The Pumpkin Spice Latte. Exposed.

The pumpkin spice latte is getting a lot of airtime. People on Twitter and Facebook are all about it.  It’s a little bit of coffee drinking peer pressure.

As an experiment I headed off to my local Starbucks to sample this fall time treat.

I am not a Starbucks aficionado, I don’t understand the lingo or the sizes. But I persevered.

I drank my flavoured coffee. It didn’t taste like pumpkin.

Then I came home and searched the mighty interweb. What is in this coffee? How do the Starbucks folks get it to taste enough like pumpkin that they can call it a pumpkin spice latte without actually having any pumpkin in it?

What I Learned About The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

To imitate a pumpkin flavour the Starbucks folks created a flavoured syrup. It’s made up of sugar, artificial flavours, artificial colours, salt, sweetened condensed milk and I few other things that the girl couldn’t pronounce and had a hard time spelling.

So the pumpkin and the spice. It’s fake. And I’d say that’s pretty much how it tastes.

In a grande pumpkin spice latte, there is more sugar than in a can of coke. MORE. And there’s no fiber in there to slow that sugar parade from heading right into your blood stream.

But wait, I hear you saying, Starbucks doesn’t use HFCS, they use real sugar. Sugar is sugar people! Cane sugar, beet sugar, organic happy valley sugar, no way no how does anyone need 49 grams of it in one shot.  Don’t be fooled.

Fear Not. I Have A Solution.

Inspired by Morgan at Life After Bagels I attempted a homemade pumpkin spice latte. Here’s her original recipe.


And it was fantastic.


Brew up your coffee, however you like to.

In your blender mix 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, 1 cup of milk, 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger.

Blend it all up. Pour into a microwave safe dish and heat it up. Or heat on the stove if you prefer.

Mix milk and pumpkin with coffee and drink up.

I added some maple syrup but I found it too sweet, so I recommend tasting before sweetening.

Also I added some whipped cream. The cream was already whipped, sitting there. What was I suppose to do?

This recipe will make 1 BIG coffee or 2 coffee mug sized ones.

I will tell you this about a homemade pumpkin spice latte, it tastes. It tastes pumpkin, it tastes ginger and cinnamon and nutmeg. There are real flavours in this coffee.

I paid $4.50 for a small size pumpkin size latte at Starbucks. No way I spent anywhere close to that making it at home. And I have lots of pumpkin leftover to bake up some muffins.

Here’s The Bottom Of The Pumpkin Line

If you are fit and healthy and a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte once a week is going to put you in good spirits. Fine, go to it.  I am not the boss of you.

If you are struggling to get healthy, working to lose weight or dealing with a health challenge you have no business lining up for a flavoured coffee. Have an unsweetened latte, it’s your best choice. Or make your own.


  1. I’m going to have to try this recipe. Ben, Madison and I all love the pumpkin spice lattes but homemade is always better (I make Ben a coffee every morning in his travel mug before he heads out to school!). Last time Madison and I went to Starbucks, she ordered her PSL half sweet because she finds the regular too sweet!! I guess I need to add a few more things to my ever growing grocery list.

    • You should probably double the recipe for your team. The non coffee drinkers could just have the smoothie. I am wondering if it would taste good with tea?

  2. You, my dear, are a genius.
    I’m not a fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but my husband loves them, so I’ll be using this recipe.
    I’m more a victim of the peppermint mocha. Can you improve that next? Please? ;)

    • I shall tackle the peppermint mocha. I suspect it will require peppermint extract, which I think I have. And it will need cocoa. I can’t see how it could possible be bad!

  3. Wow, I am much impressed with your research. This year was the first year I’ve tried the PSL and I have to say I agreed with you, it didn’t taste like pumpkin at all to me. Instead I got an overwhelming taste of cinnamon. And not the sweet cinnamon like a cinnamon bun but instead the bland bitterness of straight cinnamon. Blah.

    • Thanks! That was the first time I used a table. Can you tell?
      The homemade one really had a great flavour. Really pumpkin and really spice. Let me know if you give it a try.

  4. MMMmmm. Sounds delish! I too find the irony in everyone touting the “green”-ness of Starbucks, and then ignoring the unhealthy ingredients in their drinks. I’m all about saving the extra bucks too. Great recipe. I’m gonna try it. :-)

  5. Each fall, I crave a pumpkin spice latte. It’s all starbucks’ fault. I had ONE short pumpkin spice latte last year (decaf and it was the only decaf coffee or coffee I had at all while pregnant). I think this year I’ll forgo the starbucks variety and make my own. Great idea! Thanks!

