If you have never sampled these delicious seeds used in Latin American cuisine, you’re missing out.
They have a soft, nutty, addictive flavor that is unlike anything else.
Although pepitas are pumpkin seeds (pepitas de Calabaza, in Spanish), they are special and are only harvested from certain types of pumpkin.
In this article, we’ll look at pepitas, the addictive nuts that are better than pumpkin seeds.
What Are Pepitas?
Pepitas are the dried, roasted, and salted seeds of certain types of pumpkin.
In particular, Styrian, or oil-seed pumpkins produce shell-less seeds that are perfect for drying, roasting, and snacking on.
These varieties of pumpkin have funny names like Lady Godiva, Naked Bear, and Gleisdorfer Naked Seeded Pumpkin, and they produce small seeds without shells that we call pepitas.
What Do Pepitas Look Like?
Pepitas look like very small, shell-less pumpkin seeds. They are green with a coarse but soft exterior, and they are each about a centimeter long.
What Texture Do Pepitas Have?
Pepitas have a nutty, crunchy texture. They are not nearly as tough as pumpkin seeds with their shells, but due to the roasting process, they have an appealing and addictive crunch.
Types Of Pepitas?
All pepitas come from Styrian or Oil-seed pumpkins, and there are dozens of different varieties, but the seeds they produce are very similar. All of them have the characteristic nutty flavor and crunch of pepitas, and they can be used interchangeably in recipes or as a snack.
Where Do Pepitas Come From?
Pumpkin seeds are a popular treat around Halloween in North America, but pepitas pre-date Halloween and the North American traditions around pumpkins by many centuries.
Pepitas have been a feature of Mexican cuisine since the time of the Aztecs. In ancient times, they were motivated to use every part of the pumpkin except the inedible shell.
Pepitas were enjoyed then in similar ways that they are now – as a regular snack for a burst of energy, as an ingredient in traditional dishes, or as a garnish.
Are Pepitas Healthy?
Pepitas are a very healthy addition to your diet, with plenty of antioxidants and phytonutrients, as well as healthy fats and fiber.
Pepitas are particularly high in magnesium, which helps with sleep quality, as well as other important minerals like iron, zinc, and manganese.
The high concentrations of these healthy and important nutrients mean that you can get a part of your required daily intake of nutrients from just a handful of pepitas. They are a true superfood.
Studies also suggest that regularly eating pepitas can lower your blood pressure and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The healthy fats and vegan protein in pepitas are great for your body, especially compared to fatty meats or candies that you might eat as a snack instead.
To get the most nutritional value out of pepitas, consider soaking them before roasting or dehydrating them. This increases the bioavailability of many of the most valuable nutrients in pepitas.
What Are The Dangers Of Eating Pepitas?
Pepitas are very healthy, and most people have nothing to fear by adding more pepitas to their diet.
However, it is a good idea to show restraint when you are eating pepitas. They are delicious and it is easy to get carried away.
Pepitas have lots of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, but they are also typically served roasted and salted, which means they have lots of sodium and fat built in too.
1/4 cup is a serving of pepitas, and if you are watching your calories, fats, or sodium, it is probably a good idea to stop at 1 or 2 servings per day.
It’s easy to lose track of how many you’ve eaten, especially if you’re reaching into a big bag to pull out handfuls.
You can probably eat many times the recommended amount of pepitas in a day, which would a lot of calories and sodium. If you eat that many pepitas every day, you could develop health problems.
However, a serving of pepitas here and there is very healthy for your diet, and nothing to be concerned about.
How Do You Eat Pepitas?
Pepitas can be eaten raw, right from the pumpkin, or salted and roasted to make a crunchy and delicious snack.
There are many more ways to eat pepitas too! They are a critical ingredient in many important dishes in Mexican cuisine, including the most famous and esteemed of all: Mole.
Pepitas are often ground up as one of the many flavors that contribute to the rich mosaic, which is a Mexican mole sauce.
Pepitas show up in sauces, stews, tacos, enchiladas, and many more Mexican dishes. They also show up frequently as an easy garnish, to be sprinkled on top of or beside the main attraction.
There is no wrong way to eat pepitas! Whether you enjoy them fresh from the pumpkin or worked into a gourmet meal, they will find their way onto the menu.
How Can I Store Pepitas?
Pepitas have a conveniently long shelf life, which makes them easy to store. You can keep a sealed bag of pepitas in a cool or dry area for up to 3 months at room temperature, without worrying about pepitas going bad or getting stale.
If you want to keep pepitas longer, you can store them for up to 1 year in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic container.
Can You Freeze Pepitas?
Yes, you can freeze pepitas as long as they have already been dried.
Keep your pepitas in a sealed container in the freezer, and they should keep without any loss of flavor or texture for up to 1 year.
How Can I pick Pepitas At A Grocery Store?
When you find pepitas in the grocery store, they will most likely be sold already dried and roasted in a bag.
You are most likely to find pepitas in the nut aisle, along with other bulk packages of nuts. If you don’t find pepitas there (especially if you live outside of North America), you might find them in the organic foods section, or the health food section.
