Food Showdown: The Truth about Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
9/8/2012 10:00 AM   :  90 comments   :  72,054 Views

Fall is in the air, which means that the coffee shops are starting to roll out their pumpkin-flavored treats. Starbucks' infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte officially hit stores this past week, much to the joy of orange squash aficionados everywhere. Though this seasonal latte may be tasty, how does it stack up to a plain old Starbucks Vanilla Latte in terms of nutrition? Both lattes (size ''grande'') are made with 2% steamed milk and flavored syrup. So, is there really that much of a difference? Is there a winner in this battle of the bean, or do both drinks stack up pretty equally?

The Winner: Vanilla Latte!

Although both lattes are made with essentially the same ingredients, the vanilla comes out on top! A ''grande'' size, made with 2% milk and no whipped cream, clocks in at 250 calories and 6 grams of fat, with 35 grams of sugar. The ''grande'' Pumpkin Spice Latte, also made with 2% milk and no whipped cream, weighs in at 310 calories, 6 grams of fat, and a whopping 47 grams of sugar—that's 12 more grams of sugar than the Vanilla Latte, which is equivalent to three whole teaspoons! If you absolutely must indulge in this seasonal treat, slim it down by requesting skim milk and sugar-free syrup (if available at your store), or order a "short'' 8-ounce size for just 160 calories, 3 grams of fat, and 24 grams of sugar.

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  • 90
    The pumpkin spice syrup also has milk products. It's a different syrup then the ones the put in the vanilla and other flavoured lattes. When I requested it made with soy and no whip cream once a intuitive barista informed me that it was still not lactose free. Oh well, no pumpkin spice for me. - 1/18/2014   2:33:12 PM
  • 89
    I request half the amount of syrup with Starbucks' hot espresso drinks. It still gives you some flavor without being so sickly sweet. (artificial sweeteners taste bad to me.) - 1/4/2014   12:08:31 PM
  • 88
    Starbucks isn't real coffee. Just avoid it all together. Its cheaper and better to make a coffee at home. Add more milk to give it that smoothe taste. Skim milk is your choice, but they keep you coming back, raising prices, and increasing your dress size. You're better off running to McDonald's and getting several burgers for the same result as 1 cup of starbucks. - 1/4/2014   8:52:51 AM
  • XTINA56
    Wonder if all the 'Starbucks haters' (due to politics or other nonsensical stuff) shop at Walmart? Their human rights/employment policies should be considered by all businesses. But aside from that, Torani makes pumpkin spice SF syrups, along with dozens of other flavors for those of us who don't want to consume sugar. - 12/3/2013   11:18:56 AM
  • 86
    Order with Skim milk, no whip, and 1 pump of syrup and it's a nice treat!! - 10/26/2013   1:44:48 PM
  • 85
    Love Starbucks coffee and I especially love the Mocha Cookie Crumble. I don't drink it everyday so it is definitely considered a treat! - 10/25/2013   2:56:36 PM
    It is horrifically over-priced and loaded with a million unnecessary calories.....and sinfully delicious. I treat myself to ONE every fall. :) - 8/18/2013   4:56:27 PM
  • GIASBASH6260
    Making your own coffee in the comfort of your own home - now that's a tasty & economically friendly idea :) - 3/2/2013   11:46:54 PM
  • 82
    Sooo much more healthful to make your own with pumpkin coffee at home. CHEAPER, too! - 2/28/2013   5:18:04 AM
  • 81
    A cheaper option (on both the pocketbook AND the waistline), is to just get a grande drip coffee of the dark roast, add a Tbsp of milk or half & half, a packet or two of sugar, and the sprinkle on the cinnamon and nutmeg. 50 calories or less!!! - 2/27/2013   7:19:42 PM
  • 80
    Not sure I go along with reqesting sugar free syrup. Through out different articles you tell us the bad about artificial sweetners then tell us to request something that contains sugar alternatives. Thanks but I will either not order or I will allow for the calories of sugar - 2/4/2013   5:43:56 AM
  • 79
    starbucks is way over priced. I don't care for coffee, but there are other coffee shops around which have much better drinks. - 1/29/2013   11:23:28 AM
  • 78 / / /

