By Matthew Thompson, Associate Food Editor for EatingWell Magazine
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!
Must-Read: How to Break Your Bad Cooking Habits
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!
Must-Try Halloween Party Recipes:
Easy Homemade Popcorn Ball Recipes
Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting & More Healthy Cupcakes
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Makes: 1 cup, for 6 servings
Active time: 15 minutes | Total: 35 minutes | To make ahead: Store airtight for up to 3 days.
Be sure to save the pumpkin seeds from your Halloween jack-o'-lantern so you can make this crunchy, healthy snack.
1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds (see Tip)
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. Place rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
2. Place pumpkin seeds in a small bowl, drizzle with oil and stir to coat. Add salt, stir to combine and coat. Spread on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.
3. Bake the seeds, stirring once or twice, until toasted and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Per serving: 54 calories; 3 g fat (0 g sat, 1 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 6 g carbohydrate; 0 g added sugars; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 50 mg sodium; 98 mg potassium.
Tip: To harvest seeds from a pumpkin, scoop out the inside of the pumpkin. Separate the seeds from the flesh as well as you can, then place the seeds in a bowl of water. Use your hands to swish the seeds around to loosen any remaining flesh or strings. The seeds will float, so you can remove them with a spoon or your fingers. Drain the seeds on a dry dish towel or a plate lined with paper towels; pat dry with paper towels.
What flavors do you add to your roasted pumpkin seeds?
By Matthew Thompson
Matthew Thompson is the associate food editor for EatingWell Magazine.
More from EatingWell: