How to Clean Pumpkin Seeds: A Step-By-Step Guide

Clean seeds in water

Pumpkin carving season is (almost) upon us, my friends! As delicious and easy-to-make as roasted pumpkin seeds are, when you’re elbow deep in a sticky gourd, you may feel compelled to throw out the seeds with the gooey pulp. But don’t give in to the temptation—it’s actually not that difficult to remove, separate, and clean pumpkin seeds. You just have to know what you’re doing: 

Related: 35+ Pumpkin Seed Recipes For Fall

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

How to Clean Pumpkin Seeds

1. Place the pumpkin on your work surface. 

Whole pumpkin

Pumpkin carving is a messy affair, so spread out some newspaper pages or garbage bags before you get started. Better yet, head outside. 

2. Cut off the top of the pumpkin using a serrated knife. 

Pumpkin with top off

You know those cheap pumpkin carving kits that start hitting grocery store shelves earlier and earlier every year? If you’re carving with kids, one of those will definitely come in handy—that flimsy little knife is slightly safer for little hands than kitchen knives. But, if it’s just you, a serrated vegetable knife will do just fine. In fact, it’ll get the job done quicker and more efficiently. 

3. Scoop out the seeds, goo and all.

Scooping pumpkin seeds

Here’s where things get sticky. Use your hands to scoop out the bulk of the gooey pulp and seeds, then scrape down the sides with a slotted spoon or ladle. 

4. Place the seeds and pulp in a large bowl. 

Seeds and pulp in bowl

Toss the pumpkin’s contents into a large mixing bowl. Choose a bowl that’s larger than you think you’ll need, as the seeds and orange goo will need to be completely submerged. Fill the bowl with water. 

Rinsing seeds

5. Separate the seeds from the pulp. 

Separating seeds and pulp

Use your fingers to separate the seeds from the pulp. Set the seeds aside. As for the pulp, you can do whatever you want—throw it away, compost it, toss it over your fence, or, if you’re like me, set it outside for your friendly neighborhood raccoons to find. 

6. Give the seeds one more good rinse.

Clean seeds in water

Rinse the seeds one more time, but don’t worry too much about lingering pulp. It won’t affect the roasting process and it may actually lend a bit of flavor to the finished seeds. 

7. Let the seeds dry. 

Drying pumpkin seeds

Drain the seeds in a colander, then spread them evenly over an absorbent dish towel. Let them dry overnight. Now you’re ready to roast!

How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted pumpkin seeds Getty 8/31/20

It couldn’t be simpler to roast cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds. Our most basic recipe calls for just three ingredients: pumpkin seeds, cooking spray, and salt. Just prep a baking sheet with the cooking spray, spread the seeds in an even layer, then roast. Season liberally with salt before serving. 

Of course, you can get as creative as you want. I like to toss my seeds with a little olive oil and season them with spices like cayenne pepper and paprika. The only rule when it comes to roasting? There are no rules.

Get the basic recipe: Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

How To Shell Pumpkin Seeds

Pepitas in heart Getty 8/31/20

You certainly don’t have to shell pumpkin seeds. The hull is delicious, nutritious, and totally safe to eat. That said, many people find the tough texture unappealing and others have trouble digesting them. 

It’s nearly impossible to shell raw pumpkin seeds, but a quick 15-minute boil should loosen them up. Once you’ve drained and cooled them, you can pinch the seeds individually to easily remove the shells (fun fact: the soft, green seeds are called pepitas). 

To shell in bulk, spread the seeds between two sheets of wax paper. Carefully roll a rolling pin over the top sheet or beat it with a mallet. Be firm enough to crack the shells, but gentle enough to keep the seeds intact. 

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