Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe: Make This Tasty Drink at Home
Fall means the arrival of crisp temperatures, colorful leaves, and cozy sweaters. And for those of us dedicated to coffee, it also heralds the annual coming of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Since its 2003 introduction, the Pumpkin Spice Latte has gone from a cult classic to a mainstream trend and has inspired hundreds of pumpkin spice products.
Starbucks doesn’t want you to know that this drink is easy to make at home – healthier and more delicious. Don’t wait for October to get your PSL fix; with this homemade pumpkin spice latte recipe, you can enjoy fall flavors year-round!
Pumpkin Spice Latte Ingredients
- 1 cup milk
- Double shot espresso (or 3 ounces strong brewed coffee)
- 2 tablespoons of pumpkin spice syrup
- Whipped cream
- For the pumpkin spice syrup:
- ¼ cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ cup water
At a Glance
Unlike some Starbucks drinks, the homemade pumpkin spice latte (aka the PSL) is a forgiving drink, thanks to its perfect combination of flavors (1). With the right mix of ingredients, this drink will always taste delicious – no skills required. To tie it all together, there are warm spices, sweet pumpkin and vanilla, bold espresso, and creamy dairy.
Pumpkin doesn’t strike your fancy? You might enjoy another warmly spiced seasonal favorite like a Christmas Latte or Chestnut Praline Latte.
Here are some tips for choosing the best ingredients for your pumpkin spice latte recipe and suggestions for substitutions and alternatives to meet your dietary needs.
Choosing The Best Coffee
The quality of coffee matters less in a homemade pumpkin spice latte than it would in a simpler drink. That’s not to say you should buy bad coffee. But enough flavors are happening in this drink that you don’t need to drop big bucks on specialty coffee.
I recommend a medium or dark roast blend of Central or South American coffee beans, providing the balanced flavors and creamy mouthfeel needed to carry off this drink.
You can also get away with brewing a strong instant coffee or espresso shot if you want to keep things simple. But choose something reasonably good quality, like Starbucks Via, for example.
Store-bought or homemade pumpkin purée both work for this recipe. While I often advocate for homemade, store-bought is much easier and just as tasty in this case. Just be sure to buy pure pumpkin puree, not canned pumpkin pie filling, which already has sugar and spices added.
Thanks to the popularity of the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, you can also find premade pumpkin spice syrup. I’d advise against using it, as it lacks the depth of flavor that comes with blending real pumpkin and spices, and the cheaper brands are mostly sugar or corn syrup.
Other gourds can be substituted if you want to make your puree and can’t find a fresh pumpkin. Butternut squash and Kabocha work well.
Milk and Milk Alternatives
The regular milk for a latte is 2% dairy milk, and it has a gentle neutral sweet flavor and the proper balance of fat and protein to yield a silky milk texture. However, it isn’t mandatory. You can use 1% or skim milk for a skinny pumpkin spice latte or try whole milk for a richer and creamier treat.
Non-dairy milk alternatives also work. But keep in mind that some don’t froth as well as others and that they may add contrasting flavors to the drink. Oat milk is the best substitute, specifically oat milk labeled as “barista style.” Or try almond milk or soy milk.
No matter which milk substitute you choose, opt for the unsweetened version. The pumpkin spice syrup makes this latte plenty sweet enough.
Choice of Sweetener
We recommend white sugar for this coffee drink because it is widely available, dissolves well in water, and has a neutral flavor. But you can also substitute less refined sugars at a 1:1 ratio, including honey, maple syrup, date syrup, brown sugar, or coconut sugar.
You can use artificial sweeteners like Stevia or Sucralose if you’re concerned about calorie or carbohydrate intake (2). But you may need to adjust the quantity.
What is Pumpkin Pie Spice?
Pumpkin pie spice – also known as simply pumpkin spice – is a blend of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and sometimes allspice. To make your own pumpkin pie spice for this recipe, combine 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg, 1 teaspoon ground allspice, and 1 teaspoon ground cloves.
How to Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte
Now that you have your ingredients gathered, it’s time to assemble your pumpkin latte. And that is far less complicated than Starbucks would have you believe (3). You’re only four steps and 10 minutes away from a delicious drink. So let’s get started on the best pumpkin spice latte recipe!
1. Make Pumpkin Pie Spice Syrup
Put the pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the temperature and let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sugar will dissolve, and some of the water will evaporate, leaving you with a smooth and syrupy pumpkin mixture.
