The Vegan Barista’s Guide to Starbucks Holiday Drinks

Vanilla soy chestnut-praline lattes, coconut milk gingerbread lattes, and spicy-sweet Mexican hot chocolates are just a few of our 11 favorite drinks on the Starbucks holiday menu.


Whether you need help to power through your holiday shopping or just want to cozy up and enjoy the frosty weather, there’s nothing that’ll do the job quite like a steaming cup of coffee. And what easier way to get a jolt of java than the ever-ubiquitous Starbucks?

However, similar to many businesses, navigating through the Starbucks menu isn’t always easy for vegans. Luckily, I’m here to help. As a VegNews editor and an eight-year Starbucks barista, I can help you make the best dairy-free decisions while teaching you insider tips for hacking holiday drinks.

For starters, make sure to ditch the dairy, as Starbucks offers organic vanilla soy and single-origin Sumatra coconut milk. Unfortunately, if a beverage is made mostly of dairy (such as lattes or Frappuccinos), substituting soy or coconut milk will cost about 60¢. However, adding a little “condiment cream” to a drink (such as brewed coffees and Caffé Americanos) is free of charge.

With this knowledge in tow, here are 11 drinks that will help you deck the halls with holiday cheer!

1. Peppermint Mochas and Hot Chocolates
These minty marvels are promoted heavily during winter but are available year-round. Cool peppermint syrup combines with rich bittersweet dark chocolate sauce and roasty sweet espresso (omitted for hot chocolates) to create a cup of wintry deliciousness.

2. Gingerbread Latte
Gingerbread syrup is one of the dedicated holiday flavors that luckily doesn’t contain dairy. Have a barista whip up a nutmeg-topped latte to enjoy this snappy classic.

3. Chestnut Praline Latte
With flavors of roasted caramelized chestnuts and delicate holiday spices, one sip of this beverage is akin to curling up next to a roaring fire.

4. Gingerbread Tea Latte
Royal English Breakfast tea is brewed, combined with steamed milk, and sweetened with gingerbread syrup before being topped with foam and nutmeg.

5. Holiday Spice Flat White
This seasonal adaptation of the beloved Australian espresso beverage combines smooth ristretto shots of limited-edition Christmas Blend Espresso with velvety micro-foam. Infused with a warm mulling spice blend of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, sugar, and a touch of tangerine, this drink is made with whole milk by default, so be sure to specify your vegan alternative.

6. Fake-out Caramel Brulée
The toasty-burnt caramel flavor of the dairy-laden Caramel Brûlée latte can be achieved by ordering a latte with caramel and toffee nut syrups. Finish with candied Caramel Brûlée topping (yep, it’s vegan!) for a drink that’s très delicious.

7. Mexican Mochas and Hot Chocolates
Ask a barista to add cinnamon and nutmeg powder on top of the bittersweet chocolate sauce before they pour in steamed milk to infuse a mocha or hot chocolate with warming spice. Cinnamon dolce syrup adds a kick of spicy sweetness as well.

8. Chocolate Dunked Gingerbread
Order a Vanilla Gingerbread Crème (steamed soy or coconut milk with half pumps of vanilla and gingerbread syrups) and top generously with rich chocolate drizzle for a subtly spicy treat.

9. Caramel Apple Spice
Cinnamon dolce syrup is added to steamed organic apple juice, and usually topped with whipped cream and caramel drizzle. Replace one or two pumps of cinnamon dolce with caramel, and rush home to top with your own vegan whipped cream.

10. Chestnut Praline Joy Tea Latte
Pair chestnut-praline syrup with the much sought-after Joy tea and top with steamed milk to create a soft-spicy-sweet treat.

11. Holiday Spiced Chocolate Macchiato
Vanilla syrup-sweetened steamed milk with warm mulling spice is topped with dense foam, and “marked” with caramelly-sweet espresso and a chocolate crosshatch for this deliciously-layered drink.

More tips from a vegan barista …

While whipped cream is out of the question for now, velvety soy milk foam is a close second. Ask a barista to aerate the milk a little longer and add a dollop atop your drink—a perfect fluffy pillow to hold your other additions.

The cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and chocolate powders available at the condiment bar are vegan-approved and perfect for adding extra flavor.

Seasonal toppings such as caramel brulée candy topping, chestnut-praline crumbles, dark chocolate curls, and sea salt are all perfect for vegans.