Move over, pumpkin spice. These flavors are here to steal the show this fall.
Two blonde bars with stripes of confectioners' sugar icing on an orange plate with fall leaf decor in the background
Credit: Photo by naples34102, originally submitted 10/20/2011

No matter what the calendar says, fall starts the day we see the first pumpkin spice latte — which seems to get earlier every year. And nowadays, pumpkin spice-flavored things are everywhere, with pumpkin spice hummus, pumpkin spice chicken sausage, and even pumpkin spice-scented toilet spray.

And while I hate to break your pumpkin spice-loving heart, somebody has to say it: Pumpkin spice doesn't actually have any pumpkin flavor. Instead, the flavor that we associate with fall is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. These spices combine to create the perfect cozy flavor to enjoy during the cooler months.

But if you're already experiencing pumpkin spice overload, or especially if pumpkin spice is just too much for you in this season, don't worry. There are other fall flavors to try.

This autumn, explore classic comforting flavors that have taken a back seat since pumpkin spice became the supreme ruler of fall flavor. This list is just as good as (or, dare I say, better than) pumpkin spice. You can incorporate these flavors into new fall recipes or use them as a substitute for pumpkin spice.

1. Apple

There's a reason apple picking is a favorite fall activity. The crisp taste of apples is an iconic fall flavor and so versatile in recipes. You can use apples to make sweet desserts, like apple pie and caramel apples, or savory dishes, like chicken and apple stuffing or pork tacos with apple salsa. And no one can say no to a glass of apple cider in the fall — and you can add brandy or spiced rum to make it a grown-ups only version.  

2. Cinnamon

Spicy cinnamon has the perfect flavor for fall, especially when paired with other classics like apple, sugar, or vanilla. Apple and cinnamon are the best fall flavor combo for sweet treats like apple crisp and applesauce, but cinnamon can also stand on its own. Use cinnamon to spice up teapancakes, or quick breads, or stick with everyone's favorite cinnamon treat: cinnamon rolls.

3. Salted Caramel

Even though Starbucks has discontinued their fan-favorite salted caramel mocha, this flavor still holds up as a top fall option. The deep, rich flavors of caramel are accented with a hint of sea salt in this decadent flavor that pairs well with apples, ice cream, or brownies. You can make a simple salted caramel sauce to drizzle on everything, or take the flavors to the next level with salted caramel custard.

4. Maple

If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of maple is pancakes, think again because maple isn't only good for breakfast. Of course, everyone loves sticky maple syrup on pancakes and waffles, and even coffee shops are getting on board with new maple lattes, but this flavor can do so much more this fall. Sweet maple flavor can be used in desserts like maple buttercream frosting, maple cookies, and even pumpkin pie, but it's just as tasty on savory foods like maple bacon, maple-glazed salmon, and maple and chipotle chicken wings.

5. Chai

Before there was pumpkin spice, there was chai to keep you warm and cozy all autumn long. You might recognize some of the flavors in chai as they are similar to pumpkin spice with clove, cinnamon, and cardamom. The classic way to enjoy chai is in tea, but you can also use it to make banana chai bread, chai cheesecake, and chai apple pie.

6. Sage

From the mint family, sage's earthy aroma makes it a great herb for fall cooking. Sage works well in heavy comforting dishes that are filled with flavors that won't be overpowered by the herb. Add this bold flavor to pork and turkey, as well as butternut squash soup and butter sauce for pasta.

7. Pear

Pears are often overshadowed by pumpkins and apples during the fall months, but pears are also at their peak sweetness during this time. So instead of heading to the apple orchard this autumn, pick some pears instead, and use them to sweeten your desserts just like you would use apples. Use pears to create moist almond and pear cake and poached pears, or savory pear and prosciutto pizza and baked brie with caramelized pears.

8. Brown Butter

Brown butter is butter that is cooked long enough to turn the milk solids brown, and thanks to this technique, it produces a deep, nutty flavor. Brown butter can add a rich, robust flavor to desserts, like cookies and icing, as well as savory dishes, like fish and vegetables. Normally when brown butter is made into a savory sauce for vegetables, pasta, or fish additional herbs, such as sage or tarragon, or garlic are added.

9. Ginger

Ginger is typically associated with the people-shaped cookies of the holiday season, but the peppery sweet flavors of ginger make for a tasty fall spice. Fresh ginger has a spicier bite than ground ginger, but both will add a little zing to your recipes. Use ginger to spice up cupcakes, butternut squash soup, and even pork.

10. Bourbon

Bourbon's flavor profile is filled with some of our favorite fall flavors: vanilla, oak, and caramel. And while a bourbon neat or a hot toddy might be up your alley, you can also use bourbon in some tasty fall recipes. Add bourbon to pecan pie, candy, and bourbon chicken for flavorful whiskey-infused food.