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Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read more…
It’s easy to get caught up in pumpkin spice latte season, and if you’re looking for a way to replicate this classic fall drink at home, it’s easier than you think!
At-home PSLs can be an affordable way to indulge in this delicious fall fave, and there are quite a few ways to go about it. In general, most approaches require you to pay attention to two parts: the “pumpkin spice” part and the “latte” part.
With just a few affordable ingredients and simple techniques, you can make all the PSLs your pumpkin-loving heart desires, right in your own kitchen! And, better yet, you can upgrade and customize all you want!
What Makes a Pumpkin Spice Latte?
What Do I Need For a PSL at Home?
Pumpkin Pie Topping
How to Make a PSL at Home
Pumpkin Spice Latte with Pumpkin Syrup
Pumpkin Spice Latte with Pumpkin Sauce
Pumpkin Spice Latte with Sweetened Condensed Milk
Pumpkin Spice Latte with Canned Pumpkin
The classic Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte gets its unique taste from a specific combination of ingredients. If you look closely at the ingredients for a Starbucks PSL, you’ll clearly see the most important elements that go into the drink:
There are a ton of different ways you can make a PSL at home, and you can mix and match approaches and ingredients until you find a version you like best. Across the board, though, you’ll need a few specific things.
Pumpkin flavor is the core of the PSL, so when assembling your ingredients, you’ll need a solid source of pumpkin. Fortunately, you’ve got options!
It doesn’t get much simpler than the Torani Pumpkin Pie Syrup. Featuring classic pumpkin flavors, along with notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, it’s a good base for an at-home PSL (although be aware: it does lack some of the stronger spice flavors—it’s more pumpkin than spice). You can also purchase other flavors, like vanilla, to build out a more custom “pumpkin pie” taste.
And if you’re wondering why we’re recommending their Pumpkin Pie blend and not the literal Pumpkin Spice Syrup from the Torani line, the verdict (both among reviewers and some of our staff) is that the Pumpkin Spice blend just isn’t that good. You’re better off using Pumpkin Pie and adding your own extra spice.
This light syrup has a clean pumpkin flavor perfect for building your DIY pumpkin spice latte.
Pumpkin sauce is the Starbucks way—so what’s the difference between syrup and sauce? It mostly comes down to texture. Sauce has a thicker consistency (and a slightly more concentrated flavor) than syrup, so it dissolves a little more slowly but gives a richer flavor. You can see for yourself with the Torani Puremade Pumpkin Pie Sauce.
Want a richer and thicker pumpkin flavor? Drizzle this on.
Want to get a little creative? Try pumpkin butter! If you’ve never had it before, think of pumpkin butter like a spreadable version of your favorite pumpkin pie filling. Made with pureed pumpkin and a rich, aromatic, sweet blend of spices, it’s has all the flavors you’re looking for to get every note of a PSL.
Pumpkin butter usually is a seasonal item at many grocery and gourmet kitchen stores. For a classic spiced recipe, we love the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter: a simple pumpkin butter lightly spiced with cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and honey.
The fat of the butter adds a rich flavor.
If you’re looking for something with a little bit of a twist, consider Williams Sonoma Caramel Pumpkin Butter: a spicy pumpkin butter with a pop of sweet caramel.
If you want even more control and customization in your at-home PSL, start with plain old pumpkin puree from a can, such as Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin. Because pumpkin puree does not contain the extra sweeteners and flavors of other options, you’ll need to add that yourself—more on that momentarily.
It’s perfect for pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes!
The other half of the Pumpkin Spice Latte equation is the “latte” part—that is, the milk. Adding the milk seems like the deceptively simple part of making the drink, but don’t be fooled! Be sure to get the milk right to keep the flavor balance (and temperature) just right.
The “authentic” PSL way isn’t just hot milk, it’s hot and frothed milk. You can choose your favorite milk—2%, soy, skim, or whatever your favorite is—heat it up, and then give it that barista-made touch with a frother.
If you’re already living your best home barista life with an espresso machine you’re probably well covered in the milk-frothing department if your machine has a built-in steam wand for frothing.
For folks without an espresso machine (and the attached frother) on hand, you’ll need to use a stand-alone frother. Milk frothers come in two overarching types: canister and handheld. The canister frothers slightly resemble small silver espresso pots, usually with a multi-cup capacity and multiple options for foam types. As a result, they tend to be more expensive, but they’re also easier to control and vary.
The Breville BMF600XL Milk Frother, for instance, has two different frothing disks for different textures of foam, along with even induction heating, adjustable temperatures, and automated options.
Want perfectly frothed milk at home for all your coffee drinks? It’s tough to beat this stand-alone unit.
On the other hand, a small, handheld frother can do the trick with a little less variety but plenty of ease and speed. Frothers like the PowerLix Milk Frother are essentially tiny immersion blenders: heat up your milk, immerse the frother in it, and turn it on until you’ve got the desired texture. The easy-to-use tool comes in a variety of colors and cleans easily.
Milk frothing on a budget? You got it.
As an extra tip while we’re talking milk types and frothing: If you like sweeter, creamier lattes, then sweetened condensed milk is the way to go. In place of your usual milk or milk substitute, use a spoonful or so of the sweetened condensed milk. Take a little time to experiment with it: Start with just a small spoonful and stir it in, then add more to taste if necessary.
The classic PSL is topped with a swirl of whipped cream and a dash of a pumpkin spice topping. The topping is essentially pumpkin pie spice, which you may already have in your pantry for fall baking. Your basic McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice will do the trick just fine!
A little sprinkle adds pumpkin spice flavor to anything!
To really make your at-home PSL look and feel like the professional kind, you can use a duster-style shaker to get that fine dusting of spice on top, instead of the chunkier pantry shaker. Try something like the Accmor Stainless Steel Powder Shaker, which uses a fine steel mesh top to get you that barista-style topping.
When pumpkin-spice season gives way to hot-chocolate season, you can keep using the same handy steel shaker to dust a little cinnamon or dark chocolate powder over your drink!
Forget clumpy powder from the spice jar, this duster gives our drinks a perfect Insta-worthy dusting.
While there are more than a few ways to whip up a pumpkin spice latte in your own kitchen these are the four basic recipes. Using the ingredients above, you can get creative or start with one of these ideas.
If you just want the simplest possible way to get a pumpkin latte, simply swap out your usual sweetener with pumpkin pie syrup and add hot frothed milk.
This version probably is the closest, in terms of steps, to how your favorite barista makes your PSL. Remember, you can always adjust the flavoring amounts until you get it how you like it!
For a richer, creamier PSL, swap sweetened condensed milk for your frothed regular milk when you get to the milk steps. This version also won’t give you the classic froth on top, so you might either forego the dusting of pumpkin pie spice or just stir it into your drink.
Using canned pumpkin allows for the most customization and pure pumpkin flavor (rather than artificial syrups). That being said, it also requires the most work. You can experiment with mixing milk, sugar, spices, and pumpkin on your own, or you can search for a recipe from someone who’s been there, done that already.
One of the more popular recipes comes from Jeanne Oliver, who uses pumpkin puree, brown sugar, vanilla, and spices to approximate that iconic pumpkin spice taste. It doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to go full hands-on with the recipe, but if you stick the syrup during the week and make this a weekend treat we totally understand!
Want to go beyond a classic PSL? Whether ordering at Starbucks or making your own, try experimenting with delicious upgrades to make your PSL even better!
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