Making your own pumpkin pie spice blend is easy to do in 5 minutes and includes spices you probably already have in your kitchen. Plus, it saves you money and kind of makes you feel like a mad scientist who has discovered the secret to one of autumn’s biggest obsessions, even if was never really a secret in the first place. This easy pumpkin pie spice recipe also includes an optional secret ingredient for added digestive health benefits.
Okay, I just tell you. It’s dandelion root. If you’re wondering why, just keep reading this pumpkin pie spice digest.
SEARCH THIS ARTICLE:
What is Pumpkin Pie Spice?
The Modern Obsession
Before They Were “Pumpkin Spice”
Very Good Reasons to Make Your Own
How to Make Pumpkin Pie Spice
Recipe for DIY Pumpkin Spice
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I’m going to start this off with a mildly polarizing opinion, for no reason other than a feeling that I need to publicly choose a side. Here it goes: I think pumpkin spice is just kind of alright.
Yes, it’s pretty tasty, but is it deserving of its own cult?
Sales of all things pumpkin spice reached over $500 million in 2018 and not only do they continue to climb, but the pumpkin pie spice mania starts earlier and earlier every year.
Have you noticed?!
As a mass-marketed trend, I could take it or leave it. But as an incredible collective of super plant medicines, count me in for pumpkin spice cult membership. That’s the side of the real pumpkin spice that no one talks about.
Regardless of where you stand on the spectrum of pumpkin spice fanaticism, this classic blend of spices is a potent combination of nutritional and medicinal plant medicine, not to mention that it’s an irresistibly aromatic experience in and of itself.
But first things first.
What is Pumpkin Pie Spice?
Pumpkin pie spice, also called pumpkin spice, is an entirely North American blend of spices that typically includes cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and sometimes allspice.
Chicagoist wrote an article several years ago about the origins of pumpkin spice. According to that article, it was only in the 1950s that spice companies started bundling spices together in blends, perhaps for cooks who couldn’t be bothered to take the time to blend their own.
And because cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and sometimes allspice were typically used in dishes with pumpkin, pumpkin spice was born in all its glory.
Over the decades, we’ve managed to take a handful of spices that are so lovely and aromatic, incredibly nutritive, and highly therapeutic and turn them into a mass-marketed stereotype that endures a lot of mockery and eye-rolls.
And unfortunately, we’ve also substituted wildly potent nutritive and medicinal spices for a lot of artificial flavorings and laboratory-created scents.
I think pumpkin spice, which doesn’t contain any actual pumpkin, took a strange turn, don’t you?!
From Ancient Origins to Modern Obsession
So where did this modern and growing obsession even come from?!
If your first thought was Starbucks and the Pumpkin Spice Latte, you’re not too far from right. While pumpkin spice coffee drinks started popping up in coffee shops all over the country in the mid-1990s, Starbucks’ nationwide unveiling of the Pumpkin Spice Latte in 2004 sealed the deal and set pumpkin spice on an explosive trajectory that splattered all over our lives.
Suddenly, pumpkin pie spice wasn’t just for pumpkin pies and other winter squash-filled dishes. Today, you’ll find pumpkin spice-flavored everything. From lip balm, deodorant, beer, bagels, flavored bone broth, and even dog food, nothing is safe from pumpkin pie spice flavoring.
In the last few years, pumpkin spice popularity has slowly started to decline, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it by cruising through the grocery aisles anytime from late August to early December.
But such is often the fate of mass obsession. Eventually, people move on. Only time will tell.
Before They Were “Pumpkin Spice“
These amazing spices, now collectively known as pumpkin pie spice, go way back.
And interestingly, because these spices are native to a small region of the world, their popularity actually played a big role in colonial expansion. As the spices spread across the oceans, so did our ancestors.
In their native lands, these spices played a big role in ancient cultural, social, religious, food, and medicine traditions.
Historical Uses of the Pumpkin Pie Spices
- True cinnamon (C. verum), native to Sri Lanka, dates back in Chinese writings to 2800 B.C.
- Ancient Romans used cinnamon for ailments of the digestive and respiratory tracts, and to help cover unpleasant smells.
- The Egyptians used cinnamon as part of their embalming process, as well as for its fragrance and flavor.
- Ginger, native to Southeast Asia, has roots that trace back in Indian and Traditional Chinese Medicine over 5000 years.
- Historical medicinal uses of ginger aren’t that different from today’s uses. Ginger has been used to treat digestive ailments, nausea, and vomiting for thousands of years.
- Nutmeg, originally from Indonesia, has been traced back to over 3,500 years ago.
- Many Medieval and Renaissance banquets often featured exotic spices like nutmeg and cinnamon together in certain foods. The beginnings of pumpkin spice, perhaps?!
