It’s Girl Scout Cookie season.  And while I’m all for supporting your local Girl Scouts, who have a history of being huge supporters of strong young women and have also been trans-inclusive since at least 2012, far ahead of the Boy Scouts’ recent decision just a couple months ago.

But sometimes personal budget restrictions/the other 10 months out of the year happens and you just NEED SOME DAMN SAMOAS (or Caramel De-Lites, according to which bakery your local troop uses.)

And for this reason, I have made it my personal mission to help you/myself out and conduct the Great Off-Brand Girl Scout Samoa Cookie Very Scientific Comparative Study of 2017.

I work in the arts, so my scientific methodology may be slightly flawed, but I’ve done what I can.  I have made the very important sacrifice and have secured five different brands of caramel/fudge/coconut cookies along with my precious box of Samoas to put them all to the test.  (I’m sure there are other store brands available and may vary by location, but I had to cut myself off after I drove all over town and have spent half of my Sunday afternoon doing so.  Also, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with six containers of these cookies.  Well, I do, but I really shouldn’t eat all of them myself.)

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The competitors in this experiment:

  • Keebler Coconut Dreams
  • Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies from Aldi
  • Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies from Family Dollar
  • Coconut Fudge and Caramel Cookies from Dollar General
  • Caramel Coconut Stripes Cookies by “Signature Kitchens” which is a store brand of Safeway Foods (I got them at ACME in Delaware)
  • Girl Scout Samoas by Little Brownie Bakers LLC

Next, I developed my rubric for judgment.  I attempted a blind taste test, the best I could alone, because, while willing, Winchester “Chet” the Dumpstercat lacks both opposable thumbs and a full grasp of the English language.

The cookies were judged on the following qualities:

  • Appearance
  • Flavor Ratio
  • Texture
  • Overall Feelings

Of course, this is all very subjective, and I’m not known for my razor-sharp palate (I’ll eat pretty much anything and probably like it just fine) but hopefully it can give you some sense of the Cookie In Question.

Methodology:

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Because I was doing this all by my lonesome, I tried my best to do it as “blind” as possible.  I labeled the paper towel squares 1-6 on the bottom and then put one cookie on each one, mixing them around.  I’m not going to lie…the one part where this experiment broke down is I became painfully aware of which one was the original Girl Scout Cookie.  So I tried my hardest not to let it bias me in any way, but I’m human so just keep that in mind…

For future reference, the cookies above are as follows:

Top row L-R:  Signature Kitchens (Safeway brand), Benton’s (ALDI brand), Clover Valley (Dollar General brand)
Bottom row L-R:  Girl Scout Samoa, Family Gourmet (Family Dollar brand), Keebler Coconut Dreams

I wrote my thoughts for each cookie and then, after I learned which cookie it was, I listed my results below each corresponding cookie.  There’s no particular order to these.  I’ll recap the placing of the cookies at the bottom so you know which ones to buy and which ones to avoid!

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Keebler Coconut Dreams

Where Purchased: Wal-Mart (I know, I hate myself for it)
Price: $2.00 (on sale…currently on sale for $2.50 at ShopRite, and the regular price is around $2.99)
Package Size:  8.5 oz, 18 cookies
Calories and Fat Per Cookie:  70 calories, 4 grams fat
Date on Packaging: Best before October 27, 2017 (Just to make sure I didn’t get old cookies which would influence taste/texture. Yeah, I’m thorough AF.  This is serious!)

Note:  Unless things have changed since 2012, Little Brownie Bakers, who make Samoas, are owned and run by Keebler.  BUT, looking at the ingredients list and nutrition info, the recipes are slightly different than the OG cookies.  Cuuuurrriousssss.

Appearance: A little darker looking coconut than the others, less orangey.  The chocolate drizzle is more curved as opposed to straight stripes.  This coconut looks particularly hearty in texture.  With some of the other cookies, you could see the flat cookie underneath the chocolate on the bottom, but this one appears to have a layer of coconut underneath it before it had the chocolate base.
Flavor Ratio:  Tastes…burnt.  There’s a bitter taste going on that tastes kind of chemically.  The cookie seems to be a narrower circle than the others, so there’s less cookie to the other ingredients, which would normally be a positive thing for me. But alas: burnt tasting AF.  I’m not a fan of this one.
Texture: Very chewy with quite crisp coconut
Overall Feelings: Definitely my least favorite.  (I tasted another cookie after I found out which one this was from a different point in the package, and it still tasted burnt and chemically and weird.)  This is an awful cookie.  And I love cookies pretty indiscriminately.  Part of me wonders if I got a bad batch.  I ate some last night independent of the others and didn’t think they tasted awful, so maybe it was just in close comparison to the others.

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Benton’s Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies

Where Purchased: ALDI
Price: $1.79
Package Size:  8.5 oz, 18 cookies
Calories and Fat Per Cookie:  65 calories, 3 grams fat
Date on Packaging: Best before December 5, 2017

Note:  The package boasted that these cookies won the Better Homes and Gardens Best New Baked Goods Product award in 2015, so I had high hopes!

