When you think of pumpkins, the first thing that may come to mind is carving a pumpkin for Halloween or eating a delicious pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. But that's just a part of it. Pumpkin seeds can sometimes fall to the wayside, but when spruced up correctly, they can be the star of the show. The seeds can be used in a multitude of tasty and creative ways, from sweets and savories to brittles and garnishes.
"We often roast them, just sprinkle a little salt and pepper and toss them in the oven," says Joanna Brown of San Diego.
Roasting pumpkin seeds is a popular -- and easy -- way to enjoy them. According to an article on Bon Appetit magazine's website, just heat the oven to 425 degrees, spread the seeds on a rimmed baking sheet, toss them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Roast the seeds for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden and crisp, and let them cool completely. After that, the article suggests a few ways to further spice up the delectable seeds by adding one of the following combinations: a half-teaspoon each of turmeric and chili powder; 1 teaspoon of za'atar and a half-teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest; a half-teaspoon each of Aleppo pepper and ground cumin; a half-teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns; 1 tablespoon of sugar and a quarter-teaspoon of cinnamon.
Another way to prepare pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, is to work them into a salad.
"Pepitas are so good," says Sherry Engberg of Julian, California. "I make a Caesar salad, based on (the restaurant) El Torito, that has pepitas, cilantro, green chilies, cotija cheese and more (seeds) in the dressing."
Bon Appetit lists several other ways to use them in salads, including a salad of kale and mustard greens with pepitas and red onion; shaved zucchini salad with macadamia nuts and pepitas; collard greens salad with ginger and spicy seed brittle; and a brown rice salad with crunchy sprouts and seeds.
The trick to enjoying pumpkin seeds is to first remove the hull, or shell, which can be tough or stringy and can get stuck in your teeth. It's best to remove the hulls after roasting or boiling the seeds, so as not to break the seeds inside. To hull roasted seeds, according to a LEAFtv article by Jenny Harrington, beat the hulls lightly with a wooden mallet or a meat tenderizer. Hit the hulls hard enough to crack them but not so hard you crush the seeds. Fill a bowl with water, and place the seeds in the bowl. Stir the seeds and water with a spoon. The cracked hulls float to the top, while the seeds sink. Skim the hulls from the top of the water with a slotted spoon. Pour the seeds into a colander to drain off the water. Pick out any remaining hulls.
To hull boiled seeds, Harrington says, boil the seeds in 1 quart of salted water for 10 minutes and then allow them to drain in a colander until they are cool enough to handle. Pinch the narrow end of each seed between your thumb and forefinger, and squeeze until the seed slips out of the hull. Slit the hull along the wide end of the seed with your fingernail or a paring knife if the seed doesn't slip out easily. Take care not to cut into the seed within the hull.
Harrington adds that you should salt and season the seeds after removing the hulls. Boiled seeds can also be roasted after hull removal.
Other uses for pepitas, according to Bon Appetit, are putting the seeds in side dishes -- for example, asparagus with toasted seeds and mustard vinaigrette and black bean soup with roasted poblanos and pepitas -- and incorporating them in meals, e.g., mackerel with cauliflower-pepita couscous and tahini. And then there are the many ways you can use them in a sweet treat, including chocolate chunk-pumpkin seed cookies, roasted pear-pepita crumble, pumpkin-pear crisps, pumpkin seed brittle and pumpkin bread with toasted coconut and pepitas.
Another article, from The Kitchn, recommends using the seeds to create a granola with almonds, apricots, cranberries and pineapple, and it also references a Whole Foods recipe of a pumpkin seed pesto, which can be used as a spread on sandwiches, tossed with hot pasta or served over roasted or steamed vegetables.
Some commenters to the article chimed in with how they use pepitas, with one saying she toasts them and sprinkles them over oats or cereals, another saying they can be used as an ingredient for a stock for pumpkin soup or pumpkin risotto and another saying she created a delicious snack with her roasted seeds by tossing them with salt, a Thai seasoning blend, galangal and powdered lime juice.
No matter how you use them, pumpkin seeds are sure to add flavor and texture to any meal, snack or dessert. Why not find -- or create -- your perfect pepitas pairing this holiday season?