Lima Beans vs. Edamame: What’s The Difference?

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lima beans vs edamame comparison

The green bean section of your local grocery store appears abundantly stocked with options, making it challenging to keep all the varieties straight.

Take emerald green edamame beans and their thinner-skinned tea-green cousin, lima beans. Both are approximately the same size with slight color variations. Their most significant differences are found in the qualities of their seeds, making it difficult to select the right one when a shopper is only exposed to its pods.

But, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We will break down the differences in appearance, taste, nutrition, and cooking uses.

So, let’s dig into the details.

Table of Contents

What are Lima Beans?

Lima beans (also called butter beans for their luxuriously buttery texture) are a type of legume native to Central and South America. Ever think to yourself, lima bean sounds remarkably like Lima, the city? Well, you are one smart cookie, and this realization is not a coincidence. The name “lima” comes from the capital city of Peru, where these beans were first cultivated.

They belong to the Fabaceae family, which also includes lentils, peanuts, and soybeans. Lima beans are harvested between October and December. Today, they are grown in many different parts of the world, including the United States, Mexico, and Peru.

Fresh or dried lima beans are popularly integrated into many South American and Caribbean soups and stews as they add texture, depth, and flavor.

What is Edamame?

Edamame beans are also legumes belonging to the Fabaceae family. The pods are harvested every year for their edible peas when the pods are still green and not fully mature. This farming technique gives them a sweeter flavor than if they were allowed to ripen fully on the plant.

The term “edamame” comes from the Japanese words for “beans” and “branches,” which is appropriate since this delicacy is generally served in its pod, though the pods are tough to eat and typically not consumed.

These shamrock beauties were a staple in various Asian cultures and their diets for centuries. Today, they are grown all over and are most commonly found between bags of frozen potatoes and frozen pizzas at North American supermarkets. Still, they may also be found fresh or dried.

Differences Between Lima Beans and Edamame

Texture

Lima beans and edamame have very different textures influencing how they are cooked and eaten. Lima beans are larger and firmer than edamame, with a starchy taste. Comparatively, edamame are smaller and softer, with a sweet flavor.

As a result, lima beans are usually cooked thoroughly before being consumed, while edamame are commonly eaten raw or cooked lightly to avoid becoming mushy. These differences in preparation are influenced by their distinct textures.

Appearance and Size

Sight alone may not help one distinguish lima beans from edamame while roaming the aisles of your local grocery store. So, how can we tell the difference? Here are some explicit descriptors to help you with this task.

Lima beans are a type of legume characterized by their small, kidney-shaped seeds. The beans are encased in a thin, pale green pod, typically around 2-inches long. Unlike edamame, they are larger with rounded edges and have a smooth, glossy exterior. They come in various colors, from white to black; however, the most common variety is greenish-white.

In contrast, edamame are a type of legume characterized by its small, oval-shaped seeds. The beans are encased in a thin, dark green pod, typically 2-inches long. These pods are smaller and flatter than lima beans, with a distinct fuzzy texture.

Taste

Edamame have a savory and slightly nutty flavor that is utterly addictive. On the other hand, Lima beans have a more starchy taste that is often compared to chestnuts.

Nutrition

While both lima beans and edamame are types of legumes, they have some distinct differences in terms of nutrition.

Lima beans are a good source of fiber, while edamame are an excellent source of protein.

Regarding vitamins and minerals, lima beans contain calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium, while edamame beans contain vitamin C, iron, even more calcium, and potassium.

In summary, lima beans and edamame greatly benefit your health. For more detailed nutrition information, please see our nutrition facts comparison table.

Uses in Cooking

Soups, stews, salads, and casseroles can be enhanced with lima beans, whereas edamame is often served in their raw or steamed pods.

Cost

Lima beans and edamame vary significantly in cost. One reason for this difference in cost is that lima beans are typically grown in larger quantities than edamame. In other words, the market is flooded with lima beans, driving down their price.

Alternatively, edamame are often grown in much smaller batches, which is associated with a higher price point. Additionally, edamame are often considered a premium product compared to lima beans because they are conceived as a healthier option. This perception of quality contributes to their higher cost.

Ultimately, the price difference between these two types of beans can be significant, so it is essential to know the factors influencing the cost. However, both options are relatively budget-friendly, making them great staples for any kitchen.

