The favorite fall traditions of cooking and carving pumpkins yield more than pies and pretty autumn accents. Those stringy globs of seeds inside are a healthful culinary treasure that shouldn’t go to waste. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are as delicious as any packaged nut if well-prepared, and they can be seasoned to be sweet, spicy or savory, depending on your taste.

Sweet pumpkin seeds

These sweet, caramelized pumpkin seeds are a delicious treat both kids and adults will love.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Savory Pumpkin seeds

Mexican oregano flavors these savory pepitas. (Any ethnic or Latin American food store should carry it.)

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Spicy pumpkin seeds

Chili and other seasonings add a punch of flavor to these spicy pepitas.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Scooping Pumpkin Seeds

The amount of seeds yielded depends on the size of the pumpkin.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Washing pumpkin seeds

Wash the pumpkin fiber off the seeds using a colander.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

Roasting pumpkin seeds

Parchment paper keeps pans clean and makes it easier to collect the seeds after roasting. Just hold both ends and funnel them into the bowl.

Photo Credit: Jessie Keith

It’s easy to prepare and roast these wonderful seeds. Scooping them out of the pumpkin is the hardest part. The first step, post scoop, is to remove the wet stringy fibers attached to them. This is best done manually (consider it pumpkin hand therapy). Once the seeds are pulp-free, place them in a colander and rinse well. (Well-rinsed seeds lack a mucilaginous texture.) The best drying method is to spread them out on a pan lined with a dry towel and pat them with another. Let them air-dry for a few minutes before preparing them for roasting.

Classic sweet roasted pumpkin seeds are prepared with the same seasonings used in pumpkin pie. Who can resist those favorite fall flavors of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and allspice? Like any sweet treat, a little salt does wonders to bring out the sugar and spice.

Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Preheat the oven to 300˚ F and gather the simple ingredients:

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil
  • 1 pat melted butter (for flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
  • Tiny pinch of ground cloves

Toss the seeds in the oil and butter first, then mix the sugar and spices and sprinkle them in. Toss until all the seeds are covered. Spread them out on a pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 minutes to an hour, turning them every 10 minutes or so. (The seeds cook low and slow to help keep the sugar from burning.) Your finished seeds should be nicely browned, light and crispy. (They’re real mouth-burners when they first come out, so let them cool for 10 minutes before eating.)

Savory Pepitas

Pepitas are a historically important food – and medicine – for Native American tribes that grew pumpkins, and many simple, savory recipes exist based on traditional preparations. All of these inevitably involve oil and salt, but herbs may also be added to bring out the nutty flavor of the seeds. Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens) offers a pungent oregano-like herbal flavor to the nuts and has been used by tribes across Mexico and the American southwest for eons.

Begin by preheating the oven to 325˚ F, then mix the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower or peanut oil
  • 1 pat melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Make sure the seeds are evenly coated, then spread them out on a pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20-35 minutes until the seeds are golden brown. Stir them every 5-8 minutes while baking, and cool before eating.

Spicy Pepitas

Hot and sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum) are all American vegetables, so it’s no wonder we like spicy foods. A little chili powder does wonders for the flavor of roasted pumpkin seeds –particularly the combination of cayenne, cumin and ancho chili powder.

The cooking method is similar to that of the savory recipe. Preheat the oven to 325˚ F and mix the following ingredients, starting with the oil and butter mixture:

  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower or peanut oil
  • 1 pat melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • A squeeze of lime
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Continue with the baking instructions for the savory recipe. It’s wise to stir these seeds more frequently because finely ground spices tend to burn more easily. Spicy pepitas make an excellent complement to Southwestern-themed salads and soups.

In addition to being delicious, pepitas are healthy. According to Nutrition Data, they’re a low-cholesterol food that’s high in protein, magnesium and zinc. So stop pitching those pumpkin innards. Choose your spices and roast your own delicious pumpkin seeds for a “flavor-fall” treat!