In the last few years, it seems the food industry has gone completely bonkers over pumpkin spice. It’s in lattes. It’s in cookies. It’s in loaves.
It’s even in dog food.
But what the heck is “pumpkin spice,” and what’s the big deal about it?
Well, there’s not really an origin story for the thing called pumpkin spice (although Google will probably turn up about a billion versions of who invented it). You can buy the individual components, or you can buy it as a mix, and while there’s no carved-in-stone version of what it must be, there are some key components that give it its signature flavour.
And, by the way, because pumpkin is a squash, you can use pumpkin spice pretty effectively on other squashes.
…you know, just in case you’re at a loss with your butternut or acorn some time.
Pumpkin spice is a blend that marries particularly well with the rich taste of pumpkin, and is most commonly associated with pumpkin pie and certain coffee chains based in Seattle. The key spices are cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves, and if this sounds like a recipe for Christmas you’re not far off. All of these are considered “warm” spices, and work as a great flavour combination with pumpkin or apple. You’ll find gingerbread hanging out at Christmas as well, alongside cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in the eggnog. We use cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in our Amazing Hot Apple Cider.
In fact, you’d be doing yourself a favour if you could combine the pumpkin and apple together. This is probably why those two pies are such great friends at Thanksgiving!
While it’s usually associated with desserts, pumpkin spice can also be used in savoury dishes. We have a tourtierre (a traditional French Canadian meat pie for Christmas) that includes cinnamon and cloves. You can use pumpkin spice directly on roasted pork, chicken, or turkey to really give a great pop to the flavour. And in a pinch, you can even sub in pumpkin spice for five spice powder in Chinese cooking, although you’d still have to find a fennel or anise flavour to round it out.
If you’re blending your own ground spices, the usual ratio is 3:2:2:1.5:1.5. It’s not scary math stuff. Just remember:
- 3 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp ginger (dried, ground; NOT fresh)
- 2 tbsp nutmeg
- 1 1/2 tbsp allspice
- 1 1/2 tbsp cloves
Once you’ve got this nailed, you can tweak it a little bit (but not too much) to create a signature blend that’s all yours. Remember: the rules aren’t hard and fast, but they do make good guidelines for a reason. They work.
TIP: If using a pumpkin spice blend, shake it up before measuring. The heavier elements (like nutmeg) will tend to settle to the bottom in transport, and you’ll want a nice distribution of flavours. This is true for any pre-mixed spice blend.