The real gift of pumpkin season is what's hiding inside: the (all-too-often-discarded) seeds. When toasted in the oven with a little olive oil and some salt, the soft seeds from inside pumpkins turn into the crunchiest, savory snack of the season. They certainly make sticking your hand inside a squishy pumpkin worth the hassle, anyway. Here's the simplest, easiest method for cleaning pumpkin seeds and roasting them in the oven.
How to Clean Pumpkin Seeds
It's not necessary to remove every last scrap of pumpkin flesh from the seeds. Pick the seeds out of the pumpkin with clean hands and move them to a bowl of water. Soak the seeds briefly, working the seeds back and forth to dislodge stringy bits of pumpkin.
Some people hardly bother removing any of the strings and extras from the seeds, stating that it tastes great roasted and adds additional flavor to the seeds; others remove every last shred, which admittedly is a chore. I come in somewhere in the middle. I get most of the flesh and strings off, but I don't get too obsessive about it. If I did, I doubt that I would roast seeds ever again because it can be quite nit-picky!
You've got to read the whisk tip in the comments: The Best Tool for Removing Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
Take the simple approach and just toss the cleaned seeds in a little oil and salt before roasting. There is also a wide variety of additional toppings you can add, both savory and sweet, to jazz things up. See recipe notes for some suggestions.
Pumpkin seeds are good for you, too: They're high in protein, zinc, copper, and iron. They're a good source of Vitamin E and K. (Here's a good page showing their complete nutritional breakdown.) Some people believe that soaking them overnight in salted water, or boiling them for 10 minutes in salted water, helps to make their nutrition more available and to make them crunchier when roasted. But either way, you're guaranteed a tasty treat.
How to Roast Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
What You Need
A large winter squash such as a pumpkin
Neutral oil such as canola, rice bran, or coconut
(Optional additions: see recipe notes)
Spoon or spatula
Scoop and clean the seeds: Preheat oven to 300°F. Cut the squash according to how you are going to use it. Scoop the seeds from the cavity and place in a colander. Pinch away all the large chunks of squash flesh and strings. Place the colander under cool running water and remove any additional squash flesh. Shake colander to remove water.
Dry the seeds: Dump the seeds out onto a towel and pat to dry. The seeds might stick to the towel a bit.
Oil and salt the seeds: Place the seeds on a baking tray and drizzle with a small amount of oil, approximately 1 teaspoon for 3/4 cup of seeds. Add a pinch or two of salt.
Toss and bake the seeds: Toss the seeds until they are evenly coated with oil and salt. Spread out so they are in a single layer, though some overlapping is fine. Place the baking sheet into the oven. Roast until the seeds are just starting to brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. If your oven has uneven spots, you may want to stir after 10 minutes.
Remove and cool: Remove the seeds from the oven and let the seeds cool on the tray. Enjoy right away or keep for a few days in an airtight container.
Sweet Pumpkin Seeds: Omit or reduce the salt and roast the seeds on parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool, then toss with brown sugar or a little maple syrup. Not too much, just enough to lightly coat the seeds. You can also add cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or other 'sweet' spices. Toss well to coat evenly. Return the tray to the oven and continue to roast for another 10 to 15 minutes or so.
Sweet-Hot Pumpkin Seeds: Toss the seeds with a little honey and sriracha or chili flakes. A little cumin might be nice, or curry powder. Roast as with sweet seeds.
Savory Pumpkin Seeds: Add herbs such as chopped rosemary, dried oregano and/or spices such as smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin to the seeds before roasting. Check carefully to be sure the herbs and spices aren't browning too quickly. If so, roast at a sightly lower heat.