It's the fall routine you remember as a kid: After picking the perfect pumpkins at a local farm, you'd spread crinkly newspapers on the kitchen table. Scraping the pumpkin seeds (and separating out the goop) led to the perfect jack-o'-lantern... and the perfect supply for making roasted pumpkin seeds.
Prepping this classic fall snack isn't hard. Here's how to roast pumpkin seeds:
The seeds from either a carving pumpkin or a pie pumpkin work best; avoid seeds from decorative white pumpkins often sold during the Halloween season.
Short on time? You don't actually have to carve a pumpkin to make homemade roasted pumpkin seeds. Just look for pumpkin seeds still in the shell (but conveniently already de-gooped) in the snack mix or nut aisle of your local grocery store or look for them online. Then skip ahead to Step 3 to prep these tasty treats.
You might spot green-colored pumpkin seeds, called pepitas, in the snack aisle too. Pepitas are shell-less and come from certain pumpkin types that produce them naturally. (Take note: do not go to the trouble of shelling the white pumpkin seeds from your carving pumpkin; it's laborious!) Pepitas, like their shells-on pumpkin seed cousins, are absolutely delicious. To toast pepitas for snacking or a great salad topper, place them in a small dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
After pulling as much goop off the seeds as you can by hand, put all the seeds into a large pot of water. Since the seeds float and the goop doesn't, this makes it much easier to clean them. Lift out the goop-free seeds with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel; pat dry.
Pictured Recipe: Salt & Vinegar Pumpkin Seeds
Plain salted pumpkin seeds are perfectly delicious. But you can also add seasoning to shake things up. For a unique variation on the classic recipe, add 1 teaspoon fennel seed, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper and 1/8 teaspoon pepper along with the oil for roasting. Or go for one of these oh-so-tasty seasoned pumpkin seed recipes:
The EatingWell Test Kitchen cooks recommend preheating your oven to 350°F. Spread some parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet, coat the seeds with 1 teaspoon canola oil and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and then spread them in a single layer on the pan. Be sure to stir the seeds a few times as they bake. It takes about 20 minutes for them to get golden brown, but don't trust your timer!
In fact, EatingWell food stylist Patsy Jamieson has a great trick for telling when pumpkin seeds are perfectly cooked: "Most people don't think to use their nose when cooking," she says. "I can always tell when my pumpkin seeds are about done because they smell done."
This might seem a bit simplistic, but it really works. When the seeds take on a rich, woody scent, they're ready to come out. If you stick close to your stove and trust your sense of smell, you should be able to cook pumpkin seeds perfectly every time.
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
For a hearty and filling snack, 1/4 cup of roasted pumpkin seeds provides 70 calories, 3 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Pumpkin seeds also deliver zinc, which supports your immune system, and magnesium, a mineral that helps keep your heart healthy.
Bonus: Pumpkin seeds are good sources of alpha-linolenic acid, a plant form of omega-3 fatty acids that can help fight inflammation. Though not as potent as fish-based omega-3s, they are still good for your heart.
Pictured Recipe: Roasted Stuffed Pumpkin with Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
Make a jack-o'-lantern, of course! But if you're not planning to carve a grinning gourd from your pumpkin, cook up a pumpkin feast. Here are some ideas:
Stuff It: Stuff then roast your pumpkin for a show-stopping meal.
Related: How to Cook Pumpkin
Plan a day of pumpkin prep, then store your seeds, puree and diced pumpkin chunks for all-fall-long snacking. Store roasted pumpkin seeds in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Homemade pumpkin puree is good in your fridge for up to 1 week (note that the liquid will start to separate, but a quick stir will have everyone playing nicely again). In an airtight container in your freezer, puree is good for up to 6 months. Diced pumpkin has just a few days of life in your fridge or up to 6 months in your freezer.
Related: Healthy Pumpkin Seed Recipes