Finding the Best Pumpkin Spice Syrup

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Pumpkin spice season continues! While I don’t go as crazy about the flavor as some people, I still make sure to get some treats every year. Seasonal cereals, pumpkin spice cookies, and of course: the lattes. I limit myself to just one or two per season, since we don’t usually visit a Starbucks or really any coffee shops, so I don’t have many opportunities to pick one up.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte! I’m pleased.

So, I wondered. How difficult would it be to make my own pumpkin spice latte? I already make pumpkin spice treats every year, how much harder could it be to make a syrup?

I was thinking about a while back (gosh, 2015? Wild.) that Starbucks revealed that, until then, their pumpkin spice syrup didn’t have any pumpkin in it at all. I never knew, and I’m sure neither did many people. Really, it’s the spice mix we’re all after anyway, isn’t it?

So, I decided to experiment. I found a few recipes for pumpkin spice syrups, with and without pumpkin, and gave them a shot.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

One thing you’ll find with recipes for pumpkin spice anything online is that a lot of times, they just call for store-bought “pumpkin pie spice.” I had some in the cupboard, but it was probably a decade old and smelled more like dust than spice, so I got rid of it and made my own mix instead. You can use a store-bought mix if you prefer, but I just like making things from scratch, you know? Here’s what my mix (pictured in my images, and used in my recipes) includes:

  • 3 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
  • 1.5 Teaspoons Ground Allspice
  • 1.5 Teaspoons Ground Cloves

All of these spices can be bought whole and ground in a spice grinder except ginger, which needs a bit more preparation. I’m not that crazy about my spices (though I’ve used them before), so I just keep the ground stuff on hand. This recipe makes more than enough pumpkin pie spice to use in a bunch of different treats and goodies, so it should last you quite a while.

When you see my recipe call for pumpkin pie spice, this is what it uses. Now you know!

Recipe 1: No Pumpkin, All Spice

No pumpkin in sight.

The first recipe I tried out did not use pumpkin. It’s a simple four-ingredient recipe, though the 4th ingredient is a pumpkin spice mix (see above) so it’s not technically just four if you’re making your mix from scratch like I did.

  • 1 13.5oz. Can Condensed Coconut Milk
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/4th Teaspoon Salt

The instructions for this recipe are simple too. Heat the coconut milk until it’s melted, then add in the sugar and spice. Heat over medium-high until it boils, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Once it’s thick and syrupy, remove form the heat and add the salt.

So, hey. Don’t follow this recipe. Why not?

This is not a syrup.

I don’t know who wrote this recipe or if they made a mistake writing it down, but this is very much not a syrup. It has the consistency of a piece of caramel candy. Which, to be honest, it basically is. It tastes great, very spicy, sweet, and caramel, but it’s very much not a usable syrup.

Recipe 2: Starbucks Imitation Pumpkin Syrup

Second verse, more orange than the first.

The second recipe I found was made to be an imitation of the new Starbucks syrup recipe that actually uses pumpkin. My partner was skeptical that anything with pumpkin puree in it would make a syrup, but I tried it out. It calls for:

  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 2/3 Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 14oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt

Again, it’s pretty simple to make. Mix the sugar and water over medium heat, until it dissolves, making a simple syrup. Turn the heat to low and add in the pumpkin, condensed milk, spice, and salt, and stir it up. Heat it over low for a few minutes, then remove and let it cool.

Given that this recipe is largely liquid ingredients (especially compared to the previous one), I was hopeful it wouldn’t harden up as much.

Ignore the one on the right for now; we’re getting to that.

It worked out pretty well! Mostly. It barely thickened, and was still pretty runny even after chilling in the fridge. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a syrup, but it’s certainly usable as part of a drink mix. I think the original recipe says to use four tablespoons per latte, though that would depend on the size of your latte, I would hope.

My one complaint is that it had a little too much pumpkin and not quite enough spice. I wanted something that split the difference, so, I made my own version of the recipe.

Recipe 3: The Real Deal

No, the glass bowl isn’t empty; there’s water in there.

My turn! Taking what I learned from the other two experiments, I split the difference and made my own variation of the recipe. I think it came out a lot better. It’s like some kind of Goldilocks story; one too thick, one too thin, and one juuuuuust right.

I chose to use brown sugar rather than white, because I like the flavor more. I split the difference with liquids, and used condensed milk instead of coconut milk. You can swap them 1:1 if you want, and it should still work the same way. I also cut back on the pumpkin. I like a little of the flavor, but I want the spice more than the gourd, you know what I mean?

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Syrup

A thick, spiced syrup made to mix into coffee for the ultimate homemade pumpkin spice latte.
Servings 2 Cups of Syrup
Prep Time 2 mins
Cook Time 13 mins
Total Time 15 mins

Equipment

  • Sauce Pan
  • Whisk
  • Mason Jar

Ingredients

  • 1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk One standard can
  • ¼ Cup Water
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 Tbsp Pumpkin Spice Mix
  • ½ Tsp Salt

Instructions

  • In your saucepan, mix the condensed milk and water. Heat over medium until hot, about 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the brown sugar and whisk until blended.
  • Whisk in the pumpkin pie spice, salt, and pumpkin puree.
  • Whisk continually to avoid burning, and heat the mixture until it starts to thicken. Don't quite get it to boiling.
  • Remove the syrup from heat to let it cool. Pour into a mason jar or other vessel for storage.
  • To use, add about 1-2 tablespoons of syrup to a coffee drink (depending on size) and stir to dissolve and mix.
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Pumpkin, Pumpkin Spice, Syrup

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