One of the most enjoyable aspects of eating a salad is the bit of crunchiness that the croutons add to each bite. What to do if you are avoiding grain-based carbs for weight control or other health reasons?
Perhaps you simply do not want to consume these highly processed bits of dried bread. They frequently contain MSG among other additives and fillers. Even organic croutons have this problem, by the way.
My favorite way to add crunchiness to a salad with no carbs is to sprinkle on homemade pepitas. Pepitas are slightly tangy, crispy pumpkin seeds that have been soaked in filtered water with sea salt and a bit of cayenne pepper and then dried in a warm (no higher than 150F) oven to preserve rawness.
As described in Nourishing Traditions Cookbook, seeds were one of the staple foods in the diet of the Aztec culture. Preparation involved soaking the seeds in brine water and then drying them out in the sun. The pepitas were consumed whole or ground into meal for baking after the drying process was complete.
Seeds should always be soaked and then dried before consuming. This neutralizes the anti-nutrients such as phytic acid in the hulls of the seeds which interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients. Soaking nuts is a similar process.
Why bother eating seeds at all if you can’t absorb the nutrition from them? Once again, traditional cultures show us that proper preparation of the nutrient-dense foods is as important as the food itself.
I hope you find this recipe as enjoyable as I do. By the way, a handful of these pepitas for a quick afternoon snack is very satisfying and will wake you up from any mid-afternoon drowsiness much better than a Snickers bar or other nutritionally empty snack high in calories.
Don’t Have Time to Soak Seeds?
Feel free to use sprouted pumpkin seeds instead of taking the time to soak them if desired. This brand is excellent and what I use. To learn more, this article details the health benefits of soaking vs sprouting.
Fresh Pumpkin Seeds?
Wondering about the white seeds inside a pumpkin? This article details how to prepare fresh pumpkin seeds for eating. It is a bit different than green pepitas.
Paleo Croutons Recipe (Pepitas)
This paleo croutons recipe provides that delightful salad crunch with no carbs. They are made of spicy, soaked pumpkin seeds, traditionally called pepitas.
- 4 cups pumpkin seeds raw, hulled
- filtered water enough to cover
- 2 TBL sea salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
In a large glass bowl, stir salt into the filtered water and add pumpkin seeds and cayenne. Leave uncovered on the kitchen counter for at least 7 hours or overnight.
Drain in a colander and spread wet seeds on cookie sheets. Dry in a warm oven (no more than 150F) for 12 hours or until completely dry. A food dehydrator works well too.
Pepitas keep well in an airtight container in the pantry - even in warm, humid climates like where I live in Florida.
Feel free to use sprouted pumpkin seeds as well for even more nutrition! This brand is excellent and what I use.
I have unhulled pumpkin seeds – will this method still be applicable?
Any suggestions for hulling your own pumpkin seeds?
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Because croutons were mentioned in the above article, thought I would mention that we make delicious croutons from bread made with the Einkorn grain. Just use days old bread and cut up into small pieces, brush with butter, salt, garlic and whatever other seasonings you may like. Toast on a cookie sheet at 250 degrees until golden brown. Store
in the fridge in a glass jar.
what about chia seeds? Do they need to be soaked to?
Hooray for pepitas, especially when combined with chile and salt! Their crunch is irresistible.
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
The antinutrients in seeds/nuts are in the skins as well. For example, shelled walnuts still require soaking/drying first to enhance digestibility.
Regarding your comment: "Seeds should always be soaked and then dried before consuming, by the way, to neutralize the antinutrients in the hulls of the seeds which interfere with digestion and absorption of nutrients."
I know, I'm such a troublemaker, but I need to ask: if the anti-nutrients are in the hulls, why would hulled seeds need to be soaked? Thank you for faithfully answering our questions.
Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist
Don't dry in an oven above 150 or the seeds will lose their rawness. Either dry in a toaster oven (the ones I've seen all go down to 150F) or use a dehyrator.