    Here are just 3 different coffee companies you can make at home or drink locally - 12/30/2012   2:09:53 PM
  • 77
    I am sorry but if you like Starbucks I know there are better brands out there with better quality beans
    This is a comment I heard from a past upper senior managment from that company

    "I know we do not have the best coffee out there what makes our shops so popular is we pump the aroma of fresh roasted beans thoughout the store"

    You can see why he does not work there anymore but I have been around and tried many different coffees and yes there are many that are so much better in flavor and aroma - 12/30/2012   2:03:40 PM
  • 76
    NO! Don't recommend artificial sweetener to reduce calories. That stuff is poison! How about just budgeting for the extra 60 calories? I pretty much only buy coffee from places like Starbucks in Pumpkin Spice Latte season. Otherwise, I just make my coffee or tea at home. So, going to place like this is a rare splurge for me. Considering this, the comparison between a Vanilla Latte & a Pumpkin Spice Latte doesn't work for me. I usually opt for a "Short" (smallest size) with nonfat or 2% milk, anyway. With whipped cream is really nice, too! : ) - 10/29/2012   3:57:08 AM
  • 75
    Been using Torani Sugar Free Pumpkin syrup in my home french press coffee with some cream - delicious, less sugar, less money. However, I still splurge on this Starbucks treat when I'm out and about - it's a season marker for me. - 10/21/2012   3:32:54 PM
  • 74
    The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is one of those things that you can not substitute something else for. Its a seasonal treat to wait for. I adore it! Tried the pumpkin coffees at other places and nothing compares. So I splurge once in a while on what I love. Calories can be shed elsewhere, but my Pumpkin Spice latte is going no where! - 9/17/2012   1:46:52 PM
    I have found zero calorie flavors for coffee at Ollie's. (discount store)
    - 9/15/2012   7:37:00 AM
  • 72
    I am trying to eat low carb but I love sweet and creamy. when I get coffee at Starbucks I use my own stevia and a little half and half. - 9/13/2012   10:38:00 AM
  • 71
    I cut the calories by ordering a grande non fat latte with just 2 pumps of the pumpkin spice. I also ask them to steam the milk with cinnamon and nutmeg mixed in. It has all the warm spiciness of fall with less sugar. If I want a bit more sweetness I add some stevia (which I always have on hand). Yummy! - 9/12/2012   4:15:10 PM
  • 70
    The other day, as a lark, I tried a pumpkin spice iced coffee. It was good and a nice way to get the quintessential fall pumpkin-y flavor while cutting out some of the calories, but was still crazy-sweet. The barista charged it as sauce, and I'm not sure if they add sauce on top of a flavored syrup or how that works with the pumpkin spice'll take some experimenting. Next time I'll ask to leave out syrup but add pumpkin spice and see if that does the trick. Also, once it cools down here I'll switch it over to hot coffee. Not nearly as indulgent as lattes, but flavoring coffees instead of drinking them plain makes it more interesting. Caramel iced coffees have been my staple summer drink on Starbucks runs. :) - 9/12/2012   1:01:58 AM
    I love the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but it is way too sweet the way they make it. I usually go for a tall, no whipped cream, only one pump of syrup. Even then I usually don't end up drinking the whole thing, as all the sugar seems to collect on the bottom. So I'm probably saving calories there too. - 9/11/2012   4:54:31 PM
  • 68
    However, if you are not worried about calories and you are instead focused on carbs (I have chosen a low carb lifestyle for both weight loss and managing diabetes), if you choose the sugar free syrup it is a difference between 2 and 4 net carbs.
