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In the fall and winter months, we get to enjoy a bounty of pumpkins and winter squash in all kinds of delicious recipes. But what about the seeds? Every pumpkin, squash, and gourd is filled with lots of little seeds that you have to scoop out of the flesh. Well, don’t throw them away. Those seeds are not only useful for cooking, but they’re also good for us.

Pumpkin and squash seeds are super-healthy with vitamins, minerals and oxidants. One-quarter cup of pumpkin seeds contains almost half the recommended daily requirement of magnesium and are a rich source of zinc and plant-based omega 3s. To learn more about the health benefits of pumpkin seeds, read The Perfect Seed: Why Everyone Should Add Pumpkin Seeds to Their Diet.

You can eat these seeds raw, or it’s easy to make your own roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas. Once you do, you can munch away or use them in recipes. Here’s how to repurpose pumpkin and squash seeds in your cooking.

1. Roasted Seeds

Toasted Pepita Breakfast Hash [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Seeds are the added bonus of using fresh pumpkin and squash. To make Roasted Seeds: use a spoon to scoop out the seeds from the squash. Put the seeds in a colander and rinse to remove all the strings. Dry the seeds in a towel. Transfer the seeds to a baking sheet. Drizzle with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt. You can also add whatever spices you like to jazz up the seeds. Toss to coat and arrange the seeds in a single layer. Roast in a 350-degree  F  oven for 10 minutes. Stir the seeds and roast another 5-10 minutes. After 5 minutes, check a couple of seeds. The insides cook before the outsides look cooked. If you roast the seeds until the outsides look cooked, the insides will be overcooked. Easy, right? Munch away or use the roasted seeds in your recipes.

2. Crispy Coatings

Crispy, Crunchy Cornmeal and Pepita Onion Rings [Vegan, Gluten-Free, Oil-Free]

Instead of using breadcrumbs, try coating food with crushed seeds. Just grind them up in a spice grinder and use them alone or with cornmeal to give fried and oven-fried food a different kind of crunch. Use them for coating tofu, tempeh or any veggie. These Crispy, Crunchy Cornmeal and Pepita Onion Rings have a mixture of cornmeal and crushed pepitas that give these unique onion rings a crunchy coating and a unique blend of flavors. Dip them in your favorite sauce for an extra special treat!

3. Make Pesto

Pumpkin Seed Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

Pesto is traditionally made with pine nuts, but any nut will do – walnuts, peanuts, cashews, and macadamia nuts, for example. Pesto can also be made with seeds which is great for people who need to avoid nuts. Use hemp seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds or use those leftover squash and pumpkin seeds. These Pumpkin Seed Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms have succulent oven-roasted mushrooms packed with nutrients and an enormous amount of vegetable magic squeezed into each cap.

This Slow Roasted Tomato and Pepita Pesto highlights slow roasted tomatoes in an herby variation of sun-dried tomato pesto. With pumpkin seeds in the pesto, it’s a versatile sauce and the ultimate condiment. You’ll want to put it in and on everything!

4. Sauces


Besides pesto, you can use pumpkin and squash seeds to make creamy sauces. We know that we can use cashews to make both savory and sweet creams and sauces, but seeds work well too. All you need is a blender to make this Creamy Pumpkin Seed Alfredo with Kale and Sweet Peas. It’s luscious and comforting and good for you all at the same time. The raw hulled pumpkin seeds, filled with healthy fats, give it richness. It’s a great choice when you need to make a nut-free dish.

5. Garnishes

Herb Tofu Caesar Salad With Spicy Pepitas [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

The same way you might toss almonds or sesame seeds on a salad or stir-fry, you can use pumpkin and squash seeds. They add a lovely crunch and lots of flavor depending on how you spiced them up. This Herb Tofu Caesar Salad has delicious baked tofu and homemade herb croutons. It’s topped with spicy pepitas for flavor and crunch. Serve it with the avocado Caesar dressing for the perfect meal.

This colorful Pumpkin Pasta is ready in less than half an hour, so it’s great for quick weeknight dinners! Creamy pumpkin combines with tomato and basil to make a bridge between summer and fall flavors. To give the pasta an extra boost of iron and to stick with the pumpkin theme, it’s topped off with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds! This high protein, simple, and satisfying Toasted Pepita Breakfast Hash will be your new favorite breakfast. It has seasoned veggies and toasted pumpkin seeds. Use any veggies you like to make it your own. This is delicious on its own, with some scrambled tofu, or stuffed into a tortilla as a burrito filling.

6. Chocolate Treats

5 Ingredient Pepita Seeds and Coconut Raw Chocolate Bark [Vegan, Gluten-Free]

If you like the taste of nuts in your desserts, then you’ll love how pumpkin and squash seeds transform your usual chocolate treats. The flavor of these seeds goes really well with chocolate. Look at these Fudgy, Chocolate, Pistachio and Pumpkin Seed Butter Cookies that will just melt-in-your-mouth.  Their secret ingredient is pumpkin seed butter. With a gooey, fudgy center, these cookies are an all-around crowd-pleaser and perfect comfort food for young and old.

What better way to enjoy a rich, chocolaty treat than the simplest way? With only five ingredients, this Pepita Seeds and Coconut Raw Chocolate Bark comes together quickly and easily. That means you can get to enjoying it that much faster.

7. Crunchy Snacks

Raw Pumpkin Seed Crackers With Spinach [Vegan, Raw, Gluten-Free]

Pumpkin and squash seeds also make crunchy coatings for snacks that also happen to make those snacks extra good for you. These Cacao-Coconut Plantain Rice Energy Balls with Pepitas will satisfy any sweet tooth in a healthy way. Made with Medjool dates, cacao powder, coconut flakes, and spiralized plantain rice, these energy balls are the perfect sweet no-bake dessert. The salted pepitas are like the pumpkin cherry on top.

These Pumpkin Seed Crackers with Spinach are so good; the fact that they are healthy is just added bonus. Made with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds plus fresh spinach, these crackers have everything you need to feel good about eating a bunch of them. The garlic and jalapeno add zingy flavor. Make extra because these are going to go fast!

So the next time you use a fresh pumpkin or squash, don’t throw away those seeds! You can repurpose them in so many yummy ways and feel good knowing you’re not wasting any food.

Lead image source: Pumpkin Pasta With Tomatoes and Basil 

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