Starbucks made headlines again this summer when it released its famous “PSL” (pumpkin spice latte) on August 25th. Lines surrounded every store as people rushed to get their pumpkin fix. Articles applauding the decision as well as those condemning it flooded the internet. Whether you’re pro or con pumpkin spice, it’s a trend that’s not going away any time soon. I have a lot of pumpkin recipes on my blog (a LOT) and so I thought I’d explore with you today why pumpkin spice is so popular. And I definitely want to know in the comments how you feel about it!
We’re nearing the 20-year mark for pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks and other coffee shops. But that’s not the only pumpkin trend. Pumpkin bread, muffins and cookies are also popular on the market. Coffee creamer and pumpkin beer are also huge food trends in the fall. Pumpkin spiced recipes abound on the internet and Pinterest alike. There’s a lot of theories about why pumpkin spice is so popular including the following:
- Pumpkin and those warming spices remind us of coziness, holiday baking and Thanksgiving time. It’s the ultimate comfort-food.
- Buying a “PSL” or other product when you’re out is an affordable luxury. It’s a treat that won’t break the bank and feels like an indulgence. That could be why pumpkin spiced products were especially popular in 2008 during the recession and perhaps one reason behind an early release in 2020 during COVID.
- Pumpkin spiced flavors embody American nostalgia. As we seek that external feeling of happiness
- It’s delicious. Or at least some people think so. I’m breaking down the flavor profile below but there’s no denying that ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and (sometimes) allspice are a wonderful combination of spices.
What is in Pumpkin Spice?
It’s pretty simple, actually. The spices listed below are used in varying portions but I’m starting from what’s most prominent down to the stronger spices that you’ll only be using 1/4 or 1/8 teaspoon in your recipes. As a dietitian, I’m always excited about the health benefits of spices and I talk a LOT about them in my Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep book because they’re such powerhouses for our health. These spices are all anti-inflammatory and are completely packed with unique antioxidants.
- Cinnamon is the base of pumpkin spice and has anti-inflammatory properties and is loaded with antioxidants. Some studies show that it can also help with blood sugar balance.
- Ginger adds that spicy aspect and is very beneficial to health, boosting the immune system and reducing nausea if that’s an issue for you.
- Clove has a strong, astringent flavor and unique antioxidants that are used in pain relief and have been shown to kill bacteria.
- Nutmeg is best when freshly grated; that’s actually the only way I use it. It’s so delicious on eggnog and eggnog baked goods and is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and potential immune booster.
- Allspice is not always used but I really like it. My feeling is, the more spices the better. Keep in mind you’ll only need a very little bit because it’s so strong in flavor. Use allspice to soothe the stomach.
There are a lot of reasons to use pumpkin in recipes all year round though it pops up mostly in fall of course. Pumpkin is a winter squash and it is such a nutrient-rich ingredient to add into recipes whenever you can. It is packed with vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins, along with lots of minerals and fiber. These vitamins also help boost your immune system and help fight infections which is super helpful heading into cold and flu season.
Pumpkins are known for their deep orange color and whenever you see that color, you can be sure that you are getting a rich source of natural vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and is especially good for eye health and helps reduce inflammation; it also can help prevent risk of cancers and other chronic diseases. Specifically, pumpkins contain a high amount of carotenoids, mainly beta-carotene, which the body turns into Vitamin A. Remember to include this part of the “rainbow” in your diet regularly. Other good options include other types of squash including butternut, cantaloupe, carrots, pink grapefruit, watermelon, oranges and tangerines, corn, guava, mango, nectarines and peaches (among many others). You’ve got a lot of great options in this category so make sure to eat your red and orange fruits and veggies.
Pumpkins are also a great source of dietary fiber which is extremely beneficial for a healthy digestive system and can also support heart health and make you feel fuller for longer. The type of fiber in pumpkin grabs onto cholesterol molecules and escorts them out of the body via the digestive tract. It’s always really fun to me to consider how many incredible health benefits are sitting right there in normal foods that we eat every day. You just have to make sure to actually eat them on a daily basis!
The Best Pumpkin (and Pumpkin Spice) Recipes
I love using pumpkin in my recipes. It’s an amazing food that’s versatile and incredibly healthy and blends perfectly into beverages, baked goods and even savory foods like hummus. I listed out my top pumpkin recipes below and they range from those with pumpkin spice to actual pumpkin (I use canned a lot) and pumpkin seeds. Enjoy and please drop me a comment if you try any of these!
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- In a small bowl, mix all the spices together. Store in an airtight container until use.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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