    - 9/11/2012   11:14:42 AM
  • 67
    I don't really care for Starbucks, personally. I don't drink coffee very often, and when I do, I make my own or grab a cup at a local cafe. However, I do have a weakness for the Salted Caramel Mocha. But I hate the idea of ruining my whole day by ordering one drink! My solution? Get the short (8oz., which is the correct serving size anyway!!), with nonfat milk, and ask for about half the whipped cream. :) Does anybody else out there share this weakness?? - 9/11/2012   11:00:47 AM
  • 66
    I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes, but now only treat myself to them on occassion during the fall season. I found a clean eating version that I can make at home, or just add pumpkin spice to my coffee with a small amount of pumpkin spice creamer - good to go! I did indulge myself in one over the weekend, but drank some while it was still hot and then poured the remainder on ice after it had cooled for an afternoon treat. I am very aware of the nutritional information (great for Starbucks to have that online!), and just watched what else I ate that day so I could get my PSL! - 9/11/2012   8:42:28 AM
  • KAR219
    Try Wawa pumpkin spice coffee. The coffee is flavored so there are no extra calories from sugar and it tastes very good. - 9/10/2012   2:56:29 PM
  • 64
    Last year both Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons had a pumpkin spice flavoring for their coffees. Most of their coffee flavorings are not only sugar free, but totally unsweetened. Since I don't like sugar in my coffee, but do enjoy flavored coffee this totally works for me. For those people who do like sweet coffee, sweetner could be added to make it to taste. Just an alternative... that is if they bring back that flavor this fall! P.S. Be sure to ask if it is the unsweetened flavor bc they do have some, such as mocha, that have sugar in them. - 9/10/2012   2:22:15 PM
  • 63
    Starbucks is awfully expense - on ocassion i will treat myself to a pumpkin latte - however my fav is the skinny vanilla latte and i only ever get it as a tall - I am accutely aware of fat and sugar in it .. so I have cut down having a latte to about 1 to 2 a week -- i was having them nearly every day (expensive treat, huh?) - 9/10/2012   11:42:38 AM
  • 62
    Or you could just make your own. Well, I've gotta be honest, what I make is not a genuine latte. In fact, I call them Faux-lattes. lol I don't have an espresso maker, but I make a stiff cup of coffee, add a couple spoonfuls of pureed pumpkin into a big empty cup (big and wide enough to fit my immersion blender- or you could use a regular blender), a dash of each- cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger. Sugar to taste ( I use coconut sugar- YUM!). Pour about 1/3 of your cup of coffee into the cup (or blender) with other ingredients. Use your blender and mix ingredients. While blending, add your cream to taste (I use coconut milk). Pour mixed ingredients into a mug and add the rest of your coffee. viola! Pumpkin spice faux-latte'. XD - 9/10/2012   10:34:33 AM
  • 61
    I am not a coffee drinker and I have never liked Star Bucks because of their politics. They are not truly American. - 9/10/2012   5:17:34 AM
  • 60
    I would never waste money on Starbucks. - 9/9/2012   10:58:00 PM
  • 59
    Just as an FYI - I used to work for Starbucks, and as of when I quit (May 2011) they didn't make a sugar-free version of the pumpkin syrup. - 9/9/2012   10:51:45 PM
  • 58
    No Starbucks for me. - 9/9/2012   9:12:20 PM
    I have found that I can satisfy my craving using pumpkin pie spice and a dash of pumpkin when I brew my own coffee. Saves tons of money and avoids some of the not-so-healthy aspects of the Starbucks stuff.

