If you've ever tried cooking with pumpkin seeds, you know that they can add a satisfying crunch and interesting flavor to many dishes. However, pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) are nutritional powerhouses with high levels of magnesium, zinc, protein, and essential fatty acids.

Where to Find Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are sold in most grocery stores. You can usually find pumpkin seeds either shelled or unshelled, raw or roasted, and spiced or salted. To make sure the pumpkin seeds you're buying don't contain any added harmful ingredients, it's usually better to buy them raw and roast them at home. Pumpkin seeds are rich in fat, so it's a good idea to store them in the fridge to prolong their shelf life.

Although pumpkin seeds are inexpensive, you can stretch your food budget even further and reduce food waste by utilizing seeds from the pumpkins you carve for Halloween.

How to Roast Them in the Oven

To roast fresh pumpkin seeds, preheat your oven to 350°F. Scrape the seeds out of the pumpkin, clean off any extra flesh by rinsing them with water, and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel. It's fine to leave some flesh attached, but make sure to remove the big chunks. Then spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet, place them in the preheated oven, and roast them for 10 to 15 minutes—or until they are slightly golden and crunchy. You can also get creative and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds with spices such as smoked paprika, cinnamon, allspice, or cayenne pepper.

Other Ways to Cook with Pumpkin Seeds

The easiest and most popular way to include pumpkin seeds in your diet is to eat them as a snack. Due to their high protein and fat content, they are very filling and satisfying. For a healthy and balanced snack, eat a handful of pumpkin seeds with a piece of fruit such as apple, pear, or banana. They can even be incorporated into a variety of homemade meals. Here are a few inspirational ideas:

Make Pumpkin Seed Butter

If you have a food processor or high-quality blender, you can easily make your own pumpkin seed butter. Use raw or roasted shelled pumpkin seeds, and either make a plain butter, or add some natural sweetener, vanilla, or spices to create your own unique flavor.

Jazz up Baked Goods

Whole or chopped shelled pumpkin seeds can be added to muffins or banana bread. You can also grind them into a meal and use it instead of, or in addition to, almond meal.

Use Them as a Garnish

Raw or slightly toasted pumpkin seeds make a great garnish for soups, dips, spreads, salads, and stir-fry. Just sprinkle chopped or whole shelled pumpkin seeds on top of the dish for extra crunch.

Spruce up a Salad

Due to their high protein content, pumpkin seeds make any salad more filling. They taste great in grain salads and pair well with quinoa, bulgur, and wheat berries. Pumpkin seeds can also be added to raw vegetable salads.

Add Them to Your Breakfast

Adding a handful of pumpkin seeds to your morning oatmeal, granola, muesli, or yogurt will provide you with protein and keep you full longer. You can also sprinkle some pumpkin seeds over your avocado multigrain toast.

Whip up Dressing with Pumpkin Seed Oil

Cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil is also available in most grocery stores. Pumpkin seed oil has a distinctive taste and is used to make salad dressings. Pumpkin seed oil should never be used for cooking because it has a very low smoking point.

As you can see, pumpkin seeds are a wonderful staple food because they're healthy, delicious, and can easily be incorporated into your daily meals. When cooking with pumpkin seeds, start with these tips, get creative, and enjoy!