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Roast or Toast Pumpkin Seeds

Even as a kid, I was never much for candy. After dressing up and trick-or-treating, my favorite thing about Halloween was when Mom would roast the pumpkin seeds. They were delicious, although much harder to get at since they weren’t shelled! Halloween was my one and only experience with pumpkin seeds, until I moved to Texas where I was introduced to the wonderful world of “pepitas.” Spiced, toasted, raw and more, there they were again. My favorite little Halloween treat, only shelled and prepared in ways Mom never dreamed of! You probably know that pumpkins are native to North America. But did you know they were part of the native diet for literally thousands of years, especially in the Southwest? Every part of the pumpkin was used for food, including the seeds. Even the Native Americans could not resist that sweet, subtle flavor! They were also very well aware of the great benefit to the body that came to them from eating those pumpkins, including the seeds. Native Americans even used the seeds for medicinal purposes. Small and light green in color, these little guys have an impressive nutritional profile. In about 3 ½ tablespoons (one ounce), you get:
  • 7 grams of protein
  • 2 mgs of zinc
  • 4 mgs of iron
  • 5.4 grams of gamma-tocopherol , a form of vitamin E that helps to prevent oxidation of fats and provides antioxidant activity
  • Phytosterols – plant compounds which may help keep cholesterol levels healthy
Although pumpkin seeds make a great snack, they are so much more versatile. For added flavor, toast shelled seeds in a dry skillet for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring (almost) constantly. Watch carefully so they don’t burn! Or, roast the shelled seeds in your oven at 325°F for about 20 to 25 minutes. Here are some fun and unique ways you can add pumpkin seeds to your menu:
  • This recipe for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds is almost identical to what Mom used to make from our Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin every Halloween.
  • Roast or toast with seasonings such as chili powder, cayenne, cumin, coriander and any other spice that suits your fancy! This Spicy Tamari Pumpkin Seeds recipe is just what I’m talking about.
  • Roast with dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, parsley and rosemary. (Roasting with dried herbs and parmesan or Romano cheese is an out-of-this-world experience!)
  • Don’t forget the sweet spices, too: Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves and allspice.
  • Roast or toast and garnish grain dishes, breakfast cereals and pilafs.
  • Roast or toast and garnish roasted root vegetables, steamed vegetables or sautéed vegetables.
  • Roast or toast and garnish soups such as corn, pumpkin, butternut squash or vegetable.
  • They’re great as a garnish for beef or vegetable stew. Here is a great recipe for Guatemalan Chicken Stew with Tomatillo Sauce.
  • Roast or toast and garnish enchiladas, tacos, chalupas, tamales and migas.
  • Add them to muffins, pancakes, cookies, granola and other baked goods such as this recipe for Flax and Pumpkin Seed Corn Bread.
  • Grind them up and add them to specialty sauces such as Mole. Here’s a Pumpkin Seed Mole with Chicken.
  • Roast or toast and garnish salads, slaw and even Caesar salad! Try this idea for Roasted Corn and Tomato Pasta Salad or this idea for a Fall Greens Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Asiago.
  • Make trail mix and add pumpkin seeds.
  • Throw a small handful into a smoothie with fruit or yogurt.
  • Roast or toast and garnish ice cream, yogurt, fresh fruit salads or non-dairy desserts.
  • Incredibly yummy as a garnish on dark chocolate cake!
  • Cook whole grain pasta; toss with olive oil, garlic, Reggiano Parmesan and roasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Add to pesto sauce in place of or along with pine nuts. That’s what we did with our recipe for Pumpkin Seed Pesto.
Remember that pumpkin seeds are packed with polyunsaturated fat. That means their oils are sensitive and can go rancid quickly. If you store them in the refrigerator in an air-tight container, they will keep for up to six months, and in the freezer for up to a year. Toasted or roasted seeds should always be kept cold as the oils are more susceptible to rancidity once cooked. If not refrigerated, keep them air-tight and use them within six to eight weeks of purchasing. Do you love pumpkin seeds, too? Got a favorite recipe? Let me know!

