THE ULTIMATE STARBUCKS PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE COPYCAT RECIPE.

Where do I start? The hours spent skulking around Starbucks stores? The days and nights spent hunched over my kitchen counter suppressing a constantly threatening feeling of throw uppiness?  The morning I woke up to find a centipede dead in the middle of my kitchen floor, his legs tangled up in the sticky, pumpkin spice residue on my floor, a tiny smile on his face, drunk with spicy goodness?

Those are all good places to start, but I think I’ll begin with Vancouver.  This fall I took a trip to Vancouver to visit my nephew.  He had us doing all manner of questionable things including surfing, climbing mountains and using port-a-potties on the side of the road.  I really broadened my horizons.

But the biggest eye opener I had on the entire trip wasn’t hiking 7 km straight up the side of some stupid mountain, it was drinking my very first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.  I don’t drink specialty drinks.  I drink coffee.  Plain, strong coffee.  With lots of cream and sugar so it’s barely recognizable as coffee. Which could explain why I nearly passed out like a claustrophobic in a clown car when I tasted a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Let me try to describe the taste to you in case you’ve never had one.  It tastes delicious.

It’s like liquid pumpkin pie with nutmeg and whipped cream on top.

As soon as I had one I knew I was going to spend a lot of time at home trying to copy the recipe.  I just didn’t know how much time.  I figured the best place to start was the Internet to see if someone else had already come up with a copy.  As it turns out, there are 720,000 Google results for “Copy of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Recipe”, which makes me the 720,001st person to try to replicate it.

To the 720,002nd person?  Put down your spice jar and simple syrup.  You don’t need it. Because this is …

mug-latte

If there are hundreds of thousands of recipes for this online already, why come up with another one?  I’ll tell you why.

I tried a few of those online recipes and they didn’t do it for me.  The majority of them call for making a simple syrup (water & sugar boiled to liquid), adding pumpkin pie spices, simmering it and calling it a day.  It isn’t enough.

I sleuthed.  I hunted and searched and mixed and spied and tested until I was sure I had come up with something that really could be confused with an actual Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.  If  you were in a Starbucks in Southern Ontario on October 20th of 2016 and spied a small girl, dressed in black, hanging by suction cups from the ceiling, that was me.

From those visits I ascertained that Starbucks uses 4 shots of pumpkin spice syrup in a 16 ounce Grande cup, on top of 2 shots of espresso, topped with 12 ounces of steamed 2% milk and then whipped cream.  I think.  I was hanging from a ceiling so my perception may have been a bit skewed due to lack of blood flow to my brain. Luckily, I procured a small sample of the actual pumpkin pie syrup on one of those visits when I dropped off of the ceiling and directly onto the pumpkin pie syrup dispenser.  I carried it home in my suction cup.

Now that I had a sample of the actual syrup I could test it.  First I tested it just by taste. It was very pumpkin-pie like and very strong.  It was incredibly sweet had a bit of bite to it which I figured was ginger.  Testing it with my Brix Refractometer I discovered it had a sweetness level of 69.  Brix refractometers test how sweet a liquid is.  People use them for testing maple syrup or honey or … $6 specialty drinks.

brix

In layman’s terms a Brix level of 69 is sweeter than Maple Syrup.  It basically equates to as sickly sweet as a big caramel covered bowl of sweetened condensed milk.

Speaking of which …

The secret ingredient in Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte syrup is, Sweetened Condensed Milk.  

In fact, it’s the second highest volume used ingredient, only behind sugar, in the sauce.  So yeah, it’s a sweet sauce.  But it has to be sickly sweet because you only use a bit of it in a huge cup.  It needs to be strong.  Punchy. That’s why the ginger and cinnamon and other pie flavours are so strong in it too. It’s a super-concentrated syrup.

components

I won’t bore you with every single variation and combination of ingredients I experimented with over a 24 hour period, but I can tell you that you can get a reasonable effect either with the easy way or get the full-on GUARANTEED tastes like a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte by putting in a little extra effort.

The simple version is simple.  I don’t even need to write up a recipe for you.  It’s easier than the other online versions and tastes way more like an actual Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Mix 2 parts canned Pumpkin Pie filling with 1 part Sweetened Condensed Milk. (Starbucks uses condensed Skim Milk … I could only find Partly Skimmed Condensed Milk so that’s what I used)

Add 3 Tablespoons of this mixture per 1 ounce of espresso and fill with 6 ounces of steamed 2% milk.  Top with whipped cream, sprinkle with either Pumpkin Pie spice or cinnamon.  Done.

