Pumpkin seeds are a popular healthy snack. They are green, flat, and oval, and often come from Styrian oil pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca) because their seeds do not have to be peeled. Pumpkin seeds can be purchased raw or roasted.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are a crunchy snack and a delicious treat in salads, soups, and muesli mixes. Dried pumpkin seeds can also be eaten with rice, pasta, and vegetables — see, for example, the recipe Shaved Celery Root Linguini and the recipe Jicama and Watermelon Salad. You can furthermore add pumpkin seeds to homemade seed mixes, alongside sunflower seeds, flaxseed, and other seeds and nuts.
Pumpkin seeds are known as pepitas in Mexico and Latin America and are used in many traditional Mexican dishes. In Spain, pumpkin seeds are called “pipián,” while in Greece, lightly roasted, salted, and peeled pumpkin seeds are known as “passatempo.” In the US, pumpkin seeds are often marinated and roasted to make a delicious snack.1
Pumpkin seeds are also pressed to make pumpkin seed oil. Styrian pumpkin seed oil is traditionally made from the roasted seeds of Styrian oil pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo var. styriaca). However, pumpkin seed oil can also be made from raw seeds.
This recipe makes one main course serving of vegan arugula salad with avocado, tomatoes, and roasted pumpkins, or two side dish servings.
Preparation: Gently toast 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds in a dry pan or use roasted pumpkin seeds you make in advance (see recipe below) and put aside. Mix 1 tablespoon cold-pressed oil (e.g., canola oil) and 1 tablespoon dark balsamic vinegar with freshly ground pepper and a little salt in a bowl (alternatively, you can also leave out the salt and oil and season the sauce with lemon juice). Dice one medium-size avocado, one large tomato, and finely chopped scallion and add to the bowl. Wash 125 g arugula and mix with the remaining ingredients in the bowl. Garnish the salad with the pumpkin seeds, serve, and enjoy.
Roasted pumpkin seeds can be purchased in a range of qualities. The roasting temperatures of pumpkin seeds unfortunately cannot be determined, but make sure that the seeds you buy are not too dark. You should try to find organic pumpkin seeds. Roasted seeds of Styrian oil pumpkins are particularly tasty thanks to their intense flavor; however, other types of pumpkin seeds are still worth buying.
You can buy roasted pumpkin seeds at all major supermarkets such as Walmart, Whole Foods Markets, Kroger, and Safeway (United States); Extra Foods, Metro, and Freshmart (Canada); Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi, and Lidl (Great Britain); Woolworths, Coles, Aldi, and Harris Farm (Australia). They are usually salted, and sometimes even come in special flavors such as wasabi, curry, honey, caramelized sugar, and chocolate. Keep in mind, however, that these additives may encourage excessive consumption.
First, remove the pumpkin flesh from the seeds. The best way to do this is in a bowl of water: the water helps to separate the fibers from the seeds. You can also put the seeds in heavily salted water to loosen the remaining flesh. Rub the seeds with a dishcloth to remove any remaining fibers. Use a cloth to dry the seeds and then leave them to dry in the sun, a dehydrator, or oven with the door slightly cracked at a maximum temperature of 40 °C. Once the seeds have dried, they can be removed from their shells. We recommend using a rolling pin on a smooth surface to do this. Apply light pressure with the rolling pin to crack the shells. Insert a knife, scissors, or your thumbnails into this crack to then free the seeds from their shells.
You can also briefly boil the pumpkin seeds — this makes them very easy to peel.
To roast the pumpkin seeds, you can briefly roast them in a nonstick skillet without adding any extra oil. Unfortunately, it is difficult to monitor the temperature of the seeds when roasting them in a pan. While oven roasting takes a bit longer, you can better regulate the temperature. Most recipes recommend roasting at 160–180 °C. However, the smoke point of pumpkin seed oil is 120 °C, so we strongly recommend roasting the seeds below this temperature. Leave the pumpkin seeds in the oven for about 30–40 minutes. Turn them occasionally to ensure they are evenly roasted.
To give your roasted pumpkin seeds an extra special flavor, you can mix the seeds with 1–2 tablespoons oil, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, and garlic. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (baking paper) and gently roast in the oven.
Roasted pumpkin seeds are best stored in a well-sealed container in a dark, dry place. Here, they can be kept for several months. If the seeds begin to smell musty, you should throw them out immediately.
You can find information on the cultivation and harvest of pumpkins on our page about pumpkins.
At 574 calories per 100 grams, unsalted roasted pumpkin seeds are rich in calories. The calories are primarily fat (49 g/100 g) and protein (30 g/100 g).
