There’s no doubt that the pumpkin reigns supreme once autumn arrives, but pumpkin seeds (and pepitas) aren’t used as much as they deserve to be. This guide presents tips, ideas, benefits, and recipes, plus an easy way to make your own pumpkin seed butter.
High in protein and readily available, pumpkin seeds are usually roasted and have a unique flavor that makes them especially pleasant to eat as a snack, or a fantastic addition to a range of recipes. You can expect a warm, nutty flavor and plenty of crunch with each bite.
A bit of history
Popular throughout the world, pumpkins themselves are believed to have originated in Central America and were widely used by Native Americans. The oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds were found in the Oaxaca Highlands of Mexico and date back as far as 7,000 years.
They were one of the first crops cultivated in North America for human consumption and were great for storage during colder months and times of scarcity because of their strong, thick flesh. Learn more about the history of pumpkins, and by extension, their seeds.
Buying and storage
When buying pumpkin seeds, you can choose between raw or roasted, shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted. Roasting brings out their flavor and crunch, and you can easily roast them at home.
Avoid salted pumpkin seeds, which are usually quite salty, causing their flavor to be masked rather than enhanced.
Pumpkin seeds in the shell will keep well for several months stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Store shelled pumpkin seeds in the refrigerator if you don’t think they’ll be used up within 2 months.
You’ll find lots more practical information in Everything You Need to Know About Pumpkin Seeds.
Are pumpkin seeds good for you?
Yes! Pumpkin seeds are rich in powerful nutrients and valuable antioxidants. A small amount of them can provide a substantial quantity of good fats, magnesium, and zinc.
One ounce of pumpkin seeds (28 grams) contains roughly 151 calories, mostly from fat and protein. Pumpkin seeds are quite high in phosphorus and iron and contain modest amounts of several B vitamins. One serving contains valuable nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, potassium, and folate.
One serving of pumpkin seeds (one ounce or 28 grams) contains 7 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat. The proportion of polyunsaturated fat is slightly greater than that of monounsaturated, with only a small percentage of it being saturated fat.
Pumpkin seeds and seed oil are also packed with nutrients and have been proven to have many advantages. Here is more detailed information about the nutrient profile of pumpkin seeds.
Add pumpkin seeds to energy balls (aka no-bake truffles)
Can you be allergic to pumpkin seeds?
While it is possible, developing an allergy to them is extremely rare. Because these seeds are not tree nuts, the simple answer is that you might be able to eat them.
Still, people with tree nut allergies should be especially mindful, as it is possible to be allergic to certain seeds in addition to having a tree nut allergy.
True seed allergies, on the other hand, are on the rise and can produce very serious allergic reactions. Even though these seeds are unrelated to tree nuts, you could still be allergic to the seeds themselves. Here’s more information on pumpkin seed allergies.
The difference between pumpkin seeds and pepitas
Pepitas are a type of pumpkin seed that are hull-less coming from specific varieties. These are oilseed and Styrian pumpkins; pumpkin seeds aren’t the easiest to shell, as you’ll see in the next section. Learn lots more about the difference between regular pumpkin seeds and pepitas here.
How to prep pumpkin seeds from fresh pumpkin
Don’t throw away the seeds from your fall pumpkins! Though it’s not the easiest task, it can be fun to do as an annual project.
Start by scraping them out of your pumpkin using a flat spoon and pulling away any flesh from the inside. Rinse them well of the pulp and fibers, then spread them on a greased baking sheet or pan.
Feel free to add any flavor or seasonings to the seeds such as salt or chili flakes, before drizzling a few generous glugs of olive oil on top. Mix everything and bake them in the oven at 350º F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.
Let them cool and then transfer them to an airtight container so you can enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds whenever you wish.
How to roast raw pumpkin seeds
If you purchase raw (shelled) pumpkin seeds, it’s easy to toast (aka roast) them at home.
In the oven: Preheat the oven to 325º F. First rinse the seeds in water and pat them completely dry. Then spread the seeds out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and drizzle with sea salt and olive oil. Once the seeds are coated, bake for 10-15 minutes, turning and shaking them about halfway through. Let them cool completely on the pan. Stored properly in a glass jar on the counter or in the pantry, they should last about a week or two.
On the stove: You can also toast shelled seeds on a dry nonstick skillet quite easily. First, rinse the seeds off in water and pat them completely dry. Then, simply cook them over medium heat in a dry, 9-10 inch heavy skillet (preferably cast iron), stirring often, until lightly browned. This will only take between 4 to 5 minutes, depending on the number of seeds being toasted. When completely cooled, transfer to a bowl and stir in olive oil and sea salt to taste.
