I love autumn. Living in Southern California, I don’t have many external cues to mark the changing of the seasons. So instead of leaf peeping, I have fully embraced pumpkin spice season and I ate and drank only pumpkin spice products for an entire day. Since this is a celebration of harvest and of food, hobbit meals fit the theme and helped me get in as many pumpkin spice options as possible. Here’s a roundup of the good, the bad, and the spiced. I kept track of which products actually have pumpkin. I awarded or deducted a wild card “is it cozy?” star when I was on the fence about an overall rating.
Breakfast included my very first pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. This product’s introduction 20 years ago kick-started the “let’s make a pumpkin spice version of everything” trend. I also had a pumpkin cheesecake croissant from Trader Joe’s to start the day. Both the coffee and pastry are delicious! And both actually include pumpkin. Many don’t! They’re just the pumpkin pie spices—cinnamon, clove, ginger, and nutmeg.
I also tried the pumpkin cream cold brew, which has pumpkin in the syrup. With both drinks, the cream and sugar content means the coffee flavor itself is mostly masked. The spice mix is just right. The croissant was perfectly flaky and has a huge dollop of what is essentially pumpkin pie in the middle. The whole experience was delightful and a great way to start the day.
5 out of 5 pumpkins
For second breakfast, I had pumpkin spice Cheerios and pumpkin Greek yogurt. The real catch here is that the yogurt is just pumpkin, not pumpkin spice. It’s kind of gross, proving I’m mostly in it for the spices. Just to be sure, I added a little cinnamon and liked it better.
The Cheerios, on the other hand, do not include any pumpkin and are delightfully spiced. Not surprising really, considering Cheerios has yummy honey nut and apple cinnamon versions already. The cereal left the milk orange and speckled with spices. Every spoonful transported me to some lovely childhood memories so this meal gets the cozy bump as well.
3 out of 5 pumpkins
Elevenses is the most fun meal to say and it was also the most adventurous one yet. Pumpkin spice Cup Noodles sounds like a weird combination but it works better than expected. As you can see, I also tried some with whipped cream. Powdered pumpkin is an ingredient, as are the spices usually associated with instant soup like garlic and onion. The broth and noodles have a creaminess that is confusing but delicious. My taste buds welcomed every slurp but at the same time my brain couldn’t process what was happening.
Pumpkin spice Cup Noodles are hard to get your hands on. But honestly, I would try to find some. It’s a wild experience. They are undoubtedly good but in a weird fever dream sort of way.
4 out of 5 pumpkins
I really tried to like pumpkin spice hummus, which does include pumpkin. I put together a whole plate of dunking options hoping one would match. But the dip is too sweet to really feel like hummus and the usual veggies and crackers just accentuated the problem. I tried it on enough things to feel confident in saying I do not like pumpkin spice hummus and it’s borderline an abomination.
I washed it down with pumpkin spice water. Yes, I added pumpkin spice syrup, which doesn’t list pumpkin as an ingredient, to bubbly water. Predictably, this was also a confusing experience. Pumpkin spice water does not need to exist, but this one’s on me. The company probably expects people to add it to coffee. Let’s just forget this whole meal even happened.
1 out of 5 pumpkins
Here to redeem pumpkin spice after the atrocity of luncheon is afternoon tea. The tea itself, pumpkin spice rooibos from Trader Joe’s, is very cozy and well spiced. A small plate of pumpkin spice madeleines (also from Trader Joe’s) and pumpkin spice mochi ( from My/Mochi) rounded out the experience.
The madeleines are a touch over-spiced, or perhaps it just seems that way since it’s usually a deliciously simple cookie. They do have pumpkin in them. Ginger is listed higher in the ingredients than cinnamon and that’s probably why they seem slightly off. In contrast, the mochi didn’t have enough spice for my taste. While the outer dough really helped make it a pumpkin pie-like experience, the pumpkin spice had too much pumpkin. Interestingly, My Mochi also has an apple pie flavor with the perfect sweet and spice levels, so that might become a fall standard for me.
4 out of 5 pumpkins
For dinner, my husband made a pumpkin spice rub for bison steaks using Trader Joe’s pumpkin spread and the usual pumpkin pie spices, plus salt and pepper. He also spiced apples and grilled those. It was delicious. But we also had a flight of pumpkin spice alcohols and that’s what I’ll be rating here. There were two seltzers, one beer, and one cider. Both seltzers were virtually undrinkable, though for different reasons. The Bud Light one tastes like a candle, some mix of vanilla and artificial flavoring that just doesn’t work. The other had the wrong spice ratio, basically all I tasted was cloves.
The pumpkin beer was unremarkable, not offensive but hardly enough spice to even know it’s there. Considering pumpkin beers usually go too hard on the spice, it’s a nice change but there has to be a middle ground. The cider on the other hand was perfect. The apples and pumpkin went well together. The spice ratio was spot on. It was also the only one that listed ingredients, so I’m not sure if the other three actually have pumpkin. The cider’s perfect flavor unfortunately couldn’t make up for the atrocities of the seltzers, though.
2 out of 5 pumpkins
I had no idea how to do both dinner and supper. By this time it was 9:00 p.m. and I didn’t need more food. But I was happy to keep consuming pumpkin spice products. So, this supper is more of a dessert, hopefully hobbits will forgive me. Target has pumpkin spice hot cocoa, which does not include pumpkin, just the spices. It’s like a less spicy version of Mexican hot chocolate and quite delicious. Add to that some pumpkin spice liqueur (which again doesn’t include ingredients because alcohol isn’t required to) and a lot of pumpkin spice whipped cream (which only says “natural flavors” so who knows whether pumpkin is one of those) and you’ve got a lovely way to end a pumpkin spice day.
The pumpkin sticky toffee cake from Trader Joe’s was the only disappointment. While delicious, I got no pumpkin or pumpkin spice flavors from it at all, despite them all being listed high on the ingredient list. And considering how delicious hot bready pumpkin can be, this almost felt like a cheat to end the day on.
4 out of 5 pumpkins
And I’d Do It Again!
The moral of the story is that I will try pumpkin spice anything. Hopefully I’ve convinced a few of you who think all pumpkin spice products belong in the trash (via a pumpkin spice garbage bag, of course) to give it a try.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.