Pumpkin seeds, or "pepitas" -- adorable looking khaki or army green-colored little seeds -- are a powerhouse of nutrition, as most nuts and seeds are, and are perhaps best known for being a very rich source of magnesium.
They are also of course delicious and very versatile, but I feel that they don't often get the love that they deserve in the baking sphere. So I thought to compile a list of some of my favorite gluten-free and vegan pumpkin seed dessert recipes as well as lots of tips for baking with them here:
One of my favorite uses for pumpkin seeds in desserts is using pepitas as a nut-free alternative. Many vegan & gluten-free desserts, especially raw and no-bake cheesecakes, often call for the use of nuts such as cashews and almonds, etc., but for those sensitive to nuts those desserts can be off limits. So I created this pumpkin seed "raw cake-style" treat for those looking for an alternative.
In this recipe I used pumpkin seeds for the crust (in place of the more traditional almonds, etc.), and pumpkin seed butter for the filling as a creamy delicious base. It's perhaps the most pumpkin seedy-est recipe ever! :)
Using Pumpkin Seed Butter in a Recipe
Pumpkin seed butter has a very pronounced flavor that seems like it might not work so great sometimes in a dessert, but in this cake it works a treat (the cinnamon and maple syrup pair beautifully with it). Another thing that might seem like a drawback about pumpkin seed butter is perhaps it's khaki color, but balance it off with some pretty delicate pink roses and a few extra pumpkin seeds as "petals" and a hint of chocolate and you've got yourself a pretty little cake!
Perhaps one of the nutritional benefits pumpkin seeds are best known for is magnesium -- a vital mineral, and one I've had an interesting experience with personally, going from being magnesium deficient to restoring balance with the simple solution of incorporating pumpkin seed butter into my diet.
Inspired by my newfound appreciation for magnesium, I made a recipe for chocolates filled with all kinds of magnesium-rich wholefoods, which of course included a good dose of pepitas in the mix.
Decorating with pumpkin seeds
I loved playing around with a natural decoration for these chocolates using edible dried jasmine flowers and a few pretty pumpkin seeds as flower petals. It turned out the cutest! And pumpkin seed "petals" have become one of my favorite ways to garnish pumpkin seed-rich desserts as a result.
I know the recipe is titled "sunflower," but pumpkin seeds (and a whole host of other seeds) play a major role in these delicious little bars. The pumpkin seeds add a delicious snap and crunch to an otherwise creamy and flavorful dessert. They also add a lovely pop of color as a dessert topper.
Besides making delish desserts, pepitas can also be used to create amazing vegan milks. Many plant-based milks on the market are nut-based, but if you're looking for a nut-free version or just for something a little different, this pumpkin seed milk is one of my favorites. I love making a plain vanilla or a chocolate version of it. Fun fact: this simple recipe is one of the oldest on the blog (hence my old blog name logo on the photo!).
Quick money-saving tip with pumpkin seeds
While I absolutely adore all nut-based vegan milk alternatives, let's face it, nuts (especially organic) can get a little costly. I found that in some places where I lived in the past pumpkin seeds tend to be cheaper than other nuts, so I stock up and use them as a base in many desserts and "mylks."
And speaking of pops of color, pumpkin seeds do wonders in terms of prettying up this nut-free vegan Strawberry Lime Parsnip Cheesecake, don't they? This cake is a rather unusual recipe where I tried to tackle the creation of a nut-free dessert by incorporating some sneaky veggies into the mix. I used pumpkin seeds to create a base for this cake as well, which helps make this cake gluten-free and paleo-friendly (grain-free) as well.
In this raw berry lime vegan cheesecake recipe I used pumpkin seeds once again to create an easy nut-free raw cake crust. I also liked how the greenness of the pumpkin seeds played up the prettiness of the avocado and lime-based filling.
You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but the crust of this deliciously creamy nut-free baked vegan cheesecake is made up of pumpkin seeds once again. Pepitas make for great baked gluten-free, grain-free, and nut-free cake crusts too!
This no-bake black bean chocolate cake is another delicious nut-free vegan ice box cake alternative I created for my nut-free readers. Pumpkin seeds once again form the crust.
Using pumpkin seeds for cake crusts
If you're not aiming for an actually "raw" cake, toasting the pumpkin seeds first before using them in the crust of cakes brings takes away their slightly "green" taste when raw, and brings out their lovely flavor more.
To roast them, simply spread the shelled seeds out on a baking tray lined with some parchment paper and bake in a pre-heated oven (at 350F) for about 10-15 mins. Keep an eye out: once they begin to pop and look nicely toasty they're ready. Take them out of the oven and cool them on a wire rack completely before using in a recipe (hot seeds can damage your food processor bowl!). Alternatively you can roast them on a frying pan (lay them out in a single layer) for about 5 mins, shaking the pan constantly to avoid burning them. Cool off as per previous point.
Beware: toasted pumpkin seeds are a highly more-ish snack, so I recommend roasting extra for the peckish baker ;)
This cranberry cauliflower cake is definitely one of my more out there recipes. Another nut-free vegan cake where I used pepitas for the crust, as a beautiful cake decoration (yes, more pumpkin seed "petals"!), as well as in the filling to add an interesting texture to the cake.
And a chocolate cauliflower cake version for good measure, using pumpkin seeds to form the crust and add a pop of color on top of the cake.
What better way to play up the "pumpkininess" of a pumpkin dessert than to add some pepitas to the mix, right? In this oldie vegan & gluten-free pumpkin bread recipe from the blog I did just that.
Another lovely baked recipe (my all-time favorite muffins!) featuring pumpkin seeds is this recipe for fluffy vegan and gluten-free pumpkin molasses muffins (also oil-free and refined sugar-free). The seeds add a bit of crunch and color to the mix here.
Last but not least, pumpkin seeds make wonderful toppers for anything from salads, to savory dishes, to breakfast porridge, etc. In this quick pumpkin spice breakfast porridge they take the pumpkin theme to a new level! :)
I hope this quick recipe and tip guide inspired you to incorporate pumpkin seeds in new and plentiful ways into your baking repertoire! :)