Veganized Starbucks Holiday Drinks

Katie Schwartz, Staff Writer

Veganism is becoming more popular by the day, as people are seeing its benefits in areas of the climate, animal rights, and human health. In fact, Mercy For Animals reports that each day someone chooses to eat vegan, they alone save an animal’s life, 20 pounds of CO2, and 1,100 gallons of water, not to mention its positive impacts on overall wellbeing. National coffee brand, Starbucks, is taking advantage of this new and growing customer base, introducing its first ever vegan-friendly drink, one that is plant-based without any modifications. Although, Starbucks had drinks that could be made vegan with customization before, their new 2021 holiday drink, the Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte, is vegan as is. The pay-off of tremendous efforts put forth by the “vegan community” is exactly what we want and need: huge companies shifting their focus, even just the slightest bit, in support of a cruelty-free future.

We know everyone loves options, so why only have one Starbucks drink for vegans this holiday season? Fear not, because we are about to dive into how people can veganize three popular and festive Starbucks drinks. Not only are these drinks going to be made plant-based, but also show a simpler way to make them with items one may already have at home.

First up is the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte, originally made with dairy-based milk, condensed milk, and whipped cream. There are two ingredients that need to be made ahead for this recipe, one of which is the plant whip, which will be used on all three drinks. The second is a dairy-free pumpkin spice milk. For this, start with a cup of plant-based milk on the stove over low heat. Whisk in your spices, and optional pumpkin puree: one teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ginger, allspice, and cloves, then a dash of cardamom. Optionally, you can add 1-2 tbsp pumpkin puree. Let those flavors really infuse into the milk while it comes to a boil. At this stage, remove from heat and let it cool before storing in an airtight container for up to seven days.

Next is a three ingredient whipped cream that could not be simpler. Start with one cup of vegan heavy whipping cream—I find that the Flora Plant brand works well. Whip that in an electric mixer on a gradually increasing speed until the cream begins fluffing up. Slowly add in one teaspoon of vanilla extract, and two or three tablespoons of white sugar. If you would like a sturdier cream, feel free to add in ½ teaspoon cream of tartar. Continue whipping until a thick, fluffy, whipped cream has formed. Then, I veganized the entire PSL by putting that all together, along with some coffee. The coffee pod I brewed for this recipe was the PSL variety, which Starbucks makes naturally vegan, and can be found at most grocery stores. Next, add in your desired amount of our homemade creamer, top with plant whip, a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice, and serve hot. This drink was a success according to IHS senior Priya Joshi who says, “The vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte tasted the most like a Starbucks drink in my opinion, and it looked the most like it too. I was also impressed with the vegan whipped cream. It was really creamy!” 

Next is the Peppermint Hot Chocolate, where we will replace milk, cream, and dairy-based chocolate. The first step to complete for this recipe, now that we have our plant whip done, is crushing up some candy canes. I do this using a mortar and pestle, but simply adding candy canes to a ziplock bag and smashing them gently with any sort of kitchen accoutrement should do the trick. An online blog, All Plants, says candy canes are typically vegan, but be sure to check their ingredients just in case, because some contain small amounts of beetle. Set aside two tablespoons of crushed candy cane. Next, use a hot chocolate mix of your choosing, and prepare according to the instructions. Then, add ½ teaspoon of peppermint extract and one tablespoon of crushed candy cane pieces to your hot cocoa, top with whip cream, the remaining crushed candy cane, and chocolate shavings. Dark chocolate is typically vegan, yet the one used in this menu item is not, so be sure to grab a fully plant-based chocolate bar or chips to grate. Serve in a cozy mug. IHS senior Kyra Schwartz chose this re-creation as her favorite of the three drinks. Schwartz says, “The Peppermint Hot Chocolate was my favorite because I liked how simple it was. The ingredients were basically all things I had in my pantry already, minus the dairy-free whipping cream.”

Last but not least, we are going to create a plant-based version of Starbucks’ Toasted White Hot Chocolate. Milk, whipped cream, white chocolate, and the rice cereal topping will be swapped for vegan alternatives. Vegan white chocolate can be difficult to find locally, so I purchased the “King David” brand white chocolate chips online. Alternatively, you can make dairy-free white chocolate yourself using this easy, five ingredient recipe by Nora Cooks. It includes cocoa butter, shortening, powdered sugar, coconut milk powder, and vanilla. Otherwise, you will just want to microwave three tablespoons of white chocolate chips in 15 second intervals, stirring each time until they are completely melted. Next, heat up or steam a non-dairy milk of choice, such as soy milk. Whisk in the white chocolate. 

Top this festive drink with a dollop of whipped cream, some sprinkles or white chocolate chips, and you are good to go. Many vegans tend to stick with standard colored sugar sprinkles, rather than fancier versions, which typically contain confectioner’s glaze, an ingredient derived from beetles. It appears that this final drink was a win as well, according to IHS senior Sonia Panjwani: “I really like this version of the Toasted White Hot Cocoa, and I’m a little intrigued about how the vegan white chocolate tastes so realistic.” 

These recipes are an easy, homemade, veganized way to do good and spread love this holiday season, all while treating yourself to a festive beverage. IHS senior Eliza Fuhs comments, “I liked all of the drinks, honestly. I don’t go to Starbucks enough to know how similar they are to the real things, but either way they tasted good.” Even simple swaps like this can make a difference. And that’s a wrap (no pun intended). Happy holidays!