Pumpkin Pie Spice is a blend of spices traditionally used to flavor pumpkin pie, but it’s it’s gone on to flavor just about everything “pumpkin” under the sun. But what is in pumpkin pie spice?!
What would you say if I told you that Pumpkin Pie Spice is a simple blend of tree bark, roots, seeds, and flower buds? Well, read on, because – guess what? It is!
Here’s all you need to know about the four main spices that go into pumpkin pie spice (and a few additions if you want to get extra fancy with your fall spice game!)
In this Article
- Pumpkin Pie Spice Ingredients
- How to Make & Store It
- What’s a Good Substitute for Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix?
- What to Make with Pumpkin Pie Spice?
Pumpkin Pie Spice Ingredients
One thing pumpkin spice does not have in it? Pumpkin! Nope – only spices are found in pumpkin pie spice.
The four primary ingredients are:
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground ginger
- Ground nutmeg
- Ground cloves
Some might also add ground allspice, mace, or cardamom. For my Pumpkin Pie Spice recipe, I stick with the big four.
More About Each Ingredient in Pumpkin Pie Spice
Did you know cinnamon is tree bark?! Yep, cinnamon comes from cinnamon trees. Underneath the top layer of the bark you’ll find the inner layer – that’s the good stuff! The cinnamon bark is pulled off in small sheets, dried, and ground. Cassia cinnamon is the most common type of cinnamon.
Cinnamon is an aromatic, earthy, sweet spice. The pungency depends on the type of cinnamon used as well as how old it is.
Get your cinnamon already ground (most common) or grate your own cinnamon sticks like the pioneers did. Just give yourself some time – it takes awhile!
More About Cinnamon
- Types of cinnamon (covers Cassia vs. Ceylon) – Bon Appetit
- Cinnamon general information & health benefits – National Institutes of Health
Is nutmeg a nut? Nope! Nutmeg is a seed – specifically, the seed of a nutmeg tree called Myristica fragrans. So why isn’t it called “seedmeg?” I suppose it’s because that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Nutmeg trees are native to Eastern Indonesia. The fruits are harvested from the tree, the outer covering is removed, and the seed is dried. Then, they’re packaged up whole or ground and make their way to you.
Nutmeg tends to be its most flavorful when freshly grated. I buy the seeds and grate it myself with my microplane zester. Easy and aromatic!
Nutmeg is described as nutty, earthy, and sweet. When I’m thinking of festive fall and winter spices that are considered “warm,” nutmeg is one of the first that comes to mind.
Here’s an interesting fact: Mace comes from the nutmeg seed, too! The outer covering I mentioned above is actually what mace comes from.
More About Nutmeg
- Everything You Need to Know About Nutmeg – Food & Wine
- Nutmeg & Mace: What Are They? (video) – Glen & Friends Cooking
Ginger is a root native to parts of Asia. Ginger root comes from the plant Zingiber officinale and has been used medicinally for centuries. The health benefits of ginger continue to be touted today.
The powdered form of ginger is what’s used for pumpkin pie spice (ginger powder is simply dried and ground ginger root.)
Ginger tastes pungent and spicy, adding a nice welcome kick to your pumpkin pie spice blend.
More About Ginger
- Ginger – National Institute of Health
Sweet, aromatic, and potent, cloves come from the flower buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree which is native to Indonesia. The flower buds are harvested and dried then packaged whole or ground.
Pumpkin pie spice uses ground cloves – but not a lot! Cloves are intense, and a little goes a long way. Cloves are slightly floral, woody, and a little astringent.
More About Cloves
Optional Ingredients – Mace, Cardamom, and/or Allspice
Mace is made from a part of the nutmeg seed, but is more delicate and nuanced than than nutmeg.
Allspice is a berry that’s a member of the myrtle family. It’s a warming spice that pairs well with the other spices found in pumpkin pie spice blend.
The tiny black seeds found inside pale green cardamom pods are so delicious ground up and added to fall recipes. I love the delicate, slightly cinnamon-y, almost lemony flavor it imparts. A little goes a long way, so if you add cardamom to the mix, just use a light hand!
How to Make & Store It
Measure out the ingredients, mix them all together in a bowl, pour or scoop it into your spice container, and enjoy your homemade pumpkin pie spice mix all season long! It’s seriously that easy.
What’s a Good Substitute for Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix?
If you don’t have all the spices for your spice mix, don’t worry! Cinnamon and nutmeg should do the trick. I like to substitute about 3/4 ground cinnamon and 1/4 ground nutmeg for pumpkin pie spice in a pinch.
What to Make with Pumpkin Pie Spice?
- Not just for sweet applications, this Turkey Pumpkin Chili calls for pumpkin pie spice – just a bit – for ultimate fall vibes.
- These Soft Pumpkin Spice Cookies (coming soon) call for pumpkin spice in two places – double the deliciousness!
Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- Mix all of the spices together in a bowl. Use a funnel to add to a spice jar. Cover tightly and keep in your pantry for pies, cookies, coffees and more!