Roasted pumpkin seeds are a really great snack: They’ve got all the crunchy saltiness of potato chips, but they’re actually kinda good for you. If you roast them yourself (which doesn’t take long), you can also add any kind of seasonings you like.
I usually only get to roast pumpkin seeds once a year, on the day I carve a pumpkin for Halloween. But as I was prepping a delicata squash for dinner last night, I realized that winter squash seeds look just like pumpkin seeds. I tried roasting ’em, and they taste the same, too. In fact, butternut, delicata, acorn squash, and all the other winter squashes are members of the same botanical genus as pumpkin (and, depending on the variety of pumpkin, they may even be the same species).
Since I love butternut, that means I’ll be eating lots of roasted seeds this fall and winter. And it just so happens that they’re extra-delicious when flavored with my most favorite spice in the whole world.
Pimentón is smoked paprika, used extensively in Spanish cuisine. The same kinds of peppers used to make regular paprika are heavily smoked, then dried and ground. The resulting spice gives a deep barbecue-like smokiness to any dish, and also adds a lovely dark-red color. It’s a great option for vegetarians, as it can add a similar savory note to a dish as bacon.
Pimentón comes in picante (spicy) and dulce (sweet) varieties. The spicy isn’t anywhere near as hot as cayenne pepper, but it does have a bit of a kick. The sweet isn’t so much sweet as not spicy—it has a slightly bitter tinge. (There’s also agridulce, or bittersweet, which is in between the two, but it’s a bit harder to find.)
The best pimentón comes from an area of Extramedura in southwestern Spain called la Vera. Pimentón de la Vera is what you should look for when buying the stuff; it’s actually not that expensive—you can get 2.6 ounces of hot or sweet (aff. links) for seven bucks on Amazon.
Pimentón picante makes an excellent pumpkin-or-squash-seed seasoning, especially when mixed with a sweet spice like cinnamon. The sweet-salty-smoky-hot combination in my recipe below makes a complex and satisfying snack. This only uses half a cup of seeds—about what you’ll find in a medium butternut, delicata, or acorn squash. But you can very easily multiply it to utilize however many seeds you want. If you’re making a large batch, you may want to use more than one baking sheet—if the seeds aren’t spread out enough they won’t get crunchy.
Spiced Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
About 1/2 cup pumpkin or other winter squash seeds, rinsed and cleaned of stringy bits
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pimentón picante (hot smoked paprika)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350°. Toss all ingredients in a small bowl until seeds are evenly coated with seasonings. Spread out seeds on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat, parchment paper, or foil, making sure seeds do not touch. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until seeds are crunchy and slightly browned, stirring once or twice during cooking. Let cool completely before eating.