Every year for the past three years or so, Trader Joe’s has stocked its shelves with delicious Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels. These candies are bittersweet chocolate shells filled with a creamy caramel and topped with a generous pinch of sea salt. They’re very good, especially for those who enjoy a salty-sweet treat. This year, I noticed that Trader Joe’s decided to offer a twist on this basic candy with Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels. Pumpkin spice – a combination of spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and others – is such a well known spice blend that it is almost synonymous with fall, which makes these caramels seem like a deliciously sophisticated alternative to your average piece of Halloween candy. Plus, I’m a big fan of the original caramels and was curious to know how the fall-flavored variety stacked up.
The dark chocolate is thick, with a great “snap” to it as you bite down, and it has a pleasantly fruity, bittersweet quality to it. It is so crisp that it is easy to shatter when you try to divide your caramel into two bites, however you could pop a whole chocolate into your mouth at once if you’re concerned about getting sticky fingers. The caramel is smooth and soft, not chewy, and it is heavily flavored with pumpkin pie spices. Ginger especially stands out in the caramel, giving it a bright, spicy note. A smidge of milk chocolate and a big pinch of salt finishes each chocolate and really helps bring everything together in each bite. The salt makes the caramel pop and tames the dark chocolate just enough to prevent it from dominating the caramel, even in the chocolates where the ratio is a bit off and there is a lot more chocolate present than filling.
If I had to choose between the original and the pumpkin spice, I would choose the originals because I find that I can eat quite a few without tiring of them. The pumpkin spice is good – especially if you’re a fan of ginger – but not quite as addictive as the plainer version of this product. They’re still a great candy to have around at this time of year and are a great addition to a dessert tray with an array of other pumpkin spice desserts.