Autumn’s brisk air carries aromas of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, mace, and ginger—the essential pumpkin pie spice ingredients. In the past decade it seems there’s been an explosion of pumpkin spice popularity outside of the traditional pie. Ice cream, pumpkin spice lattes, beers, candles, and even potato chips have taken on the flavor of this baker’s spice mix. Although trending, this sweet flavor profile has been popular for centuries.
Where Did Pumpkin Spice Come From?
Pumpkin spice is inspired by classic mixtures of sweet baking spices popular in England and Western Europe, dating back to the medieval period. Spices often used in these mixtures were star anise, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, and cardamom. You can sometimes find these spice blends labeled as pudding spice, cake spice, sweet spice, or mixed spice.
When English immigrants began cooking with pumpkins in the American colonies, they would season their pie filling with these spices. These mixes started to include allspice, a spice native to the Caribbean. Eventually, this pumpkin pie spice mixture evolved into the blend of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, mace, that we commonly see today.
How To Use Pumpkin Spice
You can use pumpkin spice in any of your regular baking recipes, especially recipes like banana bread or cheesecake. To turn these recipes into a pumpkin spice version, simply substitute the overall amount of spice for an equal amount of pumpkin spice. For example, if a recipe calls for a teaspoon of allspice, a teaspoon of ginger, and a teaspoon of cinnamon, then you can substitute all three with a tablespoon of pumpkin spice.
Pumpkin spice makes for a great condiment, too. Add the blend to your morning coffee, oatmeal, or French toast. No need to measure with recipes that don’t require precise baking ratios, just sprinkle your desired amount right on top. Try it over vanilla ice cream or with a quick yogurt parfait.
While most people associate this spice blend with sweet recipes, you could also turn it savory. If you combine garlic powder, paprika, and cumin with pumpkin spice, the flavor profile becomes reminiscent of Moroccan and Middle Eastern flavors. Try this modified mixture with savory pumpkin soup, stewed lentils, braised chicken, or roasted carrots.