Or you can make a real Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, call yourself a winner and walk (speed walk probably if you’ve had enough of them) into the specialty coffee hall of fame.

pumpkin-spice-latte-2

To make the genuine Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte you’re going to be using those same two ingredients, Pumpkin Pie Filling and Sweetened Condensed Partly Skim Milk and adding a simple syrup that you’ve made.  The simple syrup is a mixture of brown sugar (because the caramel tones more closely replicate the original Starbucks Pumpkin Syrup), fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and ground nutmeg.

pumpkin-spice-sauce

By taking the time to do this extra step your creation goes from “Yeah, that’s a pretty good copy” to, “Hey, You there!  You with the Brix refractometer … there isn’t a Starbucks within 100 miles of here, so where’d you get that one??!”

Here we go.

Copycat Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte
 
Author: 
Beverage
The best Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte copycat recipe on the 'net. Plus you can store it in your fridge for 2 weeks.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of Pumpkin Pie filling (this stuff is presweetened and spiced)
  • ½ cup of Condensed Milk (Partly Skim/Low fat if you can find it is best)
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup of water
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1" of fresh ginger sliced into 4 pieces
  • 8 whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (quickly toast over medium heat for a few seconds)
  • Espresso
  • 2% milk
  • Whipped Cream
Instructions
  1. Combine dark brown sugar with water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  2. Once sugar is dissolved add cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg and simmer until the syrup is the thickness of maple syrup. (it will thicken even more when it cools)
  3. Put a lid on the saucepan and allow mixture to steep for half an hour.
  4. Meanwhile, mix together 1 cup of pumpkin pie filling with ½ cup of condensed milk.
  5. Once the syrup has steeped, strain out the whole spices, then mix it into the pumpkin and condensed milk.
  6. Add 1 shot of espresso to coffee cup (1 ounce). Mix in 2.5 Tablespoons of the Pumpkin Syrup. Fill cup with 6 ounces of steamed 2% milk. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon.

If you make this and it doesn’t seem *quite* right for your tastebuds just adjust!  More coffee, less coffee, more syrup.  I made one for my sister last week with a weak espresso and it was awful.  Just terrible, lol.  I made one for myself the next day with strong coffee and some extra syrup and it was ridiculously delicious.  I didn’t even use whipped cream, just frothed milk.

Don’t have an espresso maker?  No problem.  Just use 1 or 2 ounces of really, really strong coffee.

If you have $25 to spare, you can get one of the best espresso makers in the world.  A classic stovetop Bialetti.  

Don’t have a milk steamer?  No problem.  Just pour your milk into a mason jar with a lid, shake it until it gets bubbly and foamy, then microwave it until hot.

If you have $15 to spare you can get a little manual milk frother with a mesh insert that creates a pot of frothy goodness.

And finally if you want the king of all semi-automatic espresso makers complete with an automatic milk steamer start saving up for the Jura.  I’ve had one for years and it’s what I made these concoctions with.  It costs a fortune but it’ll last forever and the company even does yearly tuneups on the machine.

 

pumpkin-spice-latte-and-sauce

To be perfectly honest with you just typing the words Pumpkin Spice Latte activates my gag reflex.  I’m hoping that goes away.  But I tested and tasted this recipe so many times before I got it right that I probably could have unrolled my tongue into a glass of water and it would have tasted like a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

So forget those other copycat recipes on the Internet.  You have two choices;  the simple recipe or the I’m Proud of You recipe.

Or.  I mean, if you think you can handle it, there’s one other option.  It’s crazy, so prepare yourself.

You can order a jug of Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Syrup online.

But where’s the fun in that?  Why take a gondola to the top of the mountain, when you can climb it?

62 Comments

  1. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Girl you are crazy……the good kind of crazy! Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

  2. Robert says:

    You do know how to commit to food don’t you?
    I didn’t understand the appeal of such a popular drink the first and only time I tried it maybe it’s time to revisit it.
    Is it me or does the rithm of this post feels speedier?

  3. skylor says:

    that long well thought out post on drink goodness and I take away “cat fart” as my new favorite descriptor.

    such a child am I

  4. Melissa says:

    Now I no longer have to wear my baseball cap and Grouch Marx nose glasses to drive through Starbucks for my pumpkin spice latte!!! My cat fart hair thanks you for all your hard work and dedication.

  5. Amy says:

    So… I have to admit that i made a snorty laugh when I read the words ‘Brix Refractometer’. I thought you’d made it up… but then I saw the photo. Cool tool! Also, your recipe sounds yum – laborious… but I’m going to commit to the effort.

