Lima beans and Edamame beans. These two beans, while sharing a place in the legume family, possess distinct characteristics that set them apart. From appearance to taste, nutritional value, and culinary uses, there's a lot to explore in the Lima beans vs. Edamame beans.
As part of my new passion for legumes, I have been comparing the variations between different kinds of beans. As I experiment in the kitchen with books like “Cool Beans” by Joe Yonam and learn more about the history of beans from “Beans: A History” by Ken Aldala I fit myself boring my husband with all I have learned about my lasted bean adventure.
In the hopes that this building knowledge about beans can be useful to you. I have structured this post in order of most relevance to the average (not legum-obsessed) home cook, starting with general information about culinary applications and nutrition facts.
For my fellow legum lovers, I have followed with more history and cultural context about each bean. Concluding with the taste test judged by oldest daughter!! She also judged Navy Beans vs Great Northern Beans and Black Beans vs. Pinto Beans.
- Culinary Use, Taste, and Texture
- Nutrition Facts
- Historical and Cultural Context
- The Taste Test
Lima beans, also known as butter beans, boast a pale-green hue to white and an unmistakably flattened, kidney-shaped form. Lima beans have a mild, slightly nutty flavor with a creamy texture. Small lima beans tend to absorb flavors well, making them an excellent addition to soups, stews, and casseroles. You will find small and large lima beans in grocery stores that are frozen, dried, or canned.
Edamame beans, are smaller, display a vibrant green color and a more elongated shape. With their fresh and slightly sweet flavor, have a crisp texture that provides a satisfying crunch when bitten into. Edamame is often cooked lightly to avoid becoming mushy. You will find them in the freezer section both in the pods and already shelled. Sometimes you will also find them in the produce section in a package shelled and ready to eat as is or in salads.
Lima beans find their way into a range of dishes, from hearty soups and stews to salads and side dishes. They blend well with various flavors, taking on the tastes of spices and seasonings. Mashed Lima beans can be used as a base for spreads and dips, providing a creamy texture and a mild taste. (1)
Edamame beans are often enjoyed as a simple snack, but they're also used in a variety of Asian dishes. They can be added to stir-fries, sushi rolls, and noodle dishes to introduce a crisp, fresh element. Edamame beans are sometimes pureed into sauces or incorporated into salads for an extra burst of protein and color.
Lima beans are typically soaked before cooking from dry form to soften them, which can help reduce cooking time and improve digestibility.
They can be prepared in a lot of different ways: boiled, steamed, or even sautéed depending on what you are starting with frozen, canned, or dried beans. Lima beans benefit from cooking with flavorful broths, herbs, and onions to enhance their taste.
- Soups and Stews: With their creamy texture, Lima beans naturally thicken soups while absorbing rich flavors of broths, vegetables, and seasonings.
- Simple Sautee: Thaw frozen lima beans. Sautee onion, and garlic, with a pinch of salt. Deglaze that part with a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon juice. Add the limas a sautee for a few minutes. Sever with grated parmesan and chopped mint. (my father had sworn off lima beans until he tried this recipe and he is a convert now)
- With Salt Pork: beans with pork is a classic combination and a great way to enjoy lima beans. This works beans with canned or dried lima beans (or might be labeled "butter beans")
- Salads and mezze: This white bean salad is super easy to make and showcases all different canned white beans. Gigantes, a Greek lima beans dish bake with tomato sauce, is a delicious warm mezze dish.
- Casseroles: One of my favorite way to have lima beans is in a summer vegetable butter bean bake in tomato sauce. Layer lima beans with tomatoes and slices of zucchini, eggplant, and yellow summer squash. Bake at 375 for 90 minutes then top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake for another 20 minutes and enjoy an amazing noodle-free lasagna.
- Succotash: while the can succotash of my father's childhood sounds revolting but this fresh spicy version by Vallery Lomas of the New York Times is scrumptious.
Edamame beans are usually boiled or steamed within their pods, making them easy to enjoy as a snack. They can also be shelled after cooking and used in various recipes. Boiling edamame for a few minutes until tender and then seasoning them with salt is a common method of preparation.
- Steamed in pods- you can find edamame in the pod sever in the pod, with a sprinkle of salt and sever with soy sauce. You don't eat the pod but after being steamed the beans easily pop out of the shell. Super simple but delicious, you can easily do this at home.
- Grilled- for a smokier flavor place the pods in a pack of aluminum foil and throw them on the grill for a few minutes.
- Salads-Edamame Bean Salad is one of my husband's more requested salads, which is great because it is super easy to make.
- Roasted snack- roasted legumes are amazing and roasted edamame is no exception. Add some salt and olive oil and roast at 400 for 30 minutes.
