It’s hard to imagine an American breakfast landscape without Pop-Tarts, or a Pop-Tart without frosting. Fortunately, only one of those things exists, and I ate it (hint: it wasn't the landscape).
To be more accurate, I ate and ranked a staggering 27 different types of Pop-Tarts: all the ones that are on the market today – plus two seasonal varieties – for the sake of science. Turns out that Kellogg’s has been busy since the first four flavors of P-Tarts were released back in 1964.
Pop-Tart taste-test ground rules
All of the Pop-Tarts you’ll see below were lightly toasted, according to the directions on the box, because integrity is important. They were all, also, consumed in a 24-hour period to avoid any lapses in comparative tasting abilities. Toaster Strudels were stopped at the door.
27. Unfrosted Brown Sugar Cinnamon
I’m going to start this off with an admission that will color some of my other reviews: I've always thought cinnamon was a bit boring. To utilize a hip, timely cultural reference, if given the choice between chocolate babka and a cinnamon babka, I will not choose the lesser. Still, I know a lot of people who swear by Brown Sugar Cinnamon. I’m sure they would probably also agree that frosting adds a lot to a Pop-Tart – it’s something interesting to look at. This doesn't have a lot going on. It feels naked, unfinished. There are greater Pop-Tarts to come.
26. Printed Fun Sugar Cookie
Of course I’d eat this on the first almost-90-degree day of the year – it’s got an image of a sledding cartoon dog tattooed on it. I want to be that dog, but today I’ll eat his visage. It’s poetic, no? This is by far the most straight-sugary Pop-Tart I encountered, with a hint of butteriness. The inside is a little chalky for my taste, but when it’s supposed to taste like a sugar cookie, I guess that comes with the territory.
25. Brown Sugar Cinnamon
I know I’m going to get a looooooot of angry comments for this one. In a world with this many Pop-Tarts, it was inevitable that one would get lost in the fray – unfortunately, that’s Brown Sugar Cinnamon. While it’s a unique taste among Pop-Tarts for not being chocolate or fruit, its texture just isn’t as appealingly gooey as the other ones, leaving me wanting more.
24. Hot Fudge Sundae
The term “hot fudge sundae” shouldn't conjure up any nuanced feelings. This is one of the most universally loved treats in America. Hot? Yes. Fudge? Yes. Sundae? Well, if you’re offering. Sadly, the Pop-Tart version is middling. It’s a chocolate Pop-Tart with some sort of vanilla frosting inside, and vanilla icing on top. And sprinkles. Visually, this is what a guy who thinks of everything in terms of Pop-Tarts would say a hot fudge sundae looks like. But taste-wise, something just doesn't add up. Now, if you put a scoop of ice cream on top…
23. Printed Fun Gingerbread
There’s a bit of a gingersnap thing going on here, and I respect that. The filling is mostly sugar – it’s like a molten version of the stuff a gingerbread man’s clothes would be made out of, and that makes it pretty true to a real gingerbread cookie. It just feels weird toasting this thing because all I can picture is the gingerbread man from Shrek, and the last thing I want to do is hurt that guy.
22. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Pop-Tarts’ lineup now contains both Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Chocolate Chip varieties. Who doesn’t love licking cookie dough off the spoon… despite the inherent risks of salmonella poisoning? I imagine this Pop-Tart is like that, but with zero threat of poisoning. And I’m more or less right – the filling is like liquefied Cookie Crisp, with little chocolate nibs inside. If that’s your idea of a cookie, these are the right toaster pastries for you.
21. Confetti Cupcake
Welp, this one actually smells like a cupcake… or a birthday cake… or some other type of cake. Full disclosure here: I am more of a pie guy than a cake guy. When my birthday rolls around, I always tell my friends, “Don’t get me a cake.” Then they usually don’t get me anything and say I’m petty. But I digress. I’m not a huge fan of this, or of cakey, frosting-y taste in general. I’m going to try and be a bit more impartial here and say that if you DO like that kind of taste, this would taste good to you. Harrumph.
20. Red Velvet
What is “red velvet,” exactly? A cursory Googling reveals that Liz Lemon won’t let me into her office anymore. A second Googling reveals that it’s a cake made with buttermilk, cocoa, and red food coloring. And, true to that, this Pop-Tart has a slightly cakier consistency than the other ones. It’s almost spongy! The tart itself is actually red, and the filling looks like cream cheese icing. It’s a decent offering, I’m just still not sure what this whole red velvet thing is.
19. Whole Grain Brown Sugar Cinnamon
There’s something grainy about the exterior of this one, which makes sense given its name. The inside of it, for some reason, is more jelly-like than the other cinnamon sugar insides, and I kinda dig it. There isn't an appreciable difference in the consistency or taste of the pastry shell, but they changed the formula for the filling? I’m callin’ it – this is the best Brown Sugar Cinnamon variation.
18. Gone Nutty! Peanut Butter
Aside from the fact that its name makes me think this Pop-Tart might be insane, I’m into this. Peanut butter seems like natural territory for Pop-Tarts. This particular one is unfrosted (bold move, Kellogg’s!), but that doesn't detract from it – the peanut butter is front and center, and it isn't chalky like some other peanut butter fillings. Just don’t give it to Ted, or he’ll have an allergic reaction.
17. Gone Nutty! PB & J Strawberry
In the partnership of peanut butter and jelly, the two halves are supposed to create harmony. These two are a little more mismatched originally – kind of a Riggs and Murtaugh situation. Ultimately, though, they get the job done, but the jelly is definitely the dominant force here, and the peanut butter gets lost. And everyone learns something along the way.
16. Unfrosted Blueberry
This Pop-Tart wouldn't look out of place behind the glass case of a European pastry shop, but that also means that it’s one of the MOST out of place in terms of blending in with its fellow P-Tarts. As with before, there’s something unnerving about seeing a Pop-Tart without its clothes. It feels vaguely scandalous, yet underwhelming, like hearing yet another new rumor about Charlie Sheen. The blueberry filling actually contains blueberries, which is nice, and it’s tart like a blueberry-flavored thing should be.
15. Unfrosted Strawberry
The above sentiment still applies – this thing is a little flakier than the Blueberry one, for some reason, and I just like the strawberry filling better. It feels fresher, and more true to life.
At last! One of the classics. I feel like I’m eating a friend. Wait… that doesn't sound right. Whatever – I've already had the unfrosted version of these, so there’s no reason to believe I would like these any less. I’m digging the flecks on top. Blueberry is a solid flavor, and the frosting on top is satisfying to eat.
13. Low-Fat Strawberry
I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING. I was surprised too. But honestly, this one doesn't taste all too different from the standard Strawberry Pop-Tart! The texture is a little chunkier and more solid (it doesn't fall apart as readily), but there’s no difference in the taste of the frosting and the filling. How did they make it low fat?! My mind is confused, but my stomach is continuing as though nothing is wrong. And I trust my stomach more.
12. Gone Nutty! Chocolate Peanut Butter
I went into this one with admittedly high expectations. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are incredible; everyone knows that, and they more or less introduced the combination of chocolate and peanut butter to everyone. These taste more like Reese’s Pieces, but that doesn't mean that there isn't something there.
11. Chocolate Fudge
There’s a weird topping on here that looks like sea salt, but isn’t. The inside of this Pop-Tart isn't as molten as I had envisioned it – it looks like a darker version of the Brown Sugar Cinnamon filling, but upon closer inspection (i.e. entry into my mouth), it’s a richer chocolate filling than is found in the Chocolate Chip one. It tastes like that fudge frosting you get with a pack of Dunkaroos. That is not a complaint.
10. Cookies & Creme
Whoa, cool! This is essentially an Oreo flavor. Which is essentially a Hydrox flavor (look it up). I’m a big fan of Oreo, so I’m interested to see how much Pop-Tarts can poach their flavor without bringing things into a legal gray area. It actually tastes almost exactly like an Oreo, except crustier – but not in the sea captain-y way. In a good way.
Ah, the S’mores Pop-Tart. I grew up thinking this one was my favorite, and crusaded many times for its purchasing at the grocery store. I've always been a fan of marshmallows and chocolate, and the combining of the two into a crusty pastry just made sense to me – it’s like an actual s’more without the need to buy a bunch of disparate ingredients and light a fire. The S’mores Pop-Tart is still good. The stripes of chocolate and marshmallow inside are the only fillings arranged this way, which is kinda weird, but you still get a bit of everything in one bite so it’s hunky-dory.