Different Ways of Eating Lima Beans

  • Sautéed: Sautéing is a quick and easy way to cook lima beans. First, trim the ends of the beans and then slice them in half. Next, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the lima beans to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, occasionally stirring, until fork-tender. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. This simple cooking method brings out the beans’ natural flavor and can be easily customized to suit your taste.
  • Boiled: To boil lima beans, rinse them thoroughly in cold water. Then, add the beans to a pot of boiling water and cook them for 3-5 minutes. Once the beans are cooked, drain them in a colander and season as desired. Boiled lima beans can be enjoyed on their own or as part of a dish. Try boiled lima beans with garlic and olive oil for a simple and tasty side dish.
  • Roasted: Roasting is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness of those lima beans. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius). Next, rinse the beans and spread them on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Finally, roast them for 15-20 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the beans are tender and lightly browned.
  • Steamed: Steaming is a quick and easy way to cook lima beans. First, rinse the beans and place them in a steamer basket. Then, add water to a pot and insert the steamer basket. Cover the pot with its lid and bring the water to a boil. Steam them for 5 minutes or until the beans are tender. Remove them from heat and season them as desired.
  • Grilled: Grilling is a great way to add a smoky flavor to those lima beans. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Next, rinse the beans and place them on a grilling tray. Drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Finally, grill them for 5 minutes or until the beans are tender and lightly browned.
  • Seared: Searing is a great way to add flavor and texture to lima beans. Place a pan on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Toss the beans into a piping hot pan and sear them for 2 minutes or until they become golden brown. Remove them from the heat and season them as desired.

Different Ways of Eating Edamame

  • Steamed: One of the most popular ways to enjoy edamame is to steam them. This simple cooking method brings out their natural nutty flavor and renders them juicy and tender. To steam them, place them in a steamer basket over boiling water and cook them for about 5 minutes.
  • Boiled: Another popular method to prepare edamame is to boil them. This cooking method produces a slightly nuttier flavor and a more tender texture. To boil the beans, add them to a pot of boiling water and cook them for about 5 minutes.
  • Grilled: Add a smoky flavor to the edamame by throwing them into a grill pan over medium heat and cooking them for 5 minutes.
  • Seared: Searing edamame is an excellent option if you’re looking for a little crunch. To sear edamame, place them in a hot pan over medium heat and cook them for about 5 minutes.

Conclusion

Lima beans and edamame are both delicious and nutritious options that can be enjoyed in several ways. While they may look similar, these two types of beans have distinct differences in taste, texture, and nutrition.

When choosing between lima beans and edamame, consider what qualities are important to you.

If you are looking for a sweeter option, go for lima beans. If you prefer a nuttier flavor, choose edamame. Both possibilities are versatile and can be enjoyed in many different dishes.

Do you have a question about edamame or lima beans not addressed in this article? Let us know in the comments below!

FAQs

While they have many visible similarities, some key differences exist between these two ingredients.

Lima beans are larger and more starchy than edamame, making them ideal for use in dishes like soups and stews.

On the other hand, edamame are smaller and more delicate, with a higher protein content. These qualities make edamame better suited as a side dish or in salads.

While you can technically replace lima beans with edamame (and vice versa), it is vital to consider the different textures and flavors that each ingredient will influence the dish.

Lima beans are often eaten cooked. While some people may enjoy eating them raw, there are a few reasons why this practice is not recommended:

  1. Lima beans contain a high amount of lectin, a protein that can cause gastrointestinal problems when consumed in large quantities.
  2. Raw lima beans are difficult to digest due to their hard outer shell.
  3. Lima beans can taste rather bland and unpalatable when eaten raw.


For these reasons, it is generally best to cook lima beans before consuming them.

Appendix: Nutrition Facts Comparison

Nutrition (1 cup)
Lima Beans
Edamame
Calories
149 cal
189 cal
Carbohydrates
28 g
15 g
      Fiber
9 g
5.5 g
      Sugar
0.2 g
3 g
Fat
0.3 g
8 g
Protein
9 g
17 g
Sodium
632 mg
9 mg
Potassium
414 mg
676 mg
Vitamin A
0 IU
0 IU
Vitamin C
0 mg
9 mg
Calcium
39 mg
98 mg
Iron
3 mg
4 mg

*Source: Spoonacular API via WPRM Nutrition Facts.

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About Savory Suitcase
Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie. 

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Hello, I’m Kristina, Founder and Head Blogger of Savory Suitcase… the one-stop-shop for the international foodie.

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