It’s here whether you’re ready or not: Pumpkin spice season. And popular coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts is already serving its pumpkin spice coffee offerings with Starbucks rumored to be debuting with its seasonal favorite in the coming days.
But what is pumpkin spice? It isn’t actually made with pumpkin, but is a mix of spices designed to elicit the flavor of pumpkin pie.
Did you know? Spice maker McCormick debuted its Pumpkin Pie Spice in 1934 with intent to flavor pumpkin pie when canned pumpkin came to market, the company tells USA TODAY in an email. The spice brand’s mix removed the need to measure out specific quantities of varying spices by providing a bottled combination of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice along with Sulfiting agents.
The pumpkin spice challenge
Big companies aren’t the only ones hopping on the pumpkin spice train. Some social media creators are already on board, too.
Ethan Rode, who makes videos of coffee, kicked off his pumpkin spice content with a self-imposed challenge and countdown to the first day of autumn: 30 days of fall drinks on TikTok.
While the challenge is new for the 24-year-old from Milwaukee, creating pumpkin spice themed coffee drinks is not. Rode used to work as a barista for Starbucks — and part of his enthusiasm for the season comes from that experience.
“There’s this unexplainable happiness that’s in the air when pumpkin spice is released,” he says. “People are more friendly and more excited to come and get their coffee.”
On Aug. 7, Rode posted his first pumpkin-flavored coffee of the season on TikTok: A salted pumpkin cold foam latte.
On the first day of fall, Sept. 22, Rode plans to make a pumpkin spice latte in a hallowed out pumpkin to wrap up his challenge.
“Everybody loves pumpkin spice,” Rode says. “Everybody.”
So, to make our foray into fall’s most iconic flavor, we’ve rounded up some options to try at home.
Pumpkin spice syrup
Rode published a pumpkin spice syrup he uses in drinks on TikTok that can stay good in the fridge for up to three weeks. He tells USA TODAY that the syrup is similar to many recipes that can be found online — it’s also similar to the one used at Starbucks, minus preservatives among other ingredients, according to Rode.
- 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of brown sugar
- 1/2 cup of white sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
- Add your ingredients to a medium sized saucepan.
- Boil your ingredients – use medium high heat. Once boiling, remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Strain the syrup as you put it into a container for storage.
Fall harvest salad with pumpkin vinaigrette
On her blog Wholesomelicious, nutritionist and William and Mary nutrition professor Amy Rains shared a recipe for a fall harvest salad complete with a pumpkin vinaigrette that is gluten-free, paleo and Whole30 friendly and takes less than 30 minutes to make, according to Rains’ website.
To make the salad, she makes dressing from pumpkin puree, apple cider vinegar and a few other ingredients to pour over an arugula base with pears and bacon.
3-ingredient pumpkin cookies
If you don’t have pumpkin spice on hand, there are other ways to make something that will elicit a similar pumpkin spice flavor. My Forking Life shared a recipe for 3-ingredient pumpkin cookies that look easy and delicious combining spice cake and canned pumpkin.
Pumpkin seed butter
Danielle Brown (@healthygirlkitchen) posted a reel sharing a recipe for pumpkin seed butter.
To make the butter, Brown combines baked pumpkin seeds with spices such as cinnamon and pumpkin spice in a food processor to get a smooth texture. The whole process takes around 20 minutes, according to Brown, who said in her post that she likes to top toast with the pumpkin seed butter.
‘Falling For You’ cocktail
Off Hours Bourbon shared a cocktail recipe created by Ainsley Sherlock, a bartender at Provision.
- 1 ounce bourbon
- 1 ounce apple brandy
- 0.25 ounce All Spice Dram
- 1.5 ounces pumpkin spice syrup
- .5 ounce Fernet
- .5 ounce of lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
- Dehydrated orange, optional garnish
Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Then, shake before straining. Express — or twist — an orange peel and throw it away. Then, garnish the drink with a dehydrated orange.
To make 1 liter of pumpkin syrup for the drink mix 16 ounces of water, 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and 16 ounces of brown sugar. Boil the combination at medium high for 2 minutes then and cool.
Skip Starbucks:Viral fall drink recipes you can make at home
Pumpkin spice whipped Greek yogurt
There are plenty of pumpkin spice-themed breakfast options to make. Among them is Greek yogurt.
In 2018, Project Meal Plan published a recipe for pumpkin spice whipped Greek yogurt on its website claiming it tastes “just like” pumpkin pie filling, is protein-packed and can last in the fridge for several days.
This recipe calls for whipping Greek yogurt, whipping cream, vanilla, maple syrup, pumpkin spice and cinnamon (and maybe a little salt) with a stand mixer or handheld mixer before combining with canned pumpkin.
Another breakfast classic, oatmeal, is eligible for a pumpkin spice twist. Chocolate Covered Katie’s recipe serves one but is scalable for meal prep or a larger group, according to the recipe page.
To make this, only five ingredients including rolled oats and a milk of your choice — along with pumpkin puree or pumpkin pie filling (which can be substituted with sweet potato mashed) are mandatory. All ingredients combined should be brought to a boil (except for vanilla – if you choose to add it in).
This dish can be topped with a variety of ingredients including walnuts, raisins, pecans and bananas. And it can be eaten warm or cold.
Pumpkin spice latte at-home recipe
You can’t skip the OG fall drink of pumpkin coffee lovers.
TikTok user @cookingwithlynja whipped up her own version in 2020, which has been liked more than 126,000 times on TikTok.
Combine pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes “so the flavors meld together,” she explains. Then add the mixture to a blender and blend until the sauce is smooth. Next, make an espresso and mix with your homemade pumpkin sauce and warm milk. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon to finish.
User @eitan broke things down with more exact measurements. For his pumpkin coffee mix, he combines in a saucepan over medium heat:
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup coffee
Add to a glass and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin spice.
Contributing: Sara M Moniuszko
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