PSL vs. Maple: We Taste Tested the New Fall Products Available Now

Best seasonings ever, or just a lot of racket? We tried 17 products to find our autumn favorites.

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Autumn is in the air

September 12, 2018

Pumpkin Spice season hit early this year, as most of you already know. So to honor the spiciest time of the year, we rounded up fall-flavored products, from the iconic pumpkin to the up-and-coming maple bourbon.

It was a wild ride, filled with excitement, disappointment and intense surprise. Follow us to discover the best of this year’s harvest.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Cookie Straws

While we didn’t review the OG PSL (because everybody knows it’s already perfect), we did review these Starbucks PSL Cookie Straws. They’re crispy and coated with spiced chocolate, what more could you want? Just be careful not to burn your tongue when using them to sip your latte.

Whole Foods 365 Pumpkin Spice Latte Popcorn

These bags of 365 Pumpkin Spice Latte Popcorn were savory with a subtle spice. While some of us thought it could use more spice, others were planning to sneak it into the movies and chow down the whole bag.

RxBar Pumpkin Spice

You’ll know immediately whether or not you like an RxBar. For those GK staff members who enjoy the dense, “weird and sticky” texture, the Pumpkin Spice RxBars were satisfactory, getting better and better as the mouth adapted. For the rest, it tasted like an RxBar.

Whole Foods 365 Pumpkin Spice Latte Bites

The 365 Pumpkin Spice Latte Bites were curious little things—like peanut butter pretzel nuggets, only with pumpkin spice instead of peanut butter and breakfast cereal instead of pretzels. “The epitome of pumpkin spice,” one editor said, though it was likely not in the best way. The filling was oddly gelatinous and the spice was strong enough to leave a bitter aftertaste.

GoGo Squeez Apple Pumpkin Spice

You might believe that applesauce is the middle schooler’s equivalent of baby food. You are entitled to your opinions. For us grown adults at GK, the GoGo Squeez Apple Pumpkin Spice pouches were savory and tasted “like grandma’s apple pie filling.”

Whole Foods 365 Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Sandwich Cremes

On the whole, Genius Kitchen found the 365 Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake Sandwich Cremes to be delicious. They could have been tangier for a real cheesecake taste, but in the end that’s just a technicality.

Whole Foods Pumpkin Cardamom Pasta Sauce

We tried the Whole Foods Pumpkin Cardamom Pasta Sauce without pasta, but would have whipped some up in an instant if we had been able, because it was a winner. It has a good depth of flavor with plenty of garlic and spice.

Litehouse Pumpkin Spice Caramel Dip

The Litehouse Pumpkin Spice Caramel Dip proved to be a divisive one, with half the group voting “very yum” and the other half voting “I don’t think I like this.” The sweet dip, which should be microwaved, smells like Christmas and would taste great if drizzled on an apple or pumpkin pie. It will be available in October and November.

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies

These Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Cheesecake Cookies were generally disliked by the GK team, which found them to taste pretty generic. They were a bit too soft and barely held together, and their light pumpkin spice perfume was lacking in chutzpah.

Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milanos

The Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milanos, on the other hand, were just. too. good. We easily could have sat down and eaten ten whole boxes of these. They mix the classic Milano flavor with a little helping of pumpkin spice to create a perfectly-balanced cookie.

Talenti Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Talenti’s Pumpkin Pie Gelato was the first thing we tasted that actually tasted like pumpkin. Yes, we know that pumpkin spice doesn’t actually contain pumpkin, but a few spoonfuls of this ice-cold pumpkin pie filling in a jar made us wish it did.

Whole Foods 365 Apple Cider Cookie Thins

We thought pumpkin spice shouldn’t have all the fall-time fun, so we branched out to other autumn eats. These 365 Apple Cider Cookie Thins were indeed “so thin,” with strong apple orchard aroma. Crispier and not as crumbly as a shortbread.

Whole Foods 365 Maple Cookie Thins

While the same textural comments applied to the 365 Maple Cookie Thins, the flavors here were more of the French toast persuasion. We wanted to crush them up and put them in a bowl of milk and eat them like breakfast cereal. All day long.

Archer Farms Maple Pecan Caramel Corn

Target’s signature brand, Archer Farms, has a new line of “Harvest” flavors, which include Maple Pecan Caramel Corn. This flavor combo has been up and coming for a few years, and is seen by some to be the biggest viable challenger to PSL. This tasted like Cracker Jacks, with not much to differentiate it from a standard caramel corn. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t sweet and highly snackable.

Archer Farms Maple Trail Mix

The Archer Farms Maple Trail Mix was like a Nutrigrain bar, but a total P.I.T.A. to eat. But hey, isn’t all trail mix a P.I.T.A. to eat? Isn’t that the point? Making sure you get an even ratio of weird ingredients?

Boursin Maple Bourbon

Boursin’s limited-edition Maple Bourbon Gournay cheese was this fall flavor tasting’s sleeper hit. Creamy, savory, not too full of spice, it kept enough of its sour to earn it a rating of “so great” from GK’s culinary editor. Think of it like honey on brie in terms of its sweet-and-savory mix.

Archer Farms Candy Corn Popcorn

And, of course, with Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to get serious about the season’s most controversial sweet: candy corn. The Archer Farms Candy Corn Popcorn is a very sweet caramel corn with candy corn mixed in, which was pleasing enough even for haters. The chewy bits added a nice textural variety.

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