REVIEW: White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla M&M’s

Vanilla has a PR problem. Not just a flavor, vanilla is often used as a pejorative adjective meaning “ordinary, conventional, or plain.” Something referred to as “vanilla” can be unadventurous, bland, or boring. After all it has done for us, does vanilla deserve such disrespect?

Maybe due to the word’s connection, I can’t think of many candies that prominently advertise vanilla as a major flavor. Enter M&M’s to make the ordinary special with White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla M&M’s, this year’s seasonal offering from the brand. When I discovered the product, I had questions: Is a vanilla M&M just a white chocolate M&M wearing a different label? What makes it toasty? What is the M&M on the package drinking, and where can I get one?

If the cure for boredom is curiosity, tasting the White Chocolate Toasty M&M’s may cure your assumption that vanilla is a dull flavor. Unlike some white chocolate, the M&M’s core is not merely sweet and definitely not cloying. There is real vanilla flavor that enjoys a certain degree of complexity, similar to the taste of vanilla bean ice cream.

However, that comparison isn’t perfect because of the M&M’s added “toastiness.” To me, this comes through as a subtle hint of cinnamon. (For inquiring minds, the ingredients list offers only “natural and artificial flavors,” with no mention of vanilla or any kind of spice.) When I opened the bag, the aroma reminded me of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but the flavor wasn’t nearly as heavy on spice. Think leftover cinnamilk – if you love to douse your cereal, that is – with an added hit of vanilla, or even a subtly-spiced horchata. Together, the flavors melt into a rich, creamy concoction that probably tastes similar to whatever Green M&M is drinking on the package. The only unsolved mystery of this seasonal treat: will she share her recipe?

If you use seasonal M&M’s for your holiday treats, please note that these M&M’s are on the large side and colored white, beige, and brown. The candy shell shades may not have a standard holiday or winter color scheme, but they will remind you to double-check your toaster dial at breakfast tomorrow.

Even if you typically bypass vanilla for bolder flavors, don’t mistake White Chocolate Toasty Vanilla M&M’s for boring or ordinary. The depth of vanilla flavor, enhanced by a hint of toasty warm spice, tastes like coziness wrapped in a candy shell, proving one thing: It’s okay to be vanilla, but it’s even better to be toasty vanilla.

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 2.47 oz (70 g) Share Size bag
Purchased at: Sheetz
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per half pack/35 g) 170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Snickers Butterscotch Scoop

One scoop or two? One square or two?

For Snickers fans this summer, these questions are practically one and the same. After the reappearance of its Rockin’ Nut Road flavor, Snickers has released a new candy inspired by the ice cream parlor: Butterscotch Scoop, a limited edition flavor exclusive to Walmart stores.

Snickers Butterscotch Scoop consists of peanuts, caramel, and butterscotch-flavored nougat enrobed in a milk chocolate coating. It is available as a single-size pack, which includes twin confectionary squares, or a stand-up pouch with fun size bars.

As someone who will choose butterscotch for her sundae topping nine times out of ten, I was thrilled to see Snickers honor this underrated sweet. Outside of ice cream, pudding, and the candy dishes of the elderly, butterscotch is a goldmine of unfulfilled junk food potential. Additionally, as someone whose local ice cream shops do not offer butterscotch at least seven times out of ten, I feared that my experience with this Snickers would remind me of these failed searches, which inevitably end with the bitter taste of melted hope dripping on my sneakers.

The unwrapped Snickers smelled exactly like an ice cream parlor, that buttery vanilla scent eliciting visions of waffle cones and sprinkles. As much as I love the familiar formula of a Snickers bar, I only had eyes and taste buds in that moment for the butterscotch-flavored nougat. The star of the bar didn’t disappoint. It tasted like the butterscotch of my dashed summer ice cream stand dreams, a perfect medley of brown sugar and butter flavors. Contrary to my expectations, the nougat wasn’t sweeter than what you’d find in a standard Snickers. Avoiding the syrupy sweetness sometimes associated with butterscotch contributes to the bar’s success.

