I tried about $65 worth of seasonal fall foods from Trader Joe’s, including desserts, breakfasts, dinners, and snacks.
The chain’s pumpkin Joe-Joes, pumpkin-spice batons, and pepita salsa were amazing.
I also enjoyed Trader Joe’s pumpkin rolls, pumpkin bagels, and the butternut-squash mac and cheese.
I probably wouldn’t buy the caramel-apple-flavored granola or turkey and pumpkin mole burrito again.
No grocery store does fall food like Trader Joe’s.
The iconic chain is known for winning over shoppers with its selection of tasty seasonal treats, from pumpkin-flavored cookies to butternut-squash bisque.
As someone who can’t get enough of these fall flavors, I spent about $65 to review 20 of Trader Joe’s fall foods to see which are actually worth buying.
Keep reading to find out which Trader Joe’s fall products I would buy again and which ones I would skip.
The pumpkin tortilla chips were pretty bland, but they worked fine as a vessel for dip
These mostly tasted like an ordinary multigrain tortilla chip with a very subtle hint of nutmeg. I wasn’t sure what to pair them with since they were seasoned with flavors I usually associate with dessert.
In the end, I found they were a perfect match for the fall-themed dips I purchased, like the pepita salsa. They were also quite sturdy and didn’t break apart as I dipped them.
But on their own, these chips were bland and they depend on another food item in order to be useful. My next plan is to crumble them over butternut-squash soup to hopefully bring out their nutmeg flavor.
Verdict: Although the chips weren’t amazing on their own, I would still buy them because they complement many of the fall-themed dips and dishes quite well.
The chain’s apple-cider doughnuts are apparently best consumed immediately
Apple-cider doughnuts always remind me of fall, so I was excited to see Trader Joe’s bakery selling them.
A healthy dusting of cinnamon-sugar coated every side of these doughy rings. Since these are old-fashioned doughnuts, they’re denser and more cake-like than traditional ones.
Normally, I’m a huge fan of this type of pastry — sadly, these doughnuts tasted dry and stale. I also felt the apple-cider flavor wasn’t as pronounced as I anticipated, which was disappointing.
I ended up zapping my doughnut in the microwave for 15 seconds, which softened its texture. Still, the doughnut seemed heavy and its apple flavor was incredibly mild.
It’s possible that I bought a bad batch or that I waited too long to try them. I ate mine two days after my purchase date, and I assume these are probably best consumed the day you buy them because they’re a bakery item.
Verdict: I kind of want to give these another chance, but if they need to be consumed right away to be good, I don’t think I’d buy them again.
The pumpkin-flavored Joe-Joes were straight-up delightful in every way
To say I loved these cookies is an understatement.
Had I not shared them with my roommate and placed them out of sight in my kitchen, I probably would’ve eaten the entire bag in a single day.
The creamy center had a distinct, pumpkin-spice flavor and lightness to it that tasted unlike any of the other pumpkin products I tried. The icing had pleasantly strong ginger and clove flavors.
The cookies themselves were soft and scrumptious. Basically, they’re everything a person could want in a fall cookie, and I’m always happy when I eat them.
Verdict: If these aren’t in your cabinet yet, immediately head to your nearest Trader Joe’s and buy a box — or three.
These pumpkin bagels are a tasty breakfast option for the fall
If you were to ask me what food I will never get sick of, my answer is always the same: bagels with cream cheese. So, of course, I had to try these.
As far as taste goes, these bagels had a hint of pumpkin that wasn’t super noticeable but was definitely present. I think if you blind taste-tested me I would probably guess these were cinnamon bagels.
Either way, these were quite good. The dough was chewy and crisped up nicely in the toaster, making the bagel the perfect vessel for any cream-cheese or nut-butter topping.
I didn’t buy pumpkin cream cheese for these because I thought that might be overdoing it on the pumpkin, but now I’m thinking I may have to go back and get some just to see if it brings out the fall flavors of the bagels.
Verdict: I would definitely add these to my regular grocery list.
The butternut-squash mac and cheese was surprisingly sophisticated
I’ve puréed butternut squash to make soup — but the thought of using it as a cream sauce to thicken a mac and cheese has never once crossed my mind.
Now that I’ve tried this, I’m pretty sure I’ve been converted for good because this dish was absolutely amazing. In fact, it might be my favorite thing that I tried.
First, this mac and cheese tasted like nothing else I brought home during my fall haul. The squash puree and three-cheese mixture melted seamlessly into each other, forming a mouthwatering and decadent bechamel.
