The combination of seasonings known as "pumpkin spice" has developed into its own eating season over the past few autumns. Both loved and reviled, the spice blend is like the undying Christmas sweater of fall. If you can't beat it, join it, and throw a party with it as the centerpiece.
With major food makers' recent attempts to capitalize in front of us, it's time to make sense of it all. In a quest for the great pumpkin spice, we tasted eight of the latest (some of them even the greatest) pumpkin spice concoctions.
Frosted Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts
Despite frosting featuring a peppy confetti of yellow, orange, and brown, these tarts tasted of little more than pasty pastry. There was hardly a whiff of pumpkin – nor spice – to be discerned. It was a rough way to begin, as toaster pastry seems like an excellent fit for the genre. Hopes somewhat dashed, we moved on.
Great Pumpkin? Nah.
Pumpkin Spice Cheerios
The roasty, toasty elements of warm cabinet spice should've been a home run. Instead, these Cheerios generated a karate kick of scented candle to the dome, as soon as they scattered out of the box. Oddly, they’re still difficult to stop eating. Corn syrup can be like that. Your brain makes you ask for what your mouth doesn’t want.
Great Pumpkin? Uh-uh.
Pumpkin & Pumpkin Pie Spice Imperial Stout
Two drinkers who don't love beer tasted this beverage and liked it. Perhaps because it was a refreshing reprieve from the oversaturated spicy bouquet of previous tasting selections, but the pumpkin spice here is subtle. The top note is of alcohol, followed by a bit of malt, not unlike a Guinness. Not the most robust representation of the category, yet kitschy enough to bring to a seasonal party and remain on trend.
Great Pumpkin? Sorta. At least it will get you buzzed.
Pillsbury Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Flavored Chips
Now, this is what we’re talking about. These cookies were described by one taster as “What you wish pumpkin pie really tasted like.” Serve them warm and watch the compliments pile up. Admittedly, they're a bit on the artificial-tasting side of the spectrum, but some mad scientist designed these in the manner that slot machine designers make the little cherries and the bells go “bling-bling-bling!”
Great Pumpkin? Hells yeah.
Palmer Pumpkin Spice Cups
Scooped up from Dollar Tree, the old-time Palmer Candy Company offers these somewhat distressing nuggets. These “chocolaty” (read: not-chocolate) cups contain a synthetic essence of pumpkin spice. In practice, it's a bit of a plaster-like consistency delivering little more than sticky sugar with a bit of Glade at the back end. Unless you want edible stucco, avoid.
Great Pumpkin? Hard pass.
Pumpkin Spice Quaker Instant Oatmeal
Wholesome as Wilford Brimley, kids in sweaters, and cinnamon toast, this is the medium that pumpkins and spices were made for. Picture wrapping yourself in a burnt sienna-colored cashmere sweater while Brimley builds a crackling fire. This is #allthefallfeels in a dozen packets. It's limited edition, so act fast.
Great Pumpkin? As great as Wilford Brimley's 'stache is luxurious.
Dannon Light & Fit Pumpkin Pie Yogurt
This is a strangely appealing conduit for the flavor, essentially like whipped pumpkin mousse. It occurs that you could also simply whip some cream into some pumpkin puree and have a standup dessert that way, but Dannon has done it for you. Beware that this is a "diet" product, so a confounding kick of chemical fructose follows the dream whip. But for just 80 calories, it may be worth it.
Great Pumpkin? It's complicated.
Casa Mamita Pumpkin Chipotle Salsa
Can an item qualify as pumpkin spice if the spice in question is smoked chile? Moreover, should it? Pumpkin, aka calabaza, actually factors prominently into Mexican cooking, but this item gave us so much cognitive dissonance that we literally don't know what to do with it. Put it on a chip? Bake it into a pie? Pour it down the drain? This bottle will undoubtedly live in the back of the refrigerator for the next calendar year. Feel free to come by and help us figure it out.
Great Pumpkin? I'm scared.