Summer is fading into autumn, and we all know what that means: pumpkin-flavored everything.
More specifically, autumn brings pumpkin spice-flavored everything. The difference is important. As certified snackologist Mike Fahey points out, pumpkin spice is generally a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. These spices are carefully blended in order to mask the taste of actual pumpkin. Mr. Fahey puts it bluntly: “Pumpkin spice is the name for a combination of spices used to make pumpkin taste less horrible.”
I live in the United States, where the fall season happens every single year. It’s awful. The chilly weather, drab colors, and gaudy Halloween merchandise are bad enough; the pumpkin spice craze just adds insult to injury. Every year, as the weather turns painfully cold and Americans celebrate strange pumpkin rituals, I wonder why I ever left the tropics. Ecuador, my homeland, isn’t flooded by freezing temperatures and pumpkin spice-flavored products year after year. What self-destructive, Lovecraftian madness brought me back to Indiana four years ago?
What even started America’s obsession with pumpkin spice? I don’t know, but there are theories. Wikipedia tells me it started in the early aughts, and that Starbucks is to blame.
Seriously, though, this pumpkin spice craze needs to stop. It tinges everything from candles to Oreos to coffee—and when coffee is at stake, I can’t just sit and do nothing.
(For the record, I don’t dislike the pumpkin spice flavor. I’m just tired of it. We need something new!)
Here, then, are some suggestions for alternatives to pumpkin spice. Here are other autumn-appropriate flavors for candy, cookies, coffee drinks, and everything else.
Apples are amazing. Since they’re gathered in the fall, and popular ingredients for cold-weather treats such as pies and dumplings, apples are a perfect flavor for autumn. Just add cinnamon for touch of spicy warmth, and lo! Not only is the apple cinnamon flavor delicious, but evocative of cozy kitchens and fall harvests.
Autumn is the perfect season for bonfires, which also makes it perfect for toasting marshmallows. As I grew up in Ecuador, marshmallows were a rare and delectable treat. (I speak of genuine, toastable marshmallows, mind you, not of the fake, dissolve-into-pink-syrup-upon-contact-with-heat “marshmallows” on Ecuadorian store shelves.) Yes, I love marshmallows. Add chocolate and graham crackers, two hearty ingredients ideal for chilly weather, and you have the s’more.
Marshmallows and chocolate have the added advantages of melting in heat, making them perfect for cookies, brownies, and other baked treats. In cold weather, nothing beats a hot, gooey mess of marshmallows and chocolate.
The taste of gingerbread is basically identical to the pumpkin spice flavor, but with a hint of molasses and no clichéd association with pumpkins. It’s a win-win!
Maple is a strong, sweet, distinct flavor that lends itself beautifully to baking and confectionery. Since the leaves of the maple tree are famous for their stunning autumn colors, maple sugar (or maple syrup; take your pick) seems like a great taste for the fall season. And on the subject of maples….
Fried leaves can’t possibly be worse than pumpkin, right?
For some reason, nuts remind me of autumn. Is that a rational association, or am I just nuts? (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.) Maybe I’m weird, but in my mind, nuts evoke images of baked treats and fall colors. Nuts are not only terrific for baking, but underutilized for coffee beverages. Almonds, walnuts, or pecans complement coffee very nicely!
Nah, I’m just kidding. Fruitcake is gross.
All right, I admit it: I just really want to drink this seasonal Ecuadorian beverage here in the United States. It’s tasty, and I miss it so much. My parents recently brought me back a bottle of the stuff from Ecuador, and I intend to cherish the heck out of it—and then to drink it, of course.
What are your suggestions for alternatives to pumpkin spice? Let us know in the comments!