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Sofia says …

Are pumpkin seeds bought separtately or do I have to buy the actual pumpkin and take the seeds out? Please help.

Paul says …

It is a job to get the seeds shelled, but here's what I did. After straining and removing all the pulp and separating the seeds, I washed them off in a strainer. Then I spread them out on a drying towel and left them on the table so that the sun would shine on them the next day. All the slime was gone, and they were dry enough to handle easily. I then got my reading glasses on, and a good pair of scissors and began to cut along the edge of the shells roughly two-thirds all the way around so that the shell was still connected, but the seed would fall out or easily be pulled out. Again, very tedious and time consuming, but now I'm going to enjoy some seeds in my Pumpkin Muffins this weekend.

paig292 says …

@Sennen Our product mix varies by store and region, so best for you to check with your local stores. Thanks.

Katie says …

My favorite is to use the WF spice toasted pecan resipe and use pumkin seeds instead. I'm allergic to pecans. :( But even people who are not love these seeds. It has brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cayenne. mmmm...

Marcy says …

Roasted pumpkin seeds are the best! I love to roast them with a mixture of sweet, spicy, salty and savory flavors. My favorite combo is sea salt, cayenne pepper, raw sugar, curry powder, cinnamon, coriander and garlic powder. Delicious and addicting!

Linda says …

We never shell before roasting, and with the ones roasted at home my son eats the shells too. They are quite different from the store bought brands.

Meenakshi says …

My 4 year old loves pumpkin seeds roasted in the microwave about 1 minute...watch it with a hawk's eye to make sure it doesn't burn. I usually add Sun flower seeds ...both picked from the bulk section...I make a snack mix with some craisins and the nuts for his lunch box

Janet says …

I've found it's hard to separate the seeds from the slime before roasting. Any tips?

Mary says …

When I was young, my aunt would roast pumpkin seeds. They were delicious with just a little salt and oil. We used to eat the shell as well. We would also crack open the shell and just eat the seed.

Joe @ Eden Kitchen says …

I love pumpkin seeds too. I like to put them in this Pumpkin Flax Granola: http://edenkitchen.com/pumpkin-flax-granola/

Jenn H says …

But how do you shell all of those pumpkin seeds?!!! We counted out 400 (on the nose) seeds from a single pumpkin a few years back. That's a lot of seeds to shell without knowing a trick or two. Details, please!

paig292 says …

@Jenn That’s a lot of seeds to shell, for sure! We suggest roasting as is, then pop in your mouth one by one and separate the seed from the shell as you are eating. Slows down the eating, but is worth the effort. Good luck!

aileen says …

Is there a trick to shelling them?

paig292 says …

@Aileen We don't have a trick but would love to hear from readers!

Monica says …

We always just ate the shells. Is that bad???

david says …

Im from Peru and I always enjoy pumpkin seeds too, they are similar to pecans I think

Suan says …

I just made my first batch of pumpkin seeds ever. I didn't even KNOW there was a seed inside of the shell. Ha! I've been eating them whole and they are WONDERFUL! I first cleaned the seeds off and then dried with a paper towel. I then added extra virgin olive oil and garlic salt and mixed well. I placed the coated seeds on a pan lined with tin foil. I placed them in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, stirring the mixture every 10. I baked them until they appeared to be slightly darkened and dry. There are a LOT of seeds left over, and have been eating them since Halloween. This will definitely be a new tradition at my house! They are wonderful! SHELLS and all. :-)

Sennen says …

Do you carry Gerbs Pumpkin Seeds in North Carolina...they have 6 different kinds both in the shell and out...plus they are gluten & peanut free!

paig292 says …

@Sennen Our product mix varies, so best to check with your local store. http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/ Thanks!

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