What are Pepitas?

Tracey Parece

Pepitas are pumpkin seeds; they are commonly eaten toasted. The word pepita may refer either to the entire pumpkin seed within its hull or to the inner kernel of the pumpkin seed. Pepitas are a popular snack, particularly in Mexico. They have been a part of Mexican cuisine since Aztec times, and they may be obtained from a variety of different types of pumpkins. Mexico, China, India, and the United States are the primary commercial producers of these edible seeds.

"Pepitas" is another name for pumpkin seeds.
"Pepitas" is another name for pumpkin seeds.

Many grocery stores offer some form of pepitas for purchase, and they may also be found at health food stores. Whole pepitas in their hulls are sold both salted and unsalted. They can also be made at home by removing the seeds from the pumpkin shell, drying them overnight, and roasting them over low heat. They are usually toasted and flavored with salt, lime, or chiles.

Pepitas can add crunch and flavor to green salads.
Pepitas can add crunch and flavor to green salads.

Like whole pepitas, shelled pepita kernals are sold both salted or unsalted. They may be bought raw or toasted, and they are a common ingredient in salad dressings, salads, and Mexican sauces called moles. Salt, lime, and chiles are frequently used to enhance the flavor of these as well.

Pumpkin seeds can be added to a variety of foods.
Pumpkin seeds can be added to a variety of foods.

Ground pepita kernels are often used in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and muffins. The ground form of these edible seeds is also used in Mexican sauces. It is recommended to grind the kernels at home prior to use for maximum flavor and freshness instead of purchasing them already ground.

Zinc found in pepitas may promote healthy function of the prostate gland.
Zinc found in pepitas may promote healthy function of the prostate gland.

Like other edible seeds, pepitas have a high fat content which makes them turn rancid if they are not stored properly. They can be placed into airtight containers and kept in the refrigerator for approximately one week. If frozen, they can be stored for a period of six months, or longer.

Numerous health benefits are associated with the zinc naturally present in pumpkin seeds. These reported benefits include improved prostate health and increased bone mineral density in men, and anti-inflammatory properties in those with arthritis. Studies have shown that the phytosterols contained in these seeds may have the potential to lower bad cholesterol, decrease the incidence of some types of cancer, and improve the functioning of the immune system.

Pumpkins are members of the Cucurbitaceae, or gourd family. Their seeds tend to be dark green in color and flat in shape. The husks of the seeds are yellowish white. They are high in both flavor and nutritional value.

Pepitas are a common ingredient in salad dressings.
Pepitas are a common ingredient in salad dressings.

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Discussion Comments


I'm trying to use pepitas in a Mexican mole recipe, but really don't want to take the time to hull them. It's so labor intensive. My thought is to grind the shell and kernel together into a powder.

I know eating the shell won't hurt you in any way. I'm just wondering if the ground whole kernel will still work flavor and texture-wise in a mole sauce?

I'd be surprised if in a traditional pepita mole that the Mexican farm wives spent the extra hour or more it takes to shell them.


@dinoleash: I like the Cajun spices too. My husband, however, likes to eat them as a sweet treat. I mix up some cinnamon, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and nutmeg and sprinkle that over the seeds before roasting. It is a delicious treat!


@christym: Hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are often sold at convenience stores as a snack. While the hulls are edible, I like to hull them and then roast them. It takes time to do it but, to me it is worth it.

The first thing that you do is remove the seeds from the pumpkin. Separate them from the insides of the pumpkin as best you can. Put them in a colander and rinse under warm water until the pulp is removed from the seeds.

Boil some water and add a couple of Tbsp. of salt to it. Add the seeds to the boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain the seeds in your colander and pat dry with paper towels.

This is the fun part! Place a pumpkin seed between your thumb and forefinger. Point the seed at an empty bowl and squeeze gently. The seed will pop out of the hull and into the bowl, leaving you holding the hull. Repeat for all of the seeds. Coat with oil and whatever seasonings you like. I like Cajun spices on mine. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes.


How would I go about roasting pepitas? My kids want to try them but I'm not sure how to do it.

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