Spiced Pepitas

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Pumpkin seeds sautéed in warm, smoky spices.

Spiced Pepitas : The Wimpy Vegetarian

I keep pepitas around the kitchen all year round and use them to top off salads, pastas, stews, and a wide variety of vegetable dishes. Or, just acappella, for a snack without any accompaniment at all.

Pepitas is the Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seeds. Also commonly used in Mexican cuisine, pepitas date back at least to the time of the Aztecs, as pumpkins originated in the New World and were brought to Europe with the Spanish explorers circa 1500. Letting nothing go to waste, the Aztecs used the flesh as well as the seeds in their cooking. They’re a very healthy addition to most any dish, and are a great source of protein.

As an additional historical note, pumpkin oil is extracted from hulled seeds. High in polyunsaturated fats, the oil is a good source of heart-healthy omega-3, according to the Director of Nutrition at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But it takes a LOT of pumpkins to get a significant quantity of pumpkin oil: roasted and pressed, the seeds of 30 pumpkins yields 4 cups of oil!

I’ve amended this posting per my friend LiztheChef’s comment below suggesting this could also be a great Gift From the Kitchen. Great idea, Liz. This could be combined with sunflower kernels and pine nuts too, wrapped in little colored plastic bags, tied with ribbon with a gift tag.

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Cook’s Notes:

  • You can use unsalted pumpkin seeds bought at a store or farmer’s market, or reserved them from pumpkin. Seeds from butternut squash work well here too!
  • Feel free to use whatever spices strike your fancy!
  • If you toast up the seeds you retrieve from a pumpkin or other squash, scoop out the seeds and place in a bowl of water. Let soak for 30 minutes. The soaking starts to separate the stingy squash fiber from the seeds, making it MUCH easier to detach the seeds. Let them dry out before toasting.
  • I use this same recipe when toasting pine nuts.
  • This can also be done in the oven at 350° F.


  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • pinch ground smoked paprika

Making It…

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a small sauté pan over medium – low heat. Add the pumpkin seeds, tossing frequently as they brown.
  3. Cool and store in an air-tight container.

Other Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipes That Caught My Eye This Week…

Mike’s Baking

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  1. says

    I always use pimentón when I make these–it’s the best! Suzanne Goin has a nice recipe for a candied version in Sunday Suppers at Lucques. How long do you need to let them dry after soaking? I am always looking for a good technique to get that slime off!

    • says

      I love pimentòn on almost anything, it seems. The touch of smokiness is just the best. I will have to look up Suzanne Goin’s recipe – I’m sure I’d love it. Thanks for the heads up on it, Laura!! I let mine dry overnight before roasting. Doing a little pre-soak has really made the de-slime/string process so much easier!

  2. boulangere says

    Susan, will they go rancid at room temp if not used up pretty soon? Would you suggest refrigerating them? I love your and Liz’s idea of these as gifts, and the mixture sounds wonderful. I keep a bowl of pepitas on my desk(s) for constant munchies. WAY healthier than the potato chips for which I confess I have such a weakness that I can’t even have them in the house. A capella pepitas – love it!

    • says

      Once they’ve been toasted or roasted, I’ve kept them around for a couple months without refrigeration and never had a problem. BUT, I always store raw pumpkin seeds in an air-tight container in the refrigerator as they will definitely go rancid. The same is true for pine nuts and sunflower kernels. Thanks for bringing that up!


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