Add versatile pumpkin seeds to your kitchen pantry.
Looking to switch up your sunflower seed routine? Try reaching for pumpkin seeds instead this fall.
Pepitas, a type of green pumpkin seed, grow shell-free inside of pumpkins and are one of the best plant-based sources of zinc. Just ¼ cup provides nearly 10 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Pepitas can be found in your local grocery or health-food store year-round, often in the bulk-food section or alongside other seeds and nuts. Opt for the raw, unsalted varieties to cut back on both fat and sodium.
Here are some delicious ways to include pumpkin seeds in your snacks, meals and desserts:
Unshelled seeds from your pumpkin
Before throwing away the mushy mess of strings and seeds from your jack-o’-lantern, save the seeds for a crunchy snack! Follow these simple steps for roasting them in the oven:
1. Rinse the seeds under running water until they are free from pumpkin goop.
2. Spread seeds evenly on a baking sheet and pat dry with a paper towel. Allow to dry completely.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
4. Once pumpkin seeds are dry, lightly toss with oil (e.g., olive, coconut) and either sweet or spicy ingredients. For a sweet crunch, lightly sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. For a spicy crunch, try stirring in Sriracha sauce or adding cayenne pepper and chili powder. Get creative and experiment with other spices such as ginger, cumin, pumpkin pie spice and more.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crispy. Be sure to rotate seeds during roasting to prevent burning.
Shell-free pumpkin seeds (Pepitas):
- Add to energy bites: These pumpkin no-bake energy bites are a perfect kick start to your morning or pick-me-up snack in the afternoon. Protein from the chia/flax seeds and pepitas aids in the maintenance and building of lean muscle, while fiber contained in the dates, pumpkin puree, chia/flax seeds, old-fashioned oats and pepitas aids intestinal health. And the best part? These energy bites don’t require baking. Simply pop in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and enjoy.
- Use as a topping: Pepitas add a delightful crunch, hint of protein and fiber, and pop of color to autumn salads, cereals, oatmeal and soups. Don’t be shy, sprinkle generously!
- Create pumpkin seed butter: Grind ’em up and spread it out. These pumpkin seed butter recipes require a food processor or high-speed blender to grind both pepitas and additional flavorful ingredients. Try omitting the salt and adding other nuts such as almonds, cashews or walnuts for a creamier, more spreadable butter that’s mouthwatering and heart healthy.
- Mix in granola or trail mix: Whether homemade or store-bought, pepitas are an appetizing addition to both granola and trail mix. For a healthy, kid-friendly trail mix, try mixing together pepitas, Cheerios or another whole grain cereal, pretzels, nuts (like peanuts, almonds, cashews) and dried fruit (like raisins, cranberries, cherries).
- Add to baked goods: Pepitas can be added into or on top of breads, cookies, muffins and other sweet treats for a satisfying crunch and a small protein boost. Pepitas pair perfectly with pumpkin and fruit-flavored desserts.
- Whip up pepita pesto: This tasty twist on classic basil pesto combines arugula, pepitas and Parmesan cheese with other flavorful ingredients that can be enjoyed year-round. Pepita pesto can be used as a “sauce” for pasta, replacement for pizza sauce, spread on a sandwich or flatbread, seasoning for veggies and much more.
Lindsay MacNab, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, health nut and deep dish pizza addict from the wonderful windy city of Chicago. A 2015-2016 dietetic intern at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Lindsay was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and received both her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Diet & Exercise from Iowa State University.