The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The inside crunch on the Trader Joe’s fall selection

As we enter the fall season, we look forward to cuddling up with our favorite fall-inspired snacks. We did the research and reviewed 10 Trader Joe’s fall items.
An+assortment+of+fall-inspired+foods+from+Trader+Joe%E2%80%99s%2C+as+photographed+on+Sept.+27%2C+2023.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FJulia+Lvovsky%29%0A
Julia Lvovsky
An assortment of fall-inspired foods from Trader Joe’s, as photographed on Sept. 27, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Julia Lvovsky)

It’s that time of year again — fall-inspired foods have reached the aisles of our favorite grocery stores. The popular grocery chain Trader Joe’s has also released its fall foods line that never fails to win customers over every year. 

As students who can’t wait to get our hands on these autumnal flavors, we ventured to Trader Joe’s to see which are worth stocking up on in your dorm. We decided to pick fall snacks that seemed the most affordable for college students. Trader Joe’s has become extremely popular and a college student can take the bus or walk to them from many college campuses. From pumpkin spice cookies to butternut squash mac & cheese, we tried an assortment and came up with our official ranking. 

We based the rankings on taste, price and the fall aesthetic they give on a scale from one to 10 (one being the worst and 10 being the best). 

Trader Joe’s Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies

Price: $3.99

Taste: 8/10

Fall aesthetic: 9/10

Worth the buy? Yes

Starting off strong, we first ranked the limited-time Trader Joe’s Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies. These miniature shortbread cookies are coated with yogurt icing, topped with pearl sprinkles and shaped like pumpkins, perfect for getting you into the fall season. Their overall taste reminds us of an animal cookie with a pumpkin-spiced twist. Not only was the shortbread spiced perfectly, but it also had a delightful crunch and slight crumble that we look for in a cookie. The orange and white icing had just the right amount of tang, so the cookies weren’t overly sweet. We recommend these cookies with a cup of hot tea or cider for the perfect fall treat.  

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark

Price: $3.99

Taste: 8/10

Fall aesthetic: 4/10

Worth the buy? Yes

Continuing with the sweets, we then tried the Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark. Covered in dark chocolate and topped with pumpkin seeds, the appearance of this bite-sized granola bark gave us high expectations. At first bite, the dark chocolate pairs perfectly with the spiced granola. However, by the end, you were left with no spice at all. What is the point of labeling them “pumpkin spice” if you can’t even taste it in every last bite? Needless to say, they were still super enjoyable. 

GT’s Living In Gratitude Kombucha

Price: $3.99

Taste: 7/10

Fall aesthetic: 9/10

Worth the buy? Yes

To quench our thirst from the sugary treats, we tried the GT’s Living In Gratitude Kombucha. Even though this is not an official Trader Joe’s item, we felt inclined to taste it because it is a limited-time fall item. It is a blend of pink lady apples, fresh carrots and turmeric with aromatic cider spices. After the first sip, we were thoroughly surprised. The apples and cider spices made us feel cozy. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the kombucha flavor was not overpowering. For the price of $3.99 we rated the taste 7/10 and gave the fall aesthetic a 9/10. It’s definitely a great healthier substitute for apple cider!

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seeds

Price: $3.99

Taste: 5/10

Fall aesthetic: 4/10

Worth the buy? No

Next, we tried Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Pumpkin Seeds. These slightly toasted pumpkin seeds are covered in a toffee glaze and seasoned with pumpkin spice. Something that seemed to be the epitome of pumpkin spice season left us disappointed. At first, the toffee covering was overpowering. While this combination of flavors might work for a candied pecan, pumpkin seeds are much smaller, leaving you with just toffee flavor and no seed flavor. The sweetness also overpowered any pumpkin spice flavor which had us asking whether pumpkin spice is truly about pumpkin flavor or all about sugar. With that we rated the taste as a 5/10 and the fall aesthetic as a 4/10. At $3.99, we would pass on this one.

