I compared Starbucks' and Dunkin's fall drink menus. While Starbucks came out on top, I think it's too expensive for every day.

  • I decided to compare fall coffee drinks from Starbucks and Dunkin' to see which has the best lineup.

  • Starbucks' Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew was my favorite: It wasn't too sweet but still tasted like fall.

  • While Starbucks came out on top for me, Dunkin' is a cheaper — and still delicious — alternative.

Fall is upon us, which means it's time to break out the flannels, cue up "Gilmore Girls," blast "Red (Taylor's Version)," and, most importantly, drink pumpkin-flavored coffee.

As a fall aficionado, I decided it was time to compare the fall coffee menus at Dunkin' and Starbucks to see which chain had the best seasonal lineup.

I learned that, while Starbucks and Dunkin' both offer pumpkin-spice lattes, the drink is far from the best offering at either. Keep scrolling to see which chain reigned supreme, and which drink was my favorite overall.

Fall is my favorite season. I was born in October, and I love pumpkins, apple-picking, sweaters, Halloween, and scary movies — the list goes on.

gabbi apple picking
Apple-picking is a must.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

In honor of the new season, I decided to pit the menus from Starbucks and Dunkin' against each other by ranking their iced and hot fall drinks.

From Starbucks, I tried an Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso, a Pumpkin Spice Latte, an Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato, a Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, and the Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte.

From Dunkin', I sampled an Iced Nutty Pumpkin Coffee, a Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte, an Iced Pumpkin Swirl, and a Pumpkin Iced Chai.

I didn't include either chain's frozen drinks — Starbucks' Frappuccinos or Dunkin's Pumpkin Frozen Coffee — because I think they're more like milkshakes.

Going into this ranking, I assumed I wouldn't like either of the new Starbucks' apple drinks, since mixing apple and coffee did not seem appealing to me. I was also hoping I could find a drink from Dunkin' that wouldn't be too sweet, since the chain is known for its sugary concoctions, as TikTok user FlavCity pointed out.


My two least favorite drinks were the same from both chains: the iced pumpkin chai.

iced pumpkin chais
Iced pumpkin chai from Dunkin' and Starbucks.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Dunkin's Pumpkin Iced Chai costs $4.99 for a medium, which contains 460 calories. It comes with whole milk and pumpkin syrup in addition to the chai.

Starbucks' equivalent drink also has 460 calories in a grande (its version of a medium). It comes with 2% milk, four pumps of chai, pumpkin cream cold foam, and the chain's pumpkin-spice dust. It costs $6.75, pre-tax. In New York City, where I bought the drinks, tax was another 60 cents, so it was a whopping $7.35 in total.

Even though my colleagues Anneta Konstantinides and Melissa Wells both enjoyed Starbucks' pumpkin chai, it was not for me — and neither was the Dunkin' version.

I thought both drinks were sickly sweet, especially when using a straw and getting a mouthful of the sweet syrups in both drinks. I also didn't really taste much pumpkin in either drink — just sugary syrup.

I love chai lattes normally, so I'll be sticking to the plain old chai in the future.

My second-least favorite drink was Starbucks' Grande Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso.

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Starbucks' Grande Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

The Grande Iced Apple Crisp Oatmilk Shaken Espresso made its debut this year, after the popularity of its other shaken drinks like the Iced Brown Sugar Oatmilk Shaken Espresso, which was added in 2021. I'm a huge fan of the original, so I was looking forward to trying it.

Truth be told, I thought this drink (which has 180 calories in a grande and also cost $7.35 after tax) wasn't bad. I enjoyed the Apple Brown Sugar syrup — more on that later — and I didn't think the drink was too sweet, and the apple after-taste and aroma was pleasant. I also love putting oat milk in my coffee, as I think it makes my coffee creamier.

But I just couldn't justify the price tag, especially since I didn't totally love the drink. It sort of reminded me of drinking a fall-scented candle.

Dunkin's Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte ranked next on my list. Starbucks' version narrowly beat the drink from Dunkin'.

dunkin pumpkin spice latte
Dunkin's Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

According to the Dunkin' app, a Pumpkin Spice Signature Latte comes with pumpkin-spice flavoring, unsweetened vanilla syrup, and sweetened pumpkin syrup, and is supposed to be topped with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar. I couldn't see those toppings on my drink, but they had probably melted by the time I picked up my order.

The drink has 420 calories and costs $4.89 for a medium (pre-tax). In total, it cost $5.32.

Simply put: To me, this tastes artificial. I thought it tasted of nothing but syrup — as a pumpkin fan, it doesn't bother me that much, but it just means that I found Starbucks' version, which contains real pumpkin puree, slightly better.

Next up is Starbucks' iconic Pumpkin Spice Latte, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

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Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

As Peter Dukes, known as the "father of the PSL," told Insider reporter Anneta Konstantinides, Starbucks put pumpkin-flavored coffee on the map back in 2003.

"The idea of pumpkin in a beverage did not exist," Dukes said. "So we started pouring espresso shots on the pumpkin pies and tasting it, getting a sense of what those flavors tasted like when you combine the pumpkin pie and espresso."