The milk chocolate, peanuts, and caramel are obviously treasures in their own right, and we know we cannot love Snickers without loving them. I do think the Snickers Butterscotch Scoop would have benefited from fewer or smaller peanut pieces. Although their crunch is wonderful, the peanuts sometimes overpowered the butterscotch flavor. Peanut lovers may disagree here, but those who do are probably lucky enough to live near ice cream parlors that do not deprive them of butterscotch. I examined two bars (with two squares per bar, that’s four squares total, for anyone who is still in summer school), and each piece had a similar ratio of fillings. I’d be interested to know if the fun size bars are structured the same way, or if they privilege the nougat.

Despite this minor gripe, my answer to the question posed at the beginning of this review is, “Two, please!” Snickers Butterscotch Scoop is a deliciously buttery sweet twist on the original bar. This fan will banish butterscotch hard candies from her candy dish indefinitely for another scoop of Snickers.

Purchased Price: $1.24
Size: 1.41 oz (40 g) bar
Purchased at: Walmart (store exclusive)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 200 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 22 grams of sugar (including 20 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Campfire Smores M&M’s

Many Halloween and/or campfire stories talk about something coming back from the dead. And that’s what we have here with these new Campfire Smores M&M’s.

There was a s’mores variety back in 2016, but that one had a crispy center.

This 2023 edition, on the other hand, has a milk chocolate center with a layer of white chocolate. The s’mores aspect comes from artificial flavoring. Oh, and now the folks at Mars (not to be confused with the folks on Mars) have dropped the apostrophe in smores, and they have decided that smores are for fall/Halloween instead of summer.

(In fairness, though, I’m reviewing these in July, so the summer connection still applies. There was even a pool toy on the Walmart display of Halloween M&M’s.)

At first, I wondered why the crunchy texture that evoked graham crackers was dropped. But after tasting the M&M’s, I’m not even mad. It turns out this back-from-the-dead flavor is not scary after all! They really do taste like smores. The chocolate comes from chocolate, obviously, but I also taste graham. I’m not sure if I detect marshmallow, but then again, marshmallows don’t even have much of a flavor. Texture-wise, it seems the M&M’s are going for the gooey part of the smore rather than the crunchy part, as evidenced by the gooey chocolate in the “Smores” branding.

I also enjoy the orange, black, and white color scheme, which screams Halloween, more than the orange, purple, and green “Ghoul’s Mix” of the standard flavors. The colors also evoke those of a smore, provided you use bright-orange graham crackers. (Make it happen, Honey Maid!)

In past years here at TIB, I have reviewed other Halloween M&M’s of dubious relevance — Cookies and Screeem and Creepy Cocoa Crisp. I like these better than the CaS, but not as much as the CCC.

Oh, and I compared the prices and sizes for the previous seasonal M&Ms. In 2017 and 2019, they were $3.19 for an 8-ounce bag. In 2023, they’re $3.96 for a 7.44-ounce bag.

Shrinkflation is the real monster in this scary story.

Purchased Price: $3.96
Size: 7.44 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 grams/about 16 pieces) 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar including 17 grams added sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Click here to read our previous M&M’s reviews.

REVIEW: Caramel Cold Brew M&M’s

Can you ever have too much coffee and chocolate? M&M’s doesn’t think so, and the brand rarely steers me wrong. I recently reviewed and loved Espresso M&M’s, so another coffee-flavored variety came as a welcome surprise to this candy fiend. This time, the flavor inspiration is Caramel Cold Brew, represented in the milk chocolate M&M’s through coffee flavor and a chewy caramel center.

(For coffee novices, cold brew is made by steeping coarse ground coffee beans in cool water for long periods of time. The resulting concentrate is diluted with water or milk and can be served cool or hot with various flavorings. For coffee aficionados, the ingredients list includes natural and artificial flavoring, so I can’t speak to what extent the cold brewing process was honored during the production of these M&M’s. Rage as you must.)

