Happy October—or as the kitchen-dwellers among us call it, pumpkin season! A time for Instagram feeds filled with pumpkin pies, PSLs, and photos of sweater-clad families at the pumpkin patch.
This may be a controversial opinion, but my favourite part is the seeds. I would just buy canned pumpkin for all my baking needs over a big heavy pumpkin if it weren’t for the tasty little morsels inside.
Here’s the thing, though: I used to toss out my jack-o-lantern guts. Try as I might, I always found roasting the seeds to be unsatisfying. The husks were too chewy and the insides impossible to reach without chomping away at the outside first. Plus, I just couldn’t get the salt to stay on the seeds. Anyone else feel my pain?
About five years ago, I was living in a house with a couple of friends. We were in a nice family neighbourhood where kids actually ring your doorbell for candy, so we did some solid pumpkin carving, and I decided to give the seeds another go. This time, I decided to try something new: boil them with a whole bunch of salt to tenderize the husks before crisping them at the oven.
The results were SO GOOD. I was pumped. My roommates demolished them. Shortly after, we had a pumpkin carving event in my office and I stayed there really late to rinse all the seeds and take home as many as possible.
At the time, I had a vegetarian food blog. It started while I was job hunting and eventually became defunct when the corporate world took over my life. (Please don’t look for it; it’s not pretty.) This was the last recipe I ever posted, and I still use it every year. I’ve made a couple adjustments for health purposes (i.e. sea salt over table salt and a heat-stable oil over refined vegetable oil), but it’s remained incredibly simple and totally delicious.
A note on cooking oils and high heat, courtesy of my latest studies in school on fats:
It is incredibly important to used a heat-stable oil for higher temperatures, ideally made up of mostly saturated, or sometimes monounsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats, on the other hand, have many areas in their structures where they can be damaged, and the structure can actually change when exposed to heat, light and air in excess. In the case of polyunsaturated “vegetable” oils, like corn, soy, or canola, unless they are cold-pressed, they have already been processed so heavily (that’s why they smell and taste like nothing) that they are damaged beyond repair before you even open the bottle.
Some examples of fats you can use for cooking include: coconut oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, or any sort of animal fat. If you are cooking at very high heats, you should only be using saturated fats.
Aside from their deliciousness, pumpkin seeds are truly amazing from a nutritional standpoint. They contain plenty of magnesium, in which most of us are deficient; it’s a muscle relaxant, helps prevent heart attacks, and can move along slow digestion, among other benefits. You also get zinc (and you’ll find more of it in the unshelled form), which is involved in more bodily functions than any other mineral, including immunity. In addition, the seeds have a good amount of plant-based omega-3s, although it’s still good to get your omega-3s directly from fish, too, since those ones are must more readily available. More on their benefits here.
Can’t get enough pumpkin seeds? Check out my very simple pumpkin seed butter recipe, too.
The best roasted pumpkin seeds
- Seeds from 1 or more pumpkins
- 1.5 Tb sea salt per 1 cup of seeds
- Avocado oil or any heat-stable fat, for greasing the pan
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Separate the seeds from the pulp and rinse in a strainer. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect; the pulp will come off when you boil them.
- Measure the seeds so you know how many cups you have and put them in a medium-sized pot.
- Add 3 cups of water and 1.5 Tb of salt per cup of seeds.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain.
- Coat the bottom of a baking sheet with the oil and spread the seeds in a single layer. You may need a second baking sheet.
- Bake 15-20 minutes, tossing once halfway through. When they turn golden, take them out immediately, as they will continue to brown when you let them rest in the pan.
- Serve as-is, or toss with your favourite spices and seasonings.