That chewy, dense texture sometimes found in roasted pumpkin seeds can really turn people off from the whole Halloween tradition – but it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can make totally crispy pumpkin seeds from your jack-o-lantern (and other fall veggies) and the method might surprise you. The trick is to soak them in water first. Truly. It’s easy!
Making pumpkin seeds hardly takes a recipe, and the soaking process has the bonus of decreasing nutrient inhibitors and increasing nutrition immensely (see my series on soaking grains for more).
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The best part about carving pumpkins isn’t the gooey mess all over your hands (and up to your armpits, practically), it isn’t the scummy mold that forms well before you think it should on your creations, and it isn’t even the frustration of forcing a 2mm thick knife through two inches of solid rind to make detailed designs around the eyes. Oh no, friends, such as rarely happens in the real food kitchen, you’ve got an opportunity for free nutrition, better than you can buy at the store, and for far less money.
I can’t remember how much they were, possibly because that part of my memory is permanently scarred. They were lots of dollars per pound.
Whether you’ve never actually captured the seeds from inside your jack-o-lantern, or you’ve been roasting them forever and wondered if you could make them “crispy” pumpkin seeds, I’m here to give you all the lazy shortcuts:
- The seeds from one large pumpkin (or 2 butternut or spaghetti squashes)
- 2-3 Tbs. olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp. sugar, optional (unrefined is fine)
- scant tsp. salt
- Pumpkin Pie Version:
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- ¼ tsp. cloves
- ⅛ tsp. ginger
- Spicy Version:
- 1 tsp.+ chili powder
- (I often use more than what’s called for….)
- Start by rinsing the seeds in colander and try to get the bulk of the orange pulp off. This will take slightly longer and be slightly slimier than you hope, but you’ll get through it. If some orange stuff stays on the seeds, it's really no big deal and will totally dry out when roasted.
- Cover the seeds with warm water and some salt, maybe 1 Tbs to 4 cups if you’re measuring (but I usually don’t). Allow them to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Drain water off and lay out on cookie sheets to dry for 8 hours to overnight, if you have the time. It still works out if you don't at all!
- NOTE: if not soaking the seeds, just start here & decrease bake time by 10-30 minutes, depending on what temperature you choose to bake.
- In a bowl (or on the cookie sheet), toss seeds with oil and spices listed above.
- Once the seeds are coated, you have two options: preserve the enzymes or kill them for flavor.
- *Option A: Preserve the enzymes, which help digestion and are all around good for you, by dehydrating the seeds at no higher than 150F. This may take anywhere from 12-24 hours. Sometimes more. You’ll know they’re done when you taste one and it crunches satisfyingly in your mouth.
- *Option B: Flavor, but less nutrition. In my book, the flavor of the roasted pumpkin seeds can’t be beat. I choose to roast our seeds in the oven. It takes at least an hour at 300 degrees. If you're baking other things anyway, put a tray of seeds in, too, for about 30-40 minutes at 350F or 20-30 minutes at 400F.
- Stir every 10-20 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is. There's great variation in seed size, so this process includes some guessing and checking...which is a delicious way to cook. 🙂
- I recommend the lower temperature, because you’re baking the soaked seeds for a longer period of time to fully dry them out, and burnt pumpkin seeds are no good at all. There's less margin for error with a lower baking temp. If the pumpkin seeds get dry but not toasty, you can always turn the temperature up to 400F for 5-10 minutes at the end of the baking time (but watch closely!).
2. soak in water and dump some salt in
3. strain water off
4. spread on cookie sheet (toaster oven if I don't have very many)
5. pour some on top, sprinkle salt and chili powder on, and bake at 300F until I can smell them a little bit in the house, then (optional) bake a few more minutes at 400F, watching closely for browning.
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Mostly how many corners you can cut and get away with it!
- Q – Can you leave them in the fridge for a day if you’re not ready to roast them?
A – Yes. Probably even longer. I tested this one just for you guys.
- Q – Can you soak the seeds before you rinse them, say, if you’re in too much of a hurry to do that part and just want to get slimy the following night?
A – Yes. Again, tested that just for you.
- Q – Can you leave the seeds more than 24 hours?
A – I know none of you would forget your seeds or get too busy to finish the job, but yet, more than 24 hours won’t hurt anything. You could also drain the seeds and allow them to stay wet in the colander. Shucks, leave them there a few days, keep them moist, and see if they’ll sprout! I wouldn’t recommend combining #2 and #3 though.
- Q – What if you forget to allow the seeds to dry out a bit overnight?
A – Turns out that’s no problem! You might do that if you’re going by memory from last year…
- Q – Can you overbake the seeds?
A – Try really hard not to. They burn and taste pretty badly.
- Q – Can you overdehydrate the seeds?
A – I don’t think it’s possible. They’ll just get crispier, but not burnt. If you’re going to forget about them, use the dehydrator!
- Q – Does this method work for other seeds that remind me of pumpkin seeds, like squash and cantaloupe?
A – Absolutely! I roasted some butternut squash seeds last week, and they turned out quite nicely. Spaghetti squash seeds are perfect too, although I wouldn’t recommend melon seeds, as we found them so tough as to be almost inedible, and certainly not fun to eat at all.
- Q – Is the method for soaking and roasting squash seeds the same as pumpkin?
A – It really is. They might bake a little bit faster, but you should be checking regularly anyway.
Kitchen Tip: Need help cutting a tough pumpkin or squash? Put it in the oven whole for about 10 minutes while the oven heats up (or even at full temperature for dinner). It will soften just enough to get your knife through it.
Organizational tip: (I don’t give many organizing tips, so cherish these!) Keep the recipe right with the pumpkin carving equipment with your holiday decorations.
Other Pumpkin Recipes:
- Healthy Pumpkin Muffin Recipe
- Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins
- Pumpkin (or any orange vegetable) Pancakes (grain-free option)
- Soaked Pumpkin Muffins
- Easy, Healthy Pumpkin Cookies
- Cabbage Soup with Secret Super Food
- 6 Ways to Use Leftover Pumpkin
Other Halloween posts:
- Decorating for Halloween: Keeping it Holy and Cheap
- Sweetless Trick-or-Treats: Alternatives to the Sugar Fest
- Easy No-Sugar School Halloween Party
- Spooky Halloween Shepherd’s Pie
- How to Naturally Get Halloween Makeup Off