Spiced Candied Pumpkin Seeds, a Trilogy

I recently heard someone say: pick three things you can do really well each day and then let the rest go.  I like making lists and fall comfortably into self-loathing, so I thought now was as good a time as any to focus on the power of three and put some inner monologues to bed.

It turns out this is a lot like trying to rationalize naptime with a toddler.  There are a lot of things I can do terribly.  My subconscious is a genius at it.

I’m not good at staying in touch with anyone outside a five-mile radius.  My small talk skills fall somewhere along the autism spectrum.  I’m not patient.  I have no idea how to use a crockpot.  I’m also pretty bad at adhering to positivity trilogies. 

But it’s an admirable exercise and so today I’m sharing a recent success.  Which involves not giving up.  And pumpkin. If nothing else I’m stubborn and seasonably appropriate.

The first time I made these seeds they were not worthy of mention.  Their flavor was fine, if you don’t mind eating gloppy, thick-skinned ovals tasting faintly of sweetened curry.  Experience tells red kuri squash seeds are not the appropriate vehicle for this recipe. 

You also need to have enough time and patience to appropriately cook and cool everything. So if you have less than an hour, or are feeling foolhardy, and are not in possession of a pumpkin, these seeds are probably not in your future today.  Otherwise, proceed.

They toast up warm and fragrant and crisp, shellacked with a smooth, sweet glaze.  Their spice is balanced by briny fleur de sel and caramelized maple paired with bits of crunchy crystalized sugar.   They engage all the senses and the result is really something to be proud of.  It also solves the problem of what to do with the guts from your carving pumpkin.

I created the recipe for my Wine Bottega friends.  The final incarnation was worthy of a feature on their October newsletter.  (If the idea of monthly wine appeals to you, you should think about joining their Farm to Glass program.) The seeds pair brilliantly with anything from the era of Harry Craddock and would work with a rebellion of liquid bubbles, a Gewürztraminer, or lower tannin red like a Cabernet Franc. 

So pumpkin, persistence, and a subsidiary of booze, it is.  I can think of worse places to start.

Spiced Candied Pumpkin Seeds


seeds from one small to medium-sized pumpkin (about ¾ to 1 cup)
2¼ tsp demerara or turbinado sugar (i.e. “raw” sugar with a larger granule)
¾ tsp fine sea salt (e.g. fleur de sel)
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper or piment d’espelette
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp maple syrup
¾ tsp canola oil


You’ll need to reserve the seeds from a carving or sugar pumpkin for this recipe.  To prepare the seeds, scoop them out from the fleshy inside of a pumpkin and place in a colander.  Rinse under running water to help separate any pulp still attached.   Pat them dry as best you can with a paper towel and proceed with the recipe or refrigerate until ready to make (a day or two is fine).

Set the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, gently tossing halfway through.  They should become dry and slightly fragrant.

While the seeds are toasting, combine the sugar, salt, and spices in a small bowl; stir to mix.  When the seeds are done, place them in a medium bowl; add the maple syrup and oil and stir to combine.  Add the spice mix and toss until the seeds are evenly coated.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the prepared seeds on top, gently spreading them.  Place in the oven and turn the heat down to 275 degrees.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the mixture becomes caramelized and fragrant.  (Rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even cooking.) To test for doneness, take out a couple seeds and let cool.  They are done when dry to the touch.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container.  They should keep for about a week.

Makes about 1 cup

Notes: The unsalted, shelled pepitas in the supermarket might be worth a try if you are pumpkin deprived.