For the majority of Americans, fall is their favorite time of year. Some of this can probably be attributed to the delightful sweater weather, the crisp colorful leaves, or the fun Halloween decorations, but let's be honest -- much of what makes autumn so attractive are the flavors. Come September, our favorite fast food restaurants and coffee shops are suddenly bursting with fresh-baked pumpkin breads, caramel apple lattes, cinnamon cakes, apple muffins, and cranberry pies.
It's a magical season for our taste buds and noses, but -- alas -- there can also be mixed feelings among consumers stepping through the doors of their preferred stops. For some, a hint of melancholy wafts in the air alongside the brewing caramel coffee. Why? Because the restaurants that introduce us to heavenly fall bites and beverages also very often rotate, change up, or eliminate those products completely. And while some recipe eliminations might be for the better, change can still be hard to swallow, particularly when you walk into your favorite chain seeking autumn flavor and see a new treat sitting in the spot where your favorite used to be. Discontinuation is a bittersweet part of life -- or, should we say, part of fall. Here are some fast food fall items you'll never get to eat again.
McDonald's Apple Fritter
Chock full of comforting apple-cinnamon goodness, apple fritters are one of those pastries that can't help but scream "fall." And in October 2020, McDonald's released a new bakery pick: A large, golden-brown, drizzled-with-icing apple fritter. Though this new addition to the menu was met with notably mixed reviews by consumers, it seemed to have just settled into being a reliable autumn treat, if nothing else, when things took a turn.
After a three-year run, McDonald's recently made the announcement many dreaded and others praised: Its Apple Fritter, as well two other newer breakfast treats -- the Blueberry Muffin and the Cinnamon Roll -- had been discontinued. "It tastes like it was made 3-4 weeks ago, frozen, then shipped to a McDonald's then thawed out to sell... but didn't sell and sat around all day getting stale," one Reddit reviewer, clearly harboring zero despondency over its exit from the menu and verbally decimating the fritter online. However, another user on a separate thread actually recommended the McDonald's fritter, calling it "very tasty." Whichever side of the opinion meter you personally fall on, one thing's for sure -- there are currently no plans to bring back the controversial fall-themed pastry.
Dunkin' Almond Joy Hot Chocolate
"Available for a limited time" is a bit of a double-edged sword in the food industry. Because the given product will only be around for a short amount of time, it can easily be phased out if it's disliked by the masses, which gives restaurants the ability to experiment with a new recipe or flavor profile without having to over-commitment. On the other hand, if the product ends up exploding in popularity, the company may find itself running out of supplies quickly and getting clamored at by newfound fans begging to have the limited-time product brought on to the menu.
The latter scenario is exactly what happened in the case of the Dunkin' Almond Joy Hot Chocolate, introduced in the fall of 2017. A steaming hot chocolate inspired by the candy bar was introduced just before Halloween, loaded with hints of sweet coconut throughout. Along with a cold version -- the Frozen Almond Joy Hot Chocolate -- the new additions were marketed straightaway as limited-time only. Unfortunately, the donut-and-coffee chain meant it. Despite consumers' appreciation for the two chocolatey beverages with all the right notes of nuttiness, they were never mixed again after that year. Pardon us while we wrap up in a sweater and take a stroll through a park full of rainbow leaves to mourn.
Panera Pumpkin Muffies
Muffies are a bakery treat inspired by everyone's favorite part of muffins: the tops. Covered in toppings like crumble, chocolate chips, or nuts, muffies look like a standard round cookie while maintaining the amazing bready texture of a regular muffin. They are an utterly delicious fall indulgence and became even doubly so when Panera Bread developed a pumpkin version.
Years ago, Panera's Pumpkin Muffie reigned supreme among the fall bakery lineup at the breakfast and sandwich chain. It was a seasonal favorite, but for reasons unclear, it was quietly phased out, much to the disappointment of many a regular. "Whatever happened to the Pumpkin Muffies?" reads a Reddit thread under r/Panera. "I used to have them all the time, all they have are the pumpkin muffins, but to me, they're not the same. Any ideas?"
"They got cut some time ago when the bakery selection was reduced," replied a Panera employee. The reason as to why the muffies made it to the chopping block when so many other bakery products remain is still a mystery, but either way, it seems we will have to resign ourselves to a regular old pumpkin muffin during our visits to Panera for our fall fix.