  6. holy carp, that’s a lotta sugar. I don’t like sweet coffee either. we use k-cups at home [a single brewer] and got some ‘pumpkin spice’ flavored cups…which I like, but real punkin is just MY thing in fall. So going to try this.

  7. Impressive research! How about opening you own shop?!?!? “Get the real thing HERE!”

    I am very tempted to go make this, now *tapping forehead w/ pencil* to find the time!

    • Thanks! I could build a little drive-thru in my driveway. haha.
      I am much happier helping people do it themselves then doing it for them. This I have learned about myself.
      Hope you like the recipe.

  8. I’m really excited about this!! I have yet to have my PSL from Starbuck’s this year…because trying to lug three kids in a tiny coffee store is not fun. You’re right – they just taste more sweet than anything. I can’t wait to try this!!

  9. I can’t wait to try this recipe out. I didn’t know there was that much sugar in the pumpkin spice latte. I love those things LOL. Thanks for posting this.

    • I know and that’s just for the set recipe. Chances are the folks making the coffees are adding more syrup than needed.
      Let me know what you think.

  10. I’m actually not a big Starbucks fan (are you shocked?). But I do allow myself two caramel apple spices a fall and one white hot chocolate in the winter. It’s a stupid rule but it let’s me celebrate the holidays without going all overboard. The price and the inconvenience keep me away.

    • I think you are safe! And I agree the price is craziness.
      The white hot chocolate is very yummy, I should give that a shot.

  11. I’m not a foo foo coffee drinker because I don’t like my coffee sweet and I don’t like paying for it. Your recipe sounds interesting AND I have a surplus of almond milk because my kid won’t touch it, I’ll have to give it a try. I’ve never tried the original so I won’t have anything to compare it to.

    • This is a meal in a coffee kinda drink. I really liked it and Ken agreed.
      The pumpkin adds a sweetness to it, so definitely taste before you sweeten. And almond milk is sweeter than cow milk I find.

  12. Leslie @ crunchybetty says:

    YES! I was just thinking yesterday about the crazy hubbub behind all this SB PSL stuff and thinking, “I wonder how to make it here at home.”

    And you did it. You just gave me the goods. SO good to know.

    I owe you one. Put a tip jar out on your counter, ’cause I’m coming over.

  13. I’m not a huge pumpkin spice latte fan (from Starbucks) but this sounds really good. I do have a weakness for the skinny cinnamon dulce latte at Starbucks.

  14. Thanks for this post! I will be trying out this recipe for sure. I like Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes but usually only treat myself to one once a year because a tall one is like 6 weight watchers points. That is the same as a turkey sub from subway! This will be a great way to have my treat without sacrificing my diet!

    • That’s exactly it, if you are watching your intake carefully, flavoured coffee is not a good choice.
      Let me know if you try it out.

  15. I was SO mad at you until you gave the recipe for something so superior and delicious. We are friends again. <3

  16. I found this recipe on a blog, that belongs to one of the people I follow on twitter, and it is AMAZING! I used skim milk and then used more skim milk to make some foam to put on the top instead of whip cream!
    so yummy :)

  17. And now I feel like a macfatty fatterson. :(

    No WONDER! GAH! Starbucks is to blame! Bastages!!

    But I still love it. DAMN YOU INNER VOICE!


  18. i’m just going to pretend i didn’t read any of this, OK? :)

  19. Fantastic! A PSL recipe that I can make at home!
    Thank you thank you thank you!

  20. Great work! I’m not a coffee person (since I became allergic to it after 4 years in Seattle drinking excessive amounts of double lattes!!) but I laugh when people say “Oh, I just have one coffee day”….
    Yet it is a grande sugar-filled meal, sure to provide one with oodles of empty calories!

    • Thanks Erin! I am wondering if the pumpkin smoothie part would taste nice with tea.
      Happy Birthday to you!
      That’s what I am going to say now too, I am allergic to coffee. Which I totally made up but it really makes me nuts.

  21. Oh my gosh, you are BRAVE to write a post about PSL that isn’t fawning over the deliciousness! Time to pick my jaw up off the floor!

    • Thanks. So far no hate comments. There seems to be a lot of excitement about making a homemade version. Hope you try it out.

  22. Joey @ Big Teeth & Clouds says:

    I can’t handle even the slightest bit of coffee. I’ll always be out of the loop on all things Starbucks.

    • Coffee and I aren’t good friends either. Makes me nuts and messes up my appetite.
      You could try just the pumpkin and milk as a smoothie. If you are a pumpkin fan. Or add flour, eggs and butter and make muffins.

  23. My Sis is addicted to those darn drinks and she’s coming for a visit soon… time to break her of the Starbucks habit!

    Thanks for the stat chart… it really puts it all into perspective nutritionally! It would be hard to justify buying/drinking one after reading that.

