What are soya beans?

Soya beans and soy beans are the same thing – the names are used interchangeably, and the same is true of soya sauce and soy sauce. Young, green soya beans are marketed widely as edamame. daizu is the Japanese word for soya.

Unlike many other plant-based proteins, soya beans are a complete protein so they often form a key part of vegetarian and vegan diets.

By themselves, they have a mild flavour and firm texture, even after cooking. Mature soya beans are used to make tofu, which is curd made from the milky liquid obtained by boiling and pressing soya beans.

Read our guide on the health benefits of soya.

How to cook soya beans

Mature/dried soya beans are rarely used in cooking; they take many hours to cook and the hulls are indigestible for most people. They must be soaked overnight, then simmered until tender – but the skins will rarely be so. Hulling, then roasting the cooked beans provides a very nutritious snack that can be flavoured with all manner of spices.

Edamame in their pods are boiled, steamed or microwaved, then usually eaten as a snack. Pop the beans from the pod, directly into your mouth, but don't eat the pods – they are often tough and fibrous.

Podded edamame are also a great addition to salads, rice dishes or noodle soups.

How to store soya beans

Dried soya beans should be stored somewhere cool and dark. An airtight container is recommended. Treat fresh or frozen edamame as you would any other green vegetable.

When are soya beans in season?

They are widely available, dried. Edamame are increasingly available fresh and frozen, and Asian food shops might sell them podded and frozen, which are much simpler to cook and use.

Choose the best soya beans

Check dried ones for broken pieces or any signs of infestation, which would indicate they are very old and tough.

Fresh, whole edamame should be a bright, appealing green with unwrinkled and unspotted skin. Frozen beans should not have frost inside the pack – this indicates they have defrosted at some stage and might have deteriorated before being re-frozen.