Where Did Pumpkin Pie Spice Actually Come From?

When the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger are combined, they create a ubiquitous mix that we've come to know and love as pumpkin spice. These days, there's no shortage of foods that are infused with the pumpkin spice flavor, but it wasn't always that way. According to McCormick's website, they invented what we know as the infamous blend when they created the pumpkin pie mix in 1934. The combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice got its name because it's the blend of spices traditionally used in a classic pumpkin pie recipe.

What originally began as a seasoning for a holiday pie, though, has evolved into something much bigger. Every year when fall arrives, this blend of spices seems to be found in nearly everything — from coffee and baked goods, to cereals, and even cream cheese. Since the pumpkin spice flavor has become so common in culinary culture, it may be hard to remember a time when it wasn't as popular as it is now.

The spices aren't as new as the mix

Better Homes and Gardens reports that McCormick created pumpkin pie spice as a response to Libby's canned pumpkin, which was introduced in 1929, but the spice blend's history apparently dates back even further. A recipe found on Google Books for "pumpyion pye" from 1675 calls for the baker to use cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as clove and pepper. Nutmeg is an ancient spice, and according to History, nutmeg residue was found on ceramic pottery estimated to be around 3,500 years old. Despite the intricate history, pumpkin spice has soared in popularity the past two decades.

As detailed by Scientific American, the United States' obsession with the blend began when the Pumpkin Spice Latte debuted at Starbucks in 2003. Once the coffee giant launched their quintessential fall drink, it opened the door to introducing those flavors in other big ways. As Forbes has previously noted, pumpkin spice flavored products are a big business and topped around $600 million in sales in 2018 alone. The flavors of this spice mix are steeped in a rich history, and have enjoyed an incredible boom, but will its popularity continue to rise? We'll just have to wait and see!