9 Ways to Spice Up Your Pumpkin Seeds

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

So you've picked out your pumpkin, you've followed one of our awesome guides to beginning or advanced pumpkin carving, and now you've got a bowl full of seeds and pumpkin guts. Now what?

If you're me, you make your excuses, pretend that there's some sort of pressing business in the kitchen that only you can attend to, and you find some rube to clean your pumpkin seeds for you so that you can roast them.

Whether you decide to follow this path or to take the high road and clean those seeds yourself, actually roasting pumpkin seeds is easy. I roasted my first pumpkin seeds when I was still a toddler, and I was not particularly gifted in the kitchen. I roasted seeds even before my dad taught me how to make a tuna melt (the only dish I could make from scratch for a good decade or so). Actually, I probably roasted pumpkin seeds before I even knew what a tuna melt was.

Here are some tips I'm presenting in the form of that ever-popular writer's crutch: the list.

We'll follow it up with 9 great flavor variations that are just moderately different and better enough than the zillions of other variations that litter the web that you should be compelled to read ours instead of theirs.

Tip 1: Wash fresh seeds thoroughly.

There are two ways to go about this. If you are the kind of person who gets disgusted when you step into a lake and feel slime-covered pebbles slip between your toes, then I'd suggest using the water method: scrape the seeds and guts out into a large bowl, cover the them with water, then start picking the seeds out. The seeds float and the guts will mostly sink, making this relatively simple. A few extra changes of water and you're good to go.

If, on the other hand, you have a high slime tolerance, then the best way to do it is to scrape your pumpkins' guts out into a large bowl, then just shove your hands right in there and aim for the guts. When you get a good chunk of guts in your hand, squeeze as tightly as you can. The seeds should pop out from between your fingers cleanly, while you're be left with a tangle of goop in your fingers. Bonus points if you moan braaaaaaiiiiiiiinnnnnnsss as you do this.

Tip 2: Dry the seeds before roasting.

It's tough to evenly coat damp seeds with oil, and it's tough to roast seeds evenly without an oil coat. To dry your seeds the slow but easy way, start by giving them a preliminary pat down with paper towels on a rimmed baking sheet, then spread them out and throw them in a 200°F oven, stirring occasionally until dried. This will take about an hour.

To dry your seeds the faster, more difficult, but far more fun way, give them the same paper towel treatment, then go after them with a hair dryer or a heat gun. This works best using one of those fancy hair dryers my wife has that lets you change both the speed of the fan and the heat. You want high heat, low fan. I accidentally switched the hair dryer over to high fan once and the result was like one of those game shows from the '80s where they put you in a glass box with money blowing around in it and you have to catch as much as you can. Except with pumpkin seeds, not cash.

Tip 3: Coat the seeds with oil.

See the second half of the first sentence of Tip 2. Oil helps you toast evenly. Added bonus: it gives your salt somewhere to stick.

Tip 4: Season well.

Food is bland without salt. Snack-y foods that you eat with your fingers taste even more bland because you expect them to be salty. Plus it's no fun licking your fingers after eating a handful of pumpkin seeds if there's no oily, salty residue left on them. Salt your seeds.

Tip 5: Roast at a moderate temperature.

Roasting pumpkin seeds is just as much about drying them out as it is about evenly coloring them. Roast at too high a temperature and see how spots in your oven or on your roasting pan will manifest themselves. Some seeds will come out burnt, while others will still be tough and raw. I like to go at 325°F, making sure to stir the seeds every now and then so that they cook evenly. It takes about 25 minutes.

Tip 6: Cool before storing.

Even after your seeds come out of the oven, they aren't completely dry. They'll continue to let off moisture as they cool. Pack them up hot, and this moisture will turn them tough and stale. Let them cool completely before storing them at room temperature in an air-tight container.

Get the Recipes!

You can find our recipe for Basic Roasted Pumpkin Seeds here. But why stop there? We've cooked up 9 variations for you to choose from. You can browse through all of the flavor variations in this slideshow, or jump straight to the instructions with the links below!