Pepita Salad Recipe

A great pepita salad that can brighten up any table. Made from a simple combination of yellow split peas, toasted pepitas, and cilantro pesto.

Pepita Salad

People keep asking me for "that recipe...the yellow one with crunchy seeds." This particular medley made it's debut as a pre-party snack, around noon, the day of Heather's baby shower a few months back. It wasn't something I thought up ahead of time, in fact, this was something I tossed together using components that would eventually make their way out onto the baby shower spread - a scoop of this, dollop of that. It turned out to be just the sort of sun-colored goodness that can brighten up any table, particularly now, as summer has faded into fall. Made from a simple combination of yellow split peas, toasted pepitas, and cilantro pesto, it's also hard to beat as an afternoon snack.

Pepita Salad Recipe

Now, split yellow peas are a current darling of my pantry - I can't get enough of them. Healthy, filling, lovely to look at, they're great all the way around. That being said, if you don't have the time or inclination to cook the split yellow peas from scratch (or if you are having a hard time finding them), canned white beans (or even chickpeas), well rinsed, can take their place with nice results.

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Pepita Salad Recipe

You can serve the lettuce mixed in, or under the split peas depending on how you want to serve this.

1 cup pepitas, toasted (divided)
1 cup cilantro leaves and stems, well washed and lightly packed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
juice of 1 medium lemon
1 serrano chile pepper, minced
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups cooked yellow split peas*
2 handfuls lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

Make the cilantro pesto by blending 1/3 cup of the toasted pepitas, the cilantro, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice, and chile pepper with a hand blender (food processor or standard blender) until smooth. Continue blending as you gradually drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto comes together into a vibrant green sauce. Taste and add a pinch or two or salt if needed.

In a large bowl toss the yellow split peas and remaining pepitas with the pesto until everything is coated. Add the salad greens and gently toss again.

Serves 6 or so.

*To cook the dried yellow split peas bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add 2 cups (rinsed) dried split yellow peas and cook for 20 -30 minutes, or until tender. Drain, salt to taste and set aside.

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i am another cilantro hater - i can't bear the smell or the taste. what it makes me think of is too vile to state. i usually substitute parsley when cilantro is called for - i am a parsley fanatic. love your great recipes - many thanks.

florida fan

I'm literally salivating... Thank you so make me a better cook...and WANT to be a better cook. ;) C.


I learned in a science class once that the cilantro thing is genetic -- it's not simply a matter of taste preference, but to a certain percentage of the population, it really does taste like soap, while to others, it is delightful! (Luckily, I'm one of those, but know some "soapy" people, so have to watch what salsa I serve if they're around.)


As an alternative to cilantro, you might try MARJORAM, my favorite.

Adrienne Casco

Delicious, perfect idea for Halloween, when we have so many pumpkin seeds around, after all the carving.


Just made this for lunch -- it's wonderful. I didn't have any greens, so I added a chopped up tomato from the garden. I've never cooked yellow split peas before -- didn't have trouble with them getting too mushy. The recipe makes a lot so I'm passing some on to a friend and will still get several meals out of it. This is a keeper -- thank you!

Christine Lindsay-Abaire

This recipe was just what I needed. I had a ton of pepitas I didn't know what to do with and cilantro that was quickly going bad! Toasting the pepitas made them so much tastier, but the cilantro pesto was the best part, mmmm.... I used asiago instead of parmesean and a splash of lime juice b/c I bought a dud lemon; it came out amazingly. wow. Thanks for another great recipe!


Kim, I'm also in Turkey and pumpkin seeds are the most popular/ cheapest snack around! In their shells, admittedly, but then again I've never actually looked for them without shells - try your nearest weekly market, maybe? Pumpkin seeds are kabak cekirdegi or "kabak chekirdayi".


Dennie, No problem getting shelled pumpkin seeds in Israel, even in supermarkets, though the toasted unshelled ones are much more commonly found- referred to as "white seeds", as opposed to "black seeds" (sunflower seeds). Curiously, it is the sunflower seeds that are called 'pepitas' in Judeo-Spanish, so if you ask for pepitas at the market, those are what you'll get...


This salad is wonderful. All the different textures make it so special. I can't wait to try it. Thank you!


Heidi: I love your blog! Not just because of the similarity I share with "101" but because you feature such great recipes and tips. As a dietitian who has come full circle on the debate of "What comes first, taste or nutrition?", I appreciate a site that looks to both but places the importance on taste first! I can't wait to try this recipe! Keep up the good work! Best, Dave Grotto, RD HS: Thanks for the nice note Dave!

