What is the Difference Between Pumpkin Seeds and Pepitas?

Here’s what you should know about the autumn treats that add crunch to snacks, salads, and desserts.

Pumpkin seeds
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Pepitas and pumpkin seeds seem so similar, you might think they are the same thing. But while they are not exactly the same, they are closely related. Pumpkin seeds are whole seeds with their shells still on, whereas pepitas are found in shell-less, or hulless pumpkin varieties. Just as we were taught in grade school that a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn't a square, the same concept applies to pepitas and pumpkin seeds. While all pepitas are a type of pumpkin seed, not all pumpkin seeds are pepitas. Both are essential to fall menus, but are not completely interchangeable in the kitchen. Here's how to know when and how to use them.

What are pumpkin seeds?

Pumpkin seeds are oval-shaped with cream-colored husks. Their shells are edible, and they have a nutty flavor and crunchy texture. Unlike pepitas, pumpkin seeds need to be cooked before eaten; they are commonly pan-toasted or roasted as in this Rosemary-Brown Sugar Pumpkin Seeds recipe.

What are pepitas?

Pepitas [puh-PEE-tuhz], on the other hand, meaning "little seeds of squash" in Spanish, are a variety of pumpkin seeds without a shell that can only be found in specific hulless pumpkin varieties, such as Styrian or Oil Seed pumpkins. A distinctive characteristic of these pumpkins is their smooth rinds with dark green and yellow-to-gold striping. Pepitas do not have a shell, and have a greenish appearance. They have a nutty and bitter taste with a smooth texture, and can be consumed raw, as with these.

Can you substitute pepitas for pumpkin seeds?

Yes, with some limitations. Pumpkin seeds must be roasted before eaten, while pepitas can be eaten raw. As well, pumpkin seeds and pepitas have different textures and flavors. The smoother texture of pepitas makes them better suited to adding to a salad or sprinkling on top of a pasta or soup. The thick hull on pumpkin seeds makes them crunchier and chewier, and requires that they be roasted before eating. But once they are roasted, you can use either when snacking.

How to enjoy pepitas and pumpkin seeds

Both pumpkin seeds and pepitas alike contain healthy fats, fiber, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals. And both can be used in a variety of recipes. You can eat them simply roasted like this Sesame-Soy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds recipe or these Jalepeño-Lime Pepitas, in dips like this Mayan Sikil Pak or this Pepita-Sesame Salsa Macha, mix them into breakfast or snack bars, sprinkle them atop bowls, salads or soups like this Winter Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seeds. And don't forget to use them in all kinds of fun recipes like our Mayan Pepita-Chicken Stew recipe or a dessert like this Chocolate Panna Cotta with Spiced Pepita Brittle recipe.

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