8. Wildlicious Wild! Berry
A molten, sticky, red berry center. Colors that evoke plastic water cups, or bus seats, or the rip-roaring good time that was the 1990s. This is something a marketing executive would call “extreme.” And it tastes like wild berries, all right – these were my some of my favorite Pop-Tarts when I was growing up, because they had crazy blue frosting and my favorite color was blue, and my logic at the time was that blue things just tasted better. I was right then, and I’m still right today.
Here’s a classic – Raspberry’s frosting is a little unintuitive (it’s white with red specks), but it’s got a retro feel and is “baked with real fruit!” The fruit filling is nice and tart, but it’s missing a certain je ne sais quoi. It tastes like a raspberry, but one that’s been mixed with a couple other fruits. It’s kind of a compromising way to encounter a raspberry – since it’s hobnobbing with lesser produce.
Strawberry things are usually the best out of any assorted fruit bunch. This rule generally applies to candy, gummies, gum, soda, etc. The Strawberry Pop-Tart has been around a long time, and it was almost undisputedly the king back in the day. Now it’s aged to a degree, but there aren't many wrinkles to be seen. The only thing is, there’s another Strawberry iteration that’s eclipsed it. More on that later.
This is probably the best-tasting of the real (not imaginary) fruit Pop-Tarts. It’s tart, it actually tastes like a cherry, there’s plenty of filling, and it’s got a good consistency. The sugar on top is pretty unambiguous about what it is – and I like a Pop-Tart with honesty. This feels like a piece of shortbread with cherry jam on top. And frosting. And sugar.
4. Chocolatey Strawberry
This new flavor seems like a damn good idea. It’s limited edition! Chocolate and strawberries go well together – why else would people in all those sexy montages feed them to each other?! Is this the most romantic of the Pop-Tarts? Welp, there honestly isn't a whole lot of chocolate flavor, but the strawberry taste is fantastic, and it pops more than in the standard Strawberry Pop-Tart. The chocolate seems to only be in the shell part of it, which means that by definition it’s a smidge less than perfect.
3. Chocolate Chip
Right off the bat, this looks more appealing than the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. It’s got actual chocolate chips studding the top of the tart, with a drizzle of chocolate icing. And, DAMN. It’s filled with tons of chocolate goo! This is by far the most overwhelmingly chocolatey of the Pop-Tarts, and it’s not even in a chocolate pastry shell. It tastes like someone took a gas station cookie and microwaved the crap out of it, which, incidentally, is the way gas station cookies were meant to be eaten.
2. Wildlicious Wild! Cherry
Somehow, SOMEHOW, this has an even stronger cherry taste than the pure cherry one. Is it “wild”? Perhaps not, but that doesn't really matter, does it? You don’t buy a Pop-Tart for its level of tameness. You buy it because it is delicious. And this is – it’s like a party in my mouth, and the only one who showed up is a Wild! Cherry Pop-Tart. I’m at peace with that fact. It also has strong cherry Starburst notes.
1. Blue Raspberry
It’s common knowledge in my household that blue raspberry-flavored things are the best things, because they can be anything you want them to be. Have you ever seen a blue raspberry? No, because blue raspberries were made up by Big Flavor to sell more Blue 5 Lake (in my imagination). But that doesn't mean this made-up concept isn't still delicious. This is the ultimate proof of my theory. The raspberry jelly interior is opaque, not translucent like most other fillings. It’s like the slime Nickelodeon used to dump on those awful Figure It Out! contestants, except mixed with Blue 5 Lake.
The filling is on the tangy side, just like a blue raspberry should be, and has a stronger and more distinctive flavor than any of the other fruit Pop-Tarts. It tastes like liquefied Jolly Ranchers, probably has an insane amount of sugar, and is most likely the single worst thing to serve your child for breakfast… but that’s OK, because I’m an adult. I know because I had coffee this morning.
And the beauty of being an adult is that adults get to choose their own destiny/breakfast. Cheers to you, Blue Raspberry Pop-Tarts.