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.
- ADD THEM TO CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES. YOU WILL NEVER LOOK BACK!
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!