What are Pepitas?
The short answer is pepitas are pumpkin seeds without the shells, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Pepitas are pumpkin based seeds, but they are not from the same pumpkins most of us are used to. Pepitas come from a specific type of pumpkin, and are naturally shell free. But the word, which is Spanish for nugget, is often used interchangeably for unshelled pumpkin seed. Considered to be a Mexican staple, dating all the way back to the time of the Aztecs, the idea of including the seeds from the gourds comes from the propensity to use as much of the pumpkin as possible. Pepitas offer high natural nutritional value and are packed with flavor
Pepitas vs. Pumpkin Seeds
All pepitas are pumpkin seeds, but not all pumpkin seeds are pepitas. Pepitas are green seeds, while the seeds with the shells of pumpkin seeds are white. Pepitas come from specific varieties of pumpkins known as oilseed pumpkins, more specifically Styrian pumpkins. True pepitas have a much more robust flavor than regular pumpkin seeds, and why they look different than the inside seeds of other pumpkin seeds when you remove the shell.
But the differences are small when it comes to the health benefits. Larger when it comes to flavor.
Health Benefits of Pepitas
Considered a superfood, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are powerhouses of nutrition, including protein, Omega-3s and Omega-6s and loaded with antioxidants, offering benefits for heart health and boosting energy. They are an excellent source of magnesium, and the combination of zinc and copper is effective in improving your sleep. Check out out article about the health and nutritional benefits of pepitas.
What Can you Do with Pepitas?
So now that we know pepitas are healthy, what can you do with them? Eat them, first off. Whether you eat them as roasted pepitas or prefer raw pepitas, they have a nutty flavor, so they are great alternatives for baking and snacking when you need a nut flavor but want to avoid the risk of allergy. They are also a great source of protein. When cooking with them, pepitas are often preferred because they are not in shells and offer a more flavorful addition to your dishes.
Snacks and Sides
Pepitas are great as stand-alone snacks, but can also easily be added to other mixes as well. Add in a few to humus dishes or trail mix, sprinkle them on a traditional or fruit salad, or make seed or granola bars more flavorful by adding them as additional seasoning. If you're just looking to snack on them alone, which is always a perfect option, you can choose to eat raw pepitas or bake, roast, and season them.
Garnishes and Marinades
Marinades and sauces are a great opportunity to add in extra healthy options while also combing flavors in creative and innovative ways. Add a handful of pumpkin seeds into your existing favorite braise, or mix it up with curry powder or garlic powder with a bit of olive oil or coconut oil and some black pepper to add extra zest to the naturally nutty flavor and create your own masterpiece.
The nutty slightly oily flavor adds a distinctive texture and taste to baked dishes, like lasagna or even to cookies, and with the added protein, are perfect for those on vegetarian or vegan diets. Also an added boost to multi-grain breads or making your own pumpkin seed butter and using it for all types of recipes. You can also take a regular cinnamon sugar mixture, add in a few seeds, and you have a whole new flavor, and favorite.
They are perfect for adding to soups and salads, but also used in breads, and as a staple of many Mexican dishes, offer an international flair to any dish, from soups to seafood. They're easy to toss a handful into a bowl of breakfast cereal for an added energy and health boost to start the day.
Smoothies are favorites because they tend to be fast, easy, and delicious, on top of being packed with vitamins and other nutrients. But imagine adding these nutrient-dense powerhouses to create an even healthier superfood. You can add in raw pepitas or blend in a pepita butter for a thicker option.
Pepitas and Animals
Not all seeds or even foods are good for animals, so it's always best to check to see what is safe for your furry or feathered friends. It's also important to ensure that you feed only the raw versions of the seeds or nuts, not the roasted or salted versions.
Seeds are always worth a second look when considering feeding them to animals because there are so many that are potentially dangerous, even to different animals. Pepitas and pumpkin seeds are packed with nutrients and are an ideal treat for our pets. They are one of the few seeds that are safe for them, but in small quantities.
And not only are they safe, the packed flavor and nutrition is healthy for them, too! So feel comfort in knowing you can mix in raw pepitas to their food, sprinkle them on top of their food, or even use them as treats and rewards in training, or just when they look adorable and deserve a reward! Raw pepitas and pumpkin seeds are safe and a great treat for:
- Birds (including parrots, finches, domesticated or wild)
- Rabbits and other small animals
Pepitas and pumpkin seeds are incredibly versatile and robustly flavorful making them an ideal option for adding to your pantry to ensure healthy diets for your entire family, including your furry and feathered friends, either by including them as part of the meals and dishes or as treats and snacks. You can use them either as a staple in your existing dishes by adding new flavor combinations or expand your taste buds by creating entirely new ones. Either way, make sure you have a ready supply of bulk pepitas on hand because they are an invaluable source of health benefits that taste great no matter how you choose to enjoy them.