What To Know About Pumpkin Spice Lattes, From a Nutritionist Who Loves Them

Dunkin' and Starbucks both offer a version of this spice-filled drink each year

Pumpkin spice lattes are coffee drinks made with steamed dairy or plant-based milk, spices, and other ingredients. They're popular at some coffee chains in the fall, but you can make them any time of year at home. If you're curious about what exactly is in that tall pumpkin spice latte (PSL), including calories and ingredients, read on to learn more.

Here's the not-so-great and not-terribly-surprising news about store-bought PSLs: Most chain versions are high in sugar and processed ingredients. I haven't been able to find any versions that I would recommend from a nutritional standpoint as a daily habit.

So, my advice: Choose the PSL you like best and enjoy it as an occasional treat. Below you'll find my notes on two popular PSLs—plus a truly good-for-you recipe you can make at home.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Starbucks lists the ingredients in its pumpkin spice sauce as:

  • sugar
  • condensed skim milk
  • pumpkin puree
  • fruit and vegetable juice for color
  • natural flavors
  • annatto
  • salt
  • potassium sorbate

It's great that the company is using some all-natural additives, but the final ingredient is a common preservative. (Annatto, by the way, is a natural food additive also used for color.)

A tall Starbucks PSL made with 2% steamed milk foam has 300 calories, 12 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbohydrate, 11 grams of protein, and 38 grams of sugar. Substituting whole milk would presumably bump up the calorie and fat content.

So, when you order a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte, enjoy every sip but just think of it as a dessert rather than a coffee.

Tip: Starbucks told Health that customers can customize their PSL. Ask for fewer pumps of pumpkin spice sauce, less whip, or no whip, for example, if you're looking to cut calories.

Dunkin' Pumpkin Spice Latte

The ingredients list for the Dunkin' PSL also includes sugar and common preservatives as well as high fructose corn syrup. According to the company's nutrition guide, a small signature pumpkin spice hot latte with whole milk has 300 calories, 11 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, 42 grams of carbs, and 38 grams of sugar.

You can trim 50 calories and six grams of fat from the small by ordering it with skim. If you prefer plant-based milk, almond and oat milk are options, but the pumpkin swirl syrup is made with condensed sweetened milk.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

If you want to enjoy pumpkin spice lattes on the regular, try making healthier versions at home! Here's my recipe, which calls for all-natural ingredients and is packed with nutrients.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

  • 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and ⅛ teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger)
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ cup hot brewed coffee
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  1. In a saucepan over low heat, combine pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, sea salt, vanilla, and almond milk. Cook, stirring until warm and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer pumpkin mixture to a high-speed blender and add coffee, maple syrup, and almond butter. Blend until well mixed and frothy. Drink immediately.

This version provides 210 calories, nine grams of plant-based fat, 19 grams of carbs with 13 from sugar (primarily from the maple syrup), and four grams of protein from almonds.

While these numbers may not seem terribly impressive, the biggest advantages here are the sugar savings compared to commercial pumpkin spice lattes and the real food ingredients, which are bundled with bonus nutrition.

Just two tablespoons of canned pumpkin packs 34% of the recommended daily requirement of immune-supporting vitamin A for women, and more than 26% for men, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 700 micrograms (mcg) a day for adult women and 900 mcg for men.

Maple syrup supplies a solid amount of manganese, a mineral that helps support bone health and your immune system, according to NIH.

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