Perfect Pumpkin Seeds

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Virgil Evetts

I’ve written before about my passion for nuts. I just love them, I really do. I’ve been caught up in various waves of determination over the years and tried growing my own almonds, pistachios and peanuts to mostly meagre success. It’s too humid here, our winters aren’t cold enough. You know how it goes with food gardening. Even as I write these words there are two cashew seedlings peeking over my monitor – taunting me with what will probably never be.

Yet for all my toiling with the improbable, I’ve overlooked something far more attainable, and just as rich, delectable and versatile as the very best nuts: pumpkins seeds. Not nuts as such, no, but with their high (mostly unsaturated) oil content, sweet nutty flavour, and penchant for roasting, they might as well be. 

It was only desperation that opened my eyes to the pleasures of the emerald seeds, when midway through making pesto a few months back I discovered I was bereft of anything suitable nutty (curse you late night cravings).  As I dug deeper into the archive of good intentions that is my pantry, I found some long-forgotten and still snugly sealed pumpkin seeds. I sulkily plodded on, expecting very little, and pining for pine nuts.  Well, who needs pine nuts (especially if you consider my unfortunate run-in with them last year)? The pumpkin seeds turned out to be perfectly pitched for the job.

So, more than a little encouraged, I took to tossing the seeds onto pizza, through oil-base pasta sauces, into salads, in fact anywhere at all I would usually use pine  nuts, pistachio or slivered almonds. As with true nuts, pumpkin seeds only really come alive after sautéing or roasting. Oh you can try to tell yourself raw nuts are best if you like. Due to their high oil content, pumpkin seeds burn very- and I mean very- quickly and they  pop quite explosively too, so don’t walk away for even a moment and keep the lid handy to deflect escapees.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised by my pesto success. Pumpkin seeds are used in a similar capacity in many famous Latin American sauces (including the sublime mole verde), providing an unctuous, binding texture and a warm toasty flavour. 

I rather suspect that it’s only for a want of a more glamorous reputation that pumpkin seeds are so overlooked. They’re cheap and abundant, and come from a rather utilitarian vegetable. Hardly sexy, or the stuff of a chi-chi rep. Nevertheless they are a force and a flavour to be reckoned with.

This summer I grew a crop of Austrian oil-seed pumpkins, a variety grown for their large hull-less seeds, rather than their rather watery flesh. Each hefty, tiger-striped fruit yielded a cup or so of ready-to-eat (once dried in the sun for a day or so) seeds, which collectively should keep me going for some months. Hopefully.

Trouble is I’ve just discovered the pleasures of pepitas, the very addictive Mexican bar snack made from spiced, sautéed pumpkin seeds . These are altogether too delicious and easy to make, and I fear for the longevity of my seed crop.


Ruinously More-ish. You have been warned…


1 cup pumpkin seeds

1+  small dried chillies-finely chopped

1tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

3 cloves garlic- crushed


The following should take place very quickly- only a few minutes from start to finish or the seeds will burn.

Toss seeds in a hot, dry pan until they start to pop. Add the garlic, chilli and salt. Continue stirring over the heat until the seeds no longer clump around the garlic. Add sugar, stir once more and remove from heat. Cool on kitchen paper.

Eat with drinks or whenever the mood takes you. The pepitas store well in an air-tight container, but unless you make them in serious bulk this is unlikely to be an issue. Some recipes suggest serving with a squeeze of lime juice and a little finely chopped fresh coriander. A sprinkle of smoked paprika doesn’t go amiss either.

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3 thoughts on “Perfect Pumpkin Seeds

  1. It took me a while to get around to it. but I did and this is a super recipe. A definite keeper thanks Virgil.

  2. I add pumpkin seeds (and sunflower seeds) to my own version of toasted muesli (I also use coconut ‘chips’ from the Binn Inn – much nicer I think than dessicated coconut)

    I’m looking forward to trying your pepita recipe!

  3. Yum! I wonder if you could toast pumpkin seeds in the microwave? That’s how I do almonds and cashews as it’s easier to stop them burning than in a pan.