At this time of year, pumpkins are ubiquitous. But we think it’s time to take a closer look at something inside the pumpkin that often ends up in the compost bin – the seeds. Also known as pepitas, toasted pumpkin seeds are a popular snack in Mexico. While they are freshest at this time of the year, when pumpkins are in season, they can be found year-round in the bulk section of most grocery stores.
Pepitas are flat and typically dark green in color. When raw, they have a somewhat chewy texture and a subtly sweet flavor.
Nutritional Information for Pumpkin Seeds
1 oz of dried pumpkin seeds contains:
- Calories: 158 kcal
- Fat: 13.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Protein: 8.6 g
- Fiber: 1.7 g
- Glycemic Index: Low
Approximately 75% of the fats in a serving of pumpkin seeds are heart-friendly mono- and polyunsaturated fats. They are also a rich source of phytosterols, which have powerful cholesterol-lowering properties. Why bother with fancy butter-like imitation spreads with added sterols when phytosterols already exist in these tasty little seeds?
Pepitas are also rich in the minerals manganese and magnesium. Manganese is a nutrient involved in numerous metabolic processes and protection against oxidative damage, while magnesium plays an important role in bone health and cardiovascular health. In addition, pumpkin seeds are good sources of phosphorus, iron, copper, Vitamin K, and zinc. That’s a whole lot of nutrients packed into a tiny package!
Because of their nut-like flavor and fat content, pepitas make a beautiful substitute for nuts in recipes such as pesto when you are cooking for someone with a nut allergy. Although you can buy them at the store, it is fairly easy to save and roast your own seeds from your Halloween pumpkin so you can store them for future use. Once you get the seeds out of the pumpkin, give them a quick rinse and wipe to remove any pulp that stuck, then spread them out evenly on a paper bag and let dry overnight. The next day, lightly roast them in a single layer on a cookie sheet (170F for 15 to 20 minutes). Let cool, then store them in an airtight container in the fridge. Ideally, you should use them up within a couple of months.
Ways to Add More Pumpkin Seeds to Your Diet
- Grind them up in smoothies, to make creamy nut-free dips for veggies, or make pesto like this Pepita and Cilantro Pesto
- Use to top salads, soups, and cereals, or in pilafs
- Toast with spices and enjoy as a savory snack, like these Jalapeno Pumpkin Seeds
- Use crushed pepitas as a crust for baked chicken, such as this Pepita Crusted Chicken