Pumpkin Spice Latte with Kabocha Purée (Bonus: Pumpkin Pie Spice Recipe)


If every Japan food blogger is required by law to cover okonomiyaki (twice), then every food blogger in the US and Canada is required to offer a homemade version of Starbucks pumpkin spice latte.

The most popular variety has pumpkin purée rather than syrup mixed into it. Whether you live in Japan or the US, you don’t have to worrying about buying canned pumpkin before the Thanksgiving hoarders get to it or even stocking up on the orange pumpkins that seem to disappear on November 1 to make your own purée. Where there is squash, there can be “pumpkin” spice latte. No import store required.

Regarding the recipe size: every pumpkin latte recipe I found (and I have been through at least 20) was American-sized. What is brilliant about Starbucks Japan is the “short” size is offered for nearly all drinks right on the menu; in the US, it’s apparently been a secret menu item according to Slate and Life Hacker. (Short is listed as a size on the Starbucks US website, by the way.)  A short is an 8 oz. cup, a regular coffee mug’s worth of beverage.

Quick math lesson: In Japan and the US alike, tall is 12 oz./355 mL; grande, 16 oz./475 mL; venti, 20 oz./590 mL. One US cup is 8 oz./236 mL. If you order a small, you will get a tall.

Aside from thermoses, oversized mugs are a bit harder to find here, so part of my reasoning for reducing the volume of the recipe was trying to fit it in my mug. The other was to reduce the caloric and sugar intake, which I succeeded in doing.* This recipe serves two, but if you want yours oversized, find a big mug and enjoy it as one serving. Everybody wins.

Finally, the latte calls for “pumpkin pie spice,” but you don’t need to import that. Make this and you’ll have extra for your next fall recipe.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Spice mix and latte recipe inspired by Inpsired Taste‘s “Pumpkin Spice Latte.”

Yields just under 2 Tablespoons

Mix together
1 TBSP cinnamon (shinamon, シナモン)
2 tsp ginger powder (jinjâ, ジンジャ)
1/2 tsp nutmeg (natsumegu, ナツメグ)
Optional: 1/8 tsp cloves (kurôbu, クローブ)

Store in a clean glass jar for spices or small tupperware. I like to make a lot at once and store it in a large repurposed and relabeled cinnamon container.

Short Pumpkin Spice Latte (with Kabocha Purée)

This recipe is gluten-free and can be vegan if non-dairy milk is used.

Serves 2

180 mL (3/4 US cup/6 oz.) strong hot coffee
2 TBSP kabocha purée or pumpkin purée
180 mL (3/4 US cup/6 oz.) milk of your choice (milk: gyûnyû, 牛乳; low-fat milk: teishibônyû, 低脂肪乳; soy milk: tônyû, 豆乳)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (see above), plus extra for garnish
1-2 TBSP beet sugar (tensaitô, てんさい糖) or soft brown sugar (sanônto, 三温糖)
2 tsp vanilla (barnira essensu, バニラエッセンス)

Something in which to brew the coffee (French press, Chemex, coffee maker, instant)
A small saucepan or microwave-safe bowl to heat the milk
2 8-oz. coffee mugs (magu kappu, マグカップ)

1. Brew the coffee a little stronger than usual (add more ground, finer grind, more granules, etc.)
2. Mix the sugar, vanilla, and spice mix with the purée. This will prevent the spice from clumping in the milk.
3. Add the puree mix to the milk and heat over low heat in a sauce pan or on low in the microwave. (Japanese microwaves: I like using the heat-drinks or heat-milk setting, which is usually a button labeled gyûnyû, 牛乳, or nomimono, 飲み物.)
4. When the milk is warmed but not boiling, stir well. Add half of the coffee to each cup and top with half of the milk mixture–use a measuring cup or ladle if needed to pour the milk mixture into the cups. Stir to incorporate.
5. Garnish with a pinch of the pumpkin pie spice. Serve hot. You may get some kabocha sediment at the bottom of the cup at the end; stirring occasionally helps.


* If you’re in the US or Canada, the pumpkin spice latte nutritional information is here. A tall with 2% milk and whipped cream (the standard) is 300 calories/11 g fat/38 g sugar; a short with non-fat milk and no whipped cream is 130 cal/0 fat/24 g sugar (not bad!). We can do this for 89 cal/2 g fat/14 g sugar, though. See nutritional information below.
Nutritional Information
With 2% milk and 2 TBSP brown sugar (total):


12 Comments Add yours

  1. I love this. And you are right: why does canned pumpkin seem to disappear on November 1st?

    1. Leah says:

      I have no idea! I always thought that was strange because pumpkin pie is so popular for Thanksgiving.

  2. Sarah :: JR says:

    Um, I just found your blog (googling kabocha puree for a soon-to-be-made Thanksgiving pie) and it’s FANTASTIC. I am reenergized about cooking in Japan, and it’s been a week where I could really use a pick me up. Thank you so much, and Happy Holiday season (which I can now welcome in, with my fancy homemade pumpkin latte! BAM.)

    1. Leah says:

      Thank you for the wonderful comment–it completely made my day! I hope your pie-making goes smoothly and that you have happy holiday season, too! :D

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