    I recently grabbed a box of the Starbucks VIA version of their Pumpkin Spice Latte to try at home. If I possessed a Brix Barf-o-meter it would have registered 99. It kinda reminded me of International Coffee – remember that sugary ‘coffee beverage’ mix in the rectangle tin straight out of 1978(ish)? The commercials had syrupy scenes of friends languishing over coffee in their polyester and chiffon. My mom used to say to me “Honey! Want a cup of ‘Friendly Coffee’?!” Luv ya mom.

    Anyway, off I go to grab the ingredients to whip up your version in the morning. I think I’ll call it ‘Friendly Coffee’ in honor of my mom, as she didn’t know what she’d be missing.

    Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      I do remember those commercials, lol! Wow. And you know I thought this was a ridiculously labour intensive recipe too, because it took me 2 days to figure out, lol. But now that I’ve made it and I have a big jug of it in my fridge, it doesn’t seem like it was that big of a deal. No it’s not pour and stir, but it’s soooo much better than that. ~ karen!

    • Karen says:

      OH! And yes, it’s definitely a thing and now that you mention it, it definitely sounds made up. I *love* my refractometer and use it more than you would ever a normal human would. Relatively normal. http://amzn.to/2e97w7E ~ karen!

  6. Cynthia says:

    I so want a set of the glass reindeer cups that were in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

    I think we all talked about this last Christmas. I found some online and didn’t buy them.

    I just want to hold one as I stand in the gutter with a hose and yell to my neighbours “Shitter’s full”.

    Cracks me up every time.

  7. Edith says:

    Oh Karen……when you set your mind to something!

    I really should stop reading your posts when my husband is sleeping next to me in bed. He always wakes up to my belly laughs even when I keep it quiet. Guess it’s the shaking bed.

    • Karen says:

      I don’t have time right now (because I know how in depth those seriouseats posts are) but let me tell you, I CANNOT wait to read that! Thanks Rick. ~ karen!

  8. JulieD says:

    Wow, does that ever sound delicious! I’ve never had the urge to try one at Starbucks, but your blog just made me want to make some at home. I have a question: Do I toast the nutmeg before or after grating it? After?

    • Karen says:

      Hi JulieD. Toast the nutmeg after grating it. And just a tiny bit. You’ll see it start to change colour almost immediately. 🙂 ~ karen!

  9. Jenn Billesberger says:

    Thanks for the recipe Karen ~ can you give me a ballpark how many cups this recipe would serve? I’m going to a very fun Halloween party this weekend and had planned to bring PSL in a slow cooker for a crowd. Not as gourmet as a custom one off for myself, but would work?

    And now I’m looking sideways at my cat suspiciously!

    Jenn

    • Karen says:

      Yikes. I’m not sure how much this batch makes in terms of cups served. I’ll try to get a chance today to measure it out in tablespoons. I’m guessing 20 cups of coffee or more but that’s a total guess. ~ karen!

  10. Connie says:

    LOL, I tried my first pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks exactly 1 year ago and had the same reaction , it was so good! I WAS HOOKED, Can,t wait to try your recipe Karen,the.

  11. Thanks Karen! Here I am up in the middle of the night trying to do some writing, but of course I have read your email first (I do that before I do anything). Now you give me the best copy of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattee ever, and I don’t have the ingredients! Now what do I do? My wonderful husband had bought me a bottle of pumpkin spice creamer so I proceed to spice it up, now I have about a gallon of this awful stuff. Send me your address I’d be glad to share, I’m not one for wasting things! We don’t even have a Starbucks in Meadville, Pa.
    Love ya, you old Cat Fart You!

    • Karen says:

      LOL, I can see that’s a phrase that’s going to catch on. As well it should. It’s quite elegant prose. 😉 ~ karen!

  12. Cathy says:

    As the reigning Queen of kitchen gadgets, I must ask: What the hell are you doing with a refractometer?

    • Karen says:

      Well, you know, it’s me so … I have one, lol. I used to have a basic model from Lee Valley. Now I have the digital fancy one. I use it for testing vegetables to see which varieties are sweetest, to compare tomatoes and the effects water or not watering have on their Brix levels (sweetness) and I use it for making maple syrup. Among other things. 🙂 ~ karen!

  13. Maureen Locke says:

    Don’t have time to be witty.. gotta get ready for work, just wanted to let you know that the link to the syrup doesn’t work.. not that I was going to buy it…. just being nosey. 🙂

  14. Cheryl says:

    Have you tried Balzac’s version? It’s heavenly, like pumpkin pie with maple sauce.

  15. Terri J. says:

    I laugh out loud. I shake my head. I need a poster of your cat fart pic. Your posts are some of the best/original on the internet.

