The Problem with Pumpkins 2021 Part 2

We are back for week two of The Problem with Pumpkins, where we get to explore all the pumpkin products from Trader Joe’s. You know the drill: pumpkin products of all kinds go into our mouths, and our honest opinions come out. We are here to serve you, and to tell you what is worth buying at Trader Joe’s. This week, we are kicking it off with a pumpkin-y breakfast…

Pecan Pumpkin Instant Oatmeal

Lauren O’Brien: This tastes like a yankee candle, wax, wick and all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like candles, but I was not a fan of this candle-themed instant oatmeal. I like spice, but it tastes like Joe spilled his PSL spice shaker all over my warm bowl of oats. There was a lot going on, and when I wake up in the morning, my palate is not ready for that. The pecan bits are a nice touch. I usually add nuts to my oatmeal if they aren’t there already, so that multiplied the convenience factor by a lot. Overall, it wasn’t atrocious, but I would enjoy non-seasonal oats all the same.

Noah Harrel: This sounds like a pleasant way to start off your day… while camping.

As far as instant oatmeal goes, I’m a fan. Personally I think the Quakers oatmeal can be pretty boring. This was anything but boring. The spices are clearly the star of the show here, but the pecan, the underdog of the ingredients in this meal, really shined through. It gave a little resistance when chewing the homogenous goop that is normally oatmeal and just a little bit of sweetness to counteract the spice. However, I do stand by my statement that this would be best enjoyed while camping. Your taste buds are already dulled by high altitudes and/or dehydration so this spicy oatmeal may not come off as strong then.

Pumpkin Toaster Waffles

LO: I’m not as mad as I have been in the past.

It was a hearty waffle. The heartiness felt fall-appropriate, and that made me happy. I’m not as mad as I have been in the past. And pumpkin is the second ingredient after flour and milk — which is absolutely satisfactory. Even plain, the flavor is enjoyable. I would choose the toaster waffle over the oatmeal any day.

NH: If you want this on the go, you don’t need syrup.

A spicy waffle, but it’s not upsetting. The addition of the spices in this waffle means I don’t need syrup. Trader Joe’s created the perfect on the go waffle. Say goodbye to a syrupy mess on your plate, hands and car seat and let the pumpkin toaster waffle start off your day with a comforting kick of flavor.

Organic Pumpkin Spice Granola Bark

LO: It looks like a Nature Valley bar with some added fun.

The bark has this crumbly texture with a layer of dark chocolate on the bottom and a chocolate drizzle on top. The pumpkin flavor and spice weren’t shining through, although the taste was still pleasant. My main complaint was that the bar’s texture wasn’t as dry and crunchy as I had hoped, leaving me with a mouthful of crumbles before I even started chewing. I’m guessing the pumpkin puree being cooked into the bar has significantly affected the crunch factor. I was not super impressed with the initial bites, but I do have to admit I ate the whole bag within the week. Joe definitely got me on this one. 

NH: If you want pumpkin, you’re gonna have to go somewhere else, because it’s not here.

I’m positive this time… THERE IS NO PUMPKIN FLAVOR. I am not broken, my taste buds are validated. Approaching this from the perspective of a bar/bark it’s great. Chewy, filling, it has all the right elements. My theory is that the dark chocolate overpowered the flavor of pumpkin and spice with it’s bitterness. Here’s the dilemma though: while the chocolate is great and a welcome addition to most any bar, it takes away from the very reason we bought this product: the pumpkin. Disappointing overall.

Pumpkin Empanadas

LO: This is the most pumpkin-y thing I have had so far (besides the pumpkin).

The filling is interesting. It kinda looks like baby food was left on the stove, or maybe a sloppy joe… but that means there is real pumpkin puree, which is a good sign. The pumpkin insides were encapsulated in this perfect little dough pillow that is not too thick. There’s a little bit of flakiness and a little bit of crunch. And it doesn’t get in the way, it just does its job. I would consider repurchasing, and would always partake if they were offered at a party.

NH: Don’t look, just experience.

Is it the most appealing thing to look at? Nah. But everything else is spectacular. The pumpkin flavor was present in this more than any other pumpkin themed product we had thus far and, as Lauren said, the dough was a perfect balance of flakiness and crunch. Honestly, it gives my homemade pumpkin empanadas a run for their money and I’m ok with that. Well done Trader Joe’s.

Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies

LO: “It has a spicy aftertaste. It’s tingling in the back of my throat.” 

Don’t let the word “petite” fool you… These little guys pack a lot of spicy flavor (and sugar) in each bite. The cookies are reminiscent of the pink- and white-iced animal cookies I used to eat as a kid, but with some added PSL pizzazz. Even though they were sweeter than I would typically prefer, the nostalgia factor kept me coming back for more. The crunchy sprinkles were a nice touch, too. These are doing exactly what they need to do. I would easily go back for more.

NH: If you told me this was a gingersnap I would 100% believe you.

These fun little sprinkle-covered, pumpkin-shaped cookies are very reminiscent of gingersnaps. It doesn’t claim to have pumpkin, just the spice. It’s got a really nice bite after the initial sweetness of the icing and I love the crunch. The spice lingers in the back of your mouth as a reminder that this is not your typical iced, sugary cookie.

Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea

LO: “This tea is taking me to a wonderful place.”

This tea has a wonderfully complex aroma — citrus, apple cider, spices mixed with the depth of the tea leaves. It doesn’t have the same bitter bite that black teas do, which I think pairs really well with the other flavors and allows them to come through right away. It compliments all the spices beautifully. It really tastes like a cozy autumn drink. It tastes like gratitude. And it makes me thankful for life, friends, and pumpkin.

NH: It feels like it wants to explore all of fall in one sip

I don’t drink tea, I’m not a tea guy, but this cider-y tea that smelled of fall comfort was amazing. As far as tea goes, the spices worked extremely well and felt right at home producing a wonderful aroma in my cup. It’s refreshing and the perfect answer to the absurd amounts of food consumed on Thanksgiving day. It calmed my stomach after eating too many pumpkin products at once and for that alone I will recommend this tea until the day I die. 

The pumpkin products were a roller coaster this week, but the ride isn’t over yet. Be sure to join us next week for our finale of The Problem with Pumpkins series.

Written By: Lauren O’Brien and Noah Harrel