Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the smell of roasted pumpkin seeds that followed our Halloween pumpkin carving. It was such a fall ritual in my house: after a clear, cool day picking pumpkins at a local farm, we’d spread crinkly newspapers on the kitchen table before cutting open our pumpkins, the rich leafy smell emerging as we scraped out the seeds and pumpkin goop and lit the first candle inside our newly finished jack-o-lanterns. And then, of course, we’d roast the pumpkin seeds.
Now if your family was anything like mine, part of the ritual of roasting pumpkin seeds has always been the distinct possibility that you’ll burn them all. This seems to be pretty universal. At least half the time, when someone offers me a bowl of newly roasted seeds, they also offer a warning, “They got a bit burned, but...” It’s like those things don’t WANT to be roasted!
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However, let me tell you: roasting pumpkin seeds perfectly doesn’t have to be so hard. Here’s how to do it:
First off, once you’ve saved the seeds from your jack-o’-lantern, you’ve got to find a way to separate them from that aforementioned goop. Here’s what I like to do: After pulling as much goop off the seeds as I can by hand, I 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 off those last persistent strings of pumpkin flesh. When you’ve got the seeds good and clean, you can lift them out with a slotted spoon. Easy!
Next up, it’s time to roast them. EatingWell’s Test Kitchen cooks recommend you preheat your oven to 350°F. Spread some parchment paper on a baking sheet, coat the seeds in canola oil and a little bit of 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 taught me 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.
One more tip: Often people forget about any seasoning other than salt when they’re cooking pumpkin seeds. Don’t you do it! For a great variation on the classic recipe, add a teaspoon of fennel seed, 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper along with the oil. Delish!
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Get the Recipe: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
What flavors do you add to your roasted pumpkin seeds? Tell us what you think below.