- Chilled snack- you can find chilled edamame in the produce section of the grocery store and it is a tasty and healthy snack right out of the package.
- Noodles and Stir-fries- top Asian-style stir-fries with edamame for so extra protein and crunch. I love it in this Spicy Udon Noodle.
How to choose the best substitute for lima beans and edamame in a recipe- a good choice depends on which bean and what cooking method. Swap pinto beans, great northern beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, or kidney beans for lima beans in soup and casseroles. In salads and stir-fries use green peas, string beans, or fresh fava beans.
Nutritional Value Comparison
The nutritional information is for 1 cup of frozen beans and comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2,3)
- Calories 121 kCal
- Fat 5 g
- Protein 11 g
- Carbohydrates 8
- Fiber 5
- Sodium 6 mg
- Calcium 63 mg
- Iron 2 mg
- Magnesium 64 mg
- Potassium 436 mg
- Calories 185 kCal
- Fat 0.6 g
- Protein 10 g
- Carbohydrates 34 g
- Fiber 9
- Sodium 333 mg
- Calcium 54 mg
- Iron 3 mg
- Magnesium 75mg
- Potassium 545 mg
Both legumes have a high nutrient content and are excellent sources of protein and fiber.
Edamame has 11 grams of protein making it a good source of protein. It is also a complete protein source (4)- As with meat and dairy products, it provides all the essential amino acids that people need and that the body cannot produce itself (5). Edamame beans provide about 41 micrograms of vitamin K, which is roughly 51% of the recommended DV.
They are relatively low in fat and are a good source of healthy polyunsaturated fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids (6). They can contribute to overall heart health and inflammation reduction. Contain a moderate amount of vitamin C, Edamame contributes to their antioxidant properties and supports the immune system.
Lima beans have 9 grams of fiber with an important part of weight loss and heart health. Lima beans are a good source of various B vitamins, including thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, and folate (B9) (7). These contribute to energy metabolism, brain function, and more.
Beans-Beans Good for the Heart- Health Benefits of Legumes
Both beans are legumes. Nutrition researchers have studied legumes for years because they are nutrient-rich, easily grown, and commonly consumed worldwide. Research suggests that increasing your intake of legumes, including beans and lentils certain health benefits, including significantly lower risks of heart disease, lowers cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. (11)
(looking for a quick look comparison of beans or other food myfooddata.com is an easy free online tool)
The lima beans (Phaseolus lunatus L.) of domesticated in Mesoamerica and South America as far back as 8500 years ago. The Moche culture cultivated the lima beans heavily. During the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru (1580-1640) lima beans were exported to Europe and the rest of the Americas. As the boxes of the beans were labeled with the origins of "Lima, Peru", the bean got its name. In the Southern United States and the United Kingdom, a kind of dry lima bean is called "butter beans" (13).
Edamame is an immature green soybean (Glycine max (L) Merr.). Mature soybean on its own is tough and are to digest so they offend come in processed forms like soy sauce, soy milk, tofu, and tempeh. In its immature as edamame it is much more appetizing. When the beans are outside the pods they are sometimes labeled mukimame.
Soybeans have a long history with China dating back to 1100 BCE- but may be much older between 9000-7800 calendar years ago (cal bp) (14). Soybeans had made their way to Japan by 712 AD. The term "Edamame" comes from a Japanese dish prepared of immature soybeans boiled or streamed in their pods. It's only in recent history that Edamame became a common dish in the United States. It appeared as a new term in the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 (the year I graduated high school:)
The Taste Test:
In conclusion, in this Edmame great Lima beans battle, I put to the ultimate test- a kid taste test!
When I was photographing for another post-Navy Beans vs Great Northern Beans- daughter asked what I was working on. I told her it was a “vs” post similar to the animal vs book we read at bedtime. It’s a fun book series; the kids really enjoy them. In each book, animals battle after you learn about each animal. (Whale vs Giant Squid, Polar vs Grizzly bear, that kind of thing)
One of the animals is crowned the winner at the end of each book. So naturally, Annette asked who wins in my vs post between navy bean and Great northern beans. But how to decide who wins? Taste? Texture? Cooking versatility? Interesting botanical history? A taste test! And Annette volunteered to be the judge. And now she is my official bean taste tester.
Disclaimer- Annette is 8 years old at the date of the test test and the writing of this post. She is just starting to be more interesting in the "grown up food". No longer scared of trying spicy food, but still mostly excited to have pizza and french fries. While she mostly still has the pallet of a kiddo- she is deffinalty a better taster that my 3 and 6 year old.
The big winner of the 8-year-old test is the Edamame!!
The lima bean seems to be the under dog of the bean world but I am still routing for this under appreciate flat legume.