or split the beans in half and remove the membrane-like skins by using the back of a fork.
Edamame keeps in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
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!
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and 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