This October when you're carving a pumpkin, save the seeds. They're so easy to roast, and they make a delicious, healthy snack. Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas, are packed with all kinds of nutrients, such as manganese, magnesium, iron, vitamin K, and protein.
Roasting your own pumpkin seeds is a fun activity for the whole family. There's something special and rewarding about eating pumpkin seeds that you've harvested, cleaned, roasted and seasoned. Store-bought seeds are no match for homemade!
I've included basic instructions and recipes on how to prepare the seeds, but it's up to you to experiment and tweak the seasonings to your liking. There's no right or wrong way to make them. If you have a favorite combination of seasonings and spices, please share!
Harvesting and Cleaning the Seeds
Different pumpkins have different seeds. Your typical carving pumpkin provides large seeds with a white husk. Small baking pumpkins have little seeds without the husk. What kind you use is completely personal preference. If you just like the inside seed, go with the baking pumpkin. If you like the tough husk, use the carving pumpkin.
Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Separate the seeds, you don't need the pulp so throw it away, or even better, toss it in your compost pile. Put the seeds in a colander or strainer, and rinse under warm water, cleaning off any leftover pulp and goop (yes, that's a technical term). Once the seeds are clean, shake off all remaining water, and transfer them to a tea towel. Spread the seeds over the towel in a single layer, and roll up the towel. Let the seeds dry completely.
Roasting the Seeds
There's a few ways you can roast your seeds. You can use a Silpat (a silicone baking sheet), a cookie sheet lined with foil, or my favorite, parchment paper with holes. The first two are pretty straightforward. I like to use the parchment paper method because it allows air to circulate underneath the seeds, which leads them to cook more evenly and be very crunchy. It just takes a few minutes, and from my experience, is well worth the time.
First, place a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. Place a piece of parchment paper on top of the cooling rack, large enough to be tucked underneath the rack on the sides. Using something small and sharp to poke holes all over the paper. (Think push pin or an eyeglass screw driver) The holes need to be large enough to allow air to circulate underneath the seeds, but small enough so the seeds don't fall through. You need a lot of holes.
We're ready to roast. Spread the seeds on your surface of choice If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 325 and cook the seeds for about 8-10 minutes. If you have a conventional oven, preheat it to 350, and cook the seeds for 10-15 minutes. Again, cooking time is personal preference. If you like your seeds a bit chewy, cook them for a shorter amount of time. If you like them very crunchy, cook them for a longer amount of time. Just keep an eye on them, because once they're burnt, they're burnt.
Just about every recipe I found online seasoning the seeds before roasting. This way, you can cook all the seeds at once, then divide them and season them, instead of having to use a different pan for each 'flavor.' So following are a few basic recipes. Again, personal preference. Alter, experiment, omit. Use these recipes as a starting point.
Garlic and Herb
1/4 cup roasted seeds
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
Combine the salt and herbs together. Very lightly coat the seeds with olive oil, and add them to the herb mixture. Toss to coat, and spread the seeds on parchment paper to dry.
Black Pepper, Sea Salt and Olive Oil
1/4 cup roasted seeds
1/4 tsp olive oil
Toss the seeds with the olive oil. Next, season the seeds with black pepper and sea salt to taste. Spread the seeds on parchment paper to dry.
Autumn Spice Candied Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 cup roasted seeds
1 teaspoon maple sugar (brown sugar works fine, but maple sugar is really spectacular)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
a pinch of ground ginger
a pinch of nutmeg
In a small bowl, combine just enough water with the maple sugar to make a think paste. (1 or 2 drops is plenty.) Heat in the microwave for 5 second intervals, until the sugar has melted. Stir in the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat. Pour the seeds back onto a nonstick baking surface (parchment or Silpat) at 350 for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.
Make your own recipe by experimenting with different herbs and spice. A few may include cayenne, paprika, oregano, cumin, and seasoning salts.
Store the seeds in a zip-top bag in a cool, dry place. Enjoy!