Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) pan-roasted in warm, smoky spices make an ideal protein snack for improved energy.Jump to Recipe
I keep pepitas around the kitchen all year round and use them to top off a broccoli cranberry salad, a healthy Mexican casserole, pumpkin black bean chili, and a wide variety of vegetable dishes. Or, just all by themselves for a snack.
Another idea: grind the seeds to make pumpkin seed meal, and added to quick breads, bread dough, stews and other dishes.
Or combine Pepitas with sunflower kernels and pine nuts, wrap in little colored plastic bags, and tie with ribbon with a gift tag for a hostess gift.
What Are Pepitas?
Pepitas is the Spanish culinary term for pumpkin seeds. Also commonly used in Mexican cuisine, the name pepitas dates back at least to the time of the Aztecs. Pumpkins originated in the New World, and Spanish explorers brought them Europe circa 1500.
Letting nothing go to waste, the Aztecs used the flesh as well as the seeds in their cooking. And these seeds are a very healthy addition to most any dish, and 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!
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are small but mighty, as they're packed with valuable nutrients. A 1-ounce serving has 160 calories, mostly from fats (good fats) and protein. Specifically, we're talking 8.6 grams of protein and 14 grams of fat. The carb load is a measly 3 grams.
They are rich in antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium, and many other nutrients.
And I consider pumpkin seeds a high energy vegetarian food, as I point out in this article on 5 Easy Ways to Boost Energy. If you're feeling fatigued on a new vegetarian or vegan diet, roast these up in a few minutes for an energy snack.
Tips for Roasting Pumpkin Seeds
- You can use unsalted pumpkin seeds bought at a store or farmer's market, or reserved from pumpkin. Seeds from butternut squash work well here too.
- Feel free to use whatever spices strike your fancy.
- If you toast up seeds you scoop out of a pumpkin or other squash, scoop out the seeds and any pulp attached to them. Place it all in a bowl of water, and soak for 30 minutes. The soaking starts to separate the stringy squash fiber from the seeds, making it MUCH easier to detach the seeds. Dry out the seeds completely before pan-roasting.
- I use this same recipe when toasting pine nuts.
- This can also be done in the oven at 350° F.
Spiced Pan-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas)
- Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and toss with a spoon or your fingers until the seeds are coasted.
- Heat a small skillet over medium - low heat. Add the pumpkin seeds to the skillet, tossing them every 30 seconds until they begin to brown.When they begin to brown, toss them in the pan every 15 seconds until toasted to your personal perference.
- Cool and store in an air-tight container. I've kept mine in my pantry for as long as 6 months.