Pumpkin pie spice is a spice mix that brings the fall season to mind for many people. Fall is the time of year that pumpkin-flavored desserts and beverages usually make their appearance in the US. If you are a baker and are fond of making fall and end-of-year treats, pumpkin pie spice should definitely be a mainstay in your spice cabinet.
If you are out or find that last year’s pumpkin pie spice has gone stale, just remember that the spices used for pumpkin pie spice are conventional and widely available. You probably have some or all of them on hand. This makes finding a workable substitute quite easy.
Your best bet: Apple pie spice
Apple pie spice is another spice mix that has many of the same ingredients as pumpkin pie spice. Because the spices are mostly the same and in the same proportions, the flavor profiles are also very similar. The two blends get much of their flavor from cinnamon since they both contain more of that spice than any of the other constituent spices.
Both spice mixes also contain nutmeg, ginger, and possibly cardamom to round out their profiles. Apple pie spice mix differs from pumpkin pie spice in its omission of cloves. The fact that it has no cloves makes it a perfect alternative for anyone who does not like the taste of that spice. When using apple pie spice as an alternative to pumpkin pie spice, use exactly the same amount.
A decent second choice: DIY pumpkin pie spice mix
While not quite as convenient as buying premixed spices, making your own pumpkin pie spice is still quite easy. Even better, all of the requisite spices are probably already in your spice cabinet.
To get two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, combine 1-teaspoon cinnamon with a 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves and a 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg. Cardamom and mace are optional. You can play with the amounts to customize a blend. The resulting spice mix can be stored in a tightly sealed jar for up to a year.
In a pinch: Cloves and cinnamon
The combined flavors of cloves and cinnamon are easily the most dominant ones in most pumpkin pie spice mixes. When you think fondly of pumpkin pie spice, these two spices are probably what you enjoy most. Both are complex and pungent enough to be effective without the other supporting spices. When using the clove and cinnamon combination, you can use them in the same amount as you would pumpkin pie spice.
Your other options include using the spices in pumpkin pie spice mix individually instead of the spice mix. The flavor of clove alone can be effective since it is the predominant component in most blends.
Cinnamon by itself is good, and it works well with pumpkin. While single spices are not ideal if you want the complexity of the mix, they can still be effective.
Another option is just to use the spices you like best. If you are a fan of nutmeg but not cloves, you can use nutmeg and mace together to complement each other.