Pumpkin seeds contain a wide variety of antioxidants that trap reactive free radicals in our body. These include phenolic acids, lignans (a phytoestrogen), phytosterols, and carotenoids (e.g., beta-carotene and lutein).
At 1174 mg/100 g, pumpkin seeds are furthermore rich in phosphorus. This is comparable to the amount of phosphorus found in dry yeast (1290 mg/100 g). And 100 g of pumpkin seeds contain 550 mg magnesium, or 147 % of the recommended daily intake. This is similar to the amount of magnesium found in wheat bran. The trace mineral manganese is found in quantities of 4.5 mg/100 g. This represents about 225 % of a woman’s recommended daily intake and is comparable to the levels of manganese found in rolled oats. Zinc and iron are also found in small quantities in pumpkin seeds.1
If you don’t roast pumpkin seeds correctly, you may lose valuable nutrients and may even produce trans fats.
Pumpkin seed protein also provides a lot of lysine, an amino acid that is usually found in very small quantities in most grains. When it comes to protein, this makes pumpkin seeds an excellent supplement to grains.
Tryptophan, another amino acid, is also abundant in pumpkin seeds (100 g contains 230 % of the recommended daily intake).3 Pumpkin seeds contain more tryptophan than many animal products that are rich in protein. Tryptophan is important for the production of serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin.
Serotonin benefits your mood, while melatonin ensures a good night’s sleep. There are studies that show that regularly eating pumpkin seeds can have a positive effect on sleep problems.4
The health benefits of roasted pumpkin seeds are slightly lower than raw seeds (see nutrition tables below)
Pumpkin seeds unfortunately have an extremely poor ratio of linoleic acid (LA, inflammatory) to alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, anti-inflammatory). The ratio of omega-6 fatty acids (LA) and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) is 172:1. In contrast, flaxseed oil contains an almost perfect ratio of 1:3.7 See the tables below for detailed nutritional information. You could try to balance this ratio by combining pumpkin seeds with walnuts or macadamia nuts.
Pumpkins contain phytic acid; however, this is not all bad news. Although phytic acid binds minerals and makes them unavailable for consumption, it can also have positive effects on one’s health. You can briefly soak the seeds to help reduce the amount of phytic acid that pumpkin seeds contain.
We recommend eating unsalted pumpkin seeds because you are less likely to eat too many of them at once.
Pumpkin seeds and medicines made from pumpkin seeds have been traditionally used to strengthen the bladder, particularly for people suffering from bladder problems such as elderly individuals and women.5 The nutrients contained in pumpkin seeds can also help people who have an irritable bladder or urinary problems related to prostate enlargement.6
While pumpkin seeds may relieve symptoms related to prostate enlargement, eating them does not help to reduce the enlargement. This is why men should undergo a regular prostate check when they go to the doctor.
In particular, the lignans (phytoestrogens) they contain appear to be responsible for the positive benefits of eating pumpkin seeds. Recent research shows that lignans help to regulate our hormones. They also regulate bladder function.5,6
Lignans are found in high concentrations in aqueous extracts of pumpkin seeds. The recommended daily dose of this aqueous extract is about ten grams, or approximately 2–3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds per day.7
Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil are also said to help against intestinal worms.7
Pumpkins are grown in a variety of climates, from hot and dry areas to cool, cloudy forests. However, most species grow in warm lowland regions with distinct wet and dry seasons. Pumpkins require lots of sunlight and are sensitive to frost.
You can find information about the cultivation and harvest of pumpkins on our page about pumpkins.
The original form of the pumpkin (Curbita pepo), the domesticated form of the garden pumpkin, dates back to the inhabitants of the Guilá Naquitz cave in the province of Oaxaca (not Oxaca), Mexico (about 8000 BCE). Further findings come from Tikal (2000 BCE to 850 CE) and Peru (3000 BCE). Cucurbita moschata (e.g., butternut squash) was domesticated in Central America, and Cucurbita maxima (e.g., winter squash) in South America. Cultivation of pumpkins is documented in India, Java, Angola, and Japan in the nineteenth century.8
Humans are thought to have originally used the nutritious seeds because they are free of bitter compounds, while the wild pumpkin varieties all produce bitter seeds. Selecting nonbitter forms has enabled us to use pumpkins as vegetables.
There are five pumpkin species in cultivation today: Japanese pie pumpkins (Cucurbita argyrosperma), fig-leaf gourds or Malabar gourd (Cucurbita ficifolia), winter squash and other cultivars (Cucurbita maxima), butternut squash and other cultivars (Cucurbita moschata), and summer squash and other varieties (Cucurbita pepo). Pumpkins thrive in everything from the coastal dune sand to clay lowland or rocky soils, but they need a great deal of sunlight.8