Autumn is upon us, and pumpkins are about to be everywhere. In fact, you’ll likely have a few gourds in your own home after that yearly visit to the pumpkin patch. When it comes to pumpkin carving, we have precious few tips to offer other than to let your creativity shine...and be sure to keep the seeds. On that front, here’s the full scoop on how to eat pumpkin seeds (and why you really should).
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds (And Why You Should)
What are pumpkin seeds?
Pumpkin seeds are exactly what they sound like—the small seeds found inside a pumpkin. These guys have a hard pale shell, a softer green interior and quite a few nutrients, despite their unassuming size. We’ll get into that last bit in just a few, but for now, we’ll say this: If you just carved a pumpkin, it would be in your best interest to hold on to the seeds for future consumption.
Can you eat pumpkin seeds?
You’ve already guessed the answer to this one, haven’t you? Yes, you can absolutely eat pumpkin seeds. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that you should eat pumpkin seeds, thanks to their impressive nutritional profile. That said, you’re maybe wondering what to do with the ones that you just mined from your future jack-o-lantern. After all, they look a bit different than the kind sold in stores—namely because they have the shell on them. (But don’t worry—that’s edible, too.)
Are they safe?
As previously mentioned, whole pumpkin seeds are edible, which means they are also safe to eat. That said, it’s worth noting that if you’re eating handfuls of pumpkin seeds with the shell on, there’s a chance that those with digestive issues might experience a mild stomachache or a bout of diarrhea due to the high fiber content. If you do suffer from digestive issues (such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s Disease) and find that you’re sensitive to the seeds, try opting for shelled pumpkin seeds instead as they have only half the amount of fiber.
Nutritional benefits of pumpkin seeds
Not only is it safe to eat pumpkin seeds, but they’re actually nutritional powerhouses. In addition to being an excellent source of fiber (even without the shell), a single one ounce serving of pumpkin seeds also contains an impressive seven grams of protein, as well as numerous vitamins and nutrients—including magnesium, iron, manganese, phosphorus and vitamins K and B2. Bonus: Pumpkin seeds are also rich in antioxidants—free-radical fighting molecules that research suggests may have far-reaching health benefits when consumed from natural sources.
Pumpkin seeds vs pepitas
So, what’s the difference between pumpkin seeds and pepitas, you ask? Nothing, really—pepitas are simply pumpkin seeds that have had the shell removed. The distinction here is a practical one: Shell-on pumpkin seeds are most often the fruit of a person’s pumpkin carving labor, while pepitas are sold in stores with the work done for you.
Furthermore, pepitas are a bit more versatile in terms of how they can be used—without the super crunchy shell present, these mild-tasting seeds can be sprinkled on just about anything as a healthy topping, from salads and smoothies to bread and turkey enchiladas. Bottom line: If you prefer pumpkin seeds without the shell, just grab a container of pepitas at the grocery store and you’re good to go.
How to prepare pumpkin seeds
With store-bought pepitas, there’s no preparation required, but the same cannot be said of the suckers you just pulled from a pumpkin, all covered in pulp and goo. Fortunately, the process of preparing those guys for human consumption is a fairly straightforward one. First, you’ll want to place the whole pumpkin seeds in a colander and remove as much flesh as you can before giving them a good rinse. At this point, the pumpkin seeds are ready to eat; however, we suggest you finish ‘em off with a stint in the oven, since roasted pumpkin seeds are far tastier. To roast pumpkin seeds, simply toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper before spreading them out on a baking sheet and sending them into a 300°F oven for roughly 30 minutes. (Hint: They’ll be golden brown when they’re done.)