How to Harvest and Roast (in shell) Sunflower Seeds

If you grow your own sunflowers, the flowers will tell you when they are ready. They'll be droopy, and the petals around the center will be dried. The seeds should be clearly visible.

The best seeds for eating come from the larger varieties of sunflowers.

Just cut away the flower head from the stalk, place the flower head on a flat surface, and rub the center to dislodge the seeds from the flower. If squirrels and birds can get to these seeds, so can you!

These directions are for salted, roasted sunflower seeds. If you don't want them salted, just rinse them off and roast them. Because they aren't soaked through with water, they'll roast much more quickly, perhaps only a few minutes at 400°F.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one cup of roasted sunflower seeds.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw in-shell sunflower seeds
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt, or 2 Tbsp table salt*
  • 1 quart water

* Add more or less salt to taste, up to 1/4 cup Kosher salt for 1 quart of water.

Method

1 Boil sunflower seeds in salted water: Place sunflower seeds, salt, and water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

roasted-sunflower-seeds-method-1 roasted-sunflower-seeds-method-2

2 Spread seeds on a sheet pan on roast: Drain the water from the seeds and spread the seeds out in a single layer in a sheet pan. Place in a 400°F oven on the top rack and roast for 10 to 15 minutes.

roasted-sunflower-seeds-method-3

Starting at about 10 minutes, I recommend taking a few out of the oven to test. If they are not roasted yet to your satisfaction, return them to the oven for another 2 to 5 minutes.

Keep checking every few minutes until they are dry enough and roasted to your satisfaction.

The seeds can quickly go from done (dry and easy to bite to open) to charred (browned on outside and black on the inside). So as the time gets closer, keep an eye on it.

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Comments

  • Caleb

    Not sure what kind of sunflower plant I have at my grandmas house hope they are mammoth and how do you make smaller ones roasted? Thanks

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Caleb, it’s not really worth it to roast the seeds from smaller sunflowers, they’re too hard to eat! Best to leave them for the birds (and squirrels). But, if you wanted to, you probably only need to roast them for a few minutes.

  • Jeb

    How long will these keep if sealed in FoodSaver bags and kept in a cool dry place away from the sun???

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jeb, well I’m still eating my sunflower seeds from last season, which is almost a year ago, and they were kept in an open bowl. So I’m guessing for a while.

      • Jeb

        Awesome. Doing 8 cups of seeds now and that’s only about a third of what we had growing…

  • Betty Russell

    is there anything we can do with the boiled water (juice) to make some kind of oil?

    • Elise

      Hi Betty, Not that I’m aware of.

  • George

    I soaked my seeds overnight in a bowl of saltwater
    Then I roasted them in the oven at 250 F for two hours, and they came out perfect.
    No worries about burning them when using a lower temperature.

    • Kmbio

      Roasted mine at 300f for about 40mins…also perfect :) good medium time balance without fear of burning.

  • Micah

    I just harvested my sunflower seeds, is there a way to make them have a flavor like big sunflower seeds, if so thanks

    • Caleb

      Yes if you have a sharp needle and some vanilla extract or some other extract

  • Jake

    I want to plant a sun flower as a project and eat the seeds what seed do I get? Can I use the ones u eat? And is it to late now to plant it? Plz reply thx!

    • Elise

      Hi Jake, great questions. When to plant sort of depends on where you live. Here in Sacramento, California, now is the time to plant sunflower seeds (raw, in the shell). You want to plant a “mammoth” variety, so you get a big sunflower with lots of seeds. You might want to go to a nursery and buy a small mammoth sunflower that has already started to grow, and then just transplant it into the garden. My best advice is to ask someone who works at a local nursery what will work best for where you live!

  • Angela

    My Kindergarten class is growing Mammoth Sunflower Plants and I had no idea how to cook them! Thank you so much for this! Do I have to let them dry out before I boil them??

    • Elise

      Hi Angela, no need to dry them before you boil them. Have fun!

  • Kit

    I cut my sunflower heads last fall and left them to dry. The seeds are quite edible. Do you have any experience with roasting them after they’ve been drying all winter?

  • paul

    I bought some Sunflower seeds for feeding parrots in my back garden. Didn’t realise they were salted and the birds wouldn’t touch them. Says something?

    • Elise

      If they were salted, they were also likely cooked, another factor in making them less interesting to the birds.

  • Chris

    When I was a child, my older cousin gave me a book called The Kid’s Kitchen Take Over. One of the activities was growing sunflowers. I didn’t have a backyard until 25 years later. I started growing sunflowers immediately, but never harvested. Today, at age 44, I finally harvested them, and roasted them! They needed a lot more salt, I think, but they are quite pleasant. Thanks!

  • Louisa Sargent

    I have roasted my sunflower seeds but they are quite chewy & I end up with a mouthful of chewy pulpy stuff which seems inedible- what did I do wrong? I roasted them for about 25 mins at 180°.

    • Elise

      The recipe calls for roasting them at 400°F not 180°, and for less time. Unless you did 180°C? Try 205°C for less time.

      • Louisa Sargent

        Yes, I did 180°. Will try different timings next time thankyou.

    • Ed Sisson

      Louisa, are you cracking the seed and removing the shell? The meat inside is very edible.

      Ed

  • Prashant Rai

    Where can i buy thes flower seeds ?

    • Elise

      I don’t think you can easily buy raw, in-shell sunflower seeds. This recipe is aimed at people who may have backyard gardens where they are growing large sunflowers.

      • C.T.

        You can buy almost any type of sunflower seeds at http://www.nuts.com. Product is reasonable, freight can get up there, enjoy!

  • Sherri

    Elise
    what do you think about soaking the head in water and salt and then roasting. and then pick seeds off to eat.

    • paul

      try watering in dissolved potassium chloride into the soil while they are flowering?

  • Elise

    You can try. I can tell you that using that method, the salt will not permeate the seeds.

  • Tracy

    How long will the seeds last in an airtight container?

    • Elise

      I don’t know, I eat them up too quickly!

  • shaylee

    well im 13 years old and I planted sunflower seeds and they turne white seeds in steade can I still roast or cook the plzzz anwers need help!!!!!

    • Bear

      They’re not ripe yet, give them a little while longer til they start to turn black like the sunflower seeds you see on the ground or in the store.

  • Sarah

    The tiny birds eat everything from my feeder except the too-big-for-them sunflower seeds, so I have random sunflowers from the cast-offs growing all over my yard. I’m excited to have something to try with them, besides just enjoying the view. Thanks!

  • Dawn

    I’m just wondering why you boiled them first? I know that you can buy raw sunflowers seeds…any benefit to boiling?

    Thanks!

    • Elise

      That’s how you get the salt to infuse to the seeds. If you don’t want them salted, you can skip the boiling. Just roast them for a few minutes (less than if you are starting with seeds that are soaked through from the boiling.)

    • Christy

      Could be small worms mixed with seeds