One of the great things about pepitas is that they are quite cheap!
There is a ton of flavor and a lot of nutrition in pepitas, and they are quite a bargain, especially if you buy in bulk.
Can You Grow Pepitas?
You can grow your Styrian or Oil-seed pumpkins and harvest your own pepitas, but it would take a lot of work, even if you live in the proper climate and you already enjoy gardening.
Pumpkins are fickle and require a good gardener with plenty of patience. If you are committed to the experiment and want to grow your own pepitas from the earth and roast and salt them yourself, you can do it.
While it may be possible to grow pepitas, there isn’t a very good incentive to. In North America at least, pepitas are among the cheapest nuts you can buy.
It’s much easier to go to the grocery store and buy a large bag of pre-roasted, pre-salted pepitas than it is to do it all yourself.
Pepitas vs Pumpkin Seeds
People sometimes use “pepita” and “pumpkin seed” interchangeably, when in reality they are very different.
Both are true “seeds of pumpkins” (or pepitas de Calabaza), but pepitas are harvested from Styrian or Oil-Seed pumpkins that produce seeds without shells.
These are less hard, less pulpy, oilier, and more delicious than pumpkin seeds. When they are dried and roasted they have an appealing, delicious flavor.
As a rule of thumb, you can replace pumpkin seeds with pepitas, but not the other way around.
Any dish that calls for pumpkin seeds will be just as delicious (or possibly even better) with pepitas, but trying to replace a recipe that calls for pepitas with pumpkin seeds could lead to a chewy disaster.
Pepitas Nutritional Information
|per 1/4 cup serving of pepitas, according to WebMd.com
Quick Table: 3 Pepitas Taste Recipes
|Stovetop Sweet And Spicy Pepitas
|10 Unique Seasonings For Roasted Pepitas
|Pumpkin Pie Spice Roasted Pepitas
Pan-frying pepitas with Mexican spices, including cumin, chili pepper, and cinnamon, allows them to take on deeper flavors that complement and enrich the natural salty flavor of pepitas.
These pepitas have a little bit of spiciness and heat, matched with sweet and sugary goodness.
Whether or not you’re already a convert to pepitas, this recipe will turn them into an addiction. Don’t make more than you are ready to eat!
Calories Per Serving: 170
Preparation Time: 25 Minutes
The flavor of pepitas is mild and nutty, and it works so well with many other flavors, both from Mexico and from around the world.
This sampler of different seasonings you can add to your pan-friend or roasted pepitas is like a tour around the world, so you can experience pepitas in lots of different ways.
These flavorings also work for other nuts, but there is something special about the ways these flavors interact with pepitas.
Calories Per Serving: 120
Preparation Time: 40 Minutes
When it’s fall and you’re yearning for a seasonal treat, reach for the pumpkin spice and use it on something tastier than salvaged pumpkin seeds from your yearly jack-o-lantern. Pepitas are soft, oily, and delicious vessels for spice. You’ll want to make this recipe a yearly tradition.
Calories Per Serving: 150
Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Pepitas Taste Like Pumpkin Seeds?
Pepitas and pumpkin seeds have similar flavors. If you take the shell off a pumpkin seed, what you’ll find inside is very similar to a pepita! As the seeds of winter gourds, they are also closely related.
However, the texture of pumpkin seeds is very different from pepitas, since there is an additional external shell.
The experience of eating pumpkin seeds is different than eating pepitas, and you can’t always substitute pumpkin seeds for pepitas in recipes.
Pepitas and pumpkin seeds do taste alike since they are almost the same, but the subtle flavor, texture, and experience of eating them are different.
Are Pepitas Healthy For You?
Yes! Pepitas can be classified as a superfood, and they are full of important nutrients, antioxidants, and plenty of fiber.
If you eat the recommended serving of pepitas you’ll be fine, but if you get addicted to these tasty snacks and keep shoveling them into your mouth, you might eat more than you had intended.
Pepitas are typically roasted and salted, which means they are high in saturated fats and sodium. If you eat excessive amounts of pepitas, they’re not as healthy.
What Are Pepitas Similar To?
Pepitas are very similar to pumpkin seeds. The difference is that pumpkin seeds have a hard external shell.
You could also compare pepitas to sunflower seeds. They have the same kind of texture and are a similar size (although pepitas are larger). The flavor is not that different either, especially when they are both roasted and salted.
Are Pepitas Good For Weight Loss?
Pepitas are a healthy part of any diet in moderation and with lots of protein and fiber to help you stay full, as well as important nutrients and antioxidants, pepitas can be an important part of your calorie-reduction or weight-loss plan.
However, you’ll need to carefully ration your intake of pepitas. They are delicious, addictive, and high in fat and sodium when eaten in large quantities.
Can You Eat Pepitas Raw?
Yes! Although you’re probably more familiar with the roasted and salted varieties you can purchase at the grocery store, it is possible to eat pepitas raw, just as the ancient Aztecs did, straight from the pumpkin!
Raw pepitas are slightly chewier and less crunchy, with a more subtle and wholesome flavor. They are even healthier for you than the roasted and salted kinds, and they make a great snack.
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