Easy dinner recipes: Pumpkin seeds add nutty flavor to shrimp tacos, noodles

If you're looking to add a delicate nuttiness to a dish, you can't go wrong with pumpkin seeds, commonly known as pepitas. Remove the outer white hull, and the vibrant green seeds have a fresh, almost grassy flavor; roasting brings out the seeds' oils, deepening the flavor and adding rich undertones and a wonderful crunch.

Shrimp tacos with pumpkin seed sauce: This easy dish comes together in under an hour, the plump shrimp cooked in a simple sauce flavored with toasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil, garlic, jalapeno chiles and fresh cilantro. Serve the shrimp with shredded jicama and cilantro sour cream over tortillas.


Noodles with cabbage, poppy seeds and pepitas: This simple dish contains only a handful of ingredients and comes together in about 50 minutes. Shredded cabbage is cooked with chopped onion to tenderness, then combined with pasta, the finished dish tossed with poppy seeds and crunchy toasted pepitas.

Chopped chicken salad: Avocado lends richness to this dressing, which blends fresh lime juice, a touch of Champagne vinegar, cilantro and green onions for a bright and tangy addition to any salad. Bluewater Grill also included its recipe for chicken chopped salad, tossed with cherry tomatoes, onion, crumbled feta and toasted pepitas, which uses the dressing.

You can find all of the recipes below.

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Total time: About 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: If you would like a spicier pumpkin seed sauce, double the amount of chiles.

1 bunch cilantro

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 serrano chile, seeded and inner ribs removed

1 jalapeno chile, seeded and inner ribs removed

1/4 large jicama, peeled

1 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

8 small corn tortillas

Lime wedges

1. Finely chop about a third of the cilantro to yield 2 tablespoons, setting aside the rest. In a small bowl, mix the chopped cilantro with the sour cream and set aside.

2. In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds until they pop and turn slightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes; do not let them brown. Set aside briefly to allow to cool.

3. In a food processor or blender, place the pumpkin seeds, olive oil, garlic, salt, chiles, remaining cilantro and one-half cup of water. Blend to a smooth paste.

4. Return the mixture to the sauté pan, add one-half cup of water and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes to develop the flavors. Stir frequently to make sure the sauce doesn't burn and add more water if the sauce thickens too much or too quickly. Meanwhile, shred the jicama using a box grater. Refrigerate until needed.

5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp. Cover and cook until the shrimp are pink, about 5 minutes, stirring and turning the shrimp occasionally for even cooking.

6. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat and warm the tortillas. Arrange two tortillas per plate, slightly overlapping. Divide the shrimp among the tortillas, add shredded jicama and a spoonful of cilantro sour cream. Serve immediately, with lime wedges.

Each serving: 471 calories; 32 grams protein; 33 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fiber; 24 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 185 mg. cholesterol; 365 mg. sodium.


Total time: 50 minutes

Servings: 4

Note: You can cook the cabbage and onion mixture ahead and keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Pepitas, or shelled pumpkin seeds, are generally available at well-stocked markets. Poppy seeds are also generally available at well-stocked markets, as well as at Eastern European and Middle Eastern markets.

1 small head cabbage (1½ to 1¾ pounds)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 onions (about 1 pound), chopped (2¾ cups)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

8 ounces medium-width noodles or fettuccine

5 teaspoons poppy seeds

3 tablespoons toasted pepitas

1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley

1. Quarter the cabbage lengthwise. Put each quarter on its side and shred with a heavy knife by cutting the cabbage in thin slices, first crosswise, then around the core; remove the core and any thick ribs. You should have 11 to 11½ cups shredded cabbage.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a wide, heavy stew pan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to turn golden, about 18 minutes. Add the cabbage, and season with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook uncovered over medium heat (the cabbage will seem like a very large amount at first, but it will cook down), stirring often, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. While the cabbage is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

3. Sprinkle the mixture with sugar and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 7 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, cook the noodles uncovered in the boiling water until al dente according to the instructions on the pasta packaging (check the pasta 1 to 2 minutes before the time indicated to make sure it isn't already done). Drain, reserving one-half cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

5. Add the noodles to the pan of cabbage. Toss over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Add about 3 tablespoons of the reserved noodle cooking liquid, or enough to moisten the mixture lightly, and cook until the noodles are well coated with the cabbage mixture, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the poppy seeds. Off heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

6. Stir most of the pepitas and parsley with the pasta and cabbage, leaving about one-fourth of each to sprinkle over as garnish. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as desired. Serve hot, sprinkled with the reserved pepitas and parsley.

Each serving: 485 calories; 14 grams protein; 64 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fiber; 21 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 48 mg cholesterol; 13 grams sugar; 53 mg sodium.


Total time: 35 minutes


Servings: 4


Note: Adapted from Bluewater Grill.

Avocado dressing

1/3 cup lime juice

2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar

3/4 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/3 bunch (about 15 sprigs) cilantro, chopped

1/3 bunch (4 to 6) green onions, green tops only, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

1/3 avocado, diced

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup canola oil

In the bowl of a blender, combine the lime juice, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, green onion, salt, cayenne pepper and avocado and blend. With the blender running, slowly add the oils to form a thick, creamy dressing. Taste and adjust the flavorings, and seasoning if desired. This makes a scant 2 cups avocado dressing, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days.

Chicken chopped salad

About 2 hearts (1 pound) romaine, chopped

4 grilled half chicken breasts (boneless and skinless), chopped

8 ounces crumbled feta cheese, divided

2 ounces toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), divided

8 ounces cherry or other small tomatoes

1 cup julienned red onions

1 avocado, diced

Avocado dressing

In a large bowl, combine the romaine, chicken, one-half each of the crumbled feta and pumpkin seeds, the tomatoes, onions and diced avocado. Add one-third cup dressing and toss gently to combine. Taste the salad, adding additional dressing as desired and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Divide the salad among 4 plates, topping each with the remaining cheese and pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Each serving: 826 calories; 60 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams fiber; 58 grams fat; 15 grams saturated fat; 171 mg cholesterol; 8 grams sugar; 850 mg sodium.