- There is evidence of ancient Arab physicians using nutmeg for a variety of ailments, but mainly digestive disorders, it seems.
- Clove, also from Indonesia, has a very similar history of use to nutmeg.
- There is written record dating back to 300 B.C. when clove was used in China as a breath freshener. Other historical uses include clove being used for digestive and respiratory ailments and pain relief.
- Clove contains a bioactive compound called eugenol, an anesthetic that has a long history of use in dentistry that dates back to the mid-16th century.
Pumpkin Pie Spice & Its Forgotten Health Benefits
Hint: It’s all about the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, & digestive benefits!
I think today’s pumpkin pie spice mania is missing an important element. Artificially-flavored pumpkin spice lattes and scented deodorants aside, every single one of the real pumpkin pie spices has potent health benefits.
Granted most pumpkin spice flavor that gives products from pretzels to lip balm this characteristic scent and flavor of fall is chemically produced. Many labels list natural pumpkin spice flavor as an ingredient instead of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove.
To reap the incredible health benefits of pumpkin spice, make sure to read ingredient labels. Purchase items that list the spices, not a flavor. Or better yet, since these spices are so common in our kitchen cabinets, make your own pumpkin spice.
The Medicine in Pumpkin Spice
As incredibly common household spices, we adore them for their intense and delightful aromas and flavors and usually think nothing more of them. However, every single one of these spices has herbal actions (or medicinal properties) that work together to support healthy digestion.
Each of these spices is anti-inflammatory in nature and also helps to support healthy digestion and efficient nutrient absorption amongst many other things.
Here’s a more detailed look:
Energetics: drying, warming, & energizing
Nutritional Value: excellent source of manganese and fiber, very good source of calcium
Herbal Actions: antiviral, alterative, astringent, anti-fungal, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, gastrointestinal tonic, expectorant
Energetics: spicy, pungent, aromatic
Nutritional Value: contains moderated amounts of vitamin B6 and minerals magnesium and potassium
Herbal Actions: antioxidant, carminative, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, immune-boosting
Energetics: pungent, warming, aromatic, astringent
Nutritional Value: good source of magnesium, manganese, and copper as well as vitamins B1 and B6
Herbal Actions: nervine, carminative, antibacterial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, topical rubefacient, expectorant, can be narcotic in large doses
Energetics: warming, aromatic, energizing
Nutritional Value: excellent source of manganese; very good source of vitamin K and dietary fiber; good source of iron, magnesium, and calcium
Herbal Actions: analgesic, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, carminative, nutritive
The Secret Ingredient: Dandelion Root
At the beginning, I mentioned a secret ingredient in this otherwise, pretty straightforward mix of spices. Well, the secret is out; it’s dandelion root!
Truth be told, I originally added powdered dandelion root only because there was a small bit of it leftover from another recipe and it just happened to be sitting next to all the other pumpkin pie spices.
But… I’ve since decided that it’s the perfect herbal addition to pumpkin pie spice. Here’s why:
Dandelion root is an incredible source of inulin, a soluble fiber that helps to:
- slow digestion,
- allow more time for you to absorb nutrients,
- help to prevent blood sugar spikes,
- and promote the growth of beneficial gut flora.
And dandelion root as a whole is a bitter digestive tonic that may help to tone the digestive system and stimulate appetite.
When you put all these herbs and spices together, you have yourself one amazing digestive formula.
Plus, when you think about the types of foods that pumpkin spice is typically used in, namely heavy holiday desserts, having a little oomph of digestive support is important.
I’m starting to really come around to this whole pumpkin spice thing.
Why You Should Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Spice
Making your own pumpkin pie spice blend might not sound that appealing to you, especially since you can purchase store-bought blends for a pretty low price.
Here are 5 good reasons to make your own pumpkin pie spice blend:
- No funny ingredients! (And by funny, I mean non-food ingredients.) Some store-bought brands of pumpkin spice contain sulfiting agents, food preservatives that help prevent spoilage and discoloration.
- Making your own costs less, especially since you likely already have these spices in your kitchen. If you bake a lot in the fall, you probably go through quite a bit of pumpkin pie spice. That can get really expensive if you’re using a high-quality store-bought mix.
- Customize to your taste! You have control over what goes into the spice blend and can add (or leave out) whatever you’d like. This might be super relevant if you have an allergy or intolerance to (or just don’t care for) one of the ingredients typically found in pumpkin spice blends.
- Use those spices before they go bad. From the time that spice is harvested, its flavor, nutrients, and medicinal qualities are slowly degrading. I know some of us (me included!) keep herbs and spices around for years! All those spices that have been sitting around for a while, the ones you only use once a year, are waiting for you to put them into a pumpkin spice blend that you’ll have plenty of uses for!
