The squash offshoot that was once relegated to jack o' lanterns on Halloween and whipped into pies for Thanksgiving is experiencing a foodie renaissance. A lot of coffee houses, restaurants, and fast food chains are embracing the pumpkin for a seasonal spark on their menus.
Here are some of the many ways that consumers are enjoying pumpkin this season at publicly traded eateries.
It's safe to say that pumpkins had arrived as a trendy menu add-on when Starbucks introduced them into its seasonal latte line. The Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is a combination of espresso, steamed milk, and pumpkin-flavored syrup -- topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices.
It's as decadent as it sounds. A venti-sized offering made with whole milk clocks in at 510 calories and a whopping 12 grams of saturated fat -- 60 percent of the recommended daily fat intake in a single cup. But you can nix the whipped cream and go with skim milk for a fat-free indulgence.
How popular is the drink? Starbucks claims to have sold 200 million of them over the years before it began pouring them out last month. The grande 16-ounce option will set you back $4.55, on average (prices do vary from location to location).
It's been a few years since the world's largest fast food chain ripped a page out of the Starbucks playbook with its McCafe line of premium coffee beverages. This season, it's moving a step closer to Starbucks by offering its own Pumpkin Spice Latte. McDonald's knows how to price its offerings aggressively. It's 16-ounce version sells for $2.89, and it will be available through mid-November.
It's not the only way that McDonald's is playing up the gourd this season. Customers can also order a pumpkin pie treat, served in the same turnover style as its baked apple pie.
You know it's fall when pumpkin finds its way into Jamba Juice's blenders.
The world's largest standalone smoothie chain takes real pumpkin and mixes it up with frozen yogurt, soy milk, and a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg. It's fat-free on its own, but you can take down the calorie count by asking the blender barista to "make it light" for you, substituting a lower-cal base and ice for a smoothie that has a third fewer calories, carbs and sugar.
Dunkin' Brand (DNKN)
Among chains, Dunkin' Donuts offers the most ways to enjoy the seasonal flavor.
New this season on the baked goods front is a pumpkin pie doughnut with pumpkin pie filling. There are a couple of other pumpkin doughnut varieties available, and also a pumpkin muffin. The doughnuts start at 99 cents apiece, though they're cheaper by the dozen.
DineEquity's IHOP has historically been a late arrival to the pumpkin harvest, but in early November it does introduce its line of holiday pancakes that have included eggnog flapjacks and white chocolate chip mint pancakes, starting at $4.99 as of two years ago.
The relevant holiday offering here is the Pumpkin Praline Pancakes. The pumpkin spice batter is eventually covered with praline glazed pecans and topped with caramel sauce and whipped topping.
The bad news is that IHOP is still weeks away from rolling them out. But the good news is that unlike the other seasonal rollouts, IHOP keeps serving its holiday hotcakes through the end of the year.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Jamba. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.