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PSLs, and scary movies, and Scorpios – oh my!
Thanks to the fact that I’m a thriller flick fanatic and my birthday happens to land at the end of October, it’s no surprise that I believe fall is the finest time of year. And I know I’m not alone in that.
Lookin’ at you, Mister or Miss Basic who just snagged your fifth seasonal Starbucks brew of the week.
As far as the culinary scene goes this season, I’ve found that many folks are a little confused when it comes to the actual flavor of pumpkin. Appearing on just about every seasonal menu around, the term “pumpkin” has in essence become a flavor in itself, when in reality, pumpkins aren’t all that flavorful.
Sure, the orange vibrancy of the gooey flesh is a treat for the eyes, but it’s typically the aromatic cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg paired with it that give whatever you’re eating or sipping that familiar “pumpkin” scent – or more fittingly, “pumpkin spice.”
Getting hands-on with a fresh gourd is the best way to demonstrate this to a pumpkin novice. Once they start scooping out the innards, they’ll find that what they’re faced with is a fresh, lightly sweet aroma, and a mess of seeds.
Which leads us to today’s recipe. Let’s get seedy.
Pumpkin seeds can be dried and eaten raw, roasted, or sprouted. They’re nutrient-rich and brimming with potential health benefits.
Today, we’re taking the path of transforming them into toasty golden-brown morsels simply sprinkled with salt, with your choice of a flavorful spice blend to top it all off.
Sorry to disappoint, if you might have imagined they come straight out of the pumpkin perfumed with brown sugar and ginger, but we’ll get you there. Keep reading.
But first, a few words on boiling.
If you grew up roasting (instead of just tossing) them once the painting or carving was out of the way, you might not have started the process by boiling them in salted water first.
This isn’t totally necessary, though it does help to guarantee a more evenly cooked seed. Not to mention, you’ll achieve one that’s more flavorful as well, when it’s permeated with salt.
Ever tasted the difference between pasta that was boiled in plain water, versus salted? As the hot water hits your noods and they begin to expand, they’re at the point in their lives where they’re ready to accept a little extra salt into their makeup, and the same goes for these seeds.
Isn’t cooking fascinating?!
It’s hard to beat simply roasted crunchy morsels with salt, so our OG version features exactly that. To amp up the crunch factor, I sometimes call upon a flaky Maldon finishing salt like this one that’s available from Amazon, but regular coarse sea salt does the trick, too.
To really pump up your pumpkin seeds, winter warming spices are the obvious choice, and our pumpkin spice recipe adds the perfect pinch of fall. I’ll also share an alternate version below that dazzles with the addition of caramel-scented brown sugar, which gets dusted on just after they come out of the oven, so be sure to keep reading for that!
For a bright burst of color and complexity, I turn to the curry powder that’s in my spice rack. An earthy combination of cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon brings added pep to your pumpkin pieces that will hit your taste buds in all the right spots.
For those who like their sweet with a side of spicy, a Cajun-inspired blend creates a bold, savory mouthful of smoky paprika and sugar. This recipe showcases another version of a solid blackening seasoning that works like a charm when you’re trying to achieve this tasty flavor profile, and I’ve suggested my own take on it below as well.
Poking out a hole in the top of the pumpkin, peering under its hat, and looking at the legwork ahead of you to create this crispy snack might seem somewhat time-consuming. But in the end, you’ll be glad you took the time to go from craving to carving to crunching on all this deliciousness.Print
Nothing screams “Happy autumn!” like the aroma of nutty pumpkin seeds toasting in the oven, simply seasoned with flaky sea salt and your choice of spices.
- Seeds from 1 medium pumpkin (squash weight about 3 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons spice mix, or to taste (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using your fingers, separate the seeds from the pulp and strings as best as you can. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse with cold water to clean them, and discard any remaining pulp.
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepot. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the pumpkin seeds, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, and drain in a colander. Pat the seeds dry with dish towels and transfer them to a medium mixing bowl. Toss with the olive oil and remaining salt, as well as 1 1/2 teaspoons of your preferred spice mix.
- Spread the seeds in a single layer on the baking sheet, and toast until golden brown and crispy, about 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through. Remove the seeds from the oven and allow them to cool on the pan.
- Store the toasted seeds in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the fridge for 1 week.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Category: Nuts and Seeds
- Method: Toasting
- Cuisine: Snacks
Keywords: pumpkin seeds
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Remove and Prep the Pumpkin Seeds
Using a sharp knife, cut around the pumpkin’s stem, essentially making a lid. You can also slice the pumpkin in half if you have a heavy, sharp knife.
Using a large metal spoon and your hands if you need to, scrape and pull out all of the seeds, and place them in a colander. Using your fingers and running cold water over each piece, separate them as best as you can from the pulp and stringy fibers.
Step 2 – Boil
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepot. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. You want to use about 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds.
You don’t have to boil them first, but sometimes they don’t toast evenly and the insides can cook before the outsides become golden-brown.
Boiling them not only ensures that they will roast more consistently, but it helps to unstick any remaining flesh from each piece, and infuses them with salt instead of just sprinkling it on as a final seasoning.
Add the pumpkin seeds to the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and drain in a colander. Shake them in the colander to remove as much excess water as you can. Transfer to a clean dish towel and pat dry.
Step 3 – Season
Transfer the dried seeds to a medium-size mixing bowl. Toss with the olive oil and the remaining salt, as well as 1 1/2 teaspoons of your preferred spice mix (or adjust to taste).
For the pumpkin spice and sweet and spicy seasoning blends described below, the recipes give you more than you need for preparing 1 cup of seeds. But you can save these in your cabinet and pull them out when the time is right! Sprinkle any leftover pumpkin spice in your coffee, and use the sweet and spicy mix on homemade fries.
If you need to adjust your ratios based on the amount of pieces you’re toasting, use this guide:
1 tablespoon oil + 1 cup seeds + 1 1/2 teaspoons salt-free spice mix
Be sure to omit the added salt if it’s already included in your selected spice blend. And if you’re using the brown sugar pumpkin spice blend, don’t forget to toss the nuts with the brown sugar immediately after they come out of the oven rather than mixing it in with the other ingredients before roasting.
Looking for a few tasty options? Give these a spin:
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
Brown Sugar Pumpkin Spice
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar (reserved until after toasting)
Sweet and Spicy Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Step 4 – Bake
Spread the pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet, and toast until golden brown and crispy, stirring halfway through. This will take about 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and allow the toasted seeds to cool on the pan. They’ll crisp up a bit as they cool.
If you’re using brown sugar, toss the seeds with it now, and then spread them out again to cool completely.
Store them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator for 1 week.
That’s One Peppy Pumpkin Seed!
This is definitely the expression your holiday guests will use to compliment this recipe. And while this article may have gotten your wheels spinning with a few seasoning ideas, the variations available for you to try are practically limitless.
I like the high smoke point and neutral flavor of vegetable oil when roasting them, but I’ll change things up occasionally when I want to add a little more pizazz. Try coconut oil with the sweeter spice combos for a little something extra.
What’s cozier than the fragrance of a home filled with seasonal seeds toasting away in the oven? Get your good smells on with these other roasted snack recipes next:
Did you grow up practicing the pre-bake boil method for prepping roasted pumpkin seeds? Share your tastiest tips and tricks in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on October 8, 2015. Last updated on October 24, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”