Even though caramel filling is not new to M&M’s, I was surprised to find the chewy center rather than a caramel-flavored chocolate core. I do not think of texture when I think of cold brew. If you are chewing your cold brew, you might want to double check the expiration date of the milk you added to it.

Luckily, chewy caramel centers are delicious, so I couldn’t hold the choice against the M&M’s. Also, the caramel appears to be doing double duty here by holding the coffee flavor. The milk chocolate tastes like the standard chocolate component of a Plain or Peanut M&M, while the caramel has a robust, bitter-edged coffee flavor. I determined this after several rounds of carefully nibbling the chocolate off one M&M, then tasting its center separately. This process made me look like a hamster cracking apart a sunflower seed with its wee teeth, but that’s showbiz, baby.

However you eat Caramel Cold Brew M&M’s, the experience is interesting. There is an initial strong burst of coffee flavor that pairs beautifully with the chocolate and caramel. As you work the caramel center, the coffee taste fades, and the buttery glory of the caramel takes over, retaining a hint of coffee flavor. If you asked me to guess, I would have wondered if the world had been granted Kettle Corn M&M’s. The hint of coffee deeply flavors the caramel and gives it a brown butter or toffee vibe that lasts for most of the eating experience. The caramel paradoxically provides and dilutes the coffee flavor, but I guess I’d rather have my coffee diluted by caramel than by an ice cube that could sink the Titanic.

That initial coffee burst, though, removes all doubt of the product’s intention. The coffee aftertaste is also really strong, as though I spent all day drowning my sorrows in my favorite cafe, which I’m not scheduled to do until later in the week.

Like Caramel M&M’s, these candies are on the larger side and come in a rainbow of colors (no coffee-colored shells here). If you love that product, the enhanced flavor of Caramel Cold Brew M&M’s will pep you up come snack time or coffee break.

Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 9.05 oz (256.6 g) stand up pouch
Purchased at:
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per 1 oz serving, or about 11 candies) 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Twix Cookie Dough Ice Cream

“My goodness, the cookies are crunchy!”

Those were the first words to pop into my head after tasting a spoonful of Twix Cookie Dough Ice Cream. It wasn’t, “Dear Lord, the caramel swirl is so gooey!” Or, “Hot skippity damn, the cookie dough bites are so cookie dough-y!” Or, “Oh my, the vanilla flavored reduced fat ice cream with artificial flavor added is so creamy!” The Twix caramel cookie bar pieces shouldn’t be the most memorable components of this new ice cream from Mars, but they are to me, and that’s probably not a good thing.

However, I do have to say they’re crunchier than the actual cookie in a Twix bar. Granted, I did get this pretty much straight from the factory, thanks to Mars. Also, while they’re chocolate-coated and apparently have caramel, I didn’t taste either. Maybe their crunch might be distracting me from noticing.

Despite the caramel swirl and the crunch from the Twix cookie pieces, I couldn’t shake the thought that this tasted like a typical chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. The cookie dough bites have the same flavor and soft, gritty texture as they do from other brands. But while they’re somewhat plentiful, their size isn’t impressive compared to the gobs in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

“Vanilla flavored reduced fat ice cream with artificial flavor added” isn’t the most tantalizing string of words, but the sweet and creamy vanilla base does the job of allowing the cookie dough flavor to come through whenever your spoon scoops one up.

Twix Cookie Dough Ice Cream is adequate, and I happily ate the entire pint to satisfy my sweet tooth. But I wish this had chopped Twix Cookie Dough Bar pieces with the cookie dough bites. That might’ve helped make this pint a bit more memorable.

DISCLOSURE: I received a free product sample from Mars. Doing so did not influence my review.

Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 16 fl oz
Purchased at: Received from Mars
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 220 calories, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 110 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar (includes 17 grams added sugar), and 3 grams of protein.