What is Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Cozy pumpkin pie spice for fall baking

Pumpkin Pie Spice in a bowl.

Evocative of that coziest time of year, when the days grow short and the trees loosen their grip on their leaves, pumpkin pie spice adds a homey touch to cookies, cakes, breads and even roasted vegetables. Beloved by many, pumpkin pie spice has ballooned in popularity in recent years thanks to the prevalence of both flavored lattes and coffee. But what exactly is pumpkin pie spice made of? Does it contain pumpkin? What is it used for? And once and for all, what’s the difference between pumpkin spice and pumpkin pie spice? Well, don your cable-knit sweater and pour yourself another hot mug of coffee while Niblack Foods answers all your pumpkin pie spice-related questions!

What is Pumpkin Pie Spice made of?

Cinnamon, a key ingredient in the blend

Cinnamon, a key ingredient in the blend.

Pumpkin pie spice traditionally consists of three primary ingredients: cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Some blends do incorporate allspice and nutmeg as well, although they’re not as commonplace as the other three.

The inclusion of cinnamon adds a softly spicy background; its aromatic and warming qualities also lend themselves well to baked apples and other roasted fruit & vegetables that need a complement to their subtle sweetness.

Ginger provides a hot and zesty kick, thanks to its constituent compounds: zingiberene, ß-sesquiphelandrene, ar-curcumene, and [6]-gingerol. Gingerol is a not too distant cousin of capsaicin, the compound that gives chilies their spiciness, which explains its similar circulatory benefits and fiery taste.

Finally, cloves – the dried flower buds of a tree native to the Molucca islands of Indonesia – round out the blend with their woody, mildly spicy and near-medicinal flavor. Known for their antiseptic and analgesic (antimicrobial & pain-relieving) qualities, the spice has a strong association with Christmastime thanks to its use in seasonal cooking & fragrance.

But Is There Actually Pumpkin in Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Pumpkin pie spice does not contain any pumpkin. The blend was originally dubbed “pumpkin pie spice” or “pumpkin spice” as a reference to its intended use – for seasoning pumpkin pie. It does bear a strong resemblance to the British Mixed Spice blend, which often includes some or all of the same ingredients as well as a few others, such as mace and coriander.

It should also be noted that there isn’t any difference between “Pumpkin Pie Spice” and “Pumpkin Spice” – the terms are interchangeable, and refer to the same American spice blend.

What Can Pumpkin Pie Spice Be Used for?

Other than the obvious but still oh-so-enticing pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie spice lends itself quite well to a variety of dishes and concoctions that rely on warmth & sweetness. Candied nuts, with a glazed, sweet coating, benefit from a few shakes of pumpkin pie spice, as do roasted vegetables, such as butternut squash, sweet potatoes or even cauliflower!

Chowhound’s Homemade Pumpkin Spice Liqueur is another innovative way to get your pumpkin pie spice fix. Some warm, spiced & sweetened rum makes for the perfect apéritif or digestif at Thanksgiving, Christmas or really just whenever you want a comforting and peppery cordial. Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream never fails to disappoint, either. Yes, even when it’s cold outside!

OK, OK, You’ve Got Me! Now Where Can I Actually Buy Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Coming in either 2.5-ounce or 7-ounce sizes, Niblack Foods can deliver Pumpkin Pie Spice straight to you just in time for sweater weather (or just that homemade pumpkin pie ice cream hankering we talked about earlier)! A family-owned business founded in 1932, Niblack Foods specializes in spices, spice blends and baking supplies. We’re happy to answer questions for our customers via phone or email, or they can come visit us at 900 Jefferson Road in Rochester, NY to ask us in person. Pick up our pumpkin pie spice blend, or do it yourself with cinnamon, ginger, cloves – or even tweak and craft your own with allspice and nutmeg this fall. We’re sure that you’ll be ready to pick a few apples and lose yourself in a corn maze after you whip up some autumnal goodies with our cozy spices, flours, and blends!