Appearance: This is a beautiful cookie.  It’s got a delicate straight chocolate drizzle and is nice and shiny with caramel.  The coconut is in small flakes and the chocolate on the bottom layer is a nice puddle.  The cookie is almost completely obscured by the toppings. It’s fairly round, but with just the slightest hint of a scallop around the edges.
Flavor Ratio:  This cookie tastes a little more buttery, and very sweet.  I really like this one a lot.  It’s quite flavorful, and I can taste the chocolate more in this one than others.  Often, the chocolate gets lost.
Texture: A little harder and chewier than some of the options.  The cookie is especially crisp.
Overall Feelings:  OMG I love this one!  My favorite!

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Family Gourmet Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies

Where Purchased: Family Dollar
Price: $1.75
Package Size:  7 oz, 15 cookies
Calories and Fat Per Cookie:  65 calories, 3 grams fat
Date on Packaging: Best before July 26, 2017

Appearance: Mostly round, with a slightly greyish chocolate drizzle in straight, thin lines.  Mostly covered cookie.
Flavor Ratio: Full buttery flavor, almost as good as the Aldi brand.
Texture: Quite crunchy but satisfying.
Overall Feelings:  I like this one a lot.  I didn’t have much to say about it as it was quite similar to the Aldi brand but juuuust a little less flavorful (and virtually the same, as we find out, as the Dollar General brand!)

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Clover Valley Coconut Fudge and Caramel Cookies

Where Purchased: Dollar General
Price: $1.75
Package Size:  7 oz, 15 cookies
Calories and Fat Per Cookie:  65 calories, 3 grams fat
Date on Packaging: Best before November 22, 2017

Note:  I’m sensing a pattern.  Upon a comparison of ingredients and nutrition info, it appears the Family Dollar and Dollar Tree labels are the exact same, and then I checked the ALDI info against it and it all seems to match.  Hhhmmmmmmmm…do they all originate from the same place, I wonder?

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Appearance: This cookie looks very wet/shiny because of the caramel. It’s got a nice, uniform chocolate drizzle with tiny little coconut pieces. The cookie is nearly round in shape, and is thoroughly covered with the coconut, caramel and chocolate.
Flavor Ratio: Nice and buttery, chewy caramel.  A little cookie-heavy.
Texture: Very crunchy cookie
Overall Feelings:  Nearly as good as the Aldi brand, but i just feel like there’s a bit too much cookie and not enough of the toppings.  Ties in second place with the Family Dollar cookies.  Which isn’t surprising now that I know they’re both probably identical anyway!

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Signature Kitchens Caramel Coconut Stripes

Where Purchased: ACME, though this should be available at all Safeway branded stores, including Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Albertsons, ACME, Jewel-Osco, Lucky, Shaw’s, Star Market, Super Saver, United Supermarkets, Market Street and Amigos
Price: $1.67 (on sale, 3/$5, but I’m not sure about its regular price.  I think $1.99?)
Package Size:  8.5 oz, 18 cookies
Calories and Fat Per Cookie:  65 calories, 3 grams fat (but SLIGHTLY less saturated fat than the three other virtually identical brands, which leads me to believe that, even though they once again seem virtually identical, they may be different!)
Date on Packaging: Best before August 1, 2017

Appearance: This one has a little bit more distinct “flower” shape than most of the others do.  The chocolate drizzle is on the wider side, but it’s got a greyer, more frosted coloration.  There’s a couple spots where there’s no coconut or caramel on the cookie.  The coconut flakes are on the bigger side.
Flavor Ratio: There’s a large amount of cookie to the caramel/chocolate/coconut ratio.  It’s a little blah and forgettable
Texture: Nice and crispy, and the coconut has a satisfying crunch to it.
Overall Feelings: Too much cookie and that greyish chocolate is a little upsetting. The flavor is a bit bland.  5th place.

And then there’s The One And Only:

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*angelic choir noises*

Girl Scouts Samoas by Little Brownie Bakers, LLC

Where Purchased: My coworker’s daughter, and also parked outside your friendly neighborhood grocery store.  You can even figure out where they’ll be in your zipcode with the tracker at the top of their website (which is kinda creepy if you think you can just “hunt down Girl Scouts” but whatever…)
Price: $4.00
Package Size:  5.5 oz, 15 cookies
Calories and Fat Per Cookie:  75 calories, 4 grams fat (the highest in calories and fat…does this make them superior?!)
Date on Packaging: Best before September 1, 2017

Note:  Girl Scout cookies are made by two different bakeries, Little Brownie Bakers (which is a division of Keebler) and ABC Bakers.  And if you want a deep dive into the differences, regions, etc. you can check out this extremely thorough article about it!

Appearance: Visibly different than the others.  A more intense coloration, with the chocolate drizzle being more wiggly than a straight line.  It’s got a noticeably scalloped flower shape.  The cookie is thoroughly covered.
Flavor Ratio: A little bland at first, gets butterier as you chew.  Tastes slightly artificial in some way.
Texture: Significantly chewier than others, which I liked a lot.
Overall Feelings: It’s okay.  4th place.  I was super surprised/disappointed that I was as apathetic about this cookie as I was because I’m a total Samoas fangirl!

To recap: 

The “winner” according to my tastebuds is Aldi’s “Benton’s Caramel Coconut Fudge Cookies.”

2nd place (tie): Both the Family Dollar and Dollar General cookies, which I’m pretty sure are the exact same thing.

4th place: the real deal Samoas (I know!  I know!)

5th place: the Safeway brand “Signature Kitchens”(unremarkable and too much cookie)

6th place:  Those Keebler cookies are a nasty burnt hot mess.

…Anyone want to eat the rest of my Keebler cookies?  Seriously?

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