Pumpkin seeds

For the ship formerly named Pepita, see Maria Asumpta. For engraving technique, see Pepita glass engraving.

Pepita (from Mexican Spanish: pepita de calabaza, "little seed of squash") is a Spanish culinary term for the pumpkin seed, the edible seed of a pumpkin or other cultivar of squash (genus Cucurbita). The seeds are typically rather flat and asymmetrically oval, and light green in color inside a white hull. The word can refer either to the hulled kernel or unhulled whole seed, and most commonly refers to the roasted end product.


Pepitas are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine and are also roasted and served as a snack.[1] Marinated and roasted, they are an autumn seasonal snack in the United States, as well as a commercially produced and distributed packaged snack, like sunflower seeds, available year-round. Pepitas are known by their Spanish name (usually shortened), and typically salted and sometimes spiced after roasting (and today also available as a packaged product), in Mexico and other Latin American countries, in the American Southwest, and in speciality and Mexican food stores.

The earliest known evidence of the domestication of Cucurbita dates back 8,000-10,000 years ago, predating the domestication of other crops such as maize and common beans in the region by about 4,000 years. Changes in fruit shape and color indicate intentional breeding of C. pepo occurred by no later than 8,000 years ago.[2][3] The process to develop the agricultural knowledge of crop domestication took place over 5,000-6,500 years in Mesoamerica. Squash was domesticated first, with maize second and then beans being domesticated, becoming part of the Three Sisters agricultural system.[4][5]

As an ingredient in mole dishes, they are known in Spanish as pipián. A Mexican snack using pepitas in an artisan fashion is referred to as Pepitoría. Lightly roasted, salted, unhulled pumpkin seeds are popular in Greece with the descriptive Italian name, passatempo ("pastime").

The pressed oil of the roasted seeds of a Cucurbita pepo subsp. pepo var. 'styriaca' is also used in Central and Eastern Europe as cuisine, such as Pumpkin seed oil.[6][7]


Pepitas kernels, roasted, with salt added
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 2,401 kJ (574 kcal)
Carbohydrates 14.71 g
- Sugars 1.29 g
- Dietary fiber 6.5 g
Fat 49.05 g
- saturated 8.544 g
- monounsaturated 15.734
- polyunsaturated 19.856
Protein 29.84 g
Thiamine (vit. B1) 0.07 mg (6%)
Riboflavin (vit. B2) 0.15 mg (13%)
Niacin (vit. B3) 4.43 mg (30%)
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.57 mg (11%)
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg (8%)
Folate (vit. B9) 57 μg (14%)
Vitamin C 6.5 mg (8%)
Vitamin E 0.56 mg (4%)
Vitamin K 4.5 μg (4%)
Calcium 52 mg (5%)
Iron 8.07 mg (62%)
Magnesium 550 mg (155%)
Manganese 4.49 mg (214%)
Phosphorus 1174 mg (168%)
Potassium 788 mg (17%)
Sodium 256 mg (17%)
Zinc 7.64 mg (80%)
USDA Nutrient Database

The seeds are also good sources of protein, as well as iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium,[8] phosphorus, copper,[9] and potassium. 25 grams of pepitas can provide over 20 percent of the recommended daily iron intake.[10] Furthermore, just one-fourth cup of pepitas provides approximately 185 mg of magnesium, nearly 50% of the Recommended Daily Intake.[8]

In 2007, Stevenson, et al., of the USDA's New Crops Products Research Unit searched the primary literature for information about the lipid content of pepitas, and then grew and analyzed pepitas from seven cultivars of C. maxima.[11] They found the following ranges of fatty acid content in C. maxima pepitas (see pumpkin seed oil):

n:unsat Fatty acid name Percentage range
(14:0) Myristic acid 0.003-0.056
(16:0) Palmitic acid 1.6-8.0
(16:1) Palmitoleic acid 0.02-0.10
(18:0) Stearic acid 0.81-3.21
(18:1) Oleic acid 3.4-19.4
(18:2) Linoleic acid 5.1-20.4
(18:3) Linolenic acid 0.06-0.22
(20:0) Arachidic acid 0.06-0.21
(20:1) Gadoleic acid 0-0.035
(22:0) Behenic acid 0.02-0.12

The reported concentration of myristate and palmitate (the cholestrogenic fatty acids) for the pepitas ranged from 1.6% to 4.9%. The total unsaturated fatty acid concentration ranged from 9% to 21% of the pepita. The total fat content ranged from 11% to 52%. Based on the quantity of alpha-tocopherol extracted in the oil, the vitamin E content of the twelve C. maxima cultivar seeds ranged from 4 to 19 mg/100 g of pepita.

Nutraceutical uses

The seeds (and seed oil, see below) of pumpkins, such as Cucurbita pepo varieties have been subject to a great deal of research, especially into the treatment of prostate ailments.[12][13]

Whole seeds or kernels

According to the USDA,[14] one gram of roasted pepita contain 5.69 mg L-tryptophan and one gram of pepita protein contains 17.2 mg[15] of L-tryptophan. One cup of milk contains 183 mg. This high tryptophan content makes pepita of interest to researchers studying the treatment of anxiety disorders.[16] Some eat the seeds as preventative measure against onset of anxiety attacks, clinical depression and other mood disorders.

Some studiesTemplate:Which? have also found pumpkin seeds to prevent arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and to regulate cholesterol levels in the body.

A 2011 Egyptian study found that in rats, pumpkin seed oil has anti-hypertensive and cardio-protective properties.[17]

A 2009 double-blind, placebo-controlled Korean study found that in men suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia (n=47), pumpkin seed oil is an effective treatment.[18]

The oil

Main article: Pumpkin seed oil

The oil of pumpkin seeds, a culinary speciality in (and important export commodity of) Central European cuisine as a salad oil and a cooking oil, is also used to treat irritable bowel syndrome and various other ailments, both in folk medicine and in modern medical practice and research.Template:Medcn

Long an Eastern European folk remedy for the prostate problems of men, the oil has in fact been shown to improve symptoms associated with an enlarged prostate due to benign prostatic hyperplasia.[9][19][20] Components in pumpkin seed oil appear to interrupt the triggering of prostate cell multiplication by testosterone and DHT. However, it is questionable whether eating the seeds whole in snack quantities, rather than taking therapeutic doses of the concentrated oil, would provide any prostate benefit.[9]

In German and Polish folk medicine, the oil is also used to quell parasitic infestations such as tapeworms.

See also