It's fall, and a casual stroll through any grocery store will tell you that that means anything that can be flavored with pumpkin is. This year saw more pumpkin-flavored food introductions than ever before, according to the restaurant trend tracker Datassential, which shouldn't be all that surprising considering that, in addition to the pumpkin-spice lattes, muffins, and doughnuts of years past, we now have pumpkin-flavored candies, teas, chips, sodas, vodkas, bagels, breads, Pop-Tarts, dog treats, yogurt, and…the list seems endless.
Their one unifying characteristic? None of them contain any real pumpkin. And that's a shame, as pumpkin is a great flavor in its own right and is full of nutrition and fiber. They're really flavored with pumpkin spice blends, which are added to other questionable ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, and then dyed orange with artificial food coloring.
Soon, all those pumpkin-flavored creations will disappear, to be replaced by winter-spice-flavored-everything. If that leaves you going through withdrawal, never fear! Whipping up your own versions is super simple and much healthier for you—because you can add real pumpkin and reap all its amazing health benefits.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Pumpkin spice is perfect with (or without) pumpkin, and not just for pie. Use it to flavor drinks, to juice up baked winter squash, or even to simmer in water on your stove to perfume your home.
Pre-mixed blends are widely available, but they're expensive and easy to replace with spices you already have in your cabinet. Feel free to adjust the amounts of any of the basic spices to your taste. I like to add a pinch of cardamom for a special twist.
3 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg (fresh-grated is especially good)
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
1½ teaspoons ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
Combine and store in a small glass gar with a tight lid away from light, such as inside a dark cupboard. Once it's made, you can use it to flavor any food you want. Here are a few of my favorites.
Pumpkin Spice Latte
All the taste and delectable aroma, without the high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor, and hassle of driving across town and waiting in line only to discover your favorite coffeehouse has RUN OUT!
The secret ingredient is Pumpkin Spice Syrup, and it is really easy to make your own.
Pumpkin Spice Syrup
1 cup organic granulated sugar
1 cup water
Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer, stirring frequently, until all the sugar has dissolved. You can also make a honey-based syrup with 7/8 cup honey and 1 1/8 cups water, or a calorie-free syrup with 1 7/8 cups water and 4 teaspoons stevia extract.
Then, add to your saucepan:
1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree (make your own by roasting your own pumpkin so you can avoid the harmful BPA in canned-food liners)
Simmer the syrup, spice, and pumpkin puree for about 10 minutes on low. Strain. Use immediately or store in a glass jar for up to a month.
Crafting a Latte
2 ounces Pumpkin Spice Syrup
8 ounces organic whole milk
1 to 2 shots espresso or 4 ounces cold-brewed coffee concentrate
Steam the milk and put half in your mug. Add the syrup and the espresso or coffee concentrate (heated). Stir and top with the rest of the steamed milk. Top with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice if you'd like.
Pumpkin Spice Tea: Not a coffee fan? Mix 1 ounce of your syrup into a mug of hot tea.
Pumpkin Spice Soda: For a refreshing cold drink, add 2 ounces of your syrup to 8 ounces of unflavored seltzer water, and add some ice.
Pumpkin Spice Cocktail: Need a cocktail to serve at your holiday gatherings? Combine 2 ounces of vodka with 2 ounces of your syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into a tall glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a thin slice of fresh ginger.