I know, you’ve missed me. I’ve been doing things. Like trying pumpkin flavored things and buying shoes.
I know that the USA’s Pumpkin Spice Season is a joke, but it’s also dead serious important. Don’t act like you don’t like pumpkin flavored nonsense. And please don’t also act like you think it’s really pumpkin because it’s not. Real pumpkin flavor wouldn’t be great. It wouldn’t have that same festive sense to it either, they way cinnamon and nutmeg do, which is what we really go nuts over but it’s just not as appealing to say “let’s go get a cinnamon and nutmeg spice latte” and nobody’s carving a Halloween nutmeg either which is kind of a missed opportunity because I just googled and nutmegs look like little brown brains. Creepy.
I am not ashamed of my love for “pumpkin spice” excess, and I will try most pumpkiny sort of things once. The sad truth is that for something so popular, so widely attempted, I think it is successful less than it is unsuccessful. Pumpkin flavored somethings might be good in theory, but so is working out at 4:30 before you go to the office. Most of the time I find that pumpkin should be left well enough alone, and all the time I find that one should have stayed in bed.
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte
Anyway, the cause of all this pumpkin mayhem is the Pumpkin Spice Latte. I remember when I tried my first one, ten years ago, and I really didn’t think it was all that special. The person who introduced us (me and the latte, that is) raved. He was obsessed. I don’t think he actually even liked coffee, but he sure loved that thing. I came around eventually, though. I feel like the PSL and I have been through a lot. A lot of weird marketing pushes, annoying hashtags, the PSL twitter feed and recipe changes. Things might not be exactly the same between us, but every year when PSL returns, so do I. It’s the OG pumpkin craze, and I wasn’t going to do this review without one.
Brach*s Pumpkin Pie Almonds
The first new pumpkin things I tried were this Pumpkin Pie Almonds. They smelled really sweet in the bag but didn’t smell anything like the familiar pumpkin pie spice. These seem to just be white chocolate around the whole almond and they have a crunchy orange shell.
They taste like straight cinnamon and nutmeg, and while they aren’t bad at all, they are so sweet I can only eat a few at a time. Not a bad thing to prevent eating the entire bag in one sitting.
Stauffer’s Pumpkin Spice Snaps
These Pumpkin Spice Snaps were a safe choice, but I wanted to try them anyway. I grew up loving this brand of ginger snap, and these Pumpkin Spice ones have the same crunchy texture without being so hard you feel like your teeth will break.
They smell exactly like when you open up a can of pumpkin, and while they do have a pumpkin taste to them, I mostly pick up ginger. They are definitely very good, especially if you like these types of spice cookies, but I don’t know that they are so noticeably different from ginger snaps.
Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights
The Little Debbie Pumpkin Delights looked odd to me, because they seem to have a sort of jelly filling. They smelled like pumpkin pie filling and the cookie definitely tastes like nutmeg and cinnamon. I honestly thought the jelly had kind of a citrusy taste to it, though it was considerably spicier than the cookie. Not spicy like salsa but spicy like spices.
Also, they didn’t look like the photo on the box at all. Every single one of these things was smushed, so they all were kind of like blobby looking things that weren’t cute. They were alright but when I ate one, I kept thinking longingly of Oatmeal Cream Pies (which were hugely under appreciated when I was a kid but I love them now.)
Hostess Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies
Hey remember how I said I had never had a Twinkie before? Apparently I still haven’t had one because according to some people I know/live with, these Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Twinkies aren’t real Twinkies. I don’t think I’m going to remember these forever, either.
They mostly smelled like sugar. Not Pumpkin Spice or Cheesecake. The icing was kind of cinnamonish, I guess. The cake didn’t have a discernible taste, and neither did the icing, so basically all I tasted was cinnamon and sugar and calories.
Pumpkin Spice Oreos
These Pumpkin Spice Oreos were around last year, and I remember trying them and thinking they were kind of gross. Well the spoiler is that they still are. They smell nothing like pumpkin pie and the cookie part turns a weird orange from the dye from the filling, which at least resembles pie filling.
