Pumpkinpalooza: We tasted, rated 14 of Trader Joe’s autumnal specialties

Which pumpkin products scored with us? And which recipes should Trader Joe’s reformulate?

With the exception of Half Moon Bay, no one does pumpkin season quite like Trader Joe’s. The autumnal product lineup, which appears to have arrived earlier than usual, includes a sizable number of returning bestsellers as well as a few new options. We purchased two grocery bags of snacks and treats and tested them. Here are the outcomes:


In our informal tasting, Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps ($3.99) and Pumpkin Cream Cheese ($2.49) received the highest marks. The crackers, a seasonal twist on Trader Joe’s Raisin Rosemary Crisps and Fig & Olive Crisps, are a sophisticated snack that would be ideal for a Thanksgiving appetizer tray. “Crisp, munchable, good texture” summed up the consensus, with a nice pop from the cranberry. We served them with seasonal cream cheese, but one taster suggested that “they could pair well with a soft cheese like mascarpone or goat.” The cream cheese was a hit with all of our tasters. “Nice, with just the right amount of pumpkin flavor.” Trader Joe’s, of course, sells pumpkin-flavored bagels.

Fall Leaf Corn Tortilla Chips ($3.99) and Fall Harvest Salsa ($3.49): “Nice and savory,” said one taster. Put this zesty salsa — a perennial TJ’s favorite — on the coffee table for football fans, and they won’t realize they’re getting a serving of vegetables while yelling for Deebo to gain more yardage. The main ingredients are pumpkin and tomatoes, followed by tomatillos, butternut squash, bell peppers, and jalapeos. Another taster described it as “somewhere between a salsa and a soup” — something TJ’s has also thought about. According to the website, you can make a fall soup by heating a jar of this with Organic Vegetable Broth.

Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Cakes ($3.99): “Decadent” is an understatement for this dessert. According to the label, the first two ingredients are brown sugar and butter, followed by pumpkin and dates. Is there anything not to like about that? One reviewer called it “pull-at-your-cheeks sweet… and quite delicious!” Each freezer box includes two cakes. It might be a good idea to get some for the upcoming cold nights; these are expected to sell out quickly.


Pumpkin Kringle ($9.99): TJ’s popular Kringle, a seasonal family-size Danish, now comes in a pumpkin version that customers say is delicious when heated up. One Reddit user described it as “a pumpkin pie inside of a cinnamon roll.” We were split. Some people praised it, calling it “addictive.” Someone else commented, “Edging on oversweet, but I could see it pairing well with coffee or tea.” And one person said it was too sweet.

Pumpkin Brioche Twist ($4.99): This colorful bread has a nice pumpkin and cinnamon flavor, but our loaf was a little dry. One taster suggested toasting it and serving it with butter or cream cheese. Even better, how about French toast or bread pudding?

($4.99) Organic Pumpkin Spiced Granola Bark: This seed-heavy bark wasn’t bad, but it didn’t win any awards. “This is more granola bar than bark.” “This could make a good hiking snack,” one person suggested. Overall, it feels too healthy to “scratch the itch of cozy indulgence.”

Pumpkin Spiced Teeny Tiny Pretzels ($3.49): Some of our tasters thought these pretzels could use a little more pumpkin flavor. However, they are tasty enough. “This sweet treat is balanced enough by the saltiness to be snackable,” a person commented.

Pumpkin Spice Batons ($2.29): These 7-inch-long rolled wafers with a “light and satisfying crunch” go well with coffee or dessert. We’d like them better if the pumpkin filling was more flavorful. According to one taster, “light, pleasant pumpkin seed flavor but not strong enough to draw me in.”

Greek Nonfat Yogurt, Pumpkin (99 cents): This product received mixed reviews. According to one taster, the pumpkin flavor “clashes with the tanginess of the yogurt.” Others who enjoy a nonfat 130-calorie breakfast or afternoon snack thought this would suffice in a pinch. TJ’s, on the other hand, does a much better job with other flavors.


Pumpkin Tortilla Chips ($2.49): Hungry reporters rarely pass up tortilla chips. “It tastes a little strange. “I would not buy,” one person said. Another, more diplomatically, stated, “Corn is not the right vessel for this flavor.” According to Trader Joe’s, these chips are “crafted with simple ingredients including pumpkin puree, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg.” They’re low in carbs, sodium, and sugar and are gluten-free. Maybe that’s the issue.

Pumpkin Bisque ($4.99): We usually enjoy pumpkin soup, but not this time. There is a strong, unpleasant aftertaste. One of our tasters described the flavor as “off.” We don’t believe it’s the tahini, which TJ’s refers to as the “not-so-secret” ingredient. Is it the garlic puree? Or how about the overpowering combination of garlic, onion, and apple cider vinegar? In any case, TJ’s should reconsider this recipe.


Pumpkin Spice Cream Liqueur ($8.99): If you enjoy Irish cream liqueurs such as Bailey’s, you’ll like this. The flavor profile is the same, but pumpkin spice replaces the chocolate/caramel/vanilla notes. It’s no boozier than wine at 25 proof, or 12.5% alcohol. This liqueur has a bit of a harsh edge, but what do you expect for $9? After the last trick-or-treater rings the doorbell and you turn off the porch light, save a bottle and toast the end of the ever-so-long Halloween season.

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