- It’s for so much more than just pie! This kind of ties into the last reason, to use those spices up before they lose their flavor, nutrients, and medicinal qualities. You can use pumpkin pie spice to season popcorn, infuse liquors, add to butternut squash soup, roast root vegetables in, and so much more.
How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix
This pumpkin spice blend isn’t your ordinary autumnal blend. The recipe below includes cardamom and a non-traditional herbal ingredient that amps up the nutritional and medicinal benefits.
This recipe comes together in 5 minutes and you can easily multiply the recipe to last you all season long. Here’s a quick rundown. If you’re ready to just jump into the recipe for pumpkin pie spice, just skip ahead to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Equipment You’ll Need:
- Small Mixing Bowl
- Small Whisk or Fork
- Measuring Spoons
- Spice Jar with an Airtight Lid (I really love these spice bottle with cork tops from Mountain Rose Herbs. You can also reuse an old spice jar or just use an small glass jar.)
These are all fairly common staples in the spice cabinet, and with the exception of powdered dandelion root, they can all easily be found in any grocery. For high-quality spices that are grown sustainably and ethically harvested, purchase your spices from Mountain Rose Herbs.
- Cinnamon, ground
- Ginger, ground
- Nutmeg, ground
- Cardamom, ground
- Allspice, ground
- Clove, ground
- Powdered Dandelion Root (This is optional, but highly recommended becuase it’s fun, unique, amps up the health benefits, and has no effect on the flavor. If you don’t have dandelion root powder, you can also make your own in a spice grinder.)
- Combine all spices and herbs together and mix thoroughly. That’s it!
What spices does pumpkin pie spice contain?
Pumpkin pie spice at the very least typically contains cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. More comprehensive blends may also contain allspice, clove, and/or cardamom.
Can I use pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon?
Yes! While the flavor of pumpkin pie spice is quite a bit more complex on account of all the other spices used, it makes a great substitute for plain ol’ cinnamon. You can substitute pumpkin pie spice for pretty much anything you’d use cinnamon in, both sweet and savory.
What is the difference between apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice?
Apple pie spice and pumpkin pie spice are incredibly similar, and if you ask me, totally interchangeable. The internet has many answers on the one factor that distinguishes apple pie spice from pumpkin pie spice, but truth be told, it doesn’t really seem like anyone agrees on one answer.
However, the general consensus is that apple pie spice rarely contains cloves and is much more likely to contain cardamom than pumpkin pie spice. The presence of cloves in pumpkin pie spices gives it a bit more of a kick than apple pie spice.
You’ll love these recipes for fall!
Cinnamon & Rose Pear Upside-Down Cake
No-Bake Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust
Elderberry Syrup Hot Toddy
Carrots Roasted in Cinnamon Spice Salt
For more plant magic & herbal wellness in your life, be sure to follow along on ➡️ Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, & snag my herbal 📚 eBooks Nourishing Herbal Gifts & Holiday Pies from the (Un)Bakery. 🌿 And please don’t forget to tag me in your snaps 📸 @_botanyculture_. I love to see all the plant magic you make happen!
DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice Course: Condiment, Herb & Spice BlendDifficulty: Easy
with Dandelion Root
Pumpkin pie spice is such a seasonal favorite. It’s a good spice blend to have on hand. Luckily, you can make your own pretty easily using spices you likely already have in your kitchen. This blend includes powdered dandelion root, which you could always leave out. While it doesn’t affect the taste, it does add a little extra nutrition, as well as liver and digestive support. This recipe yields a little less than 1/2 cup.
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons powdered dandelion root (see Notes)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- Thoroughly mix all ingredients together.
- Store in a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep your jar in a cool and dry location out of direct sunlight. (And don’t forget to label it!)
- Dandelion root: You can always leave this ingredient out. Find powdered dandelion root online or at your local herb shop. Oftentimes, local food co-ops have extensive bulk sections & carry powdered dandelion root. Powdered dandelion root makes a great addition to smoothies, coffee, coffee cake, and many other things!
Did you make this?
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Resources & Further Reading
- Healing Spices: How to Use 50 Everyday and Exotic Spices to Boost Health and Beat Disease by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD and Debora Yost
- Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth by Dr. Sharol Marie Tilgner
- The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride
DISCLAIMER: The information given in this article is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before consuming certain herbs & medicinal foods, especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking any prescription medications.
I love all things pumpkin spice!!! I can’t wait to try it with the dandelion root! Such a great idea!!
Thank you! It doesn’t really change the taste at all… but adds all the goodness of dandelion root. 🙂 I hope you enjoy it!