Pumpkin spice — a warm-sweet spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and often cloves, ginger or allspice — was once reserved for seasonal mainstays like pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread. But after the pumpkin spice latte was introduced more than a decade ago, pumpkin spice became an equal opportunity flavor that is now applied to everything from candy to beer — with mixed, and sometimes terrible, results.
Given the proliferation of choices available to consumers and risk of pumpkin spice overload, the staff of Inland360 sampled more than 10 locally available options and gave each a PSL (pumpkin spice latte) rating out of 5. We invite you to put on your scarf and boots and hop on board the Pumpkin Spice Craze-y Train:
Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte — 3 PSLs
It’s true: not everyone has sampled this benchmark of seasonal elation among the young, white, female demographic. But with its odd orange hue and sweet, artificial flavor, it did not win over any converts on the Inland360 staff.
“It’s too sweet.”
“The coffee overpowers any pumpkin flavor.”
An economical, DIY option for PSL-lovers would be a welcome addition to the autumnal marketplace. This, however, is not that product. Its burnt, plastic-like flavor and aftertaste earned it a unanimous “worst PSL product” vote.
“This one … I can’t …”
“It’s … (disgusted face) … I wish I could take it back.”
Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses — 2 PSLs
If you were wondering how chocolate and pumpkin spice were going to get along, keep wondering. Instead of chocolate, these candies are made of a soft, orange-brown confection featuring the beloved pumpkin spice flavor.
“It’s candy, so I’ll eat it.”
“It’s squishy. Kisses should not be squishy.”
“It’s all right. But I probably wouldn’t eat a whole bag.”
Brach’s Pumpkin Spice Candy Corn — 2 PSLs
The fall-time multicolor classic has been fancied up for the season’s flavor trend. The trouble is, the combination tastes like neither, so the final result appeals neither to candy corn aficionados nor pumpkin spice fans.
“It has a different flavor, but I’m not tasting either the pumpkin or the spice.”
“It’s not horrible, but it’s not right.”
If you’re looking for a seasonal snack to go with your PSL, this boxed cake-and-frosting mix might be just what you’re looking for. The resulting mildly spiced cake and festive orange frosting lacks the full pumpkin-spice flavor spectrum, but it’s doubtful you’ll get any complaints.
“It just tastes like spice.”
“It doesn’t taste like pumpkin, but it still tastes delicious.”
Toll House Pumpkin Spice Cookie Dough — 5 PSLs
This we’ll-make-it-you-bake-it dough results in a homemade-style cookie that edged out ahead of the cupcake in the flavor ratings. The cookie isn’t especially pumpkiny or spicey, but perhaps that is part of the appeal.
“I think the cookie is the best.”
“The spice comes through the cookie after you’re done.”
Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano — 2 PSLs
With a thin orange layer next to the chocolate, these Milanos might look more festive, but they taste the same as their classic counterpart. While they may not taste different, at least the attempt doesn’t taste awful, which is how it earned its rating.
“Zero pumpkin — I just taste chocolate.”
“It just tastes like a Milano.”
Given chocolate’s tendency to overpower the taste buds, Oreo’s pumpkin spice incarnation involves a plain cookie that is neither spice nor pumpkin flavored. That’s right: The frosting is where all the pumpkin-spicy goodness is found. If you can indeed call it that.
“How can they do this to Oreos?”
“This pumpkin spice thing has gone too far.”
Boom-Chicka-Pop Pumpkin Spice Kettle Corn — 3 PSLs
This sweet snack might taste more like a fancy popcorn ball than a PSL, but we happen to like fancy popcorn balls. And you might too.
“I detect no pumpkin at all.” (in robot voice)
“Ooh, there’s frosting on it. ”
Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale — 3 PSLs
Given the fan base stereotype of the PSL, it might have been hoped that this product would appeal to those on the other end of the spectrum. But with its beer aroma and faint pumpkin flavors, it’s safe to say if you like both pumpkin spice and beer, you might enjoy them together — otherwise, move on.
“What? When did pumpkin spice beer become a thing?” / “It’s actually been a thing longer than the pumpkin spice latte.”
“I would not buy it from a store. But if someone left an unopened bottle on my porch, I would drink it.”
Thanks to its subtle pumpkin-and-spice flavors, this seasonal bagel was a delightful surprise for the pumpkin-spice-weary palate. This less sweet, bagely version of pumpkin bread might be a great way to kick off your 21 Day Pumpkin Spice Diet.
“I actually like it — I taste the pumpkin.”
“It’s not artificial tasting.”