  16. Liz says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE great copycat recipes! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Marilyn says:

    My hair looks like that every morning..my Mom used to say if someone was a mess that they looked like a “birch broom in a fit” lol. Whatever that looks like…it was an east coast thing. But I digress, I still like plain old eight o’clock coffee just cream thanks.

  18. Miriam says:

    I’m confused: wouldn’t hanging from the ceiling cause *more* blood to go to your head rather than less?

  19. Mary W says:

    QUESTION: Does your ginger turn to mush after all that cooking? When I cook it, it just stays pithy. I cook it lots since I love ginger tea but seems you would have to remove the pieces after cooking or mince them before or something. What don’t I understand? I love spice pumpkin anything so thanks for all your hard work, hope you quickly recover so drinking it is a pleasure again.

    • Karen says:

      Hi MaryW! Yes the ginger turns to mush. Which reminds me that I need to amend the recipe to say to strain the spices out after simmering!! ~ karen!

  20. Linda in Illinois says:

    I love the starbucks pumpkin frapachino (sp) and you know what else I love, Steak n Shake pumpkin milkshakes…yyuummmmy, and McDonalds Irish mint shakes…omgosh .. I wish I could make your recipe of starbucks, it sounds so delicious. Thanks Karen for all your dedication to making our lives much easier and richer because you take care of the small shit. Love your cat fart hair… rofl.

  21. Eileen says:

    My stomach may never uncurl…I take my coffee from a Bialetti with some warmed milk. All that other stuff? urggh.
    But hair like cat farts? I’m on board with that!

    • Karen says:

      I am NOT a flavoured coffee person Eileen. I mean other than the sugar, lol. Which is funny because I don’t like dessert, or candy or anything like that. So I was stunned when I loved this coffee so much! ~ karen

  22. j says:

    Karen I can’t believe how constantly talented you are. Martha Stewart and her support staff need to take lessons from you. Plus you know how to swear and can be raunchy. You got it all! [Loved your fan/pumpkin ghost video]

  23. Mia says:

    Hi, the frothy milk step in your recipe about microwaving until hot doesn’t mention removing the metal lid first. I agree, those not smart enough to figure out on their own shouldn’t be allowed to operate machinery, but still. Adding that note might prevent a few disasters.

  24. Joanne says:

    Okay, I will try that! I’m not usually a big fan but I know people that are… (daughter in law, always important to impress!). We live far far away from a Starbucks or a Second Cup (my sister’s fav) so this is important. I bought one of their plastic reuseable cups and have fooled co-workers into thinking I’ve driven over an hour just to get a Starbucks!! I can only fool them so many times, though.

    I do have a Nespresso machine, probably the third one now, so I can do the espresso. I might have to look at a Jura – never heard of it – but longevity is very important when it comes to my triple skinny homemade latte.

    thanks again for your hard work and sacrifice in discovering this recipe….

  25. Jebber jay says:

    Oooooh, Karen, you WON GOOGLE!!! A search for “Pumpkin Spice Latte Brix Refractometer” returns only one result. Yours. Congratulations! :o) #clapclapclap.

  26. Jody says:

    What great detective work! And thanks for the links to coffee making stuff as Ch’mas is now officially less than 2 months away. YIKES!
    The cup and saucer in the photo–I don’t want to offend you–but they remind me of dishes given away by Dominion grocery store 40-50+ years ago.

    • Karen says:

      That make sense because I got them at a thrift store, lol. $10 for 46 pieces! I knew they were old but didn’t know they were originally from Dominions. ~ karen!

      • Ronda says:

        I was wondering about the cup and saucer too! I wondered if it was Wedgewood Midwinter, a set I bought for my “hopeless” chest when I was in my late teens. But, no, not the same style. My mother bought the set from Dominion for my sister, one piece per shopping trip! Took her a while to get them all!

  27. Patricia Soroka says:

    I’ve purchase the pumpkin syrup online to make my pumpkin chai tea lattes. Its worth every penny. Be careful its very addicting.

  28. Alex Nett says:

    Wow, Karen, I’m thinking this would make a very appreciated homemade food gift this holiday season! Finally- a use for all my Bonne Mamma Jam jars I can’t seem to throw away. How long do you think the syrup would last in the fridge?

