Photo: Pumpkin Seeds

by Sabra Leomo, RD

Fall is here and pumpkin-flavored dishes are everywhere!  We talk about roasted pumpkin, pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup and the cherished Thanksgiving treat…pumpkin pie.

Inside of the pumpkin is the often overlooked pepita, or commonly called, pumpkin seed. If we take a minute to get technical, pepitas and pumpkin seeds aren’t actually the same thing. The pepita is the smooth, green and hull-less seed inside certain varieties of pumpkins. Pumpkin seeds are the whole white seed found inside common pumpkins. 

Either way, whole pumpkin seeds or hulled pepitas are a delicious and nutrient-packed treat to check out this Fall.

Pepitas have a mild flavor similar to sunflower seeds and can be used in recipes that range from sweet to savory. On the sweet side they work well in granola and trail mix. Pepitas also make great savory salad toppers or can be used as an alternative to pine nuts in pesto. 

Sweet or savory, pepitas pack a nutritional punch in their small green seed. Pepitas are a source of protein and healthy fats in addition to minerals like iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc which help keep your immune system functioning properly. While pepitas are a healthy snack, like any nuts or seeds, don’t overdo it. Keep portion sizes to around 3 tablespoons per day.

You can buy hulled pepitas to easily add to your favorite snacks and recipes. Also, try roasting pumpkin seeds for a fun treat. If you have kids, get them involved in scooping out the gooey seeds from the center of their pumpkins, it’s a fun way to encourage them try something new!

Roasted Pumpkin Seed Recipe:
Makes about 2 cups (depending on your pumpkin size!)
 

  1. Scoop the white seeds from the pumpkin using a sturdy serving spoon or an ice-cream scoop.
     
  2. Thoroughly rinse your seeds under cold running water. Get kids involved and have them help separate the pumpkin seeds from the remaining bits of pumpkin. It’s a bit slimy but fun!
     
  3. This step is important: let the pumpkin seeds dry for a few hours or overnight. Lay them on a baking sheet instead of a paper towel because they will stick!
     
  4. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit
     
  5. Toss pumpkin seeds with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt or seasoning, if desired. Spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
     
  6. Roast seeds, stirring every 10 minutes, for about an hour or until golden brown.
     
  7. Let cool and enjoy!!! Store in an airtight container if there are any leftover.