Pumpkin seeds are a delicious topping for fall soups — especially pumpkin soup!
General uses for pumpkin seeds
Apart from their preferred use as a snack, these versatile seeds may be used in many ways that nuts are commonly used. The ideas given below are for toasted shelled seeds:
Trail mix: Use them as an ingredient in dried fruit-and-nut trail mixes. They’re particularly good when mixed with raisins, dried apricots, and other nuts.
In cold cereal: Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of toasted pumpkin seeds over a serving of your favorite cold cereal.
Breads and muffins: Some people use pumpkin seeds in baking as an ingredient for sweet or savory breads and cakes. Coarsely chop about 1/4 cup seeds and add to batters for quick breads and muffins, or simply use the seeds as a topping for baked goods before they go into the oven. Try them in corn muffins.
Pilafs and noodle dishes: Toasted, they make a nice addition to grain pilafs and noodle dishes.
Salad and bowl topper: A handful of seeds scattered over the top of green salads and grain salads will add an unusual flavor twist with a tasty crunch. Try this roasted butternut squash salad with arugula and pumpkin seeds.
Vegetable topper: Use them to garnish steamed vegetables, including cauliflower and the kindred vegetables of pumpkins — the winter squashes.
Cheese and fruit platters: Bring autumn to your vegan cheese and fruit platter displays. Or, serve with pears, apricots, and figs for a display that’s almost too pretty to eat.
Soup garnish: Make soups pretty by garnishing them with roasted seeds. Sprinkle on top of pumpkin and squash soups for a classy aesthetic and an added crunch.
Granola ingredient: Pumpkin seeds are a great addition to your favorite homemade granola recipe.
Homemade granola bars: And speaking of granola, these seeds are a perfect addition to homemade granola bars.
Energy balls or unbaked truffles: As shown earlier in this post, pumpkin seeds are a tasty addition with plenty of eye appeal.
Pesto: Try this Pumpkin Seed Pesto Pasta for a sophisticated twist on traditional pesto. Top crackers with it, spread it on sandwiches, toss with hot pasta, or serve over roasted and steamed vegetables for a delicious twist.
Do you love seeds? See this site’s other guides:
- A Guide to Sesame Seeds (+ Tahini and Sesame Butter)
- A Guide to Sunflower Seeds and Sunflower Butter
How to make pumpkin seed butter
Pumpkin seed butter is a fairly flavorful spread, with a slightly earthy flavor. Whether homemade or store-bought, it’s perishable, so pumpkin seed butter is best refrigerated, otherwise, the oil in it will turn rancid sooner.
Do you want to make your own pumpkin seed butter? It is incredibly easy and inexpensive to make. All you need is pumpkin seeds, a food processor, and a little bit of sea salt (for seasoning).
- First, spread the seeds out on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes at 350º F. Toasting the seeds is completely optional, but it will help the butter come together more quickly, as the oil be released from the seeds much more readily.
- After the seeds cool down, transfer them to your food processor and begin processing. It is important to note that at first, the butter will look quite crumbly, but as the oil in the seeds starts to come out it will form a thicker consistency and smoother texture.
- Process the seeds for about 15 minutes to yield a soft, smooth butter. If your machine starts to feel too warm, simply pause for a few minutes, let it cool down, then resume.
- Once the butter is ready, season with just a bit of salt. Let it cool in the bowl of the food processor if it feels a bit warm, then transfer it into a tightly lidded jar.
- Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to three months.
Enjoy your homemade pumpkin seed butter as a spread on toast and sandwiches or add a tablespoon to any smoothie. It’s also delicious to dip apples and other fruits in for a blood sugar-balancing snack.
Here are a few variations on homemade pumpkin seed butter:
Plant-based recipes using pumpkin seeds
- Vegan Cornmeal and Pepita Onion Rings
- Vegan Pumpkin Risotto with Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pepitas
- Vegan Pumpkin Pasta with Tomatoes and Basil
- Cauliflower and Pumpkin Seed Crust Vegan Pizza
- Vegan Pumpkin Seed Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms
- Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Soup
- Parsley and Pepita Falafel Salad
- Vegan Harvest Cookies
Contributed by Anna Fiore: Anna is a 2021 graduate of SUNY-New Paltz, majoring in Communications, with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in journalism. She is an advocate of environmental sustainability and clean eating.
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