  29. Alena says:

    I like pumpkin spice latte so I may give it a try. Haven’t had Starbarks’ for a long time, their prices are a bit on the insane side. I like McD’s coffee but their PSL tastes very artificial.
    The only way I would buy the Jura is if it came with a Subaru (preferably Forester) as a token of appreciation. But I might spring for the milk frother (I had only one before and it was a piece of excrement), it looks decent and I like that it requires manual power only.
    The link for the Starbarks’ syrup throws 404 – I wonder if too many hits from people who read this post brought it down. 🙂

  30. Heather Sykora says:

    I love how you dig in and deconstruct all the salient details, to make it taste just right!! I appreciate this recipe as I am allergic to the preservative in all Starbucks flavor syrups! (Sodium Benzoate). So I can’t drink anything flavored from them. Now I know where to go to find a good recipe if I feel like trying this decadent flavor!! Thanks!!
    Heather

  31. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    It still amazes me…the level of dedication you will put into figuring out how something is made…and then sticking to it until you reach perfection…I would have given up the first day and drove to Starbucks…Unfortunately this latte probably has enough sugar in it to send me to the hospital in a diabetic coma…lol…If you ever come up with a sugar-free version let me know…As for Cat Farts…those of you without cats do not want to experience those at all!!!

  32. Joanne says:

    I almost used a whole can of pie filling and a whole can of condensed milk, because of how the recipe is written. All the other ingredients listed are in proper amounts, so it was a bit confusing for me. Other than operator error, awsome recipe! Thanks for doing all the hard work and sharing with us PSL fans!

  33. Sue says:

    Yeah! I’m moderately lactose-intolerant and have NEVER had a PSL because of it. The bit of milk in the syrup should be doable and Lactose-free milk should work for the rest. I tried on of their specialty drinks with soy milk once–yuk, ptth, shudder.

  34. Maggie Van Sickle says:

    Yum yum I love lattes but try not to drink too many. Love pumpkin anything so I am in trouble. By the way check your front porch .

  35. Cindy Stoll says:

    I just made it! I have to drive 30 miles to the nearest Starbucks. I have tried a few others and you are right….they are lacking. For us “cooking experts”, we tend not to read recipes and only scan them. You would think we would learn this does not work. We do not. Please change in the ingredients list the amount of condensed milk and pumpkin. I had to scoop out the syrupy milk to make 1/2 cup. Of course I then add too much pumpkin because it says 1 can. Someday, I will learn to read the whole thing! Hardly wait ’till tomorrow to try this! Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Funny story Cindy (although you might not think so, lol). I *did* update the recipe the day I published it because of that, but I must have forgotten to click “update” and so the recipe went right back to the way it was. Yeah. So there’s that. It’s updated now though! ‘Cause that’s superhelpful for you. 😉 ~ karen!

  36. Cindy Stoll says:

    Hey, I tried your recipe this morning! Yes, this is the best that I have tried. The condenced milk holds every thing together. Straining the whole spices is key. I have tried ground dry spices and you end up choking on your latte. Now, my only complaint with Starbucks is that it is a bit to sweet. Sorry, yours as well. Yes, I used less. Next time I will amp up the whole spices even more and use regular canned pumpkin and not the mix with added sugar. The brown sugar with the spices is a great way to add the punch needed. Its a keeper!

    • Karen says:

      Oh, lol. Well, yes mine is meant to be an exact copy of the Starbucks. I like it that sweet. 🙂 You’ll definitely need to keep some of the sweetness. I’d still go with the spiced pumpkin if I were you because it adds another layer of the spices. It’s very difficult to get the spices to be strong enough on their own otherwise. Just do a regular simple syrup (I did a higher sugar to water ratio for this). Or … do what you said, lol. ~ karen!

  37. Aly says:

    I am not one to post any websites. Ever. But this. This recipe has changed my life. I LOVE pumpkin spice steamed milk (you really get that pumpkin taste without all that pesky coffee getting in the way). But most recipes I try are pulpy or just taste like dirt without the strong coffee to mask it. Desperate for my pumpkin spice, but living so very far away from a Starbucks, I decided to give this a shot. And it literally tastes EXACTLY like the pumpkin spice syrup. I can’t believe it. I followed the recipe exactly and have created this wonderful jar of liquid orange gold. I can never thank you enough for your dedication to this recipe! And the best part? I no longer have to look down at my Starbucks pumpkin spice steamed milk, with that sickly orange colour and think, “Is this radioactive? Am I going to turn into Spiderman?” Thank you.

    • Karen says:

      hahahaha! I said the same thing about the Soda Stream. It’s changed my LIFE. 🙂 Once it gets a tiny bit cooler I’ll whip up a batch of the Pumpkin Spice recipe myself. I’m happy you like it and agree it’s a pretty good copy of the Starbucks syrup. 🙂 ~ karen!

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