Rigatoni noodles turned out to be the ideal choice for supporting such a heavy sauce, giving every bite that gooey, cheesy goodness.
The dish had bits of fresh sage sprinkled throughout, which gave it a strong herbal aroma and slight bitterness that perfectly balanced out the sweetness of butternut-squash flavor.
Herbaceous, rich, and cheesy; I could absolutely devour an entire bowl of this.
Verdict: I will totally buy this again, no questions asked.
These pumpkin waffles were crispy and just the right amount of sweet
Delicious and convenient, these waffles hit all the right notes for me when it came to breakfast. Like other frozen waffles, they required minimal effort to heat up in the toaster.
The pumpkin flavor wasn’t super strong, but it was definitely there. Adding a touch of maple syrup and cinnamon to these significantly brought out the sweetness, and I’m sure whipped cream or any other sugary topping would do the same.
But I think they’d also taste just as good plain or with a small pat of butter.
Verdict: I will likely buy these again.
The pumpkin-butternut-squash bisque was a bit too simple
The start of fall means that it’s officially soup season and heating up a bowl of autumn-themed bisque is, in my opinion, a great way to celebrate.
Since this is technically a bisque, the broth was thick and there were no large chunks of vegetables in it.
In terms of flavor, the squash and pumpkin were pretty much indistinguishable from each other, but together, they gave the dish a rich, earthy taste.
There was a mellow presence of nutmeg and garlic in every bite that made this taste like an elevated version of Trader Joe’s boxed butternut-squash soup.
But although the soup hit the right notes, I still found myself wanting to add things to it — hot sauce, walnuts, tortilla strips, anything.
It was sort of lackluster and plain on its own, which is good for at-home chefs who want to upgrade it but not so much for someone who wants a quick lunch.
Verdict: I feel like this is a great option for those who follow a vegetarian diet, but I don’t think I’ll purchase this again any time soon.
The pumpkin cereal bars are a great snack for any time of day
My favorite part about Trader Joe’s cereal bars is that they are always consistent — slightly chewy with a soft oat exterior and a fresh, fruity middle. These pumpkin ones quickly exceeded my expectations.
Each bar had a pleasant flavor that reminded me of a cross between brown-sugar oatmeal and cinnamon cereal. The pumpkin filling had a nice jellied texture that was seriously elevated by ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Even better, these bars didn’t skimp on the filling — I got bits of gooey, spiced pumpkin with each bite. Plus they’re made with real pumpkin, which gives them bonus points in my book.
Verdict: I will absolutely buy these again and eat them all. They taste a lot better than most cereal bars I’ve tried and are the perfect size for a midday snack.
The pumpkin rolls are perfect for perking up a gloomy Saturday morning
If you have ever wondered what pumpkin paradise smells like, it’s these rolls.
These rolls plumped up in my oven in less than 20 minutes and made my entire apartment smell heavenly.
At a glance, they have a doughy, texture, but are a bit thicker than your standard cinnamon roll because they’re made with pumpkin bread.
After baking, these reminded me of something I would probably buy from a local bakery. These rolls also had a sticky cinnamon center that really brought out the pumpkin flavor in the dough.
The best part is the pack comes with a yummy, pumpkin-spice icing that you can drizzle (or, like me, pour in globs) over the top of each roll. Be warned — it takes great restraint to not lick every drop of this off of the bottom of the tray.
Verdict: I would absolutely buy these again so I can bake them and share them with others.
The Harvest Chili was delicious and filling
With a hearty base of cauliflower, black beans, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes, this vegetarian-friendly chili didn’t even need meat to taste great.
Every ingredient was present in just the right amount, with none overpowering the other. And since everything was simmered in pumpkin purée and chili spices, there was a satisfying combination of spicy, smoky, and sweet that made this simply irresistible.
I ate my bowl slowly to savor every last bite. If you top this with crumbled pumpkin tortilla chips or a thick slice of cornbread and you can have an easy, delicious autumn dinner.
Verdict: I will absolutely buy this again and again.
The honey-roasted pumpkin ravioli could be the star of a solid fall dinner
Aesthetically, this honey-roasted pumpkin ravioli is an autumn dream with its orange and yellow colors.
Upon the first bite, I was impressed by the ratio of pasta to filling. I also noticed the noodles had a nice bite to them and didn’t fall apart and explode like some other filled pastas I’ve tried.
The ravioli stuffing is on the sweet side because it’s a blend of creamy, honey-roasted pumpkin and ricotta cheese, though it contains some noticeable fall-themed seasonings, like nutmeg and allspice.
