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It is officially fall. In case you've never had a pumpkin spice latte, let me try to describe the taste to you. It tastes delicious. It's like liquid pumpkin pie with whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg on top. Just about every major coffee chain starts whipping them up come September. I had my very first pumpkin spice latte one year ago. I was on vacation so I was feeling quite free-wheeling with my extra calories and my money. As soon as I had one, I knew I was going to spend a lot of time trying to copy the recipe at home.

I tried a few of those online recipes and they didn't do it for me. And yes, I realize that technically since you’re reading this online, my upcoming recipe is also an online recipe. The difference is mine actually tastes like a pumpkin spice latte as opposed to a coffee that someone dumped raw pumpkin pie spice into. A great deal of my research into the subject involved sleuthing and spying. I maintain I did nothing illegal during my preliminary pumpkin spice investigations.

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 coffee chain pumpkin spice latte. The recipe comes down to making a syrup that you add to your coffee, a very, very sweet syrup. It has a Brix level of 69, which makes it sweeter than maple syrup. The reason the syrup is so sweet is because of the secret ingredient …

… the secret ingredient in a really good pumpkin spice latte syrup is sweetened condensed milk.

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At this point, I feel the need to tell you that you probably don’t want to replace your morning kale smoothie routine with a morning pumpkin spice latte routine. You know, just a thought to keep tucked away in your brain before it’s all clouded up with whipped cream and pumpkin spice.

I’ve come up with two versions of this recipe: the simple yeah-it’s-pretty-good version, and the slightly more difficult, winning recipe that’ll have you strutting into the homemade specialty-coffee hall of fame.

The Simple Pumpkin Spice Latte

Mix 2 parts canned pumpkin pie filling with 1 part sweetened condensed milk. (Starbucks uses condensed skim milk ... I could find only partly skimmed condensed milk, so that's what I used.)

Add 3 tablespoons of this mixture into 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.

The Hall of Fame Pumpkin Spice Latte


  • 1 cup of pumpkin pie filling (this stuff is presweetened and spiced)
  • 1/2 cup of condensed milk (partly skim/low-fat is best if you can find it)
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1" of fresh ginger sliced into 4 pieces
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (quickly toast over medium heat for a few seconds)
  • Espresso
  • 2% milk
  • Whipped cream


  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 syrup is the thickness of maple syrup. (It will thicken even more when it cools.)

  3. Put a lid on the saucepan and allow the mixture to steep for half an hour.

  4. Meanwhile, mix together 1 cup of pumpkin pie filling with 1/2 cup of condensed milk.

  5. After the syrup has steeped, strain out the whole spices and mix the syrup into the pumpkin and condensed milk.

  6. Add 1 shot (1 ounce) of espresso to coffee cup. Mix in 2-1/2 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.

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If you make this and it doesn't seem quite right, just adjust! More coffee, less coffee, more syrup. I made one for my sister the other week with a weak espresso and it was awful. Just terrible. 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 strong coffee. 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 and then microwave it until hot.

So there you have it. Two recipes for fulfilling your pumpkin spice latte craving this fall for a fraction of the price. And you didn’t even have to do anything illegal to get it. Not that I had to do anything illegal to get my recipe. I definitely did not. It says so right up in the second or third paragraph.

Text and photos by Karen Bertelsen

Karen Bertelsen is a Gemini Award nominated television host who has appeared on some of Canada's major networks including HGTV, W Network, Slice and MuchMoreMusic. Seven years ago she started the blog The Art of Doing Stuff ( as a creative outlet for her writing and endless home projects. The Art of Doing Stuff now receives over half a million views per month and has been featured in Better Homes & Gardens, Style at Home and Canadian Gardening magazines.