Before 2003, you knew fall was around the corner when leaves began turning, back-to-school items popped up in stores, and the temperature dropped. Today, however, those things hardly matter. It’s not fall until Starbucks starts selling its pumpkin spice latte.
Need your PSL fix right now? Here’s how we make them at home.
Whether you like a good PSL or not, you can’t deny that the world just can’t get enough pumpkin spice. Since their creation, Starbucks has sold 350 million of its famous lattes—that’s more pumpkin lattes than there are people living in the United States. Not many PSL fans actually know what’s in their drink, however, so we broke down the ingredients to find out how much pumpkin is in that to-go cup. Here’s what’s really in a pumpkin spice latte, listed from the greatest quantity to the least.
Ingredient #1: Milk
OK, no surprise here. Plenty of Starbucks beverages are actually more creamer than they are coffee, including the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Unless otherwise specified, Starbucks uses 2% milk to give you that rich, creamy flavor. Even if it seems odd that the biggest ingredient in this beverage is milk, the good news is that all that dairy delivers 40 percent of your daily calcium!
Ingredient #2: Pumpkin Spice Sauce
Here’s the pumpkin! This special “sauce” is actually a mixture of mostly sugar, condensed milk and pumpkin puree. After complaints that the old PSL didn’t contain any pumpkin, Starbucks added puree to the mix in 2015 to make the drink a little more natural.
Ingredient #3: Brewed Espresso
This is where you get that energetic buzz. There’s roughly 75 milligrams of caffeine in a tall PSL, comparable to half a cup of coffee or two cups of black tea.
Want to know how to get the most energy out of your drink? We broke down the best sources of caffeine here.
Ingredient #4: Whipped Cream
This is optional, but in all honesty, what’s a PSL without a generous dollop of whipped cream? Even though whipped cream is delicious, if you’re trying to cut fat and calories you might want to ask your barista to nix this topping. (It accounts for more than half of the drink’s fat content and around 60 calories!)
Ingredient #5: Vanilla Syrup
If the latte wasn’t sweet enough already, the vanilla syrup adds an extra shot of sugar. All ingredients considered, the PSL has a whopping 39 grams of sugar—more than you’re supposed to consume in an entire day! (Just for reference, doctors recommend no more than about 25 grams for women and 37 for men.) And that’s just for a tall, in a 12-ounce cup. If you opt for the grande or venti, you’ll be taking in as many as 64 grams. (Or ask for an 8-ounce short with 26 grams and 210 calories.)
Don’t have such a sweet tooth? This cinnamon mocha coffee is a smart alternative with only 9 grams of sugar.
Ingredient #6: Pumpkin Spice Topping
The pretty dusting that settles into the whipped cream is actually fairly simple—so simple, in fact, you could make it at home! It’s a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves that contributes to the delicious spiced pumpkin aroma. When you look at other “pumpkin spice” foods (like these Cheerios), they all have that fall flavor in common.
With all of these ingredients combined, a 12-ounce pumpkin spice latte packs in 300 calories—as much as a massive slice of our iced pumpkin swirl bread. Sure, it’s not the healthiest, but if you’re looking for a seasonal beverage that’s essentially dessert in a cup, look no further.
Still want one? We’re sure you won’t be the only one heading straight for the nearest Starbucks. In fact, we might even see you in line.