When I compared Starbucks' PSL to the one from Dunkin' in 2018, I came to the same conclusion: Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, which contains 390 calories in a grande, is better, even if it's a full $2 more, at $7.35 after tax.

The drink comes with Pumpkin Spice Sauce made with sugar, condensed skim milk, and pumpkin puree. It also has a Pumpkin Spice Topping consisting of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove. It's also supposed to have whipped cream, but just like with Dunkin', it had melted by the time it got to me.

Like I said in 2018, the pumpkin flavor didn't totally overwhelm the coffee, and it didn't taste as artificial as the one from Dunkin', in my opinion.

However, somewhat surprisingly to me, these came in towards the bottom of my list.

A classic Iced Pumpkin Swirl from Dunkin' edged out both pumpkin-spice lattes for its simplicity (and paired perfectly with "Gilmore Girls").

dunkin pumpkin iced coffee
Dunkin's Iced Pumpkin Swirl.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

I'm a person of simple tastes: Sometimes you just want an iced coffee with a couple pumps of pumpkin-flavored syrup, and that's exactly what this is.

Dunkin's iced coffee doesn't automatically come with milk, so the caloric content varies from 170 to 250 calories, depending on what you choose. A medium costs $4.09 before tax, and $4.45 after tax in New York City.

For its relatively cheap price, the pumpkin iced coffee earns its fourth-place spot, even though I thought it was still pretty sugary.

The most pleasant surprise was the Apple Crisp Macchiato, which debuted in 2021. I could almost feel leaves crunching under my feet while I drank this.

starbucks apple drink
Starbucks' Apple Crisp Macchiato.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

Starbucks' Apple Crisp Macchiato debuted in 2021, and as Anneta Konstantinides noted, feels "like fall in a cup." According to the chain's website, it's made with "apple, cinnamon, oats, and brown sugar."

The apple taste really comes through in the Apple Brown Sugar syrup when it's mixed into a hot drink, as does the spiced-apple drizzle. Even just smelling it had me craving a warm apple cider.

But this 320-calorie drink costs $7.35 after tax. Even if I wanted to drink this every day, my wallet couldn't take it.

However, as a once-in-a-while treat, I highly recommend the Apple Crisp Macchiato.

After checking my Starbucks balance, I breathed a sigh of relief when it was time to try another Dunkin' drink. My second-favorite drink was the delicious Nutty Pumpkin Coffee, even if the syrup congealed at the bottom.

nutty coffee dunkin
Dunkin's Nutty Pumpkin Coffee.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

In an August press release announcing its 2023 fall drink menu, Dunkin' called the Nutty Pumpkin Coffee "last year's crowd-pleaser," and noted it was "back by popular demand."

So, what is it? It's simply coffee mixed with cream, pumpkin syrup, and hazelnut syrup.

Hazelnut is my go-to flavor of coffee anytime of year, so I was predisposed to like this drink — and I did. I found that the hazelnut complemented the pumpkin once I mixed it all together. Now I understand why fans would demand this drink return.

A medium contains 260 calories and costs $4.78, making it one of the cheaper drinks with a lower caloric value.

But my favorite overall, which I had anticipated, was Starbucks' Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew.

pumpkin cream cold foam
Starbucks' Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

The Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew, which contains 250 calories and costs $5.93 after tax, has been my favorite fall drink since it debuted in 2019. It was Starbucks' first fall drink after the PSL, CNBC reported.

It's a simple drink: Starbucks' cold brew and vanilla syrup, topped with the pumpkin cream cold foam. It was the least sweet drink I tried, but it still had a kick of fall-flavored goodness. I love the pumpkin cream cold foam so much that I tell people to add it to every drink — it elevates everything.

With its (relatively) low price and low caloric amount, its actual coffee taste, and its high amount of caffeine, the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew is my favorite fall drink overall.

Starbucks, in my opinion, has the better-tasting offerings, but it's just too expensive for me.

Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato
Starbucks' Grande Apple Crisp Oatmilk Macchiato.Melissa Wells/Insider

With almost every drink (save the cold brew) coming out at over $7 after tax in New York City, I couldn't believe how expensive Starbucks has gotten. In 2018, a grande PSL was $5.93 after taxes, which shocked me at the time, and prices have continued to rise.

Starbucks did not respond to Insider's request for comment regarding its price increases.

However, I do think the syrups and coffee are better at Starbucks than at Dunkin'. I could mainly taste the differences between the two while drinking each PSL: Since 2015, Starbucks has used real pumpkin, according to the company, and it made the drink taste more like an actual pumpkin.

Dunkin's drinks, on the other hand, taste like someone added some flavored sugar to your coffee, in my opinion.

But if you're looking to get a shot of fall in your coffee without spending big, the Nutty Pumpkin Coffee from Dunkin' is perfect.

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A Nutty Pumpkin from Dunkin'.Gabbi Shaw/Insider

I loved how the hazelnut and the pumpkin paired together, and it was the right amount of creamy that I like in my iced coffee. Plus, with a $4.78 price, it was easier to stomach spending that much on coffee.

If money was no object, I'd be hitting up Starbucks every day — but since it is, I'll be switching it up with Dunkin' every so often this fall.

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