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Brioche Twist

Price: $3.99

Taste: 5/10

Fall aesthetic: 5/10

Worth the buy? No

After the too-sweet pumpkin seeds, we tasted the light-n-fluffy brioche-style textured bread. The bread has a subtle pumpkin flavor wrapped in a sugary spiced swirl. It immediately reminded us of French toast with a pumpkin pie spin. Every slice is a little bit of pumpkin spice but isn’t too overpowering. The pumpkin taste is enough to remind you that the flavor is there but is not too prevalent. 

Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider

Price: $4.49

Taste: 9/10

Fall aesthetic: 10/10

Worth the buy? Yes

Coming in hot (or cold), we indulged in the sweet spiced cider.  It absolutely hit the spot. With a sweet yet tart taste, it satisfied our taste buds in the most autumnal way possible. It tastes like what you would expect cozy fall to taste like with a hint of Halloween in a cup. If you had to pick one sugary drink, we recommend this one for the fall season. 

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Slims
Price: $3.49

Taste: 6.5/10

Fall aesthetic: 4/10

Worth the buy? No

Next, we tried the appetizing Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Slims. Initially, we were displeased. The supposed pumpkin-flavored yogurt pretzels tasted like plain yogurt pretzels with a mild aftertaste of pumpkin spice. Upon opening the bag, we were met with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. However, the pretzels’ taste deviates from the tastes of these spices. The pretzels are very salty, which helps balance out the very sweet initial taste. The “crushed pumpkin seeds” are the only hint of pumpkin we experienced during our bites. 

Trader Joe’s This Pumpkin Walks Into a Bar Cereal Bar

Price: $1.99

Taste: 9.5/10

Fall aesthetic: 9/10

Worth the buy? Yes

This was our favorite pumpkin snack by far! After all of the sugared-up pumpkin foods, this was extremely refreshing. The bar’s inner filling was a perfect texture of pumpkin flavor, which was sweet but not too sugary. The outer crust is made up of wheat and oat with a little cinnamon spice, producing a natural sweetness. It was a little dry, but it was saved by the gooey inside. The pumpkin on the inside has a slight apple taste, but overall, it is overridden by pumpkin flavor. 

Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Price: $3.79

Taste: 8/10

Fall aesthetic: 8/10

Worth the buy? Yes

If you are in desperate need of comfort food, the Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese is right for you. The miniature rigatoni pasta is perfect for holding the decadent butternut squash sauce seasoned with sage and nutmeg. This three-cheese frozen mac and cheese only takes six minutes to heat up in the microwave and comes out stunningly. Hurry to the aisle though — these babies are usually sold out, so get them while you still can. 

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Overnight Oats

Price: $1.99

Taste: 7/10

Fall aesthetic: 10/10

Worth the buy? Yes

These overnight oats were mouth-watering and delightful. With a sweet yet savory taste, this was the perfect breakfast to start our morning off right. They were the perfect mixture of spice and pumpkin flavor (which was actual pumpkin and not just sugar). They are a healthy way to start your day and help you get into the fall spirit. The texture was a little mushy but overall, this was still one of the best overnight oats we’ve had. It tasted like a healthier version of a pumpkin pie filling. 

So, is the Trader Joe’s fall selection meeting our expectations? We concluded that most of the Trader Joe’s “pumpkin spice” items are really just filled with sugar and lack authentic pumpkin flavor. Our rankings show that the items that presented the most flavor to us were ranked highest, while the other items fell short because they were just too sugary. The intense sugar flavor masks the spices that one looks for in fall-inspired foods. This leaves just one question: does anyone even like pumpkin spice flavor, or is it the high levels of sugar that keep up the cravings? 

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Scarlett Mickel, Staff Writer
Scarlett Mickel (‘27) is from Santa Monica, Calif., and studies political science in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys playing volleyball, baking cookies and thrifting in her free time. You can reach her at [email protected].
Julia Lvovsky, Staff Writer and Photographer
Julia Lvovsky ('27) is from Rockville, Md., and studies human and organizational development and philosophy in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her going for walks, dancing and studying with friends. You can reach her at [email protected].
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments