Fall has officially arrived, which means pumpkin spice everything. But if you’re trying to watch what you spend, one of the first things to go is the expensive coffee shop pumpkin spice lattes.
The good news is, you can treat yourself and save money. The key is to make prepping your own pumpkin spice treats quick and easy.
First step: Create your own pumpkin spice mix. “You can make your own with just a few common spices you probably already have on hand,” says Jenna Appel, a South Florida-based registered dietician. Her go-to recipe makes 5 tablespoons: Simply mix 3 tablespoons of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ginger, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1 teaspoon allspice, and 1 teaspoon ground cloves. Then, stock up on canned pumpkin (sans spices and added sugar).
With these ingredients on hand, you’re ready to tackle eight pumpkin spice-inspired recipes, many of which can be made with staples you may already have in your fridge and pantry.
DIY PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE
To save yourself $5, whip up a homemade PSL. “Making your own flavored coffee drink will also save you calories from added sugars,” says Tara Tomaino, RD, nutrition director for The Park in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. What to do: Heat 1 cup of milk of your choice over medium heat. Once it’s warm, add 1/4 cup of pumpkin puree, 2 teaspoons of brown sugar (or less), 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a pinch of cinnamon. Mix it up, pour it over a shot of espresso, or add it to your coffee, and voila!
PUMPKIN SPICE OVERNIGHT OATS
“This is a great way to use up canned pumpkin if you have some leftover from other recipes,” says Tomaino. It’s also easy to throw together the night before a busy morning. In a glass jar, combine 1/3 cup each of plain Greek yogurt, quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats, milk of your choice, and pumpkin puree. Sprinkle in cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or a little nutmeg and stir well to combine. Put a lid on it, give it a shake, and grab it and go in the morning. Or try this slow cooker pumpkin spice oats variation.
PUMPKIN SPICE SMOOTHIE
Tired of the same-old berry and banana smoothies? “A pumpkin spice smoothie is a delicious and nutritious way to enjoy your favorite fall flavors,” says Ashley Larsen, RD. For a high-protein breakfast or post-workout snack, follow this recipe which features 1 cup of canned pumpkin puree (for a whopping 7 grams of filling fiber!) plus almond milk, protein powder, frozen riced cauliflower, and—of course—pumpkin spice.
PUMPKIN SPICE PANCAKES
For another affordable breakfast made with pantry staples, try pumpkin spice pancakes. “Some mixes may have preservatives or additives,” says Jeanette Kimszal, RD. “That’s why I like to make homemade ones where I can control what goes into them.” All you need: 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 2 cups flour, 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk of your choice, plus 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and your pumpkin spice mix. Check out the full (and gluten-free!) recipe here.
PUMPKIN SPICE LENTIL SOUP
Nothing beats the first soup of sweater season, and pumpkin spice lentil soup shows this spice mix plays well with savory dishes, too. “It’s an easy plant-based recipe that’s satisfying, nourishing, and budget-friendly,” says Sara Haas, a Chicago-based registered dietician and chef. “You can even make a double batch and freeze to enjoy later.”
PUMPKIN SPICE MAC AND CHEESE
Next time you make homemade mac and cheese, try stirring in 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin plus a dash of warm spices. “The canned pumpkin will provide not only the orange-yellow color but also a bit of fiber, which most of us don’t get enough of,” says Jen Hernandez, RD. Another plus: “This can help slow down the blood sugar spike from simple carbs like white pasta,” she notes.
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PUMPKIN SPICE SNACK MIX
For a treat you can share with friends or use to fuel up mid-hike as you take the glory of multicolored fall leaves, whip up some pumpkin spice snack mix. “It’s made with simple ingredients — a mix of whole grains and plant-based proteins — that together make for a satisfying snack,” says Haas. Roast pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and wheat cereal squares with a little butter and spices, toss them with popcorn, and you’ve got a crunchy, sweet snack to munch on or pack up for later.
PUMPKIN SPICE FRUIT PARFAIT
For a fab high-protein, low-calorie breakfast, snack or post-workout recovery fuel, consider the pumpkin spice fruit parfait, says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, RD. Assembly’s simple: Add 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to 0% vanilla Greek yogurt, mix it up, and layer in slices of apples, pears or bananas. Top it with chopped walnuts or pecans which provide filling, healthy fats.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Pumpkin puree mixed with spices can give you a cost-effective pumpkin spice to put on anything your heart desires,” says Kimszal. Making the most of pumpkin spice season doesn’t have to hurt your wallet, and pumpkin puree is naturally nutrient-dense and rich in filling fiber — big pluses if you’re trying to eat healthy or slim down.
Originally published October 2021, updated October 2022
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