How To Make Pumpkin Spice Lattes (Even Better than Starbucks!)

Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn

'Tis the season. Can you hear the espresso machine firing up? Starbucks is bringing back the rock star of latte, the queen of froth, the obsession of millions: The Pumpkin Spice Latte. But if you don't want to wait until the full launch, or if you just fancy making it yourself at home, we have your back!

Here's how to make a spicy, frothy pumpkin spice latte at home. It's so easy, and you'll have enough to share with someone you truly love. Don't skip the whip.

Real pumpkin! Not just spice.

We'd be remiss in not mentioning one more advantage of making the PSL at home: Our version actually has pumpkin in it. That's right; the Starbucks latte, not to mention most other things disingenuously monikered "pumpkin spice," doesn't actually contain any pumpkin. (If this makes you righteously indignant, you'll enjoy Anjali's rant on the topic.)

Ours, on the other hand, is a recipe that originated with Kathryn, a core writer in the early days of The Kitchn, and she included a touch of pumpkin for delicious and full-bodied pumpkin spice flavor.

Last but not least, it's cheaper than those coffee shop drinks. As Kathryn says, "For those of us on a budget, those little cups of spicy goodness can add up. Making your own at home will not only save you money, but you can also enjoy them year-round. In addition, you have more control over the ingredients (especially the sugar), so you can tweak the recipe to your liking."

Especially if you like extra whipped cream. Especially then. We won't tell.

Tester's Notes

I've whipped up Kathryn's pumpkin spice concoction several times now, and I made some changes from the original recipe. First of all, I cook the pumpkin and the spices for a moment in the saucepan, which gets rid of any raw squash flavor and makes the spices toastier. Secondly, I think that the real key to this recipe is a healthy dose of black pepper, which cuts through the sweetness and the coffee for a spicy bite. And her rather startling amount of vanilla (yes, two tablespoons!) mimics the enhanced flavor of coffee shop syrups. Start with less if you want. Enjoy!

Faith, August 2014

How To Make a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Home

Makes 2 drinks

What You Need

2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, plus more to garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups whole milk
1 to 2 shots espresso, about 1/4 cup
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped until firm peaks form

Mixer, whisk, or hand blender, to whip cream
Wooden spoon
Espresso maker or coffee maker


  1. Heat the pumpkin and spices: In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the pumpkin with the pumpkin pie spice and a generous helping of black pepper for 2 minutes or until it's hot and smells cooked. Stir constantly.
  2. Stir in the sugar: Add the sugar and stir until the mixture looks like a bubbly thick syrup.
  3. Warm the milk: Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract. Warm gently over medium heat, watching carefully to make sure it doesn't boil over.
  4. Blend the milk: Carefully process the milk mixture with a hand blender or in a traditional blender (hold the lid down tightly with a thick wad of towels!) until frothy and blended.
  5. Mix the drinks: Make the espresso or coffee and divide between two mugs and add the frothed milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, or nutmeg if desired.


  • Vanilla: Yes, this recipe calls for two tablespoons (not teaspoons) of vanilla. This sounds like a lot, but it does more than anything else to mimic the intense, even artificial, taste of the syrups used in coffee shops. But feel free to start with less and bump it up as needed.
  • Milk Fat: This recipe is most satisfying when made with whole milk, but 2% and skim can be substituted.
  • Canned Pumpkin Substitution: You can substitute 1 teaspoon Torani Pumpkin Spice Syrup for the canned pumpkin if you have it on hand.
  • Sugar Substitute: You can use a sugar substitute in place of the sugar if desired. Add to taste.
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice Substitute: No pumpkin pie spice? No problem — use our recipe to make it out of cinnamon, ginger, and other spices: Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
  • Espresso Substitute: If you don't have espresso on hand, you can use strong brewed coffee instead. Increase amount to 1/3 to 1/2 cup.

Recipe Notes

  • Make a big batch of pumpkin spice mix-in: If you like, you can make a big batch of the pumpkin spice base, and refrigerate. To make 8 full servings, cook 1/2 cup pureed or canned pumpkin with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir in 1/2 cup vanilla extract. Refrigerate for up to 1 week and use as desired. To serve, blend 1/3 cup pumpkin spice mix-in with milk until frothy, and add 1 or 2 shots of espresso. Top with whipped cream and serve.

This recipe has been updated — first published September 2009.

(Image credits: Faith Durand)