Huge, huge news for Starbucks fans: The famous pumpkin spice latte, a.k.a. your beloved PSL, is now in stores again.
In case you’re not familiar with it, the PSL is a seasonal drink with a devoted army of fans (you know, your best friend who just lives for fall). It typically hits Starbucks locations nationwide in late August and stays in stores through the holiday season.
But the return of the PSL raises a big question for pumpkin spice fans with dietary restrictions: Is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte vegan? We’ll just put it right out there: No, it’s not, but the reason probably isn’t what you’d think.
What’s in the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte?
The PSL is made with an espresso and milk base, but it also contains a signature syrup that has flavors of pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove, per Starbucks. It’s topped off with whipped cream and pumpkin spice topping. And, while it’s usually served hot, you can also have it iced. Here are the exact ingredients of the PSL:
Milk, pumpkin spice sauce [sugar, condensed skim milk, pumpkin puree, contains 2 or less of fruit and vegetable juice for color, natural flavors, annatto, salt, potassium sorbate], brewed espresso, whipped cream [cream (cream, mono and diglycerides, carageenan), vanilla syrup (sugar, water, natural flavors, potassium sorbate, citric acid)], pumpkin spice topping [cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove, sulfiting agents]
Is the pumpkin spice latte vegan?
Nope. While you could swap out the cow’s milk in the latte for a plant-based milk like almond milk or coconut milk, it still won’t help. “The PSL is not vegan because the pre-made pumpkin spice syrup has milk,” says Beth Warren, R.D.N., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Secrets of a Kosher Girl. (A Starbucks rep has confirmed to Prevention.com that this syrup still contains dairy for the PSL’s 2020 release.)
That’s kind of a non-starter, points out Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. “Whereas some vegetarians still consume milk, if you’re full vegan, then milk is not allowed on your menu,” he says.
Can you make the Starbucks PSL vegan?
If you wanted to try to rebuild this on your own, Keatley says you could start with espresso and a plant-based milk. From there, you could ask your barista to add vanilla syrup and sprinkle the pumpkin spice topping on it, but you’d still be missing the namesake ingredient: pumpkin puree.
That said, there are a few holiday drinks that can be made vegan at Starbucks, including the Chestnut Praline Latte and Gingerbread Latte, as well as classic apple cider—you may just have to wait a bit later in the season to get your hands on them!
Still craving that pumpkin flavor? You can always take a crack at making your own pumpkin spice latte at home.
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