Starbucks Pumpkin Scone
The pumpkin scone from Starbucks is arguably its most popular fall bakery product, but just a few short weeks ago, consumers' hearts were shattered when the world's leading coffee shop dropped its fall menu. While old favorites like the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin and new introductions such as the Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte were proudly listed, an extremely popular staple had been suspiciously left off. That's right; the Pumpkin Scone was gone from the lineup. Questions immediately arose, and Starbucks promptly responded, confirming the worst. Its Pumpkin Scone is, indeed, gone.
"I just heard the news and I'm so sad," said a Reddit user within the subreddit r/starbucks. "It was my favorite." Another customer lamented with them, commenting, "I literally only ordered this. I don't ever go to starbucks except during autumn. I don't even get the pumpkin spice drinks, I just was there for the scones." However, for employees of the coffee chain, the pastry's exit is not all bad. One user working as a barista actually stated that they looked forward to not being yelled at by angry customers requesting a heated scone -- referencing the Starbucks company policy against placing the frosted goods in the oven before serving. Regardless, if you are a devastated consumer or an ecstatic employee, the outcome is the same: There will be no rectangular pumpkin pastry to accompany your latte this season.
Taco Bell Caramel Apple Empanada
Empanadas are fried, savory pastries usually stuffed with seasoned ham, poultry, or beef. So when Taco Bell came out with an unusually sweet take on the traditional Spanish delicacy, consumers' minds were blown ... in a good way. The shell filled with the combination of caramel and apple was a hit -- but after 10 years, the highly successful Caramel Apple Empanada was removed from the menu in 2019. The response was immediate. "Bring back the caramel apple empanada," reads the title of a petition on change.org which, impressively, racked up more than 6,100 signatures.
But despite the overwhelming disappointment of consumers, employees of the Mexican chain didn't seem too shocked by the decision. According to one worker on Reddit, the sweet empanadas took quite some time to prepare. Frying reportedly lasted up to six minutes, and the cooks were only permitted to have a few ready-to-go at any given point. If a customer placed an order for more than they currently had warm and waiting, new ones needed to be fried. Because this process was so time-consuming, it didn't take long for the drive-through line to become backed up. Whether or not the difficulty to prepare was a legitimate driving point in the decision for removal, the fact remains that we may never take a bite of the Southwestern-style apple pie ever again.
McDonald's Fried Apple Pies
Given that the best time of year for apple harvesting is the fall, it makes sense that a pastry stuffed full of them -- like a classic apple pie -- would become a popular bakery staple in the autumn months. And the McDonald's version -- a rectangular-shaped lattice mini-pie -- brings all the fruit-forward, sweet-tasting flavors of fresh apple picking.
While the Baked Apple Pie may be a popular dessert staple for the massive chain restaurant, back in the day, it didn't used to be baked at all. That's right; The McDonald's apple pie was known as the Fried Apple Pie when it was first introduced in 1968. That decadent little fruity rectangle was not prepared in the oven; it was dropped into the deep fryer until that delicious shell turned a mouthwatering, crispy golden brown.
But at the start of fall in 1992, McDonald's made a shocking change to its appley recipe. The fried mini-pies became Baked Apple Pies, reportedly due to health concerns. However, the original crisped version can still be found internationally ... you know, if you feel like taking a trip to London or Sydney to satisfy your crunchy apple craving.
Burger King Dutch Apple Pie
From a culinary standpoint, there are some things that are truly special about living in America; for instance, the many different cultural influences leading to a wide variety of cuisine, or the fact that different regions of the U.S. offer completely different dining experiences. However, being an autumn-appreciating eating American felt like a curse in 2020. Why, you ask? Because of Burger King.
A long-standing, very popular fall treat was dropped. Celebrated for its flaky crust, Burger King's Dutch Apple Pie was unexpectedly discontinued ... in American stores, that is. While international locations would still maintain the mouthwatering apple-filled delicacy, the burger chain confirmed that the supplier of the coveted pies for the American stores was no longer making them. Whether or not the COVID pandemic affected this outcome at all, we can't be sure, but, as far as we're concerned, the Dutch Apple Pie stands as yet another testament to the many losses of that traumatic year.
