Pumpkin Spice vs. Apple Cinnamon - The Experts Weigh in

A photo of both pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon marshmallows being ripped in half as if in battle

It feels like every year, “Pumpkin Spice” season comes earlier and earlier -- and while we don’t mind sipping into fall a little sooner, this year we’ve noticed that late summer’s favorite flavor Apple Cinnamon is also having a moment. From apple pie to apple cider, even apple-inspired coffee drinks are hitting our radar. Which team are you - Team Pumpkin Spice or Team Apple? Our experts weigh in on both fall trends…

Team Pumpkin Spice

The blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove can be traced back to Southeast Asian islands, all the way back to the 17th-century. Recorded in the earliest American cookbooks (as part of a “pompkin pie” recipe) it’s safe to say that in the US, pumpkin-inspired desserts have always been a part of our DNA. However, it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the McCormick Spice Company released “Pumpkin Pie Spice” as a blend used to enhance pumpkin pies. 

Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows next to pumpkin pie and a PSL

When it comes to the Pumpkin Spice Latte, we can all thank Starbucks for creating a craze in 2003. Ironically enough, this beverage is made with a spice blend, steamed milk, and espresso. Still no pumpkin! So here we were, developing a fall marshmallow back in 2015, and wondering if it would be possible to take our own personal love for the PSL to the next level. 

“What I felt was missing from most pumpkin spice products was the actual pumpkin! So when developing my first ‘Pumpkin Spice marshmallow’ it was crucial that it actually had real pumpkin folded in,” says XO Marshmallow Co-CEO Kat

Jump ahead to 2021, and XO Marshmallow’s Pumpkin Spice marshmallow is the only confectionery to actually use pumpkin as an ingredient in its fluffy creations. Pumpkin Spice marshmallows give you early Thanksgiving vibes, especially when paired with caramel or chocolate in a s’more. We also love dropping a mallow or two in our coffee and cocoa (hello instant Pumpkin Spice Latte!) or snacking on these morsels individually for a quick fall pick-me-up. 

When compared to Apple Cinnamon marshmallows, we find that both provide a yummy blend of warm spice and nostalgic flavor; but the Pumpkin Spice marshmallow has the advantage when added to coffee or hot chocolate. The sweet pumpkin and blend of cloves and nutmeg take everyday drinks to the next level. +1 for Team Pumpkin Spice!

XO Marshmallow pumpkin spice marshmallows surrounded by pumpkin pie and cinnamon sticks

Team Apple Cinnamon

If you think Pumpkin Spice has a long culinary history, then apple pie is about to blow your mind! Apple pie originated in England, and had a very lucrative European tour before becoming the staple of American desserts in the 18th and 19th century. Affordable and easy to make, apple pie quickly became a favorite late summer/early fall treat. Because of the varieties of apples available in North America, the popularity of apple treats continues to grow even today! 

Apple Cinnamon marshmallows in a bowl next to apple slices and cinnamon sticks

Hopping over to our nearest apple orchard, we love late September for all the bushels of apples we get to pick! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the possibilities -- apple cider, applesauce, pie, donuts, heck even marshmallows! The combination of apple and cinnamon smooshed together is one of our favorites. And we couldn’t help but notice that apples are having a moment this year. 

Apples are such an easy ingredient to incorporate into fall desserts. “This year, we’re seeing apples influencing all brands, big and small,” says Co-CEO Lindzi. “It’s really gratifying to see when your vision -- that you’ve planned out months in advance -- aligns with what is trending and what bigger companies are doing too.” 

Apple Cinnamon marshmallows are terrific in baking. Broiled for a few seconds atop a pie, or folded into rice crispy treats, nothing else elevates a fall dessert quite like Apple Cinnamon. We recommend making a s’more with salted caramel, if you’re feeling Halloween caramel apple vibes. Or tossing a couple mallows into a steaming cup of warm apple cider. Better yet, swing by our cafe for our Apple a la MOOD treat (a deconstructed apple pie)! 

When it compares to Pumpkin Spice, we find that Apple Cinnamon wins points for creativity, trendiness, and oomph in baking. Here we’ve got a +1 for Apple Cinnamon marshmallows!

XO Marshmallow Apple Cinnamon Marshmallows

At the end of the day, we're a team Like What You Like! Since you don’t ever need to justify your fall faves, why not enjoy them both? 

Overall we find that Pumpkin Spice has a touch of that historic blend, and the sweet pie mouth-feel you’d expect, making it a delicious, melty option for hot cocoa or coffee. Apple Cinnamon, on the other hand, is a bit more delicate, and brings back memories of late summer apple pie, hot apple cider, and Apple Jacks cereal. We found this marshmallow works deliciously in a s’more and is a great flavor to elevate your fall baking. 

Don’t forget to share your fall XO Marshmallow recipes by tagging us on Instagram or TikTok at @xo.marshmallow using #TroopXO.

Kat Connor and Lindzi Shanks blog signature