Dave Grotto, RD

Just made this and I'm sitting here eating it for lunch. It's absolutely delicious! HS: Thanks for reporting back Nicole, glad you liked it!


i was just in whole foods the other day and picked up a sack of pepitas, and then put it down again because i couldn't think of what i'd do with it. now i have to go back, because THIS is what i will do with them. hopefully i can still find some non-sorry-ass looking cilantro around here...

michelle @ TNS

@ Kim, I think pine nuts would work well as a sub for pepitas. Pepitas are crunchier, but they are the same size and I think pine nuts are widely available in the mediterranean/middle east. Another good alternative would be toasted sunflower seeds, though those are a little less tasty than pepitas or pine nuts. HS: Great suggestions Hilda :) -h

Hilda B

I'm looking to veganize this without using processed fake cheese. Do you think it would still taste good without cheese? Or what could you use in place of the parm? HS: Yes, give it a go w/o the Parmesan.


I recently fell in love with cilantro pesto... to all the cilantro haters out there, I don't think it tastes a thing like cilantro. It's very mild. I add sherry vinegar to mine to give it a little kick. This sounds great - I love the combination of the seeds with the beans!


This looks great, and I happen to have a large bag of pepitas waiting to be used.


Looks delicious, should make a good snack throughout the day.

Chris Andrew

oh I can't wait to try this one


This is a great twist to a very popular south Indian snack - will definitely try it! Also, by "split peas", I think you mean "split yellow gram" or dried and split chick peas. Split peas is another delicious thing to have in your pantry, especially since it can be eaten raw! :) My mother gives us some to keep us from hovering around the kitchen. We eat it plain, or we mix it up with little chunks of jaggery and a few roasted peanuts. Kids love it, and from reading your blog for a while now, I have a feeling you would too. :)


My love for cilantro was the same experience as Carolina. I also hated cilantro in Chinese dishes, but it waas't until I had a friend's guacamole in which cilantro was added to her guacamole. It tasted so good! Cilantro is widely used in Mexican dishes. Since the guacamole, I can't eat Mexican food without the cilantro and ask for more on the side, I then developed a love for cilantro. Must be the the spices that goes so well with the flavor of Cilantro.


Reminds me of a nice lentil salad recipe I enjoy in the summer. The pumpkin seeds certainly take your dish in an unusual direction. I can't wait to try it.

Winchester Restaurant Guide

I've been lurking for ages, but this was so good that I had to say hello! Also, just tried out your Dad's garlic bread--it was great. I did a little add on by rubbing a tomato over the bread before pouring on the garlic butter, and it was a great addition. HS: Love the tomato twist, I'll have to pass it along to my dad.


Heidi, how on earth do you cook your yellow split peas without them turning to mush? The only time they haven't fallen apart on me was when I accidentally undercooked them. By the time they're tender, half of them have already disintegrated. (for the record, they were as fresh as I can get them, having been bought less than a week ago at Whole Foods) HS: Hi Florence, I keep a close eye on them and make sure to pull them off the heat the minute they are finished cooking. I should say "just barely tender"...


I wanted to say one thing to people who can't eat cilantro. I made a huge Chinese dinner many years ago, and the ingredient in one of the recipes was cilantro. It ended up that I couldn't eat it, though everyone else was saying how delicious it was. So, I thought I hated DID taste of soap to me. A few years later I was served some salsa in which tons of it was swimming. I HAD to eat a bite at least, for 'political' reasons, and I LOVED it. Since then I add it to so many things, and am still loving it. Sometimes our tastebuds change, obviously. I revisited the Chinese recipe about 5 years ago, and now I love that one as well. I repeat, our tastebuds, or senses, or whatever CAN change. That's why I try things I think I don't like at least once a year or so. (I now love Brussels sprouts as well)


JennyMac: Pumpkin seeds are whole, straight out of the gourd -- pepitas are hulled, the outer coverings taken off, so they're more like shelled sunflower seeds.


I was thinking the same thing Maeve - that flat leaf parsley would be an interesting substitute! I love the freshness of parsley... Unlike coriander/cilantro that has the unmistakable taste of soap... :-s (and don't get me started on rocket salad leaves... or sage...) Hmm - it really does look like I have a thing about herby leaves... Pepitas on the other hand - love them!


I have a bag of pepitas in my fridge, just dying to "become something"....this is it! Thx!

Season To Taste

I love all the ideas you have for combining flavors. I never would have thought to put split peas and pepitas together! Love to find ways to eat more pepitas to get my iron and zinc!

Michelle @ What Does Your Body Good?

You have the most delicious and crunchy salad recipes!


