Some events are so rare, so fleeting, that you can almost feel them being inscribed into the history books as you bear witness. I’m talking about the total solar eclipse of 2017, or the time my dad finished a meal without ricocheting a fart off of one of our family’s wooden dining chairs. These events are the very essence of “once in a blue moon,” and we’re experiencing one before our very eyes: McDonald’s just released the Caramel Brownie McFlurry, the chain’s first new McFlurry since 2019.
First, a brief history of the McFlurry. The treat was created in Bathurst, Canada, in 1995 by McDonald’s franchisee Ron McLellan. While the permanent McDonald’s menu only offers two McFlurry flavors—Oreo and M&M’S—the chain has released a wide variety of temporary flavors including Butterfinger, Praline and Cream, Twix, Snickers, and Rolo, all of which have been discontinued. (Let’s not forget the exquisitely named Ogre-Load McFlurry, a mint chocolate concoction that debuted in 2007 to celebrate the release of Shrek the Third.) The last of these came in 2019, when the chain briefly released a Snickerdoodle flavor to coincide with the holiday season.
Enter the Caramel Brownie McFlurry. While the Caramel Brownie actually debuted in Canada in 2017, this is the first time it’s hitting U.S. McDonald’s menus. The brand describes it thusly:
“The Caramel Brownie McFlurry® is what sweet dreams are made of—creamy vanilla soft serve with caramel topping and chocolate brownie pieces blended throughout.”
The Caramel Brownie is unusual for a few reasons. First, most McFlurries involve only one mix-in: M&Ms or Snickers, for example. The majority of McFlurries also involve commercial brands like Rolo and Oreo, while this one involves distinctly unbranded brownie and caramel. Finally, the Caramel Brownie is only available for a limited time, although its exact lifespan remains unclear. Since time is of the essence, I headed out to get a taste.
I scooted through my neighborhood McDonald’s drive-thru at exactly 11:01 a.m. to request the new McFlurry, which I carried home in my greedy little raccoon hands. It had admittedly been ages since I had a McFlurry, and I was pleased to see not much has changed. Same vanilla soft serve, same mysterious straw-like spoon that attaches to a machine and serves as a mini-mixer. Same feeling that I was getting away with something by ordering a McFlurry in the light of day, even though I’m an adult and can do whatever I want.
The first thing I noticed was the girth of the brownie chunks at the top of the treat. Each chunk was probably between half an inch and 3/4 inch wide. I was expecting more of a crumbly situation, although the product photos like the one at the top of this article show distinct chunks. Personally, I’m partial to crumbles, but I’m not gonna kick any brownie variation out of bed.
I dug in and was immediately floored by the distinct flavor of the brownie chunks—like something very specific from my past. It took me a while, but I eventually figured out that the McFlurry’s brownie chunks taste identical to the miniature brownie bites you can find at most supermarket bakeries. You know, the ones you eat at baby showers, graduation parties, or in your dorm room while watching Mythbusters reruns. They’re not good brownies; they have a weirdly acrid, chemical aftertaste that one of my coworkers described as “pointy.” Still, it’s hard to stop eating them once you start, so I persevered.
The caramel ribbons, however, had very little caramel flavor. They tasted more like a generic sweet syrup, although they did offer a nice gooey textural effect. Unfortunately, the caramel disappeared altogether when I was about halfway through the McFlurry, and the brownies fizzled out soon after. By the time I made it to the bottom of the treat, I hit a few solid inches of pure soft serve. (Better than a sharp stick in the eye, I’ll admit.) Of course, the naked soft serve could’ve had something to do with the McDonald’s employee who crouched by the McFlurry machine and screamed, “Oh my god, oh my god, why?” while I waited by the drive-thru window. You just never know what you’re going to get with those things.
Overall, the McFlurry was a fun, ultra-sweet treat to consume, ahem, before lunchtime. But I think I’ll be sticking with my go-to: the Oreo McFlurry, which offers pretty reliable cookie crumb distribution throughout. Of course, with fast food joints like our beloved Culver’s moving into the concrete space, fast food patrons suddenly have a lot more dessert options. While the Caramel Brownie McFlurry will certainly do in a pinch, I do have to ask: why debut Caramel Brownie when there’s an entire Facebook group devoted to bringing back the Reese’s McFlurry? Give the people what they want.