No other flavor wields quite as much power as the coveted pumpkin spice.
For a few weeks every year, pumpkin spice has almost complete and total dominion over hungry consumers across the US. It surreptitiously infiltrates store shelves and then pantries, appearing as soon as the first tree has dropped its leaves and the humid summer heat releases its sweaty grip.
And every year, the selection of pumpkin spice-ified products expands into new corners of the marketplace. But are any of these pumpkin-y products good? Are they even remotely pumpkin-y?!
Look no further: We – CNN’s Leah Asmelash and Scottie Andrew, connoisseurs of cuisine and casual fans of pumpkin spice – tried a random assortment of these products out so you don’t have to. What we found surprised, disgusted and satiated us for better or worse.
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Batons
Leah Asmelash: Not pumpkin-y spicy enough!!! Punch me in the face with fall or don’t bother!
Scottie Andrew: Fine for stirring my coffee with. Meh on their own. Maybe if they were tinted orange I would’ve liked them more.
The Verdict: DO MORE, TRADER JOE’S!
Pumpkin Spice Hot Cocoa Mix, Good & Gather
LA: I mean, you can’t really screw up hot chocolate.
SA: I opened the bag of cocoa powder and just breathed it in for a moment. Then it kind of got lodged in my throat and I choked for a bit BUT the final product was a perfect blend of pump and choc.
The Verdict: A seasonally appropriate cup of joy.
Hostess Iced Pumpkin Cupcakes
LA: If fall is the taste of orange dye, this is it. But not the worst with coffee.
SA: This cupcake took me back to elementary school lunches, so points for nostalgia, but the frosting had the consistency of a melted candle, so points docked for waxiness.
The Verdict: Good for nostalgia, bad for eating.
Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice
LA: It tastes like they just put orange frosting on a normal mini wheat. Notes of chalk?
SA: Chalky is RIGHT. They’re a bit better when they soften up in milk, but otherwise, just a slightly more sugary miniature wheat.
The Verdict: Fine, if you’re desperate.
Pumpkin Pie PopTarts
LA: Wait … I’m not mad at these. I think I love them. It really tastes like pumpkin pie.
SA: I love when dessert masquerades as breakfast, and I especially love when that dessert is as pumpkin-y as this PopTart.
The Verdict: PopTart gang forever.
Pumking Imperial Ale, Southern Tier Brewing
LA: It’s spicy and pumpkin-y and warm and all the things I want in fall, but in beer form. It’s like drinking a season.
SA: This tasted like someone juiced a pumpkin, fermented it and bottled it. I paired it with some butternut squash mac and cheese and felt like an epicure.
The Verdict: If you’re a beer person, drink up.
Beloved Pumpkin & Tonka Bath Gel
LA: Feels like I’m washing my hands in carved pumpkins and golden leaves. I’m into it.
SA: What a beautiful balance this gel struck between dessert and hygiene. It made my bathroom smell like the Halloween aisle of a JOANN Fabric.
The Verdict: Luxuriously autumnal without overwhelming the senses.
Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Acorn Spice multi-surface cleaning spray
LA: This is what I imagine being suffocated by cloves feels like.
SA: I will admit I bought this thinking it said “pumpkin spice” but clearly I cannot read. Using this to clean felt like I’d spilled some fall-themed fragrance oil and was just spreading it around.
The Verdict: Sticky ick.
Glade Pumpkin Spice Things Up Automatic Spray
LA: It’s like infusing my entire place with autumnal joy. Cover my entire body in this.
SA: The smell was pleasant, but a little goes a long way – trust the woman who cannot wash the pumpkin spice scent out of her hair.
The Verdict: Less is more. Use with caution.
And with that, we, humble connoisseurs of pumpkin, bring this taste test journey to a close. Go forth and enjoy, fellow lovers of fall. But first, here are a few products we did not test this year but highly recommend:
To Califia Pumpkin Spice Latte Cold Brew, Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe Joe’s, Birch Benders Pumpkin Spice Pancake and Waffle Mix, and that one Trader Joe’s pasta that’s shaped like pumpkins – we did not taste you for this test, but we love you. Thank you for your service to the pumpkin.