Green pepitas are considered a healthful addition to soups and salads in the Yucatan region of Mexico. They leave a sweet, nutty flavor behind whenever incorporated in any recipe or even eaten raw.
I know it’s hard to control when you’re craving pepitas during your snack time. Try to use one of these recommended substitutes to enjoy a similar nutty flavor.
What are the substitutes for Pepitas? The best substitutes for Pepitas include sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds.
In this post, we’ll discuss Pepitas and its uses in detail. You’ll get to explore some viable alternatives for pepitas that will infuse a similar richer taste in your recipes.
Pepitas, aka Pepita verde, are small green seeds of a butternut squash called Calabaza (Cucurbita moschata). These kernels/seeds are collected from the core of white Calabaza. Calabaza is not a pumpkin but due to common usage, it is also referred to as Indian pumpkin or Cuban squash.
The hull is removed from the squash seeds to reveal the green pepitas. They are famous by the name of Pepitas in Mexico but in other countries, they are called pumpkin seeds. You can have the seeds with or without hulls.
Pepitas are found raw, salted, toasted, and flavored with chili and lime. Raw pepitas don’t feel as crisp as toasted ones. The toasted versions can be taken as snacks but it’s quite a labor to peel the seeds one by one.
These seeds are also helpful in the production of pumpkin oil. They are stocked in bulk in all food stores, especially in China and U.S. You can also find them online at the website of Amazon.
Pumpkin seeds are high in carbohydrates, calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, zinc, iron, and protein. It is also a rich source of Vitamin K, Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), and Vitamin B6.
Uses of Pepitas in recipes
- Spicy Pepitas (flavored with pepper, Chile, lime juice, and cumin)
- Parsley-Pepita presto
- Smoky pepitas with Gazpacho
- Chilatas (Pepitas flavored powder sprinkled over a corn tortilla)
- Tamari roasted pepitas
- Kabocha squash soup with toasted pepitas
- Chile spiced nuts (Pepitas toasted and flavored with sea salt and chipotle powder)
- Pepitas with fresh guacamole
- Cilantro Pepitas dressing (Pepitas with garlic, chiles, cilantro, cheese, and mayonnaise)
- Crab with pepita sauce
- Poblano Chiles (Pepitas with cumin, cilantro, black beans, cheese, onion, and garlic)
- Toppings for various dishes (Pumpkin bread, oatmeal, yogurt, smoothie, desserts, or a granola bar)
5 Best substitutes for Pepita
|Sr. No.||Pepitas substitutes||Botanical name||Use in|
|1||Sunflower seeds||Helianthus annuus||Salads, oatmeal, fried veges, veggie burgers, baked food, trail mix|
|2||Chia seeds||Salvia hispanica||Stews, soups, salads, breakfast cereals, smoothies, puddings, marinades, sauces|
|3||Pine nuts||Pinus gerardiana||Pesto, parfait, salads, pasta, hummus|
|4||Pumpkin seeds||Cucurbita pepo||Soups, pasta, smoothies, chicken dishes, bread, cookies|
|5||Hemp seeds||Cannabis sativa L.||Smoothies, yogurt, cereals, salad|
The very first alternative that comes to mind while thinking of replacing pepitas is sunflower seeds. The sunflower plant is native to America but is largely cultivated in Europe and Asia too. These seeds are widely used in several dishes and can be eaten raw or roasted. You need to remove the hull and extract the seeds. They are almost same the size and should be used in the same quantity as mentioned for pepitas in any recipe.
These seeds are taken from the large flower heads. The outer part is a firm shell but the seed inside is tender in texture. They serve as a great substitute for pepitas due to the infusion of a similar sweet nutty taste to your dishes as that of Pepitas. Sunflower seeds are medically important as they provide some beneficial effects on blood glucose levels and cardiovascular health. They also help in the fast recovery of cancer patients.
Some people prefer to use sunflower seeds because the nutritional value of sunflower seeds is higher than pepitas. Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamins (Vitamin C and B complex vitamins) and minerals (iron, copper, phosphorus, and manganese.
