Starbucks Vs. McDonald's: Which Has The Better Pumpkin Spice Latte?

Have you hit your PSL quota yet for Fall 2020? If not, what's stopping you? Pumpkin spice lattes have been out for nearly two months now and are pretty much everywhere. If it's a fear of being called basic, get over it already. Business of Fashion says that this particular pejorative is pretty last-decade (the term peaked in 2014), and in the 2020s it's time to reclaim the right to like whatever we like. (If you're still embarrassed, you can always claim you're drinking the seasonal treat ironically.)

If you're holding off on the fall drink because your calorie budget — or your budget budget — calls for moderation in all the things, well, we salute your wisdom, but surely one small pumpkin spice latte won't be too much of a deal-breaker before we move on to everything peppermint and gingerbread-flavored. So which PSL should you choose if you're only going to permit yourself one this season? Should it be the classic Starbucks' version, or should you go for the Gold(en Arches) instead?

Survey says: Starbucks is still king of the pumpkin spice patch

NYU Local states that Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte is undoubtedly the pricier of the two, yet a dollar or so in savings may not be overly influential in your decision if this is an occasional seasonal indulgence rather than a daily habit. If you want your foo-foo drinks to be, well, foofy, Starbucks is the only one to actually dress up their latte with much in the way of foamy steamed milk, not to mention whipped cream and those signature spices sprinkled on top if you really want to do it up right. Even when you level the playing field (and the top of your drink) by omitting these extras, a blind taste test by the outlet found that people still preferred the taste of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte over the McDonald's version.

It's not only young New Yorkers that favor the OG PSL. Houston Press says that the McDonald's version of the fall drink lacks the same smooth, creamy texture that you really want in your latte, while Serious Eats finds the McDonald's one to taste of "sugar, vanilla, and chemicals."

Why Starbucks' PSL is better than McDonald's

Spoon University, true to its name, offers up an education on just why Starbucks' PSL is the superior to McDonald's: it seems that theirs is made with actual pumpkin puree, plus real cinnamon and nutmeg, whereas Mickey D's cheaps out with an artificially-flavored pumpkin syrup instead. This syrup also has the effect of making the burger chain's drink taste "insanely sweet!!"

So yes, Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte is definitely worth the markup; but even if you're pinching your pennies 'til Lincoln hollers, there's no need to make do with McDonald's. Instead, Bigger Bolder Baking offers a recipe for a cheaper DIY PSL that can easily be whipped up at home. Simply blend 1-1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree, 1/2 a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 a cup of brewed coffee, and a 1/2 cup of milk. Simmer until warm, then pour into a mug and go to town with the whipped cream and any of your favorite seasonal toppings if you wish. All-natural, all yummy, and — unlike Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte — you can make these at any time of year.