After carving the jack-o-lantern, stop! Don’t throw away those seeds. They are delicious roasted, even if the white hull is fairly indigestible. For cooking, however, purchase hulled, intensely green seeds that are usually called by the Mexican name of pepitas. These green seeds need just a bit of heat to develop flavor and provide satisfying crunch. But pumpkin seeds go way beyond this in Mexican and Latino cuisine, often appearing in salads, sauces, toppings and baking.
Originally, pumpkins were cultivated for their seeds. That was some 6,000 years ago in Mexico, where pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are still dried (often in the sun) and used (with or without the shell, depending on the type of pumpkin) as a key ingredient in pipiáns— sauces first developed in the Aztec kitchen— and papadazules, an enchilada-like dish in the Yucatán. They are also used to thicken some moles and eaten simply as a snack.
Their many health benefits are similar to those of other nuts and seeds, so head off to the health food store — and get hooked on pepitas.
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
Soak seeds in cold water for 1 hour to loosen fibers. Rinse, drain, then spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 300°, shaking pan occasionally, for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with salt before serving. For a terrific snack to rival any other, toss pepitas in a dash of tamari soy sauce and roast for a few minutes until they are dry and start snapping.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil may be a recent discovery for Americans (if your gourmet store doesn’t carry it yet, it will soon), but it has actually been made for more than 200 years in southern Austria, where folks took to dribbling the intense, nutty oil on bread. Seeds (it takes 33 pumpkins’ worth to produce one liter of oil) are roasted, ground, then cold-pressed in a process similar to that used for fine olive oil. In France, the seeds usually aren’t roasted, so the oil has a pure pumpkin flavor. Drizzle on soups or use in vinaigrettes.
Our Top 10 Recipes Using Pumpkin Seeds
in no particular order…
- Horchata with Pumpkin Seeds, Cinnamon & Chocolate
- Warm Pumpkin Salad with Candied Pumpkin Seeds and Polenta
- Chicken with Pumpkin Seed Sauce
- Pumpkin Seed Brittle
- Pumpkin Flan with Pumpkin Seed Praline
- Pumpkin Soup with Pumpkin Seeds and Whipped Nutmeg Cream
- Poblano Chile and Pumpkin Seed Stuffing
- Curried Pumpkin Seeds
- Puebla-Style Chicken Mole
- Spiced Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto