Shoppers are crazy about Costco’s bakery section. If you think I’m exaggerating, take a look at the hype around Costco’s pumpkin pie. They “count down the days” till its arrival, and when it finally appears, there’s a flurry of strange posts … like this person measuring their first pumpkin pie of the season. So I thought I’d give Costco’s bakery a shot and compare it with another warehouse giant: Sam’s Club. Here’s my assessment of Costco and Sam’s Club bakeries after comparing prices and testing their pumpkin pies, croissants, bagels, and muffins.
Costco Pumpkin Pie
Okay, so I did measure Costco’s giant pumpkin pie, which is 11 inches in diameter and 58 ounces. Other than that, the pie looked passable, but I was wary of the bone-white crust and odd syrupy liquid that had formed over the custard. A taste test confirmed my suspicions: the crust was undercooked (par-bake it, duh) and mushy, which made it impossible to cut. As soon as you’d lift it, the pie would fall apart. While the custard itself was also undercooked and gooey, it tasted close to homemade with flavors of sweet pumpkin and fall spices. Pies from Costco: undercooked and underwhelming.
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Sam’s Club Pumpkin Pie
With its golden crust and solid custard filling, Sam’s pumpkin pie appeared well-baked, and it wasn’t comically large. But the flavors were way off. The custard left a peculiar soapy taste in my mouth — not to mention the overpowering (and likely artificial) spices. But hey, at least Sam’s Club didn’t underbake their pie.
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Price: $6 (50 cents per croissant)
Costco’s croissants look lovely. On the outside, you can see where the baker (likely a machine) laminated the dough, giving the viennoiserie its characteristic flaky crust. And unlike most grocery store croissants, Costco’s was caramel-colored and shiny. A view of its cross-section was also promising, revealing an airy and delicate multi-layered crumb. How did it taste? It didn’t send me back to France like a Proustian madeleine, but the croissant was pleasantly light and buttery, especially for a mass-produced grocery store pastry. Pro tip: heat it up in the oven.
Sam’s Club Sandwich Croissants
Price: $6 (50 cents per croissant)
Sam’s croissant looked like the sort of shrink-wrapped biscuit you might get on an international flight. And it tasted like that too: pillow-soft, heavy, and bland. It was less like a croissant and more like those fluffy Hawaiian bread rolls. If you’re disappointed, pop it in the air fryer.
Price: $10 (83 cents per muffin)
My first gripe is that Costco forces you to buy two six-muffin packages. I purchased pumpkin streusel and blueberry muffins, both of which were just okay. The streusel was more of an ultra-sugary frosting, though that was the best part, as the rest of the muffin was bland. The blueberry muffins weren’t much better, though I appreciated that they weren’t cloyingly sweet. Overall, Costco’s muffins are dull but passable.
Sam’s Club Muffins
Price: $7 (77 cents per muffin)
I bought a variety pack of nine muffins, including banana nut, chocolate, and blueberry, all of which were pretty tasty. They tasted mass-produced, but both the banana and blueberry muffins were more flavorful than Costco’s offerings. The latter of the two wasn’t bland and spongy; rather, I could actually taste the blueberries throughout. The banana nut muffin was also a treat thanks to its pecan topping.
Winner: Sam's Club
Price: $8 (66 cents per bagel)
I opted to try Costco’s everything bagel with cream cheese and wasn’t disappointed. The wholesaler doesn’t skimp on the seasoning, and it toasted well. Sure, it can’t compare to a quality bakery, but Costco’s bagels are superior to most supermarket offerings. However, I did find it frustrating that I was forced to buy at least two packages (a dozen bagels) — or none at all.
Price:$4 (66 cents per bagel)
While Sam’s Club’s bagels are larger, the retailer’s bakery skimps on the seasoning. And there weren’t any caraway seeds. But Sam’s doesn’t lose to Costco because the Walmart-owned retailer pre-cuts its bagels. As someone who freezes bagels, that’s a huge bonus.
When I visited both warehouses, Costco clearly had the better selection. The superstore offered a wide variety of pastries, cakes, muffins, and, well, pretty much everything you’d ever need from a bakery. That’s not to say that Sam’s selection is wanting, just that you’d have more options at Costco.
Both warehouses offer affordable baked goods at around the same prices, so there’s no clear winner here.
With so many ties, it’s impossible to say that Sam’s Club is better than Costco — or vice versa. It really depends on what you want. If you’re throwing a party and want a few trays of cheap muffins, you ought to shop at Sam’s Club. But if you’re looking for a croissant to accompany your morning espresso, Costco is the clear winner. In either case, you can’t really go wrong with Costco or Sam’s bakery because you can buy in bulk at both superstores. There are also plenty of treats — chocolate cake, apple pie, and other fresh-baked goods — that I have yet to try. It may be a boring answer, but just go wherever you already have a membership for now.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use EBT at the Sam’s Club bakery?
Yes. Sam’s Club members can use SNAP cards to purchase in-store items, including baked goods.
Can you use EBT at Costco’s bakery?
Yes. All Costco warehouses accept EBT, which you can use to buy items from the bakery.
What time do Costco and Sam’s Club bakeries open?
Members can visit the bakery whenever the store is open, though some items — like Costco’s sheet cake — must be ordered in advance. There may be slight variations in hours between warehouses, so check your nearest location for precise opening and closing times.
Sam’s Club versus Costco: Who has the better bakery?
It’s a toss-up. While Costco sells a lovely flaky croissant and has a superior selection, Sam’s Club has better muffins and matches its rivals' prices. Shop wherever you already have a membership.
What other items do the bakeries sell?
Other popular Costco bakery items include its sheet cake, apple pie, and chocolate mousse cake, all of which receive plaudits online. While Sam’s Club has less of a devoted following on sites like Reddit, the wholesaler’s white and chocolate cupcakes, assorted cookie tray, and apple lattice pie are top sellers. Given the sheer volume of baked goods we needed to try, fans will have to wait for a Costco vs. Sam’s Club apple pie story.