Recipe: Make Way For the Great(er) Pumpkin Spice Latte

by Mimi DelGizzi

image courtesy of forbes.com

Have you noticed that year after year, the moment the temperatures drops below 70 degrees, everyone’s clamoring for a piece of the pumpkin-flavored pie?  A pumpkin-crazed frenzy descends upon the masses.  Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin scones, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin beer pop up everywhere.  We become obsessed with the orange-fleshed squash come Fall, a hark to a time of year when sweaty walks to the T give way to those that necessitate sweaters (at least carrying one along, anyway).

Coffee companies are no strangers to the pumpkin craze.  Dunkin’ Donuts is “pumped for pumpkin” with a list of pumpkin goodies that extends half a page.   Starbucks is back, too, celebrating the tenth anniversary of its seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte.  In fact, an article in Forbes discusses how Starbucks has used the whole idea of “pumpkin spice” to push sales and create a pumpkin-loving frenzy.  Starbucks’s Pumpkin Spice Latte is quite popular with consumers who have drank over 200 million since the drink’s inception back in 2003.

Fontana, the company that manufactures the pumpkin syrup used in the Starbucks drink, claims that just one “pump…turns your coffee beverage into an indulgent treat.”  Now this is true.  Let’s think about what the word “treat” connotes.  “Every once in a while,” right?  Ok, fine; every once in a while, enjoy one!  But some consumers are ordering one, if not more, every day!  And at over 200 calories a pop, the “PSL” is loaded with sugar and empty calories.  One pump (and Starbucks uses three in a Tall) is packed with sugar and empty calories and seems to be missing an important ingredient…(um…where’s the pumpkin?)  And that nice orangey-pumpkin color?  That’s that “Caramel Color” you see in the ingredients list (I’m surprised, honestly, that Starbucks opted to go with the artificial caramel color for this drink when it uses *natural* bug dyes for their Strawberry Frappacino.  Yes.  Bugs.  Look.  But at least bugs are better than chemical Caramel Color.


In a Tall (12oz) “PSL” there are about 37g or more of sugar—and two types at that!  From the Starbucks website, I calculated the Nutrition Facts for a Tall (12oz) Pumpkin Spice Latte with Soy Milk and No Whipped Cream.  Here’s the breakdown (and don’t be distracted by the prettiness of the picture!):

PSL nutrition

In case you can’t make it out, the calorie count comes in at 240, the total fat is 4g, total carbs are 41g (a whopping 37 of which come from sugar!), 1g of fiber, and 9g of protein.  All hope of Autumnal goodness is not lost!  In an effort to create a healthier, tastier, pumpkin-full latte, I came up with the following recipe.  As it reads, it is both gluten- and dairy-free.  What’s great about it, though, is that the calorie count is cut in half, the grams of sugar are a fraction of Starbucks’s drink, and my version contain almost 20% of your daily fiber needs (based on a 2000 calorie diet)!  Packed with Vitamin A (great for your eyeballs), it’s all around ah-ma-zing.  It’s a gosh darn winter miracle. (And for a bonus recipe using pumpkin, along with some other great ideas to use up the leftover that’s inevitably always left in the can, check out this article.)

(Vegan, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free) Pumpkin Spice Latte


1 cup coconut milk* (I like the So Delicious brand)

1/4 cup canned pumpkin (no salt, and not pumpkin pie filling)

1 tsp of a spice mix made of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg

1 tbsp 100% pure maple syrup**

1 shot of prepared espresso (optional)

Heat the milk in a small saucepan on medium heat.  Whisk in the pumpkin, the spices, and the maple syrup.  Heat through.  This is your Pumpkin Spice Latte base.  If using espresso, pour a shot of freshly-brewed espresso into the pumpkin base and stir.  Pour into mug and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired.  Commence carving jack-o-lanterns, leaf-peeping, wearing sweaters, and doing other societally-approved Fall activities.  Enjoy!

*Any milk you like can really be used here. While the Nutrition Facts have been calculated using coconut milk, hemp, almond, soy, or even dairy milk could be substituted instead.  When it comes to hemp, almond, or soy, however, look for “unsweetened” versions.  If you’re using dairy milk, a low-fat version will keep the fat content in this recipe low. 

**Other low-glycemic sweeteners can be used such as honey or agave nectar.  Stevia is also a good option.  Try to avoid using white sugar as it may not dissolve as well and it spikes blood sugar faster than these suggested options.  If you desire, artificial sweeteners may also be used.

Mimi DelGizzi is a second-year MS/MPH student and co-editor of The Friedman Sprout.  This recipe first appeared on her blog mimithenutritionist.tumblr.com. To learn more about her, please visit our Meet Our Writers page.

The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

0 comments on “Recipe: Make Way For the Great(er) Pumpkin Spice Latte

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: