22 Fall Items At Trader Joe's, Ranked Worst To Best

There are certain events that people look forward to all year long. Maybe it's the start of football season or the first warm day of spring. For some, it's that time of early fall when all the delectable autumnal treats start hitting the shelves, and no store does it better than Trader Joe's. If that first day Trader Joe's starts carrying cinnamon brooms in the flower section is your main event of the year, then you already know that stores are beginning to roll out new and old fall favorites.

Trader Joe's always does a great job of spreading the fall fanfare around, from drinks to treats to bath and body products. Some are so good we wish they were available year-round, and others... not so much. We ran to the store and picked up the first crop of goodies to find out which ones are worth buying and which ones you can skip.

22. Pumpkin spice creamy cashew cultured yogurt alternative

Maybe die-hard pumpkin spice enthusiasts who also enjoy cashew yogurt will like this product, but anyone else will probably think it's weird and kind of gross. Most non-dairy yogurts have a questionable texture and flavor to begin with and are sort of gloopy and slippery without the satisfying creamy mouthfeel of regular yogurt. Add to that the cloying pumpkin spice flavor and this non-dairy yogurt is a for sure miss.

Even though the label states that this yogurt is enhanced with a bit of coconut cream to provide a creamier texture, this yogurt still tastes much waterier than regular dairy yogurt. The pumpkin flavor is lost a bit amongst the spices, though many pumpkin spice products rely heavily on cinnamon and nutmeg to bring to mind that pumpkin pie flavor. Many tasters on one Trader Joe's review site also felt this is one of the worst fall offerings at the store this season.

21. Pumpkin Spice Hummus

Sometimes, an item hits the shelves at Trader Joe's or another store that seems to be more of a publicity stunt than an actual, serious product that was intended for someone to enjoy. This pumpkin spice hummus is one of those items. We're not sure how much of a fan of pumpkin spice you would have to be to buy this product, but, if you are such a person, then congratulations to you for being one of the most fall-loving people on Earth.

Sweet hummus isn't exactly a new phenomenon and chocolate hummus has been around the block already. It seems that these kinds of dips are intended for people that want a sweet treat but would prefer to have something extra, like giving themselves a little bit of protein in the form of mashed chickpeas. In our opinion, skip the hummus and just have a little pumpkin spice cookie.

20. Pumpkin cereal bars

These cereal bars can be a hit or a miss no matter what flavor they are. The doughy exterior always skews a bit dry (albeit in a somewhat satisfying way) and the quality of the bar hinges on the flavor and texture of the filling. The filling on these pumpkin bars tastes the way a fall candle smells. It's a tart mixture of pumpkin and apple with a big hit of fall spices. It's a personal matter whether or not that appeals to you. For us, it's a bit much, though at least the sweetness isn't overpowering.

Even though the flavor is pumpkin, you end up tasting apple and spice more than anything. There isn't much protein for this to be a main source of sustenance, but it can serve as a quick snack. The sugar is on the high side (one bar packs 25% of your recommended daily value) for how small they are, so those watching their intake should keep that in mind.

19. Pecan pumpkin instant oatmeal

This instant oatmeal is mediocre at best. For being a pecan pumpkin oatmeal, there are not nearly enough pieces of pecan for our taste. Some people don't mind oatmeal without much texture, but we personally like oatmeal with tons of crunchy toppings and add-ins so we'd be happy with two or three times as much pecan. The pumpkin flavor itself is more reminiscent of butternut squash, but the tart earthiness is definitely present in each and every bite, seemingly infused into every flake of oat. There's a pleasantly light amount of spice, just enough to be cozy without being cloying.

Like most instant oatmeals, the end product can skew a bit watery. For thicker results, swap the water for milk (or condensed milk if you really want to indulge) and reduce the amount from ⅔ cup to ½ cup. Jazz it up even more with a spoonful of apple butter or some maple syrup.

18. Pumpkin cream cheese spread

In the world of bagels, there are two camps of people; those that like sweet bagels and spreads, and those that don't. Those that do will enjoy this lightly sweetened pumpkin cream cheese spread on cinnamon raisin, cranberry, chocolate chip, or pumpkin bagels. The taste of pumpkin does come through, as well as a pleasant amount of warm pie spices (think cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove).

If you're not a fan of sweet bagels, this spread can also be used in baking applications. Try using this in place of plain cream cheese in a cream cheese brownie recipe or simply dip ginger snap cookies into it. This could make a killer cream cheese frosting for something like a carrot cake or a pumpkin loaf. You could also create a delicious breakfast on the go by spreading a piece of toast with this spread and topping it with a little cinnamon sugar.

17. Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie Mix

There's nothing like getting cozy on a cool autumn day and whipping up a batch of warm cookies to enjoy with your favorite movie. Handy baking kits like this Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookie mix from Trader Joe's fits the bill perfectly. You can whip up a nice treat without having to measure out a ton of ingredients. All you have to do is add in a couple eggs and some softened butter, then scoop and bake. This cookie mix makes 24 cookies, depending on the size, so you'll have plenty to enjoy and some to share.

As far as flavor, these Trader Joe's cookies have a heavy pumpkin taste that comes from dried pumpkin puree. Pumpkin lovers will likely enjoy the way the pumpkin plays with the semi-sweet chocolate chunks and chewy oats. For us, these cookies were really earthy and not quite sweet enough to be enjoyable.

16. Pumpkin nonfat Greek yogurt

Only die-hard pumpkin (and pumpkin spice) fans will like this yogurt, which is amply flavored with both. The taste of pumpkin puree comes through very strongly in this yogurt, which tastes a bit like if a slice of pumpkin pie and a cup of nonfat yogurt had a baby. Like most nonfat yogurts, this lacks the rich taste and mouthfeel of full-fat Greek yogurt, but it could be a nice option for those looking to limit their fat intake. The texture is more glossy than creamy and thick like most Greek yogurt.

For us, personally, this yogurt wasn't our favorite and we wouldn't buy it again. It doesn't have the protein that some of the other yogurts have and you have to be a really big lover of pumpkin spice to enjoy the flavor. It's not particularly sweet and actually skews a little sour and tart.

15. Pumpkin Bisque

Jarred, pre-made soups can be hit-or-miss, and a great homemade pumpkin soup can be oh-so-good on a chilly fall evening. Luckily, Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bisque hits all the right notes and still brings the convenience. All you have to do is heat and serve. We'd recommend topping the seasonal soup with some spiced pepitas or a little crumbled feta. There are layers of rich, creamy pumpkin flavor that don't go overboard on sweetness or earthiness. It's tart, creamy, and balanced. The spices could be reigned in a tad, but ultimately, that will differ person to person on how much spice you enjoy.

The texture is smooth and creamy with just enough body to be hearty and filling. It packs a secret ingredient in the form of tahini, a sesame seed paste that is usually used to make hummus and, in this application, can add a creamy richness without adding more dairy.

14. Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce

Lovers of pumpkin (and not so much of pumpkin spice) may like the Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce. It employs a rich blend of tomato, squash, pumpkin, and carrot to create a hefty accompaniment of vegetables and flavor to a pasta dish. You could use this tangy sauce anywhere you would use a regular marinara, including chicken parmesan or lasagna. Parents might love passing this off as regular tomato sauce (while secretly giving their kids a hit of nutritious veggies) because the main flavor that comes through is still tomato.

There's still a slight earthy sweetness from the squash and carrot, but if you didn't know they were in there, you might not exactly be able to put your finger on exactly what that taste was. There is also a pleasant touch of spice from a hit of cayenne pepper powder, just to keep things interesting. We recommend this take on a fall-inspired sauce. 

13. Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix

Some gluten-free products are so good that it doesn't feel like a sacrifice in flavor or texture to skip the flour. This pumpkin bread mix isn't one of those things. As much as we'd like to give Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix a gold star, the flavor was just too weird to be good. The taste is heavy on pumpkin and earthiness with none of the pleasant sweetness that a great pumpkin loaf should have. The texture was somehow mushy and dense at the same time. Color-wise this bread looks more like a molasses bread with a rich, dark brown hue.

The gluten-free bread mix employs a mix of sorghum flour, millet flour, brown rice flour, rice flour, and corn flour to replace the wheat flour. Other than that, there's really only sugar, dried pumpkin flakes, baking soda, spices, and the eggs, oil, and water the directions ask you to mix in. It's simple enough to mix together for even a novice baker, so at least there's that.

12. Honey-Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli

In theory, honey-roasted pumpkin is a great idea. The honey brings out the natural sweetness of the squash while tempering its tart, earthy flavor. In the case of Trader Joe's Honey-Roasted Pumpkin Ravioli, however, we found this really borderline too sweet. The filling of these honey-roasted pumpkin raviolis is blended with mozzarella and ricotta, both of which don't help the sweetness factor, but don't seem to contribute to it either. However, there's both honey and brown sugar, as well as a heavy dose of the beloved pumpkin spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and clove).

In order to pull of an edible meal with a squash ravioli recipe, the sauce has to really be balanced. We need something savory and salty to counteract the honey, like crisp pieces of bacon or pancetta. While it might seem like a good idea, we recommend staying away from a brown-butter sauce, which will only make this pasta even more sweet, to the point of being cloying and inedible.

11. Pepita Salsa

Leave it to Trader Joe's to come up with a product so unique we couldn't help but buy it just to see what it tastes like. The Trader Joe's Pepita Salsa is one such product, calling out from the shelves like a rare wild animal. Pepita salsa isn't exactly revolutionary. There are plenty of native Mexican recipes for salsa that use pepitas for flavor and balance. In the aisles of Trader Joe's, however, it's refreshing to see a seasonal fall item that involves the beloved squash without using more pumpkin puree or spice. Seriously, there's a lot of pumpkin spice in that store.

There's no pumpkin in this salsa — pepitas are seeds from a specific winter squash. The pepita seeds add texture and body to the dip so it holds up well to even the thinnest of tortilla chips. The salsa flavor is spicy and tangy from all the usual ingredients (think: tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and lime).

10. Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix

Even though pancakes and waffles are dead simple to make, there's something about a convenient waffle mix that we always want to reach for in the morning. Busy weekday or leisurely weekend, a good pancake hits the spot and fills you up. Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pancake and Waffle Mix comes together so easily you can whip it up even if you haven't had your morning cup of coffee. Although this mix isn't gluten-free, Trader Joe's does make a version that is for the gluten-averse among us.

The resulting waffle or pancake from this mix is light and airy, with only a touch of sweetness. The pumpkin flavor comes through without being overbearing or disgustingly earthy. There is also a slight tang of tart flavor that is the perfect complement to a few glugs of maple syrup and a pat of melted butter. Paired with a pumpkin spice latte, what could be better?

9. Pumpkin gnocchi

One of the best flavor combinations of fall has to be pasta with roasted squash, brown butter, and sage. The seasonal pumpkin gnocchi from Trader Joe's lets you have both pasta and squash in one convenient, pillow-shaped vessel. Making pasta can be costly and time-consuming so finding a great store-bought version of gnocchi is the perfect thing for whipping up a quick and tasty dinner.

These pumpkin gnocchi are made with a base of potato and flour, plus pumpkin puree with a touch of sugar. These gnocchi come raw in the package, so you'll have to boil them before eating. If you want to quickly pan-sear them for texture and flavor, boil the gnocchi for half the recommended time then drain and dry before adding to the sauté pan. You could also swap these out for any number of sheet pan gnocchi recipes for an even different texture and ease of preparation.

8. Pumpkin spice granola bark

While this treat is called bark, you could also think of these as little unwrapped granola bars. Each rectangular chunk features a ¼-inch slab of oat granola that's topped with dark chocolate and pepitas. The pumpkin spice isn't particularly overpowering but it is present. We're not sure that we can detect any pumpkin flavor amidst all the pie spice but the ingredients insist there is actual pumpkin puree present. The granola is satisfyingly crunchy and works perfectly with the dark chocolate to create a bark that's not too sweet or too bland.

This bark would be great to take on a fall hike or as a healthy choice for dessert. We could even see this bark broken up into pieces on a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Personally, we wish the bars were more irregularly sized like bark is typically, but that's easy enough to do yourself.

7. Caramel Sea Salt Baking Chips

These days, there's so much more than just chocolate chips for baking. Whether you are looking for an alternative to chocolate, or just want to try a fun new mix-in, Trader Joe's Caramel Sea Salt Baking Chips make an incredible addition to holiday baked goods of all kinds. Caramel baking chips are basically flavored white chocolate and can be used anywhere you could use chocolate chips. The added sprinkle of sea salt really helps to set off the flavor for more complexity and nuance.

We could see these baking chips being used in a decadent banana bread recipe or melted then drizzled over a batch of biscotti. The uses are truly endless. Each 10-ounce bag contains between two or three cups of chips, perfect for most chocolate chip cookie recipes. If you're not much of a baker and just want to just eat them by the handful, we won't tell anyone.

6. Non-dairy maple oat beverage

Even though Trader Joe's does have a line of great non-dairy creamers, this is just oat milk (or oat beverage, as manufacturers are forced to label it). It's very subtly flavored with maple and if you add it to your morning coffee, it only provides the barest hint of maple flavor without making your coffee too sweet. It is slightly sweetened and contains 12 grams of sugar per cup, which isn't a lot if you're just using a splash, but could add up if used in other ways if you're tracking that sort of thing.

A steaming hot cup of coffee with a splash of this maple oat milk is the perfect accompaniment to some apple cider donuts on a cool fall morning. If it's still a warm early fall day, this milk is awesome in an iced latte or cold brew. Since this is milk and not a creamer, you could also use this product for baking or making the pecan pumpkin instant oatmeal (or any oatmeal, really).

5. Cinnamon Bun Spread

Where has this spread been all our lives? Seriously, this is a product we didn't know we were missing until we saw it gracing the shelves. The Trader Joe's Cinnamon Bun honey-based spread is like a warm cinnamon roll in dip form. If a warm hug was a sweet goo that came in a jar, it would be this spread. There are notes of cinnamon, vanilla, honey, and caramel.

We used this spread on toast, waffles, and pancakes. We even drizzled some on sliced apples for an afternoon snack. Two tablespoons of spread is only 60 calories, so you can feel free to have this little indulgence even if you're looking to cut back on treats. This cinnamon spread has been available around the fall season before, so if you missed it after the season was over last time, make sure to stock up now. Seasonal Trader Joe's products can go quickly.

4. Honey crisp apple cinnamon Greek yogurt

We thought we would like this one less than we did, but the pleasant sweetness and spice are perfectly balanced without being over the top. Greek yogurt has a way of providing a satisfyingly rich mouthfeel, not unlike ricotta or goat cheese, and this container definitely brings that to the table without overpowering the apple or spice.  It's a full-fat yogurt and packs a huge protein punch with 10 grams, about 20% of your daily recommended value.

Embedded in the thick spiced yogurt are little chunks of dried Honey crisp apple which provide the yogurt with texture and flavor. Every little morsel of apple is a delicious treat that's neither too chewy nor too mushy, but instead has a slight crisp, kind of like you added tiny little bits of fresh apple to your yogurt. This would work great as a dip for fresh apple slices or in a fall-forward parfait.

3. Petite pumpkin spice cookies

Remember those little pink-and-white circus cookies with tiny sprinkles you used to eat as a kid? Imagine if those classic cookies had a baby with a pumpkin spice latte, and you've got Trader Joe's Petite Pumpkin Spice Cookies. We found that these tiny, bite-sized shortbread cookies — laden with pumpkin spice and coated with yogurt — are all too easy to eat by the fistfull while binging our favorite Halloween movies. We should say here that the recommended serving is only four cookies, just in case you are interested in the concept self-restraint (can't say it's a priority for us!).

We appreciate that the yogurt coating is thin without being so sweet that it overpowers the delicately crisp little cookie within. You nose might taste the fall spices just a second before your tongue does because we noticed how the fall spices waft out of the festive box. Just like with those nostalgic animal cookies, the tiny nonpareils add a crunchy layer of texture to the cookie. Both kids and adults will enjoy these tiny bites of fun fall flavor.

2. Cinnamon roll blondie bar

The only reason these insanely delicious cinnamon roll blondies aren't higher on the list is that you have to do a little work before consuming them. Not that these are particularly hard to make, and some might enjoy a little cozy baking on a cool fall day. In our opinion, this mix has just the right amount of steps to feel like you're actually creating something special but not so many as to be difficult. Just mix the base, then the cinnamon sugar filling before swirling them together and baking. The final step is a powdered sugar glaze.

Once they're done and baked, the package yields nine squares, though it depends on how you cut them. The nutritional information suggests that the package yields 20 squares, but we're not even sure how you'd cut a nine-inch square pan into such small portions. However you slice it, each bite is tender and chewy with ribbons of cinnamon sugar and covered in gooey glaze.

1. Apple cider donuts

One of the most amazing parts about fall is going out to the apple orchard, picking apples, and buying lots of yummy apple treats. The best of these treats is undoubtedly the apple cider donuts, which are available at virtually every apple orchard across the nation come fall. These donuts are dense and crumbly, with a fine cinnamon sugar coating. If you don't have access to an apple orchard or just don't feel like making the drive, your local Trader Joe's offers a six-pack of delicious apple cider donuts that rival even the best of the orchard's offerings.

The apple cider donuts at Trader Joe's are a bit drier than some fresh-made alternatives and are definitely best eaten within two days of purchase (though we ate one five days after buying and it was still great washed down with some coffee). Our favorite part is the perfectly crunchy cinnamon sugar coating that provides just the right amount of texture and sweetness.