Food and Drink

Make a real pumpkin spice latte for pennies using a handful of pantry ingredients

This recipe makes me think of my friend Maya Wilson, author of the “Alaska From Scratch” cookbook, because maybe the first recipe of hers I remember reading was for homemade coffee creamer — which is both cheaper and more delicious than what you get in the store. At the time, Maya was living outside of Kenai, and she was making lots of grocery store items from scratch and blogging about it. She’s a great example of Alaska’s DIY kitchen culture — which is especially strong among those of us who live out of Starbucks range. But even if you live in the Starbucks range, you’ll find that this easy recipe makes for a superior, and extra cheap, coffee treat.

Clown on me if you want, but I like a little pumpkin spice in my fall time world, even if it’s beyond cliche. But I don’t like that a lot of it tastes fake, kind of like a pumpkin spice candle smells, and has a weird aftertaste. A few smaller coffee shops in Anchorage already know this secret: the real pumpkin spice latte base you can make at home — using a handful of shelf-stable pantry ingredients — is cheaper and better than anything you’ll get through the Starbucks drive-thru. It’s fast and one batch will last you a week of spicy mornings.

This recipe uses just about equal parts canned sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin puree and a healthy dose of pumpkin pie spice. I included a recipe for pumpkin pie spice if you want to make your own. It makes a concentrated batter that you can froth up with milk — two tablespoons should be enough — for a latte, or stir it into your morning coffee and maybe add a splash of cream. You could easily experiment with making the recipe and combining it with cream to make a batch of coffee creamer as well. If I’m getting fancy, I like a fresh shave of nutmeg on top, too.

Scratch-made pumpkin spice latte syrup

Makes about 1.25 cups

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup (roughly half a can) of pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice


Nutmeg to garnish

Optional — For homemade pumpkin pie spice:

Three tablespoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons powdered ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

In a small bowl or large jar, mix condensed milk, pumpkin puree and pie spice until smooth and well-combined. To make a latte: add two tablespoons to milk before you froth it. To make creamer, put two tablespoons into the bottom of the cup before you add coffee, add a splash of cream, stir. Store in a sealed jar. Keeps in the fridge for a week.

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Julia O'Malley

Anchorage-based Julia O'Malley is a former ADN reporter, columnist and editor. She received a James Beard national food writing award in 2018, and a collection of her work, "The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska," was published in 2019. She's currently a guest curator at the Anchorage Museum.