How to Pumpkin-Spice Everything

Pumpkin spice—along with thick knit sweaters, plaid and apple picking—is the epitome of basic bitch. 

It’s fairly obvious to anyone who’s met me that I’m a bit of a snob. So much so that I avoided trying the infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte for years. When I ordered my first PSL, it was as a mistake: as my shift ran late into the night (with my ride home nowhere in sight), my half-asleep ass desperately needed caffeine. As I resisted stretching out across the Starbucks counter, I yawned out an order for a venti of the first thing that could materialize through my brain fog: the cheerful Pumpkin Spice Latte doodled on the barista’s blackboard. 

Standing in the empty parking lot after my first sip, I realized I liked it—a lot. I was always worried I would, but as I’ve matured, I’ve had to face the fact that sometimes things are popular because they’re good. 

Pumpkin spice has exploded in the past five years. There’s pumpkin spice Cheerios, pumpkin spice yogurt pretzels, pumpkin spice Bailey’s… my Facebook feed has recently become host to the horror that is Pumpkin Spice Kraft Dinner. 

Like many commenters on Kraft’s post, I was both intrigued and disgusted. I wanted to try it, but I couldn’t bear the thought of putting my tastebuds through the torture. There’s a simple rule I like to live by: don’t mess with something that works. Certain things shouldn’t be pumpkin spiced. 

But then my philosophy-loving mind got to thinking, what was the reason for my aversion? Pumpkin spice is literally nothing but cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. It’s not the sweet syrup and vanilla shot that makes its characteristic flavour; it’s the warm spices. Anything can be pumpkin spiced. 

“But,” you might be saying, “pumpkin doesn’t taste good with everything!” While that may be true, pumpkin spice doesn’t usually involve actual pumpkin: it’s just a reference to the spices people usually blend with pumpkin in everyday cooking. 

The truth is, pumpkin on its own isn’t that appetizing: anyone who’s opened a can of pure pumpkin and snuck a taste will know, it’s the spices that are responsible for the pumpkin pie flavour we know and love. However, while the term “pumpkin spice” most likely originated with pumpkin-themed desserts, it didn’t stay that way. McCormick created its blend of “pumpkin pie spice” in the 1950s, for those of us who prefer not to measure out each ¼ teaspoon of spice in a pumpkin pie recipe. This blend was later renamed “pumpkin spice”—and people have been experimenting with it since. 

Pumpkin spice isn’t just for brown sugar-filled desserts. It turns out this pumpkin spice blend is great for recipes with other vegetables that are pumpkin-like: think butternut squash soups and roasted sweet potatoes. It’s kind of surprising how versatile the blend is. 

I’ll be the first to admit it: I use the blend in almost everything, all year round—I was doing it even before I knew it was “pumpkin” spice. It’s nothing revolutionary; I sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg in my coffee, make spiced bread and muffins with the blend, and even rub my chicken with cinnamon and cloves in the winter months. 

Sorry, but pumpkin spice isn’t that fancy—it’s easy to make, blends well with a variety of foods and is practically a kitchen essential. It’s basic, which is probably why the PSL became known as the basic bitch’s drink in the first place. 

So if you’re like last year’s version of me, don’t feel like you need to run out and buy every pumpkin spice-themed item on the shelf. Buy a small tin of pumpkin spice instead. Better yet, stock up on cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove and allspice. Experiment with your own measurements, mix it up and add in other spices like marsala and turmeric. Breathe some life into the blend. I’m begging you.   

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