Pepitas, or pepitas de calabaza, are tiny green pumpkin seeds whose Spanish name means, quite literally, “little seed of squash.” Their origins date back five thousand years to modern Latin America, where they were cultivated alongside corn and beans. Today, they are a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine, incorporated in mole sauce and favored as a salty roasted snack. They have also gained in global popularity, packaged like almonds or cashews and available in stores from America to Greece year-round.
All pumpkin seeds are edible. Some pumpkins, like jack-o-lanterns or sugar pie pumpkins, feature white seeds; if you attempt to crack into these bigger seeds, you would find a kernel that resembles a pepita, but with less texture, flavor, and color. These raw pumpkin seeds are better consumed in tact, raw, roasted, or incorporated into other recipes. So where do those meaty, green pepitas come from? The answer is simple: there are certain varieties of hulless pumpkins that produce seeds without shells, aka pepitas. These varieties include oilseed and naked seed pumpkins, and they tend to have thinner outer skins than the chunky orange varieties sold in stores. Depending on your climate, it is possible to grow these varieties at home and harvest pepitas fresh. For those who don’t have the time or space, shell-less pepitas are readily available at all major markets and online.
Like sunflower seeds, pepitas boast a nutty flavor and a satisfying crunch, and are a rich source of health benefits. Each ounce is packed with nutrition, including ten grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, and iron. A single serving of pepitas is about 170 calories, 110 of which are from fat. Though pepitas do pack around 13 grams of fat, or 20% of the daily recommended value, this comes from healthy fats and fatty acids like omega-3s (the beneficial type found in fish oil) and amino acids. They’re also high in vitamin E, an antioxidant which helps fight free radicals, toxins, and parasites within the body.
Unadulterated pepitas make a fantastic, healthy snack on their own, although roasting them brings out even more of that rich, earthy flavor. From trail mix to salad dressing, muffins, and more, there are a number of creative ways to incorporate pepitas into every meal throughout the day.
Photo credit from www.pushdoctor.co.uk
SERVING SIZE 2 cups
PREP TIME 5 minutes
COOK TIME 45 minutes
2 cups pepitas
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss pepitas with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
Arrange pepitas in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
Remove from heat and serve as a healthy snack.
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