It seems as if fall creeps up on us earlier and earlier every year. Halloween candy and Thanksgiving decorations appear in stores before we’ve even had the chance to shake the last bit of sand from our beach towels. The same can be said for one of our favorite fall flavors, pumpkin spice. Yep-brands are releasing their own interpretations of the super popular pumpkin spice before pumpkins have had time to ripen on the vine. (Starbucks hasn’t yet made its famous Pumpkin Spice Latte a year-round treat. But if you’ve got a craving before or after the season, check out our copycat recipe.)
The latest pumpkin spice product to hit the stores is Pumpkin Spice Cheerios. The iconic (and gluten-free!) cereal brand has just launched a limited-edition flavor for fall-and it’s popping up in supermarkets across the country. The brand says the cereal tastes like “fall in a box.” Curious to see if it was worth the hype, I decided to give it a try. Here’s what you need to know.
At a Glance
In true Cheerio fashion, the packaging is clean and simple. If the bright orange packaging wasn’t an obvious signal of its flavor, rustic images of pumpkin and cinnamon are a dead-sure sign that the cereal is packed with pumpkin spice. Plus, the back of the box answered a question that had been racing through my mind-what even is pumpkin spice? For Cheerios, it’s a blend of natural fall flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and real pumpkin puree. No artificial flavoring? Count me in.
What’s more, the box also touts how the cereal has “no high-fructose corn syrup,” an unhealthy sugar that’s common in breakfast cereals. (Cereal is just of the many “healthy” foods that are actually quite bad for you.) After seeing this callout, I skimmed over the ingredient list. Despite its claim to use no high-fructose corn syrup, the brand still lists sweeteners such as refiners syrup and corn syrup.
Takeaway: With the pumpkin spice mystery solved, I’m excited to see whether the cereal tastes just as good as it sounds. I’m not too fussy about the sugar claim (as my sweet tooth usually rules all my decisions), but if you’re on a sugar-free diet, we’ve got some other options.
A Closer Look
Tearing open the box, I was hit with a spicy-sweet aroma. You could already smell the cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s definitely the smell of fall-or, at least, fall baking.
I had expected the cereal to have a neon orange color, as most pumpkin spice products do. But to my surprise, the cereal looked natural. Each O was golden brown with a faint pastel orange hue. Inspecting more closely, I saw flecks of spice.
Takeaway: Looks good, smells good-I’m ready to dig in.
The Taste Test
Eager to get a taste, I hastily poured the O’s into my bowl and topped them off with some good ol’ Wisconsin dairy. And let me tell you-Cheerios delivered on its promise of pumpkin spice. The first flavor to hit me was the sharpness of clove. Next came warm nutmeg, followed by a very subtle hint of cinnamon. After a few spoonfuls, I noticed that the cereal had a lingering bite-but it was soothed by the creaminess of dairy. (I admit, my remedy for too much spice was sipping milk straight from the bowl.)
Compared with Honey Nut Cheerios, the limited-edition flavor was considerably less sweet. I was half hoping for the hyper sweet flavor of a whipped cream-covered Starbucks latte-but, alas, these are pumpkin spice Cheerios, not pumpkin spice latte Cheerios. Nevertheless, the spicy blend was satisfying.
Takeaway: It’s refreshing that Cheerios decided to take a natural approach to the pumpkin spice trend. I’m going back for a second bowl!
The Final Verdict
If you’re a fan of spice, you will adore this cereal. It’s got all the strong qualities of traditional plain Cheerios (good crunch, wholesome taste and kids love ’em), but with a kick of heartwarming fall flavor. In my opinion, it’s the perfect way to ease into autumn. One disclaimer: Don’t buy it and expect loads of sweet pumpkin flavor. You can leave that job to these recipes.
Ready to go out and grab a box? Here are my best tips for what to make with Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, apart from, y’know, a plain bowl of cereal.
I’m a big fan of taking breakfast with me on the go. When I have extra time on a Sunday night, I’ll make a batch of no-bake cereals bars for breakfasts (or sweet snacks) throughout the week. Load ’em up with Pumpkin Spice Cheerios to kick-start fall. What’s more, the recipe calls for only five ingredients. Win! Get the recipe, here.
Another easy-to-make snack to with the new Pumpkin Spice Cheerios is a simple fruit parfait. Sprinkle a handful of cereal over your favorite flavor yogurt. For inspiration, see our recipe for Peanut Butter-Banana Yogurt Parfait. My take? Fill a bowl with plain Greek yogurt, then add a tablespoon of pumpkin puree, a handful of dried cranberries, some diced apple and a drizzle of maple syrup. Add Pumpkin Spice Cheerios and you’ve got a yummy blend fit for the season.
Care to share with friends? Add the cereal to a wow-worthy snack mix. Our recipe for White Chocolate Party Mix can be whipped up fast in the microwave. For an extra boost of flavor, toss in some raisins.
An even easier way to enjoy the new product? Take a cue from our expert Food Editor James Schend, who prefers to eat his cereal straight out of the box.