I highly recommend adding sage, roasted onion, or salty cheese, such as parmesan, to give this dish some balance. I added goat cheese crumbles and a touch of browned butter to mine, which tasted good, but almost too sweet without an herb component.
I’m aware these are a cult favorite, and I wish I would’ve consulted someone who was a part of the pumpkin-ravioli fan club for some advice on how to sauce these babies before I cooked them.
Verdict: Overall, I enjoyed these ravioli but they weren’t my favorite. I would buy them again, but next time, I would pair them with a more suitable sauce.
The pumpkin empanadas could be served as a sweet or savory snack
The outside of these was buttery and slightly flaky like a pie crust. On the inside, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger melded with a generous amount of smooth pumpkin purée to form a decadent filling.
To me, these tasted like warmed pumpkin pie that was slightly heavier on the spice.
I got the idea to add whipped cream to my second empanada and it was absolutely divine. But I can easily picture these pairing well a spicy curry or chutney as a pre-dinner snack.
A standard box comes with four empanadas, so there aren’t quite enough of them to serve as a party appetizer. But they’re the perfect amount if you’re just looking to share them with your roommates (or gradually nibble on them over the course of a weekend).
Verdict: Overall, I enjoyed the flavor of these empanadas, but I don’t think I’d buy them unless it was for a special occasion.
The pumpkin-spice batons had a light, creamy pumpkin center and paired well with coffee
I love any food that serves a dual purpose, and these tasty batons were great for stirring cream into my morning coffee. Each wafer was several inches long and quite sturdy. They held up well even after being dunked in hot liquid.
The cream center was pleasantly pumpkiny with a delicate touch of spice that instantly brought a smile to my face.
I limited myself to two batons with my coffee — but if left to my own devices, I’d probably devour them all in two days.
Verdict: These batons are an excellent way to integrate a bit of pumpkin into your day without being overly indulgent. I will absolutely buy them again — next time, I’ll be grabbing more than one can.
These frosted toaster pastries reminded me of my childhood
I’m a huge fan of one-step breakfasts, especially ones that remind me of being a kid again.
These rectangular toaster pastries seemed like exactly what I needed to satisfy my yearning for simpler times. They had a simple, doughy exterior that tasted a bit like a pie crust, and a sugary, orange, pumpkin filling.
Although these toaster pastries could easily be consumed straight from the bag, I found they were best served warm. The pumpkin filling was incredibly tasty and the crumbly exterior made this an excellent treat to pair with coffee.
My only qualm was that the ratio of dough-to-filling could have been better. There was a lot more pastry than there was pumpkin, and some bites seemed to be a little inconsistent.
The icing on top was barely noticeable. Although the pastry would’ve been fine without it, I was expecting more icing especially since the box seemed to advertise an even layer of it.
Verdict: Although I would’ve preferred if these toaster pastries had a little more filling and icing, these minor flaws weren’t total deal-breakers for me.
These are perfect if you’re craving a sweet, not-too-decadent breakfast, and I can totally picture both kids and adults enjoying them.
The Fall Harvest salsa had an unusual sweetness that I didn’t care for
Let’s start with the good: I liked that the salsa was chunky and contained real pieces of squash, pumpkin, and apple. Even though this came out of a jar, the salsa’s medley of different chopped ingredients gave it a fresh quality.
The addition of lime and tomatillos gave it some much-needed acid and as well as the quintessential spiciness that reminded me this was a salsa, not a fruit salad.
Still, the apples in this salsa really threw me. The texture and flavor of soft, cold apples will always remind me of applesauce.
Their presence in this salsa made it so that every other bite had tiny pockets of sweetness to them, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed a bit out of place and inconsistent.
The same can be said for the pumpkin — it was pretty indistinguishable from the butternut squash unless you happen to get a chunk of just that.
I also would’ve preferred a little more heat because this definitely leaned more sweet than spicy. I’d rather use this in a savory recipe than eat it as a dip.
Verdict: I probably wouldn’t buy this salsa again for myself, but I can see it appealing to anyone who wants a dip that isn’t too spicy.
The pepita salsa had a nice kick to it
Of the two fall-themed salsas I tried, this one won me over with its unique, complex blend of flavors.
It contains many typical salsa ingredients: garlic, onion, and tomatoes, but instead of using jalapeno as a heating agent, it delivers on the spice and smoke with chipotle powder.
It also contains red peppers, which added a sweetness that balanced out all of the acidity. I couldn’t exactly distinguish the pepita taste in this dip, but that didn’t make it any less tasty.
As someone who loves spicy food, I couldn’t get enough of this. I ate the entire jar in less than two days
Verdict: I would absolutely buy this again and serve it at a gathering.
