Za’atar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds are addictively good as they are, but adding a dusting of Lebanese za’atar spice takes them over the top! These are good for adults and kids alike. Make plenty.
I stopped buying pumpkins years ago when I moved to Chicago. They were always so pricey there, ridiculously so. And then there was the transport issue: if you walk it home, you better pick a small, lightweight one, and then you lose half the fun. If you cab it home, you’ve now made the humble squash even more rarefied.
When I came back to Michigan, the whole childhood thrill of the pumpkin season buoyed up my world again, and I became enamored with everything about them.
Well, almost everything. Nothing deadens my appetite quite like the whole pumpkin-spice delirium that is increasingly taking over this time of year. I’m just waiting for a pumpkin flavored smart water to show its face any time now. Once I was gifted with a large set of pumpkin spice, pumpkin orange candles that were so not my thing that I “forgot” them in the hotel room where I was staying at the time of the gifting.
Before you think I’m not even remotely American for my pumpkin-spice shunning, I do eat and sometimes make pumpkin pie. But then I’ll only have a bite, ensconced deep in a puff of whipped cream. Probably the best pumpkin treat I’ve had were my own little pumpkin bundts, but that was admittedly about the chocolate glaze more than anything else. (Oh okay, they’re pumpkin-y delicious!)
What I always loved about pumpkins had nothing to do with eating the flesh, but instead scooping out the seeds and roasting them while I carved a simple face to make a lantern. I remember the roasted seeds being completely addictive, and also feeling a little disappointed that a ginormous pumpkin only yielded about a cup or two of seeds.
Even though I’ve been back in the land of pumpkins strewn across the farm-market lawn, and not having to haul them home on the El or in a cab, for the last few years, I haven’t actually carved one up since I was really really young. And then I wasn’t the one doing the carving. When I pulled one of the big ‘ole pumpkins from the front porch and went after it with my very sharp Shun knife recently, I was surprised how thick and how difficult it was to carve. I thought how clever I’d be saying what a breeze it is to carve a pumpkin when you use a very sharp knife, and I’m sure it helps, but way beyond that—it takes elbow grease. No doubt you parents of small children and other pumpkin-lovers have been carving up beauties year after year like many do, using carving kits that make it much easier.
However you get into your pumpkin, no matter–just get in there and get those seeds. There’s no pumpkin spice or pumpkin anything that outdoes the scent and taste of a freshly-roasted pumpkin seed. These babies are nothing, NOTHING like the chalky-white, insanely salty pumpkin seeds sold in little bags at the gas station. Those make me sad, because I know what pumpkin seeds are meant to be.
That is: pulled from a (reasonably priced) pumpkin with your own gooey hand, rinsed and dried and coated with olive oil, then roasted low and slow until they’re toasty in every way.
Then, just because we are who we are, toss a big handful of za’atar over them and a liberal dusting of salt.
Now we’re talking pumpkin spice, Lebanese-style.
Za'atar Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- 1 large pumpkin
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Big pinch fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons za'atar
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Using a sharp knife (and taking care!), cut the top off of the pumpkin. Pull out as many seeds as possible and place them in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water to cover the seeds. Agitate the seeds with your hands until the stringy pumpkin releases from the seeds. The seeds will float to the top.
- Scoop the seeds into another bowl, leaving the stringy water behind. Cover the seeds with water again and agitate them. Remove the seeds from the water with a slotted spoon and spread them out on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels. Pat the seeds as dry as possible.
- In a clean bowl, mix the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil and salt. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread the pumpkin seeds evenly on the sheet pan. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, and stir the seeds. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the seeds are light golden brown and crisp.
- Return the warm roasted seeds to the bowl and sprinkle with za’atar to taste. Taste and add more salt and za’atar as needed. Serve immediately or store the cooled seeds in an airtight container for at least one week.
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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
That sounds great. I’ve roasted pumpkin seeds before, but honestly I don’t know how to eat them. Chew them with the “peel”? Or remove the peel?
If you really want to fancy cut a pumpkin don’t use a knife. Get a thin coping saw blade. Cut it in half with a chisel at an angle so you have two pointed blades. Wrap the blunt end with tape to protect the hands. Now you have two thin saws. Simply poke the blade in and saw out your design.
Also wash your pumpkin off with bleach water (1/3 cup bleach in 2 quarts water). This will kill the fungus that causes them to rot.
If they start to dry out before Halloween, put them in a bucket of water for a couple hours. They should absorb enough to bring them back.
If you find a fancy picture/design you want to put on a pumpkin. Tape a copy to the pumpkin. Then take ordinary sewing pins and put them close together along the lines of the drawing. This will make an outline of small holes in the pumpkin. Remove the pins and the picture will be ready to carve. Remember you are carving a negative so consider which pieces to cut out and which to leave.
Every year I try to roast pumpkin seeds, and every year I manage to mess them up. But I’ll try again this year with your recipe, and maybe I’ll finally get it right!
Those roasted, spiced seeds look delicious…i can almost smell and taste them from that last photo!
love pumpkin seeds, love za’atar–what a combo!
Just to make sure – I seriously meant the question I posted yesterday. Answer will be appreciated.
Hi and thank you! You eat the whole thing here, though I can see why you are wondering because sometimes you only see the green inner seed. The skin is edible and delicious when roasted (good fiber!!!).
Thanks a lot. I started with eating “the whole thing” and it was kind of unusual to my senses with that lot of fibres 🙂 So I wondered and tried to peel the skin off, which is rather tiresome. I’ll give it another try. The next pumpkin is already waiting in my pantry ….
Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious, but they do require some time and effort. When I make them, they don’t always turn out so I look forward to trying your recipe and seeing if I get better results. Thanks for sharing!
Let me know how you like them! Thank you!
I always knew that pumpkin seeds were the real reason for carving a jack-o-lantern, but never got further than sprinkling salt on them before roasting. The oil and za’atar must take them up to another level. Now I just have to remember that until next fall.
I BOIL/SIMMER my seeds in salted water for about 10 minutes to make the shells EXTRA tender – and then bake. Za’atar on them is AMAZING!!!!! Thank you for the inspiration!! I don’t think I will ever make them any other way
I can’t wait to try the boil method! Thank you!
Do you sell gluten free za’atar? All the brands in Canada now have added wheat. I am gluten sensitive and I never thought to check the ingredients of the za’atar package I purchased….until I became very ill after eating it.
So now delicious za’atar cannot be a part of my dinner menu. I even my pure bred Texas rescue Chihuahua loves za’atar on my gluten free crust.
Do you ship to Canada?
You roasted pumpkin seeds sound so deliciously!
Love your stories, this blog and I appreciate all the hard work you do!