What Are Pepitas, and What Can You Do With Them?

If all pepitas are pumpkin seeds, does that mean that all pumpkin seeds are pepitas?

Many people use the words pepitas and pumpkin seeds interchangeably, but are they actually the same thing? As it turns out, there is a difference between the two: pepita isn’t just the cool way to say pumpkin seed (even though, it does sound pretty cool).

What is the difference between pumpkin seeds and pepitas?

Pepitas and pumpkin seeds are actually two different things. (And they aren’t hulled pumpkin seeds, either!) A pepita is harvested from specific hull-less pumpkin varieties, known as Styrian or Oil Seed pumpkins. They even have hip names like Lady Godiva, Naked Bear, and Kakai Hulless Pumpkin. Any other variety of pumpkin produces a hulled seed that’s slightly fibrous and less tender.

You can certainly substitute one for the other, but there is a rule: you can always substitute pepitas for pumpkin seeds, but it’s best to only substitute pumpkin seeds for recipes that call for pepitas as a garnish. So, you wouldn’t want to use pumpkin seeds to make this cilantro-pepita pesto recipe, but you could totally use them as a garnish for this slow cooker sweet potato soup recipe.

Are pine nuts and pepitas the same?

No. Pepitas make a great, inexpensive substitution for pine nuts in pestos and salads, and they’re both seeds, but they’re not the same. They both have a sweet, mild flavor and contain a lot of oil, but pepitas are the seeds of a pumpkin whereas pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees. The reason that pine nuts are so expensive? They’re harvested from pine cones, which can take 18 months to three years to mature. On the other hand, pepitas can be harvested every year—and, the pumpkin flesh can be used to make canned pumpkin puree. (Psst! Learn why our Test Kitchen recommends always using canned pumpkin over fresh.)

What are pepitas high in?

Like other edible seeds, pepitas are packed full of nutrients. They’re also a low-calorie snack: a one-ounce serving has only 170 calories and 4 grams of carbs while providing 15 grams of heart-healthy fats and 9 grams of protein. Pepitas are filled with beneficial vitamins and minerals, like iron, zinc, manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium.

What are the benefits of eating pumpkin seeds?

Remember all those vitamins and minerals we just talked about? Those nutrients will help keep your body performing at peak condition. In addition to forming healthy teeth and bones by assisting your body to absorb calcium, all those nutrients will also work hard to keep your immune system healthy, maintain muscle and nerve function, and keep your cells functioning at their proper levels.

How To Enjoy Pepitas

  1. Roast them and eat them as a healthy snack, like this Mocha Pumpkin Seeds recipe.
  2. Add a handful to your favorite rice recipe, or mix them in with nutty quinoa.
  3. Season ’em up however you like (we love this Taco Pumpkin Seeds recipe) and use them as a salad topper to add crunch without adding bready croutons.
  4. Use them as a coating for oven fried chicken.
  5. Mix them into baked goods like Pumpkin Seed Cranberry Biscotti, or add them to your favorite granola recipe.
  6. Puree them into sauces or salsas to add extra depth to the recipe.

Up next: Learn how to roast pumpkin seeds.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.