Did you mean "made its debut" when you wrote "made it's debut" in the introduction part of your recipe? :-)


For those looking for a cilantro substitute, I would think something like Thai basil would do nicely. Personally, regular basil wouldn't do it for me, but there might be some nice varietals that would do. I seem to recall there being some kind of lemon basil. Or maybe parsley-basil? Or parsley with a smidge of cilantro (really, like five or ten leaves)? If using parsley, I would think that flat-leaf/Italian parsley would be better than the curly, for the taste.


Hmmmmm...very interesting indeed. I love veggie options, & the flavours here are singing to me!


MMMM.......lovely and inspiring. Flavors are right up my alley, but I wouldn't have thought up the combo. Thanks!

Susan Hayes

"I have the unfortunate sensory attribute that cilantro tastes akin to dishing washing liquid." Me too! The first time I had a large amount of cilantro (in a Korean restaurant), I thought that they had forgotten to rinse off the dish after soaping it. Then I realized it was just me...


@Amber - not exactly. at WF they sell them as "pumpkin seeds" in the bulk section. for anyone not living in an urban or heavily Mexican/Spanish area, it's completely reasonable that one would have never heard the word "pepitas". however, this recipe does look tasty and will be nice to brighten up the winter days ahead. how long are lentils/split peas good for? i have some but they are probably well over a year old as i have a bit of a fear of cooking them from dried (they are always too mushy or too hard!)


This salad looks great, I love the crunch. I also love the combination with lentils. If you soak pepitas overnight, you "wake up" their enzymes. Once soaked, they have more nutrients available for the body. We made sprouted pumpkin seed burgers once, and they were a big hit.

Sophia from Kitchen Caravan

Pepita is a Spanish word, I believe, and are a part of Mexican cuisine. Until recent years, we only had the seed still in the little shell. Yet another fabulous contribution to the US from Mexico! Recipe looks great!


Ditto on the cilantro-- to me, it tastes like chewing on aluminum foil. A good substitution would be great as I've got all ingredients kicking around in my kitchen right now!


WOW, that Pepita Salad looks so delicious. I guess the good part about this recipe is that its healthy.

andy abraham

The recipe sounds tasty! Lainey, I think I'd go with lentils, or some kind of bean as Heidi suggests, rather than regular peas.


I don't know if I'll be abel to find yellow split peas. My regular grocer only carries three kinds of mushrooms ... But it does look delicious. I'll probably try regular peas.


I am also looking for a substitute for cilantro - my boyfriend won't eat anything with it!


Hi Heidi- Any chance basil , or another fragrant herb could be substituted for the cilantro? I have the unfortunate sensory attribute that cilantro tastes akin to dishing washing liquid. Thanks-


I just bought a bag of pepitas 2 days ago, now I know why I was compelled to buy them. Thanks!


Mmm... perfect for fall! I love pumpkin seeds and have never had them like this so I'm anxious to try.

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

Can anyone suggest some substitution options for the pepitas? I love them, but I can't get them here (Turkey.) This recipe sounds divine!


Yum! I bought a large container of pepitas last week for a spinach salad, but I have a ton of them left so I think I'll try this recipe too. I've been toasting the pumkin seeds at home and tossing them into brown rice spiked with a touch of allspice. I made a humongous batch so I've been eating this for the last three days with dishes like curry chicken and last night's "Buddha Delite" -- my version of a Chinese fast food favorite. Pumpkin seeds are awesome!


Sounds like a perfect salad for this time of year!

Fit Bottomed Girls

How on earth do Pumpkin Seeds get to be called Pepitas? Now that is weird! What is wrong with calling them pumpkin seeds?


Oooh, lovely!! I ADORE pumpkin seeds.


Heidi, This seems to be another recipe that will become part of my family cooking repetoire...I can't thank you enough for your contributions to incorporate more vegetarian dishes into our day to day lives. Looking forward to throwing this dish together soon. Thanks a bunch...your American Fan, living down under in Sydney! Kxxx


I am not sure what pepitas are, I live in Israel where we have lots of nuts, grains and legumes. Could someone send me a picture or if they have another name Thanks


I just inherited a bag of yellow split peas from a friend who was moving (score!). I was eying your yellow split pea soup but this also sounds appealing. Thanks!


What exactly are Pepitas? I am sure that they have a different name in Ireland. In the same way that Cilantro is called Coriander and Arugula is called rocket. Weird, I know!


This salad look delicious and what an excellent idea combining split peas and pumpkin seeds. I'll try making a variation of this salad. Yum!


Looks good! If I may suggest variations heidi: a. split yellow peas can be less trying if you can remember to soak it overnight. It then cooks faster. Even soaking for 2 hours delivers relief! b. a sprinkle of dessicated coconut can be interesting.


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