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 amount of different types of Pop-Tarts: all the ones that are on the market today for the sake of science. Of course, like any brand that has tons of variety to choose from, some flavors get retired while others get revamped, so in the name of journalism we'll try to keep this list relatively updated. We might be missing a couple new flavors but also aren't including any crispers, new Pop-Tart bites, or seasonal offerings.
Anyway, it turns out that Kellogg’s has been busy since the first four flavors of P-Tarts were released back in 1964. Here's how these toaster treats stacked up:
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.
15. 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.
14. 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. It's a little sandy, to be honest, leaving me wanting more.
13. 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...
12. 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.
11. 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.
10. 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. 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.
8. 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.
7. Cookies & Creme
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.
5. 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.
1. 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. If you're a fan of chocolate over fruit, than this should be in your grocery cart. I know it's definitely in mine.
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Adam Lapetinais the former partnerships editor at Thrillist, and would like to thank his toaster for being the real MVP. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.