Dr. Pepper is a classic soft drink that is beloved by many. It is one of the top-selling soda brands in the United States, earning $11 billion per year and employing over 27,000 people. Many people swear by it as their favorite soft drink, in fact.
There is one issue; the name “Dr. Pepper” doesn’t exactly relay what the soda inside those dark red cans tastes like. Even reading the claim on the can that it contains 23 flavors does not demystify the taste to those who have never had it.
In short, Dr. Pepper tastes like malt, vanilla, cherry, and spice. It has notes of plum and cinnamon, and some taste testers even report hints of citrus or apricots. Since it is made with 23 secret flavors, the sweet, bubbly beverage is often compared to root beer or sarsparilla in flavor.
What Does Dr. Pepper Taste Like?
Dr. Pepper is no doubt a well-loved soda that has been imported to countries around the world to be enjoyed. Some say that Dr. Pepper tastes different to everyone who tries it, which could be the source of some polarizing opinions on the mysterious pop.
It was created in 1885 by pharmacist Charles Alderton in Waco, Texas. It predates Coca-Cola by one year. It was a soda fountain favorite right away, but the formula has been a trade secret for over a century now. It is alleged that the formula is kept in a safe-deposit box in Dallas, TX, never to be seen by the public eye.
Dr Pepper contains 23 flavors, but it is hard to parse all 23. These are some of the major notes that people report when they taste Dr. Pepper:
- Cherry. Most people agree that there is a slight flavor or cherry (some specify Maraschino cherries) in your average can of Dr. Pepper. Some varieties, like Dr. Pepper Cherry, embolden this flavor.
- Vanilla. The sweet, creamy notes in Dr. Pepper is often attributed to vanilla.
- Malt. The malted flavor is likey due to its origins as a soda-fountain favorite. The rich maltiness is why it is often compared to rootbeer.
- Spices (like cinnamon or allspice). There are definite spicy tones in each sip of Dr. Pepper, mostly credited to cinnamon or allspice. They’re not as strong as the cherry, vanilla, or malted flavors, but they’re
- Licorice. One of the flavors that gives Dr. Pepper its complexity is licorice. It is likely that a licorice flavor is in the complex formula, though no one can truly confirm this.
It can be hard to picture all of these distinct flavors together, though. For simplicity’s sake, Dr. Pepper sort of tastes like if you added cherry flavor and allspice to rootbeer. That is an over-simplification, of course, but it can be difficult to find the words to describe the flavor in any other way.
Other tasters report flavors such as:
- Plum jam
- Prune juice
- Anise seed
Dr. Pepper has a sweet, vanilla-caramel-like scent to it. The cherry flavor can come through as well when giving it a whiff. You won’t catch many of the spiced scents in sampling.
Dr. Pepper has tons of different variations, some of which have retired, while others stand the test of time. The flavors are all based on the original Dr. Pepper taste, but with a twist.
Diet Dr. Pepper
Diet Dr. Pepper was first introduced in 1962 as a solution to those who wanted their caffiene kick without the extra sugar. It sees immense popularity even today, being especially popular in the early 2000s. In 2006, it was the 10th best-selling soda.
But what does Diet Dr. Pepper taste like? Diet Dr. Pepper is less sugary than the original and leans heavily into the vanilla and caramel-adjacent flavors of the drink. Some even compare it to desserts or pastries. The taste of the carbonation in the soda is much stronger as well.
Heritage Dr. Pepper
Also called Dr. Pepper Heritage, this nostalgic brand was launched in 2009 to recapture the early glory of Dr. Pepper. It has a slightly more sugary taste, and with good reason. It is made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. The flavor is otherwise extremely similar to Dr. Pepper.
Dr. Pepper Cherry Vanilla
Dr. Pepper Cherry Vanilla was one of the first flavor variants to hop on the scene that is still available for purchase now. The flavor is based on Dr. Pepper, but the cherry and vanilla flavors are greatly enhanced.
Some say that the cherry flavor is too pronounced and even similar to cough syrup. This is entirely preference-based. If you tend to think that artificial cherry flavors taste like cough syrup, Dr. Pepper Cherry Vanilla (or the sans-vanilla variant Dr. Pepper Cherry) may not be for you. Fans of cherry flavors, however, will certainly love it.
Dr. Pepper Cream Soda
This creamy variety is newer on the scene, having only debuted in 2020. As the name implies, Dr. Pepper Cream Soda has upped the malted, creamy, vanilla flavors in its standard recipe. This variety is richer in taste and paler in color than the original.
Dr. Pepper Dark Berry
Dr. Pepper Dark Berry has a unique taste that captures the sweet, fruity tastes of blueberry, blackberries, and other dark berries. The deep flavor mingles with the cherry, vanilla, and spices, to create something that is lightly tart and rather rich.
Dr. Pepper Ten
Marketed as being “exclusively for men”, Dr. Pepper Ten only contains 10 calories. Despite the gunmetal grey color scheme of the cans, the soda inside tastes more or less exactly like original Dr. Pepper.
Does Dr. Pepper Have Prune Juice In It?
A popular rumor that began in the 1930s and persists today is that one of the 23 mysterious ingredients in Dr. Pepper is prune juice. Some feel that Dr. Pepper tastes somewhat like prune juice, which adds weight to the claim.
However, Dr. Pepper has officially stated that the drink does not contain prune juice. This statement remains visible on Dr. Pepper’s website, dispelling the rumor.
Dr. Pepper is nothing short of unique. It predates Coca-Cola by a year, claims to have 23 varieties, and seems to be everyone’s either favorite or least favorite soda. It’s hard to get a good read on what Dr. Pepper really tastes like.
Dr. Pepper tastes, for the most part, like cherry, vanila, malt, and spices. There are other flavors and aromas to be had in it, and everyone reports something different. The best way to find out what Dr. Pepper tastes like is to sample some yourself.