You probably already know that there are tasty pumpkin seeds hiding in your Halloween Jack-o-lanterns and more, but do you know the best method for roasting them to toasty, crunchy perfection? Here's how to roast any type of squash seeds in the oven—without burning them.
If you're carving or roasting any pumpkins this fall, you'll have some guts to deal with (and here are a few ideas for what to do with them). From the depths of your gourd you'll scrape out a tangle of orange pulp dotted with small white seeds, and if you're smart, you'll do something with it all. Here's how to de-goo and roast pumpkin seeds (or any winter squash seeds) to perfection.
Take a few minutes to separate seeds from slime, and you'll have a free snack to enjoy while you carve or roast. Roasted pumpkin seeds are the ultimate "buy one, get one free" of autumnal treats.
The best part: You don't need a recipe to do this, but you will need to pay attention to your technique. These seeds are tiny, and negligence will lead to burning. Follow these five steps and you'll end up with crispy, crunchy, salty seeds—aka the most perfect fall snack. Then start experimenting with flavors and other squash seeds: butternut, acorn, and delicata are all fair game.
Watch: More Pumpkiny Goodness
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds (or Any Squash Seeds) without a Recipe
What You'll Need: Pumpkin or squash seeds, of course! But also a sheet pan, plus olive oil and salt for roasting and seasoning. You can also mix things up with different spices, as well as coconut oil (more on that below).
Step 1:Separate your seeds from their flesh. Start by squeezing the big pieces of flesh right at the seam where the seeds attach, and they'll fall off in clumps. Pick out any remaining stringy stuff and either use them in another dish, or compost them. Prepare for your hands to get a little orange and a lot slimy. Keep a towel nearby for periodic wiping.
Step 2: Rinse, then boil your seeds. Why boil? The tricky thing about roasting pumpkin seeds is that their insides tend to cook faster than their outsides, so when they look done they're actually black waaayyy overcooked inside. As we learned from Angela Liddon, boiling pumpkin seeds before roasting ensures that everything cooks evenly. So after you've cleaned the muck off of your seeds, boil them in salted water for ten minutes.
Step 3: Dry thoroughly. You're about to toss these puppies in oil to coat them completely—and you want the oil to stick. So dab the seeds with a clean kitchen towel in a colander until they're completely, totally, bone-dry. Pluck off any straggler seeds that cling to your towel.
Step 4: Toss with olive oil, salt, and spices. Here, we used a mix of paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Try curry powder with melted coconut oil, za'atar with fruity extra-virgin olive oil, or pumpkin pie spices with walnut oil for a salty-sweet autumnal snack.
Step 5: Lay the pumpkin seeds out on a half-sheet pan, making sure they're all flat and in one even layer. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes at 325°F, stirring well or shaking the pan to flip the seeds halfway through (no need to be super exact about this, but try your best). Your seeds are done when they're crispy on the outside and golden on the inside. Add more salt to taste, give the seeds a good toss, and serve them once they're cool enough to eat. You can also store them in an airtight container and use them throughout the week as a topping for sides, salads, oatmeal, or yogurt; in spreads and sauces of many kinds, and especially as the pièce de résistance of this cake.
A few last points: You may be wondering what the difference is between these light-colored pumpkin seeds and the smooth green ones, aka pepitas. The full answer is explained in this article, but here's the TL;DR: Pepitas are pumpkin seeds from very specific types of pumpkins (oilseed or Styrian pumpkins, to be exact), which have very thin skins and don't need to be shelled. Toast and spice them exactly the same way as described above.
Photos by James Ransom
What's your favorite way to eat pumpkin seeds? Let us know in the comments.