Dairy Queen Caramel Apple Pie Blizzard
Blizzards are truly Dairy Queen's claim to fame. The ice cream-and-candy shakes have come in so many different flavors over the years that it would probably be impossible to recall them all. But one short-lived Blizzard is too interesting -- and too appropriate for fall -- not to reminisce on.
It was called the Caramel Apple Pie Blizzard of 2020 and contained a mix of vanilla ice cream, pie crust chunks, bits of sweet caramel, whipped cream, and apple topping. Essentially, all the makings of your traditional apple pie ... in ice cream form. Sounds good ... or does it? This experiment of a Blizzard was one that came with mixed reviews and opinions and faded just one season on the menu. "The caramel apple pie blizzard didn't sell well at my store and honestly I despised it. It was gross," said one Reddit employee in r/DairyQueen. However, another user commented on a separate thread, naming the fall-flavored treat as one of the discontinued Blizzard flavors they missed the most. Regardless, it is what it is -- we'll have to get our caramel apple flavors in solid form this season.
Starbucks Maple Oat Nut Scone
Maple is a flavor profile very heavily affiliated with the fall, which is interesting considering the peak harvesting season for maple syrup actually occurs in the spring. But, it seems, the heavy, smoky flavor of maple fits in better during the autumn months, having become the base for a wide array of treats such as treacly seasonal cereals, pancake mixes, and donuts.
And years ago, maple became the predominant flavor in a delicious, now-discontinued Starbucks scone, as well. With a dense, filling batter stirred with oats and chopped nuts and topped with a maple syrup-infused glaze, the pastry was the perfect treat to order with a coffee and kick your boot warmers up to enjoy on a chilly fall day. "My answer will always be the maple oat nut scone," reads a user's comment on Reddit under a thread regarding discontinued Starbucks products. "I miss it so much."
We concur. The many copycat recipes online are the closest we can come to getting a taste of this piece of fall Starbucks history, but it's never quite the same going in to order our Pumpkin Spice Latte without it peering back at us from behind the glass bakery box.
Dunkin Hazelnut Swirl
It's hard to imagine a drink introduction that was more universally successful than the Dunkin' Hazelnut Swirl in 2014. For nearly eight years, it dominated the menu, filling consumers with the creamy taste of autumn hazelnut.
But in late 2021 to early 2022, the systematic dissolution of the drink began, fading away from location after location until they were completely gone. "Dear Dunkin' fans," reads a Facebook post from a Dunkin' location in Lima, Ohio, in February of 2022. "We are sad to announce that our hazelnut swirl has been discontinued. We do have some left in the store, but when it's gone it's gone, so get it while you can."
The word on the street (well, on Reddit, more precisely) is that supply chain issues caused this cancellation, but that did nothing to deter the furious fanbase. What was remarkable about this particular discontinuation was the ferocity behind the customer pushback against it. Petitions, raging online threads, and even cruel comments on Facebook posts showed clearly that people really, really liked the Hazelnut Swirl. "I had an identity crisis," said one user on Reddit regarding the exit of the drink. "Deleted the app and wrote them a nasty email omg...I definitely had a breakdown." Comments similar to this go on and on, displaying how emotionally attached some folks get to their coffee flavors.
Krispy Kreme Pumpkin Spice Mini Crullers
Everybody loves a Krispy Kreme doughnut -- but everyone really loves a fall-flavored Krispy Kreme doughnut. And the Pumpkin Spice Mini Crullers were truly edible autumnal paradise. Moist, pumpkin-forward cake-like mini pastries covered in a spiced crystalline glaze, they were available at every customer's convenience in the aisles of Walmart, Food Lion, and others during leaves-dropping season ... for a short time.
The Pumpkin Spice Mini Crullers were a part of Krispy Kreme's grocery store line, which included multiple flavors of pre-packaged doughnut snacks from 2020 until summer of 2023. But after a decision from corporate to concentrate energies, resources, and products, the Mini Crullers simply didn't make the cut. The Krispy Kreme trucks stopped delivering to the grocers, and what was left on the shelves was sold. The Pumpkin Spice Mini Crullers -- excellent breakfast treats to enjoy with a cup of hot black coffee in your pajamas at home -- are officially no more. We can't say we're thrilled, but we'll do our best to maintain a positive attitude as we wait and see what new fall recipe Krispy Kreme cooks up next.
Read the original article on Mashed.