    • Hope she likes the homemade version. I’m glad you like my chart. It was easy to write but a challenge to get into the post.

  24. Yes, the PSLs are terrible for you. I am a former barista. The Ventis? Have 6 pumps of syrup in them. That’s a lot. I usually get a venti with 2 pumps because I really don’t like my coffee sweet. I just need the cream. However? The recipe you posted sounds most yummy. I will try this. :)

    If you want to be really horrified? Look at some of the stats for Frappuccinos…. >.<

    • That’s the thing, the nutritional breakdown is based on the recommended recipe. There could be a lot more syrup going in or a lot less.
      Perhaps I will look into the frappucinos.

  25. Kristin @ Ellie-Town says:

    It’s a good thing I’m a carmel macchiato girl. ;)

  26. Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points says:

    I have a confession.

    I don’t like them.

    I really like coffee drinks to be sweet, and chocolate mellows out the bitterness of the coffee so I can enjoy it.

    The pumpkin spice latte doesn’t mellow out the coffee – it tastes like a really bitter pumpkin muffin to me.

    I’d rather have the mocha, and then have the piece of pumpkin bread.

    • I didn’t think you would be a PSL fan. And you have a good point, anyway you can get the pumpkin in is good. It’s great stuff when it’s real.

  27. Thank you for doing this! YOu KNOW I love me a good PSL, but only one per week! On Fridays! :)

  28. You’re a genius. Seriously.

    Although you can’t take away my sugar. Candy. Yum.

    • Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli says:

      Thank you. I will take your genius compliment and let it go to my head.
      I hope you give the homemade PSL a try and report back with what you think.

  29. Mmm, thanks for posting this delicious-sounding recipe. I do enjoy the SB PSL, but it really is way too sweet. I usually ask for it with skim milk & half the syrup, otherwise, it’s just disgustingly sweet. However, your version sounds so much better:) How about doing a post on homemade eggnog lattes? (my absolute fav SB drink during the holidays).

  30. Too bad Starbucks here doesn’t have this or any other typical winter drinks that Starbucks in the US or Canada have. I miss their ginger snap but this looks and sounds so delicious. Perfect for rainy days like we’ve been having here :D

  31. This sounds really good! I wish I could have you pass me a cup through the computer, like right now. The Starbucks version is okay, but I will never turn down something better!

  32. Good thing that I don’t like coffee!!

  33. This recipe was great! For a faster fix, you can get pumpkin spice coffee mix at the store. Its those little square boxes. Instead of using water, use milk.

    • I am glad to hear the recipe worked out for you! Thanks for the comment. I suspect the take home spice mix contains the same syrup as the one they make in the store. It’s not a healthier choice.

  34. Jenn Hillmer says:

    In the past I have been a fan of starbuck’s PSL but it is too sweet. The other trouble with starbuck’s is that their decaf is all methaline chloride processed not swiss water, even their organic. Please correct me if this has changed in the recent future. When I was pregnant I asked a lady to haul out her speck book and only one of the decaf coffee’s was SW ( I don’t remember the name maybe dragon something) they never brew this kind and the esspresso and organic was MC processed. It’s too bad they have to go and ruin a good thing, especially the organic! That said I have been making them homemade and they are lovely and pumpkiny and not too sweet. Thank you for the recipe! And all you research.

  35. I always wondered about “pumpkin spice” latte’s. I LOVE pumpkin (and spice) and I always ordered them with extra syrup (yikes!). They’re my favorite but obviously seasonal. I don’t typically otherwise drink coffee as I like it to taste like something, well, besides coffee. I’ll have to try this recipe – right away! Thanks for sharing!

  36. Wow! I am not a big coffee drinker but every once in a while I will venture out and get a flavored coffee. Preferably not from Starbucks. Usually it is at my office because we have about 100 of those lovely flavored creamers on hand. (On a side note, I work with 98% men.)I just think that Starbucks is evil and we have one right down the street. And yes ours does have a drie-thru. This looks awesome and I may just have to try it!

    • We don’t have a Starbucks in town with a drive-thru, if we did I would fall victim far more often.
      Homemade is always better tasting. Hope you enjoy the recipe.

  37. I don’t like the Bucks pumpkin spice latte either. I don’t like any of their flavoured Lattes (well except for the Chai). But I LOVE pumpkin. I was going to make some pumpkin muffins or cookies or something this weekend (I have a can of pumpkin puree eyeing me from the pantry everyday when I reach for the peanut butter). This latte will be an amazing way to use what is left :) Thanks.

Share Your Homemade Thoughts