The filling tastes way too strong, though, so you definitely need to eat it whole with the cookie (no twist and lick here) or else the fake flavor is too much to be any sort of enjoyable. These taste slightly less chemically when cold, but they don’t taste more like pumpkin.
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joes
I thought more optimistically about these Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joes. Usually Trader Joe’s is pretty solid on stuff like this. These smell more like pumpkin cider, which is an improvement on the Oreos, but they also have a chemical air about them.
These taste almost bitter, like there is too much attempt at nutmeg flavor. The cookies don’t turn any weird colors and they are good and crunchy, but the filling just has this awful taste that isn’t anything like pumpkin. I think I’d rather eat the Oreos than these, which almost pains me to say, but there you have it.
Jones Pumpkin Pie Soda
This Jones Pumpkin Pie Soda smelled just like pumpkin pie. Simple. It tasted just like pumpkin pie. It was a lot fizzier than pumpkin pie. It wasn’t bad at all, but it was very very sweet and I’ve had my fill for probably my entire life. But it was nice to wash down the fake chemical taste of those cookies with a bottle of pumpkin sugar.
Boulder Canyon Pumpkin Pie Kettle Chips
Pumpkin Pie Kettle Chips seem like they might be gross, don’t they? They aren’t really. They don’t really smell like pumpkin anything, and they don’t really taste like pumpkin anything. They tasted like regular potato chips with a light dusting of sugar on the top. The sweetness fades really fast though, so ultimately you are just eating plain kettle chips, which aren’t bad at all.
The biggest disappointment to me about these was that they looked like barbecue chips but they weren’t, so even though I knew they weren’t barbecue chips, a little part of me would get my hopes up, then get utterly destroyed when I didn’t taste any mesquite.
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Cookie butter is really really good and really really dangerous. Cookie butter on a Ritz cracker does me in. I went into this wide-eyed and hopeful.
This did nothing for me. It didn’t smell like pumpkin pie or taste that much like pumpkin pie. It sure had that fake chemical taste to it though. Ultimately I just want regular cookie butter. This is a waste to me.
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Soup Crackers
Pumpkin Soup Crackers claim to taste like pumpkin soup. I really can’t tell you if I’ve had pumpkin soup, but I would swim in a vat of it if it tasted like these. They didn’t have a strong odor but they have a nice salty sweetness to them, kind of like Wheat Thins.
They are light and crunchy, much more airy than Wheat Thins. They are very savory and I definitely would eat them again. I particularly enjoyed them with a piece of medium white cheddar.
Pumpkin Spice Life
Pumpkin Spice Life tastes like cinnamon life but with nutmeg. What did you think it would taste like?
Pumpkin Spice Special K
I tried this Pumpkin Spice Special K since I had tried the apple one, and I wondered what the execution here would be. Those same weird boogery-looking clusters made an appearance in this. Needless. It basically knocked me out with its fake spicy chemical smell, and honestly if you eat a piece without milk, it almost burns the back of your tongue.
It’s frankly too much. The flavor tones down when you add milk but it’s still mostly strong fake cinnamon, which again is not passing for pumpkin spice. I could do without these.
Special K Pumpkin Pastry Crisps
Special K did do something right in the form of these Pumpkin Pastry Crisps. They did smell like pumpkin pie filling and while the white icing on top kind of overpowers the flavor of the filling, you still pick up enough of it to notice.
These crisps are a nice small snack (or option if you don’t want an entire pop tart but you still want to live that breakfast pastry life) and I was really happy with the amount of pumpkin flavor they had. They weren’t overpowering or fake, but I could taste it well enough.
All Pumpkin, All the Time?
I know there are still a ton of pumpkin spice things out on the shelves, but these are the ones I could stomach for now. I’d like to know though, is pumpkin just a big deal in the United States, or is it more of an international phenomenon as well? Do people in other countries make fun of the pumpkin nutso craze? Is there some similar seasonal obsession elsewhere? Is there some pumpkin spice flavored thing I need to try immediately? These are burning questions that demand answers!