What are pepitas and why are they worth getting to know? Pepitas are one of those super-nutritious ingredients you should keep on hand and add to your diet regularly.
Pumpkin-everything season may only be a small part of the year, but pepitas (aka pumpkin seeds) should be a year-round staple in your kitchen, they’re that good for you! Here’s what to know about the health benefits of pepitas and how to use them.
What are pepitas anyway?
You may have heard them called pumpkin seeds more often, and most people use the words ‘pepitas’ and ‘pumpkin seeds’ interchangeably.
‘Pepitas’ usually refers to the tender, hull-less seeds that grow only inside certain varieties of pumpkin without the tough outer shell.
If you go through the laborious process of shelling pumpkin seeds from your Halloween pumpkin, what you’ll find will likely be quite different.
Best to eat the seeds you find in your pumpkins shell and all. (More on how to roast pumpkin seeds below.)
Related: 75 Healthy Pumpkin Recipes
Health Benefits of Pepitas
If you’ve read around on this site a bit, you’ve probably noticed pepitas/pumpkin seeds popping up all over the place. That’s because they are chock-full of numerous healthful nutrients you want in your daily diet as much as possible.
Pepitas’ magnesium content also makes them a great food to improve sleep quality, and they’re also high in manganese, vitamin K, iron, and immune-boosting zinc.
They’re also delicious! Pepitas make a satisfying snack, baked-good add in, or salad topping.
If you’re looking to maximize the benefits of pepitas, consider soaking them. You can roast or dehydrate them afterward.
Pepitas Are An Affordable Superfood!
Unlike many superfoods, pepitas are pretty inexpensive, even when you buy organic. I refill our jar of organic pepitas at our co-op for $3.99 a pound, one of our zero waste shopping staples. (Here’s where you can buy online.)
You can also enjoy the health benefits of pepitas by roasting the seeds from your fall pumpkins, which have a similar nutritional profile and some extra fiber from the tasty shell.
We like ours roasted simply with olive oil and salt, but you can season with all sorts of spices as well. Here are instructions for making soaked and roasted pumpkin seed 3 ways from This is so good.
Little known fact: Roasted squash seeds are even more tender and tasty than roasted pumpkin seeds, and since we tend to eat winter squash (especially butternut and spaghetti squash in this household) far more than pumpkin, squash seeds are an easy way to get a nutritious and tasty snack out of something you might otherwise throw in the compost.
Related: Here are more than 40 root to stem recipes to help you turn veggie scraps into yummy snacks and meals.)
What to Do with Pepitas
Pepitas are pretty versatile, and I use them wherever I can, particularly on salads. If I’m trying to fight off a cold, pepitas are one of the first things I reach for, along with sunflower seeds. (More on the health benefits of sunflower seeds here.)
Some suggestions for incorporating more of these nutritional gems into your life:
1. Eat them by the handful, either plain or with a little salt. (I like Real Salt)
2. Sprinkle liberally on salads. I love them with a mix of greens from our CSA and an Asian dressing for a simple but satisfying salad.
♦ Or try this Simple Seedy Slaw recipe from Cookie + Kate.
♦ Pepitas are an integral part of this filling fall quinoa salad from Two Peas and Their Pod
♦ This farro and butternut squash salad from Smitten Kitchen looks like a fall favorite!
3. Use them as an inexpensive and allergy-friendly sub for nuts in pesto. I love that they add even more nutrition to this healthy and delicious condiment. (And don’t cost $30 a pound like pine nuts!)
♦ Here’s a recipe for a pumpkin seed cilantro pesto from Seeking Joyful Simplicity
4. Add them to baked goods, granola, trail mix. Anywhere you might add nuts or sunflower seeds.
Here are some tempting-looking recipes that incorporate pepitas:
♦ Homemade Nut-Free Granola Bars (Raising Generation Nourished)
♦ Pumpkin Breakfast Cookie (Leelalicious)
♦ Cinnamon Pumpkin Granola (Raising Generation Nourished)
5. Grind them in a nut butter. I had a fantastic pumpkin seed-sunflower seed butter last time I was in England.
Can you grow your own pepitas?
Yes! You need to plant an oilseed or Styrian pumpkin to get the shell-less seeds, or grow squash and other pumpkin varieties if you’re looking for the pumpkin seeds you eat in their shells. I’ve never tried growing oilseed pumpkins in my miniscule and too-shady garden, but let me know if you do, OK? Good growing information here and here.
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Photo credits: Mattie Hagedorn, SEMSEMS
Disclaimer: I’m a health enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.