Fall beckons with ripe apples and mulled cider, but it’s really the seasonal pumpkin drinks that have my heart. Somewhere in the midst of summer, the countdown is on for pumpkin spice latte (PSL) season. And once it’s here, I've been known to get a daily Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino—until I saw the nutrition information, that is.
With the original Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino, the sugar and calorie counts are off the charts. Shocked (but unwilling to live life without this autumnal gem), I set out to make it over at home with ingredients that are kinder to my body—but still full of the incredible pumpkin spice flavor.
Turns out a healthy version of a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino really isn’t that hard to make. A simple switch-up of ingredients results in a good-for-you (yet tasty) version of the original.
Think organic pumpkin purée, coconut or almond milk, and pure maple syrup to replace the artificial flavoring, dairy, and processed sugars. Now that I’ve perfected a guilt-free recipe, I'm ready to save both money and calories by cutting out my daily habit.
You on board?
Put in real pumpkin.
Let’s talk about what goes into most coffee shop frappés: loads of artificially flavored syrup made with lots of refined sugar, full fat sugar-sweetened whipped cream, and no sign of real pumpkin anywhere.
One look at that ingredient list, and it’s easy to see that the first way to upgrade the PSL is to put real pumpkin in the recipe. Pumpkin is chock-full of vitamins and minerals, so why not add this nutritional superstar to your mug? Pumpkin contains dietary fiber and is a rich source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that boosts vision and lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Quick Tip: Freezing the pumpkin purée in an ice cube tray was the best method for perfecting the consistency of this drink while not diluting it like regular ice cubes would. Look for organic canned pumpkin purée or organic pumpkin pie mix, which can be found in most grocery and natural grocery stores.
Swap the refined sugar.
Let’s revisit the sugar content in classic frappés. Ready for the shocker? A 12-oz. drink has 48 grams of sugar, and a 16-oz. size has a whopping 73 grams.
Just to put that in perspective: The American Heart Association recommends that men limit sugar intake to 37.5 grams per day and women, 25 grams per day. Just one drink is taking you well over the limit, offering up the sugar equivalent of two or three candy bars in one sitting.
In our recipe, we’ve swapped out all the artificial syrups that contain sugar, sugar, and more sugar and added in a favorite natural sweetener, maple syrup. It brings the sugar count way down to about 18 grams for a very large mug.
Added bonus: Maple syrup is more nutrient dense than table sugar, with manganese and iron to aid in improved immunity and metabolism of carbohydrates and fat.
Maple syrup contains up to 24 different antioxidants and phytochemicals, making it a smart choice for taming the inflammation that leads to chronic disease.
The best part? It tastes great and boosts that autumn-kissed caramel flavor that pairs so nicely with pumpkin.
We swapped out the dairy in this drink for unsweetened coconut milk, but you can also use almond milk. Whether you’re a plant-based eater, paleo lover, or simply trying to avoid lactose, both of these dairy-free options make for a tasty frappé. You won’t even miss the dairy.
(Pssst... Want to know more about a dairy-free diet? Check out this article about what you gain from cutting dairy out of your diet.)
Almond milk has fewer calories than whole milk and is both cholesterol and saturated fat free. If you buy the unsweetened version of almond milk, it has 0 grams of sugar, compared with the 12 grams of naturally occurring sugar in dairy milk.
Coconut milk is also lower in calories than milk and contains 0 grams of sugar. It does, however, contain medium chain fatty acids, bringing the fat content closer to that of dairy milk as compared with almond milk (although the fats in coconut milk may actually raise your good levels of cholesterol).
Coconut milk has some amazing health benefits, from stabilizing blood sugar levels to taming inflammation to improving heart health. So drink up!
Most coffee shops top their frappés with a beautiful dollop of whipped cream. Since I’ve mentioned above that dairy is not my friend, I’ve got a vegan whipped topping that’s lip-smacking good. It starts with a can of full-fat coconut milk. The key is to chill the can for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours, which hardens the fat in the coconut milk.
About 15 minutes before you’re ready to whip, chill your whisk attachment and mixing bowl. You’ll need to carefully open the can of coconut milk, pour off the liquid, and place the hardened cream in the mixing bowl.
Add the sweetener and whip on high for a few minutes. You now have a luscious, rich, dairy-free topping! Sprinkle on a dusting of natural coconut sugar and you’ve got a delightfully healthy coffee shop drink.
Or save time and look in the freezer section of most health food stores for a ready-to-use vegan whipped topping. Either option makes a great topping for this blender drink.
Dive head first into fall and sip a cup of pumpkin goodness. Swapping out your favorite coffee shop drink for a healthier version saves you calories, reduces sugar intake, and is easy on your wallet. Why not get your blender out now?
Once you’ve savored a healthy, homemade version of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino, you’ll never want to wait in line at the coffee shop again!
Healthy Recipe Copycat: Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino
A switch-up of ingredients takes the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino and gives it a healthy twist. Make this at-home version and shave major calories, reduce sugar intake, and enjoy whole food ingredients that are good for you!
Watch the video to see how we made it, then look below for the recipe and other healthier alternatives to your favorite specialty drinks.
Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: Overnight
Active Time: 5 minutes (Total Time: 24 hours)
* 1 1/4 cup coconut milk
* 1 1/4 cup organic pumpkin pie mix or pumpkin puree
* 1 (12 oz.) bottle cold brew coffee
* 1 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
* 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
* Vegan whipped cream
Pour coconut milk in an ice cube tray. With a small cookie scoop, scoop pumpkin pie mix into another ice cube tray. Freeze overnight.
When ready to blend, place coconut milk and pumpkin ice cubes in a hi-speed blender. Add coffee, 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1/3 cup maple syrup. Blend until puréed.
Top with vegan whipped cream, drizzle with 1 teaspoon maple syrup, and garnish with 1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.
Serve and enjoy!
Even More Coffee Shop Swaps
If you’re looking for healthy versions of other popular seasonal fall drinks, here are a few we recommend.
Skinny Pumpkin Spice Latte
Sip on a steaming mug of this delightful skinny brew! Make your own skinny pumpkin spice latte and shave calories and sugar by using this delicious recipe.
For the recipe, visit the Happier Homemaker.
Starbucks Copycat Chile Mocha
Spice up your day with this better-for-you version of the Starbucks Chile Mocha.
It’s got a hint of heat to keep you cozy and warm, and it’s made with almond milk and raw sugar for a healthier way to sip.
For the recipe, visit the Foodie and the Fix.
Salted Caramel Latte
The healthy fats in this salted caramel latte can boost your immune system and metabolism. It’s got both coconut oil and grass-fed butter melted in with a drizzle of raw honey on top.
For the recipe, visit Wellness Mama.