You Should Brine Some Pumpkin Seeds in Beer and Air Fry ‘Em

You Should Brine Some Pumpkin Seeds in Beer and Air Fry ‘Em
Photo: Claire Lower

I am not good at carving pumpkins. I can manage a rudimentary face with a snaggletoothed smile and triangle eyes, or simple ideological symbols, but that’s it! I am, however, very good at cooking pumpkin seeds.

Roasted pumpkin seeds are usually just fine. At their best, they’re crispy little bits of heavily seasoned fibre. At their worst, they’re tough, chewy, and bland. Most people mitigate toughness and blandness with a simple, 10-minute, salt water soak, but I like to take things a tad further and brine them overnight in a tangy, hoppy mixture of vinegar and beer. The air fryer takes care of the texture.

An overnight soak might seem like overkill, but it really does make a difference. I discovered it accidentally. Last night, after carving my elegant Lenin Lantern, I boiled the seeds in my usual beer brine, fully intending to dry and air fry them that evening. But then I decided to hang a fruit basket from my ceiling (to free up counter space), and forgot about the seeds I had set aside to cool until this morning.

I drained and dried them as usual, then poured them into my air fryer basket — with the little tray removed — and tossed them with a drizzle of olive oil. I then air fried them at 300℉ (the same temp I use when I roast them in the Big Oven) for a mere 10 minutes (which is a third of how long they take in the Big Oven). They were perfect.

The overnight brine permeated the seeds with a ton of flavour. I could even taste the hops from the beer I had used (a very hoppy IPA a man had left in my fridge). They were a little sweet, a little tangy, and just salty enough. I didn’t even finish them with salt. (Though I did briefly consider adding a few pinches of MSG.)

In addition to cutting down the cook time, the quick, hot, circulating air in the air fryer resulted in evenly crisped, lightly browned seeds with plenty of crunch and only a touch of chew. I do not think I will prepare pumpkin seeds any other way from here on out.

To make them, you will need:

  • 1 pumpkin’s worth of seeds (A little over a cup)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup beer (If you want to get extra festive, you can use pumpkin beer. If you want to give your seeds a hoppy, floral character, use an IPA.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • Olive oil

Rinse the pumpkin seeds under hot water in a colander. Dump them in a pot, along with the remaining ingredient (except the olive oil), and bring everything to a boil. Watch carefully, because beer is prone to boiling over. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and set aside for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. (I left mine out on the counter without worry because the brine is very acidic, but move it to the fridge once it reaches room temp if that makes you nervous.)

Drain the brine away from the seeds and pat the seeds dry on paper towels, then add enough seeds to the air fryer to cover the bottom of the basket in a single layer. (If you have a tiny model like I do, you may have to work in batches.) Drizzle the seeds with just enough olive oil to coat them, and give the basket a good shake. Cook for 10-13 minutes at 150 degrees C, until the pumpkin seeds are lightly browned on the edges. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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