Pumpkin seed oil is touted for its health properties and can be used in cold or warm dishes for a touch of nutty flavor. It's more commonly found in dishes in Austria, Hungary, and the surrounding regions. Made from pressed pumpkin seeds, it has a low smoke point and is frequently drizzled over pumpkin soup or used to make salad dressing.
What Is Pumpkin Seed Oil?
Pumpkin seed oil is a flavorful oil that's rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, so it's often sold as a health supplement as well as a culinary ingredient. It can also be consumed in pill form. The oil has unique coloring characteristic called dichromatism—when in a bottle or vessel, the oil appears dark red. When drizzled onto dishes or mixed into sour cream or yogurt, it is bright green. Pumpkin seed oil is on the expensive side for a vegetable oil when compared to more common options like olive oil; it's similar in price to walnut and avocado oil.
How to Use Pumpkin Seed Oil
Pumpkin seed oil has a low smoke point, around 320 F, similar to extra-virgin olive oil. Cooking the oil can also weaken some of its health benefits, so it is typically used in cold or warm dishes. It can be used as the sole oil in salad dressings and marinades or combined with olive oil or canola oil for a lighter flavor. Drizzle it over a wide range of dishes, such as soups, roasted vegetables, or fish, to add a little nuttiness. It adds healthy fat to smoothies, dips, pestos, granola, and more.
What Does It Taste Like?
Since it is an oil, pumpkin seed oil is slightly viscous and oily and will coat the mouth, especially if consumed on its own. It has a strong flavor compared to other oils, with a distinct nutty flavor, similar to roasted pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin Seed Oil Recipes
Pumpkin seed oil is best used to add flavor and some added nutrition to dishes just before serving. Avoid heating it too much since that can turn the oil bitter and decrease its nutritional value. Use in place of hemp seed oil in vinaigrettes and smoothies, add a few drops to the top of pumpkin soup, or toss with warm roasted veggies.
- Hemp Seed Oil Vinaigrette
- Roasted Garlic Pumpkin Soup
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Pears, Walnuts, and Bacon
Where to Buy Pumpkin Seed Oil
You can find pumpkin seed oil at health food stores, organic or specialty grocery stores, or order it online. It is sold in glass, plastic, or metal containers alongside other healthy oils like olive, walnut, and avocado. Look for oil that's been cold-pressed for the best quality and nutrition. You can also find pumpkin seed oil supplements alongside vitamins and herbal remedies. The pills are not meant for culinary use.
Pumpkin seed oil should be stored in a cool, dark place. It is often sold in a dark glass bottle or metal can to protect it from sunlight, which can cause the oil to go rancid. If your kitchen tends to be on the warmer side, or you just want to make sure the oil lasts as long as possible, stash it in the fridge. Once opened, it will keep for several months in the pantry or a year or more in the fridge. You may need to let it warm up on the counter a bit before using.
Nutrition and Benefits
Because pumpkin seed oil is so well-known for its health benefits, it is just as frequently sold in the grocery aisle as it is in the pharmacy. The oil is full of polyunsaturated fats and is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have been shown to aid in lowering cholesterol and boost cardiovascular health. It can also help raise HDL cholesterol levels, commonly known as "good cholesterol."
The nutritious oil has been shown to help prevent hair loss in mice and even encouraged men's hair growth by up to 40 percent in one small study of 76 men. The oil is also beginning to be studied as a homeopathic treatment for menopausal symptoms. While a number of studies are being conducted on the effects of pumpkin seed oil, it is not recommended as a supplement for pregnant women, since the side effects are not well known.
When used in culinary applications, the amount of pumpkin seed oil tends to be small and safe for anyone to consume. Two teaspoons a day is a common recommendation for an adult looking to add pumpkin seed oil to their diet and reap the potential health benefits.
Shahidi F, Ambigaipalan P. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Their Health Benefits. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2018;9:345-381. doi:10.1146/annurev-food-111317-095850
Cho YH, Lee SY, Jeong DW, et al. Effect of pumpkin seed oil on hair growth in men with androgenetic alopecia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:549721. doi:10.1155/2014/549721