2. Chia seeds
Chia seeds have various health benefits and are thus considered the healthiest substitute for pepitas. Like sunflower seeds, chia seeds are also native to America and were abundantly used in the Aztec diet. Now, the trend lowers but still, these seeds make a great addition to most dishes in several other countries of the world.
Chia seeds are very subtle in their taste that can complement both savory and sweet dishes. The nuttiness in flavor is milder than Pepitas which is why they hardly add any distinct taste to a recipe. They can be taken as a whole, in grounded form, or can be used after soaking in water for 1 hour. They offer the same crunchy texture as pepitas when eaten raw. But when cooked, they become sponge-like in texture.
They both differ in size but don’t let the size confuse you. Chia seeds have high nutritional value, which is why it holds a special place in your kitchen. These seeds are very important from an herbal point of view as being a rich source of proteins, fibers, and Vitamin C.
3. Pine nuts
Another great substitute for pepitas is pine nuts. Pine nuts belong to the Pinaceae family and they originally come from Europe. They are also famous for the names pignoli nuts, cedar nuts, and chilgoza. Pine trees reveal the seeds when the cones mature after 2-3 years of pollination. They have been used as a staple diet by Native Americans
Pine nuts are almost similar in taste but have richer undertones. Due to this sweet taste and crunchy texture, it can be easily substituted in several dishes, especially baked vegetable dishes. The shells of these nuts are hard and dark brown. The toasting of pine nuts will bring out the flavor more. The size of pine nuts is usually larger than pepitas but their shape really depends on the variety of land they grow in.
In terms of nutritional value, pine nuts are rich in manganese. That is worth mentioning as pepitas have a lower quantity of this important mineral. Others are iron, phosphorus, copper, and vitamins B1, B2, and B3. Pine nuts provide 51% more calories than pepitas so use them in less quantity to maintain your health.
As already mentioned, calabaza is not a pumpkin but pepitas are famous for the name pumpkin seeds. Pepitas are actually the seeds of squash which is a different species from the pumpkin specie. Since they came from the same class, they’re perfect substitutes for pepitas.
Pumpkin seeds are covered in a shell while pepitas aren’t. Another difference found is about the husk which is slippery and stressful. This yellowish husk makes it hard to separate the seeds from it. While the seeds of pepitas can be separated from the husk easily.
Both seeds are similar in appearance and share the same taste. A novice can’t tell any difference in taste if two dishes use them separately. Therefore, you need to use the exact same quantity when using pumpkin seeds as an alternative to pepitas.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc (supports the immune system), iron (helps in blood circulation), omega 3 (lowers the cholesterol level), antioxidants (lowers the cancer risk), etc. It has a high fiber content due to the additional shell covering of pumpkin seeds. Daily fiber consumptions help in digestion and promote gut health.
5. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds often referred to as hemp hearts, are small seeds from the Cannabis sativa plant. Listening to the name cannabis, you might think it’ll affect the working of the brain, but hemp seeds have no documented bad effect on human minds. Contrary to that, it is considered beneficial in numerous health issues due to its high nutritional value.
Hemp seeds are rich in fiber, and good fatty acids like omega 3s and 6s. Eating hemp seeds daily will provide enough fiber to give health benefits related to appetite suppression which leads to weight control. They also control the sugar level in the blood thus balancing out the life of diabetics. They are rich in Vitamin E, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium along with some B-complex vitamins as well.
It is useful in reducing the risk of cancer, thanks to its anti-oxidation property. The human body can’t make some essential amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. These seeds provide all the nine essential amino acids making them an excellent pick for the vegan or vegetarian diet.
These seeds have a mild nutty flavor almost similar to the flavor of pepitas. That’s how they make a place on this list. The salty variant of hemp seeds is less sweet. This makes it more suitable for people on diet. But should be used cautiously in BP patients.
Health Benefits of Pepitas
- Nutrient-rich (carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals)
- Anti-oxidant properties (Vitamin E and carotenoids)
- Regulating the blood sugar level
- Reduce inflammation in arthritis patients.
- Reduce the incidence and prevalence of cancer formation
- Relieve the symptoms of Benign Prostatic hyperplasia
- Controls Blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Promotes gut health and improves digestion
- Improves the sleep cycle and corrects the sleep pattern.