Add two tablespoons of the syrup to a warmed large mug. You should keep the rest in a sealed jar in the fridge, so you can make pumpkin spice lattes all week long.
Pro tip: The original Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is known for being light on pumpkin flavor. If you want your homemade pumpkin spice latte to have a bit stronger pumpkin flavor, start by stirring ½ cup of real pumpkin puree over medium heat for a few minutes so it reduces and intensifies in flavor. Then add the remaining ingredients.
2. Prepare Espresso or Strong Coffee
Use an espresso machine to pull a double shot of espresso into the same mug with the syrup.
You can substitute three ounces of strong brewed coffee if you don’t have an espresso maker. For the best espresso substitute, use a brewing method with a metal filter, which makes a full-bodied coffee closer to the espresso. An excellent option is a Moka pot, French press, or Aeropress with Prismo attachment.
Pro tip: A good trick for making an espresso-like coffee with your French press is to double-brew it. First, prepare a strong French press coffee using a high ratio of ground coffee to hot water. Then, use that brewed coffee to brew a second time.
3. Steam The Milk
Use the steam wand of your espresso machine to steam one cup of milk until it reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit and has a smooth texture resembling wet paint. Pour it over the espresso and syrup in the mug, creating decorative latte art if you have the inclination and skill.
If you don’t have an espresso maker or steam wand, there are many alternative ways to froth milk, though none will match the creamy texture of steamed milk. The easiest is a dedicated milk frother. You can also use a French press, a jar with a tight-fitting lid, or just a bowl and a whisk. With these latter three methods, you will need to heat the milk separately on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Pro tip: Want to enjoy a homemade pumpkin spice latte even when fall chill isn’t in the air? Make an iced version! Start with a chilled mug filled with ice cubes, and repeat the first two recipe steps. Froth milk using any of the methods above without heating it. Then add the cold frothed milk to the mug and top with whipped cream.
4. Add Toppings And Enjoy!
You can be as creative or simple as you like when topping your pumpkin spice latte. Add a swirl of whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce or maple syrup, and a dusting of pumpkin spice seasoning for a classic look.
Crumble some gingerbread cookies onto the whipped cream if you like contrasting textures. It adds an appealing and delicious crunch.
Pro tip: For a dairy-free vegan topping, replace the whipped cream with whipped coconut cream.
The pumpkin spice latte fans should not be beholden to the Starbucks calendar. October has no monopoly on pumpkin, and you should enjoy this delicious drink anytime. With this PSL recipe, you can bring the coffee shops home without special ingredients or fancy equipment. Your homemade pumpkin spice latte will be tastier and healthier than the coffee shop version, so give this full recipe a go today!
Yes, the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte contains pumpkin. Famously, the drink had no pumpkin – only pumpkin spice – in its original formulation. Customers complained that they felt duped, and the brand added pumpkin puree to the ingredients list in 2015.
A pumpkin spice latte does not need to be unhealthy; it depends how you make it. A grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks with 2% milk and a whipped cream topping has 380 calories, including 14 g of fat and 50 g of sugar. But a homemade version with skim milk, less sugar (or a sugar alternative), and without whipped cream, has all the flavor in a lower-calorie package.
The pumpkin cream cold brew is cold brew coffee sweetened with vanilla syrup and topped with a pumpkin whipped cream topping and a dusting of pumpkin pie spice. It is Starbucks’ answer to warmer fall weather, when you crave the flavor but not the temperature of a pumpkin spice latte. We have a great recipe for making pumpkin cream cold brew at home.
A pumpkin spice latte contains approximately 125 mg of caffeine, depending on your choice of coffee and brewing method. If you consider yourself something of a caffeine fiend, try our Dirty Chai recipe. It pairs espresso and black tea for a double caffeine wallop!
- Grantham-Philips, W. (2021, September 22). Why are we addicted to pumpkin spice? Perception researchers stress the power of fall scents. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/09/22/pumpkin-spice-addiction-science-behind-fall-flavor-obsession/5785384001/
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2023, January 10). Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936
- D’Alessandro, E. (2021, September 25). The “father” of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte says “it was the flavor that almost wasn’t.” Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/starbucks-pumpkin-spice-latte-father-peter-dukes-the-flavor-that-almost-wasnt/