    It does take a bit of experimenting though, as the pumpkin and the spices can clog the brewer up. But now I know at just what point in the brewing process I can add to the basket to get the flavors, but avoid the problems. Or, one can add directly to the coffee, but that does alter the texture of the brew. - 9/9/2012   5:31:49 PM
  • 56
    I am a former barista (though not at Starbucks), I have always found it easy to make my favorite drinks at home myself. However, every now and then I will stop in someplace and grab something when they have my favorite "special flavors" if I DO head to Starbucks this fall I know how much "damage" I will do or not do! - 9/9/2012   3:53:44 PM
  • 55
    Sometimes its the spice we are looking for, not even the pumpkin itself. Try a sprinkle of 'pumpkin pie' spice, and see if that doesn't do the trick for you. You can buy it at the dollar store. - 9/9/2012   3:50:28 PM
    Love fall and pumpkin latte but I might just have one instead of overindulging in many this year and really enjoy the flavor!!!! One is better than none. - 9/9/2012   3:38:52 PM
  • KPA1B2
    I only go to Starbucks once or twice a year. I'm not going to worry about the calories when I do go. - 9/9/2012   2:55:10 PM
  • 52
    I suggest trying Pumpkin Spice from Gloria Jeans you can buy it several ways and enjoy it a home with a lot of less wasteful calories. It is a seasonal flavor I buy every year. - 9/9/2012   2:54:16 PM
    The extra calories don't bother me nearly as much as the high sugar load. Fortunately, although I love pumpkin in general, pumpkin lattes have never appealed to me. - 9/9/2012   2:16:56 PM
  • 50
    I *might* go to Starbucks a handful of times in any given year, and Pumpkin Spice Latte is my absolute favorite! If I'm going to indulge in a flavored latte anyway, I might as well make it worth the extra calories buy getting something I really enjoy. An extra 60 calories a couple of times a year is not going to break the calorie bank... - 9/9/2012   2:05:01 PM
  • CARLAJ12
    Occasionally I will go to Starbucks as a "treat", and I order my Mocha Latte Skinny and I do not think the taste is any different. A tall is just enough to indulge a sweet tooth and get a caffeine bang from the coffee - 9/9/2012   12:23:54 PM
  • 48
    I was at Starbucks yesterday having coffee with an old friend. I saw that they had the pumpkin spice latte's out again for the season and I chose to drink a regular latte with no syrup (what I usually order). Man am I glad I did now. No regrets. - 9/9/2012   12:16:18 PM
  • 47
    I dont know why but I can never get interested in all these flavored lattes or mochas. I used to indulge in a white mocha once in a while but the essence of coffee is lost in these starbucks drinks. It doesnt taste like coffee anymore...Be it Vanilla latter or pumpkin latte 35-47 grams of sugar is horrible...seriously 35grams,..relatively it might be better but whats the point.....both are bad for ya. I would rather get some plain and jazz it with natural flavors with coconut milk, almond milk... - 9/9/2012   11:33:48 AM
  • 46
    Starbucks coffee tastes bitter to me; I think they burn their beans and don't understand why they're so popular. Their lattes are a different story, and I'm well aware it's because of all the sweeteners. I very occasionally treat myself to one when I want a little something special, and pumpkin is my passion. So I'll continue my tradition, but with the actual numbers staring at me, I'll get the 8-ounce cup. - 9/9/2012   11:31:50 AM
  • 45
    Having information to make a choice between two treat options is always good. - 9/9/2012   10:53:17 AM
  • 44
    Starbucks used to be a twice a week treat for me a few years ago. Then I lost my job and couldn't afford it anymore. I've learned to make my own coffee that tastes better than what I was getting at Starbucks. I've also gotten a coffee pot that will make either a whole pot or just one cup for me so that I'm not wasting coffee. Just making my own coffee has saved so much money for my family. I can't see going back to Starbucks.

    I really appreciate the recipes that are listed here so that I can make my own version of the pumpkin spice latte. I usually make my coffee with just a little bit of real cream and real sugar. It's figured into my diet and that early morning treat makes all the difference to my day. It's completely indulgent but it's my just for me time. It boosts me up before I go off to teach. - 9/9/2012   10:47:59 AM
    And that's why I make mine at home. No syrup goes in, I use skim, and little to no sugar. It tastes a lot better & I can see what's going on. Plus, I don't need an expensive machine, just a coffee maker & microwave! - 9/9/2012   10:47:36 AM
  • 42
    Yeah I refuse to drink my calories unless it's a protein shake. Those have a purpose.. help bringing up your protein for the day! Thank's Starbucks but I choose to eat over sip a non filling coffee flavored COKE - 9/9/2012   10:27:20 AM
  • 41
    A Starbucks just opened in my neighbourhood. Litterally a 5 minute walk. I saw the sign for the two new fall treats. First reaction was yuck on the pumpkin. I don't like pumpkin at all but now more informed I'd like to try the vanilla but a short made with skim milk & sugar free flavouring! - 9/9/2012   10:26:07 AM

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