If you’re craving a Wendy’s Frosty, no Blizzard, McFlurry, or Culver’s frozen custard will do. That’s because a Frosty is a fundamentally different thing, not only in terms of consistency—it’s made intentionally thick so as to be a hybrid of milkshake and soft serve—but also in flavor, a light balance of vanilla and chocolate meant to complement a savory Wendy’s meal rather than overwhelm it. In short, there’s nothing in the fast food realm quite like a Frosty. So it was rather surprising when Wendy’s announced that it would release a Pumpkin Spice Frosty for fall 2023. Why would such a trailblazing treat try to imitate this already very imitated flavor profile?
The Wendy’s Frosty has been around since 1969, but only began offering flavors beyond its classic chocolate relatively recently. The chain first introduced a vanilla version in 2006, pulling it on and off the menu until making it a permanent offering. In 2019, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Frosty, a birthday cake flavor briefly came to market, followed by last year’s promotional limited-time releases of strawberry and peppermint flavors. The new Pumpkin Spice Frosty is just one more sign that Wendy’s is now positioning the Frosty as a canvas for further experimentation, much like the McDonald’s McFlurry, but since no limited-time flavor has yet bested the classic chocolate, I did not come in with high expectations for the fall treat.
As it turns out, the Pumpkin Spice Frosty does not best the chocolate flavor—but it’s one that I hope returns to the menu every fall.
Given the typically muted color palette of the Wendy’s Frosty, it’s hard to overstate how artificially orange this thing is. Its hue is on par with a Creamsicle, brighter than an Orange Cream. And while its flavor tastes similarly artificial, it borrows from the success of the traditional Frosty’s “light chocolate” approach by staying ever so slightly muted. This way, it doesn’t taste cloying on the front end, nor does it leave the saccharine aftertaste of so many fast food milkshakes. In short, the flavor is pure pumpkin pie delight.
The press release notes that the Pumpkin Spice Frosty combines a Vanilla Frosty with “the flavor of pumpkin and warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.” Improbably, that writeup is more or less accurate: You really can taste the spices, or at least a fast food approximation of them. The Vanilla Frosty turns out to be a great base upon which to layer the pumpkin flavors, letting the warm spices stand out and, more importantly, stand on their own. When it comes to the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or even the new Dunkin’ Ice Spice Munchkins Drink, the pumpkin spice flavor profile is combined with coffee notes, which can often distract from the autumnal elements more than it highlights them. For a hit of straight-up pumpkin pie indulgence, this is the treat to beat this year.
The Wendy’s Pumpkin Spice Frosty comes in a “Junior” size, so if you’re not sure whether to commit to one, that’s a great way to get just a taste. I recommend it for anyone who maybe doesn’t want to pay #PSL prices, or who is (understandably) horrified by the prospect of soggy Munchkin crumbs lining their coffee cups. Wendy’s is serving a Pumpkin Spice Frosty Cream Cold Brew this fall, too, but frankly, cold brew is everywhere. You’re better off opting for the Frosty, a concoction that no one else in fast food can touch.