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From Sensational to Sickening: A Review of Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Foods

Ah, fall. That magical time of year when the leaves start to change, the temperatures get cooler, and you can spend a Friday evening huddled around a campfire singing Kumbaya …

Who am I kidding? I live in West Texas and the only semblance of fall around here is the fake pumpkins on my mantle, Halloween costumes in the stores, and Friday nights at the local football game.

Enter Pumpkin Spice Latte. AKA PSL.

I live for this drink to come out each fall. I have been known to drink one in 100 degree weather without shame. I will continue to drink them until the Christmas drinks arrive in their pretty red cups around Thanksgiving. Shout out to the Eggnog Latte.

PSL has become so popular that it even has its own Twitter account. Some of us, not mentioning any names, watched PSL be “born” live on Facebook this year.

With the rise in popularity of PSL, the rest of the food industry has taken notice and started creating ALL THINGS PUMPKIN SPICE. And let’s be honest, it’s borderline insane.

Stores dedicate entire sections to that magical cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and clove concoction. I’ll dare to say that even if PSL isn’t your cup of tea coffee, you’re curious as to what some of these products actually taste like.

Therefore, I took it upon myself to taste test a variety of pumpkin spice flavored offerings, you know, in the name of research. Here are my findings:

** Full disclosure** I am not a food writer or critic and have never received actual training in the science of tasting foods or beverages. I am just an average woman with curiosity, an appetite, and a love for all the pumpkin things. Also, I’d like to note that every product I chose is premade (ain’t nobody got time for all that baking!) and free of gluten ingredients as I live with Celiac Disease. I also drew the line at things like pumpkin spice flavored cough drops, gum, and ChapStick. Just, no.

Snack Bars/Snacks

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This category has A LOT to offer! Everything from protein bars to cereal bars and everything in between I could probably write an entire post about bars alone. I chose an RX Pumpkin Spice Bar and a Caramel Almond Pumpkin Spice Bar. I eat a lot of snack bars during my workweek, so I was excited to try some seasonal variety. I also tried some pumpkin spice almonds.  I had no other category to put these in, but almonds are snacks, right?

  • Kind Bar. If you like Kind Bars in general, this one will not disappoint. The caramel almond flavor does overpower the pumpkin spice flavor. Also, it almost felt like dessert. Will definitely eat again!
  • RX Bar. If you’re the paleo/super healthy/don’t eat for pleasure but you want to still feel festive type, this is the bar for you! I am not that type, and had I not packed this as my sole source of sustenance on a Kindergarten field trip I would not have eaten more than one bite. AWFUL. Shame on you RX Bar for even attempting this. May God have mercy on your soul.
  • Planters Pumpkin Spice Almonds.  These were sweet, crunchy, and had a VERY subtle pumpkin spice flavor, so subtle in fact, had they not been labeled pumpkin spice, I could not have told you it was there.

Candy

Immediately looking for redemption from the appalling RX Bar, once I survived got done with my son’s field trip, I decided to try the two candies I purchased. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about pumpkin spice chocolates. I love chocolate, and I love pumpkin spice but I did not see the two going together.

  • Lindor Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Truffles. These are SO GOOD! I don’t even think I’ve ever had a Lindor Truffle before, but this had all the requirements of a good, quality chocolate: nice outer “shell,” smooth/creamy center, and rich enough that you’re good with only one. The pumpkin spice flavor was very subtle but noticeable.
  • Pumpkin Spice Hershey Kisses. Stay in your lane Kisses. Stay in your lane. These were very heavy on not just the pumpkin spice flavor but also the artificial pumpkin spice flavor. Its color and flavor are as if they took the actual PSL syrup and made it into a Hershey Kiss. I’d imagine on top of a snicker doodle cookie they’d be more palatable but alone, not enjoyable.

Coffee Creamer

The amount of pumpkin spice coffee creamers and premade pumpkin spice coffee drinks on the market is a pretty clear indication that we love us some PSL, but we don’t always love the price tag and/or inconvenience of having to go all the way to Starbucks to get one. I narrowed mine down to three brands of just creamer. I’d imagine the Starbucks premade PSL in a bottle tastes pretty close to the original.

  • International Delight Pumpkin Spice. This one had just the right amount of creaminess and pumpkin spice flavor with a nice cinnamon finish. It wasn’t overly sweet either. If you like both PSL and Cinnamon Dolce lattes, you’ll enjoy this one.
  • Natural Bliss Pumpkin Spice. I’ve been drinking this brand pretty much since it came out, so I had to try this flavor and it did not disappoint! It was creamy and not too sweet with a nice pumpkin spice flavor. It also didn’t taste artificial. Will keep this one stocked through the season.
  • Coffee Mate Pumpkin Spice. In the words of my 2-year-old “it’s not my favorite.” This one tasted very artificial and was way too sweet for my taste. I honestly didn’t finish the cup of coffee I put it in, and I take wasted coffee (and wine) seriously. If you like the taste of concentrated pumpkin pie in your coffee, this one is for you.

Breakfast

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OK, this is a hodgepodge category. I have a gluten-free doughnut, Cheerios, yogurt, and cream cheese. No, I did not try all in one sitting. Pair any of these with a PSL and/or the aforementioned creamers and you’ll be in in a pumpkin spice coma. You have been warned.

  • Kat’s Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Donut. First of all, shout out to a gluten-free company for being the only pumpkin spice doughtnut in the freezer section. I had to try it. Warm this up for about 15 to 20 seconds, and you have a delightful cakelike doughnut reminiscent of a pumpkin spice cake. It’s a little heavier on the ginger but still very tasty. My 2-year-old also loved it and can eat “real doughnuts.”
  • Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese. I tried this on a gluten-free gingerbread muffin, on a gluten-free waffle, and on plain gluten-free bread. I might have taken a bite straight from the tub. I’d eat this on a shoe. Its creamy, cheesy, and has just enough pumpkin spice.
  • Pumpkin Spice Cheerios. I’m not a big cereal eater, but my kids like it as a snack. These have a subtle pumpkin spice flavor with a little extra cinnamon. I’m not sure I could eat a whole bowl of these, but they’d likely make a nice dessert bar. My kids have asked for them daily.
  • Chobani Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt. I eat yogurt daily and am quite particular. This tasted like a guilty indulgence! Creamy, smooth, and just a little tart. The amount of pumpkin spice was perfection in a cup. Throw some of those pumpkin spice almonds in there and you have one protein packed pumpkin spice snack.

Ice Cream

And finally, the pièce de résistance! Dessert! I opted for a good ol’ full fat ice cream from H-E-B. Side note, if you’re not a Texan or do not live in Texas and do not know what H-E-B is, I’m sorry. Head over to Alamo City Moms Blog and they’ll tell you how great this food chain is! I also really wanted to try Halo Top’s Pumpkin Pie but, le sigh, it had gluten in it.

  • H-E-B Creamy Creations Pumpkin. Creamy, pumpkin-y, a little heavier on the nutmeg and so so so delicious! Almost like a frozen pumpkin cheesecake filling. I may need to stock up on this one!

There you go! Now that I have fulfilled my pumpkin spice quota for the century, what are your favorite seasonal creations?

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