Pumpkin seeds are one of the byproducts of carving pumpkins in my house. Also known as pepitas, pumpkin seeds have a mild, nutty flavor to them that is enhanced when they are roasted, so I typically toast my pumpkin seeds to serve as a snack when pumpkin-carving is completed. That being said, I usually buy my pumpkin seeds instead of harvesting them from fresh pumpkins and I would recommend that you do the same. While it is nice to know that nothing is going to waste (except the pumpkin pulp), the process is easier, cleaner and yields a lot more pumpkin seeds if you buy them from the store! Buy them raw or toasted and unsalted and you can do a lot with the seeds, from adding them to salads to baking with them.
These Sweet & Spicy Candied Pumpkin Seeds are one of my favorite ways to enjoy pepitas. The seeds are completely coated in a flavorful caramel that is seasoned with salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. They’re easy to make and very addictive. If you don’t believe me, just try making a batch so that you can put them to the test yourself! These seeds have a nice balance of spices where the pepper doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors, yet still adds a bit of heat to each bite. If you are sensitive to spicy foods, reduce the cayenne pepper by half. You’ll still get a hint of heat, but it will be much milder.
The candied pepitas will keep for at least a week when stored in an airtight container, but I will admit that a batch rarely lasts a week in my house. Not only are they delicious snacks, but they can be added to all kinds of salads and used to add crunch to fall side dishes like roasted pumpkin and brussel sprouts. If you leave them in large shards, they start to form a brittle and can be used to garnish cupcakes and cakes. No matter how you eat them, you’ll definitely enjoy them enough to make a second, third or forth batch in short order.
Sweet & Spicy Candied Pumpkin Seeds
8-oz pumpkin seeds, toasted*
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
In a large saucepan, combine pumpkin seeds and sugar. Cook over medium high heat, stirring regularly, until the sugar begins to bubble. When it begins to bubble, stir the mixture more quickly, using a spatula, until the sugar crystallizes completely. The nuts and sugar should look very, very sandy and dry.
Continue cooking, stirring constantly to keep the nuts from burning on the bottom of the pan, and the sugar will re-melt and turn a dark golden brown color. Within 4-5 minutes, the nuts should be completely coated in caramel. Add in salt and spices and quickly stir to distribute evenly.
Turn nuts out onto a parchment-lined or silpat-lined surface and spread them into a single layer with your spatula. After they have cooled for 5-10 minutes, break up any large chunks.
Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
*If you only have untoasted pumkpin seeds.