The cinnamon-bun spread was extremely sweet
When I was in college, I always had a jar of the chain’s cult-favorite cookie butter on hand, so I was eager to see how this seasonal spread compared.
Texture-wise, it’s a bit on the goopy side, which is to say it spreads quite well, but not as easily as a traditional peanut butter. To taste, I paired a spoonful of it with a simple, buttery wafer.
This spread had a slight saltiness to it, which initially threw me off because I anticipated it would have the sugary sweetness of cinnamon-bun icing.
This sweet spread tasted a lot like a butterscotch candy with its prominent browned-butter and vanilla flavors. The use of honey as the primary sweetener in this spread seemed to deepen those two flavors, which made it taste like something that was whipped up at a local creamery, not mass-produced in a factory.
I might be nitpicking here, but I think this spread was lacking cinnamon flavor. It’s possible that if I paired this with something else, like a slice of brioche bread, I would’ve noticed it more.
Verdict: Although I was disappointed in the lack of cinnamon flavor, this spread would be a great addition to anyone’s fall pantry due to its versatility. I can totally imagine dipping Granny Smith apple slices into it for the ultimate fall treat.
This caramel-apple-flavored granola didn’t taste the way I thought it would
This granola didn’t taste like a caramel apple — but it had a yummy, candied flavor coursing through every oat and peanut cluster.
The pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds were a nice addition, but the flavor was buried under the sweet granola.
The apple component came in the form of dehydrated apple slices, which I thought were chewy and not-so-great but my roommate totally loved. Perhaps I’m just not a big fan of apples.
Still, this granola was still a nice little treat to snack on throughout the day.
Verdict: I don’t think I would buy this again for myself, but I recommend it to anyone who loves to try different granola combinations.
The turkey and pumpkin mole burrito was layered with complex flavors
Mole is a dense sauce that’s popular in Mexican cuisine and it typically contains spices, dried chiles, and chocolate.
I’ve tried mole sauce before, but I’d never had it paired with pumpkin, so I was very curious about this burrito. It seemed kind of over-the-top.
The microwavable burrito consisted of a flour tortilla packed with roasted turkey that was well-seasoned and juicy. I was pleasantly surprised by this because turkey tends to dry out easily.
It also contained a hearty amount of black beans, roasted sweet-potato chunks, Monterey Jack cheese, and cilantro rice, which gave it a unique symphony of textures and flavors.
Overall, this was very spice-forward with a very subtle earthiness that was amplified against the roasted sweet potato. Of the many, somewhat indistinguishable seasonings, cinnamon stood out to me the most. In terms of taste, I couldn’t find pumpkin flavor in the mole sauce at all.
I also found the amount of sauce to be quite inconsistent, overpowering the burrito with spice on some bites while not being present in others.
I think this could’ve used more mole sauce overall, or perhaps, less of another ingredient.
Verdict: I would eat this if it was given to me, but I wouldn’t purchase it again.
I couldn’t get enough of the pumpkin-spice Pretzel Slims
As a huge fan of Trader Joe’s Pretzel Slims, I was beyond excited to try these. Fortunately, they did not disappoint.
Doused in a smooth yogurt coating that’s infused with yummy pumpkin-spice flavors, this seasonal offering was a perfect blend of sweet and salty.
What really made these a winner was the delicate sprinkling of spiced pumpkin seeds on top.
It added that extra layer of texture and zing that seriously elevated these from “an ordinary snack with pumpkin added to make it fall” into a sophisticated, delicious treat that I would enjoy year-round if it were available.
I can easily imagine myself running through an entire bag of these while watching my favorite Halloween movies.
Verdict: I am absolutely going to buy several more bags of these this season.
The pumpkin-spice granola bark was thicker than I expected
I liked the idea of this pumpkin bark but I was disappointed by the execution.
The biggest flaw is that it’s far more crunchy than chewy. I know there are almonds in the granola base, but this was straight-up hard to bite.
It’s possible that this is due to the use of coconut oil and maple syrup as a binder instead of butter, or it could be the inclusion of quinoa. Either way, it caught me and my front teeth by surprise.
The other issue is that bark is broken into uneven chunks of various sizes, which could lead to inconsistent bags of the treat. Some pieces were as big as an actual granola bar, others were more like a very small wafer.
On the positive side, I could taste the pumpkin spice well and thought the dark chocolate provided a sweet contrast to the salty pumpkin seeds on top.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a great gluten-free snack that isn’t overly sweet or salty, look no further. But I probably wouldn’t buy this again for myself.
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