I’m a former Trader Joe’s employee who tried every pumpkin-spice-flavored item at my local store. Here’s what I’d buy again, and the one thing I hated.
I started working at Trader Joe’s in the summer of 2021. I was going into my senior year of college, and summer internships were still being canceled because of the pandemic, but luckily a Trader Joe’s opened 10 minutes from my parents’ house.
I applied and was told by the manager at that time that I had “smiling eyes.” My coworkers confirmed I had the “Trader Joe’s personality”: friendly and queer, with a shag haircut and Baggu masks.
During my time there, I ate lots of Trader Joe’s food. There was always something open to share in the break room, and since employees get 20% off, I was constantly buying snacks during my shifts.
As a self-professed Trader Joe’s connoisseur, I decided to put my tasting skills to the test to review all its pumpkin-spice offerings this fall.
Most of them were sweet things, like cookies. But there were some surprising outliers, such as the pumpkin-spice hummus and the Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Batons.
First I tested the pumpkin tortilla chips so I could also try the pumpkin-spice hummus
The tortilla chips surprised me — I thought they were going to taste like a cinnamon Dorito, but they were quite savory with a hint of sweetness.
If you like mango salsa, you might like these chips.
The chips with the hummus tasted bad
It wasn’t the chips.
I followed up by dipping my finger into the hummus and eating it straight. The pumpkin-spice hummus sucked.
“Hummus should not be sweet,” said my partner, who is Afghan and Palestinian and who also worked at Trader Joe’s. I agree: It tasted like baby food and pumpkin puree.
The pumpkin-spice espresso beans — crunchy espresso beans covered in pumpkin-spice chocolate — were my favorite
I found that the intensity of the espresso bean is better balanced by the pumpkin-spice blend than the normal chocolate coating. The juxtaposition of flavors and textures was delicious.
If you’re a fan of Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered espresso beans, you’ll love these. I’ll be stocking up on them.
There were 4 types of pumpkin-spice cookies on offer
I would bring the Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies to a function because they are adorable, on theme, and easy to share.
I was and am disappointed that this cookie was the only pumpkin-shaped pumpkin-spice item I could find at Trader Joe’s. However, I will say these cookies are super cute and made me feel like I was in kindergarten again.
If you’re a parent, you could get these for your kids. If you’re tired and want to feel the exuberance of youth — even if only momentarily — these are also for you.
Aside from the cookies’ appearance, the shortbread tasted great, and the sprinkles were an excellent touch, adding a welcome layer of texture.
The pumpkin-spiced madeleines were definitely the underdog of the bunch
The subtler pumpkin spice in these madeleines doesn’t hit you right away, which made it one of my favorites.
I could see myself buying these regularly as a treat to dip into my morning coffee. They were also extremely soft and light.
The Pumpkin Spice Batons were meh
If you handed me one of these batons and asked me what flavor it was, I would reply, “Vanilla?”
The batons had a good crunch, but there was no trace of the classic spice I expect in a pumpkin-spice treat.
The Pumpkin Spiced Joe-Joe’s are T-H-I-C-K
These cookie sandwiches tasted more spiced than pumpkin. The sea salt in the yogurt-flavored coating helped balance what could have been an overwhelmingly sweet cookie.
The sandwich cookie was the sweetest of the four cookies I tried — and the least snackable, because of its size. I wished there were a dark-chocolate element in the mix with this cookie.
The wild card: A cashew yogurt alternative with pumpkin spice and a hint of coconut cream
Like many people, I am lactose intolerant, a condition I often ignore. So I was excited when I saw dairy-free yogurt.
But initially this tasted like alcohol, which confused me. I thought, “How is this fermented if it’s nut-based?”
I waited, tried it again, and found it had more of a sour taste, which I don’t mind. But if you’re looking for a sweet, creamy yogurt, this is not it.
The epitome of pumpkin spice: Pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds
I thought Trader Joe’s pumpkin-spice pumpkin seeds were an original and deliciously iconic creation. This snack won bonus points because the seeds were already shelled.
The crunch effect is in high gear and makes a perfect munchable snack for fall. The pumpkin seeds would be a great add-on to cereal, oatmeal, parfaits, loaves, granola, and more. The possibilities are limitless.
I was shocked by how much I liked the pumpkin-spice rooibos tea
When I opened the tin, it smelled overwhelmingly sweet, and a feeling of dread came over me. I’m an avid tea drinker — three to five cups a day — and I dislike sugary blends. But I was surprised. Chilled or hot, this tea tasted comforting and was more spiced than pumpkin.
If you like Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Lattes, get Trader Joe’s pumpkin-spice coffee
To me, this tasted like the cheaper coffee version of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.
The dark roast doesn’t overpower the hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and pumpkin, but brings them out. The coffee is great on its own or iced. Adding sugar and creamer maximizes the PSL-ness, making it a great alternative.