In discussions of Dunkin' coffee flavors, I have noticed that the flavor swirls get more attention than the flavor shots. This is understandable–flavor swirls are tasty and satisfying, like decadent desserts.
However, I now realize that Dunkin' flavor shots are key components of many signature seasonal favorites. Also, they provide a nearly calorie-free additive to customize almost any Dunkin' drink.
So, flavor shot vs flavor swirl: what are the key differences?
Here, I give you some details, tips, and ideas to help you find more great drink options to energize both your taste buds and your lifestyle.
Dunkin's Flavor Shot Vs Flavor Swirl (Key Differences)
The biggest difference in taste between shots and flavor swirls is that the latter gives a rich, milky taste, while shots only impart the flavor with minimal sweetness.
Flavor swirls add creaminess or thickness to a beverage like you would expect from a sauce.
In comparison, shots have no impact on overall texture, as they are lighter syrups that just add different flavor options.
3. Drink Types They Are Best For
Flavor shots and flavor swirls can co-occur, accompanied by other sweet drizzles and syrups, to make a complete beverage concoction.
My favorite combo brings my cold brew to life. In the fall, I like to add a vanilla flavor shot and pumpkin spice swirl to really give my cup a seasonal taste.
4. Number of Flavor Options
How many flavor swirls and shots Dunkin’ keeps available changes over time, but there generally are 6 classic flavor shots and 4 flavor swirls.
Between seasonal flavors and promotional specials, there usually are a few other options in addition to the classics.
5. Number Of Pumps
The default order on the website is a medium-sized drink.
Across the web, the consensus is that a medium has 3 pumps (a small, 2 pumps; a large, 4). (FYI: a pump usually is about a quarter ounce–equivalent to half a tablespoon.)
If you are customizing an order, you can have whatever number of pumps of flavor shots and flavor swirls you want.
6. Nutrition Information
The biggest difference between flavor shots and flavor swirls is that shots contribute only a few calories–about the same number of calories you get from unsweetened coffee or tea by itself.
Meanwhile, swirls contribute 155-165 calories. The good news is that they are mostly fat-free and have 2-3g of protein. The bad news is that most of the calories are from sugar.
The French Vanilla Swirl, for example, has 38g total carbohydrates, including 31g added sugars–that is, 14% daily value of carbs and 62% daily value of added sugars.
Still, I love adding a swirl to my drink about once a week for a Friday treat.
What Are Dunkin’s Flavor Shots?
Shots do not contain any sugar or sweeteners. They are also dairy-free. They add no more than 10 calories in most cases, and they contain no artificial dyes. Check out the list below of all the Dunkin' flavor shots you can add!
List of All Available Dunkin' Flavor Shots
If you are ordering from the app or in person, you can make any customizations you want. This is particularly relevant for shots since they are not listed as options on the website.
Similarly, you could enjoy any combination of flavor swirls and shots in your Dunkin' iced coffee – even though the website only shows cream as an option for this.
Here, shots might be better, though, because iced coffee already has characteristic soft flavors.
Flavor shots are a great way to add excitement to a Dunkin' low- or no-sugar beverage, such as coffee or tea served black or with milk only.
You could combine two or three shots to make an interesting and invigorating new flavor, such as toasted almond blueberry, vanilla raspberry coconut, or vanilla hazelnut.
What About Dunkin’s Flavor Swirl?
List of Classic Dunkin' Flavor Swirls
Numbers 1-3 above are now classic flavor swirl varieties, as they have been on the regular list for years. Formerly, there was a Hazelnut Swirl, but between 2020 and 2022, Dunkin phased it out.
The good news is that, as of May 2023, a previous Dunkin' holiday drink favorite was transferred to the year-round list: Butter Pecan.
To celebrate, Dunkin is featuring it in its new Turtle Signature Latte (which also contains Mocha Swirl, caramel drizzle, and whipped cream).
List of Seasonal Dunkin' Flavor Swirls
While it is hard to know what a popular coffee chain like Dunkin might do next, here is a working list of popular seasonal flavors:
Note that #1 above is not Pumpkin Spice Swirl, so if you feel like this classic flavor is overused, realize that this swirl can be used to make different final flavors.
That said, it often is used to make the famous–or infamous?--Pumpkin Spice Latte. Everyone's favorite Dunkin' pumpkin drink!
For instance, Fall 2022's Nutty Pumpkin Coffee has Pumpkin Spice Swirl (effectively, Pumpkin Swirl accompanied by spices) and Hazelnut Shot as definitive flavors.
As you are experimenting, bear in mind that flavor swirls add creaminess while shots do not; and that flavor shots are nearly unsweetened while flavor swirls are highly sweetened.
Lastly, note the one area of overlap between shots and swirls–both come in a vanilla flavor.
Sometimes, it is ambiguous whether there is a distinct swirl or a flavor profile that incorporates a swirl.
For example, #5 above is more likely Mocha Swirl with peppermint flavoring rather than a single Dunkin flavor swirl.
Similarly, it is unclear whether there is a distinct Rocky Road Swirl, though it has been released as a single Baskin Robbins-inspired coffee flavor.
The bottom line: The best way to keep abreast of the newest coffee swirls, coffee flavors, iced coffee creations, summer beverages, and more is to check the Dunkin Newsroom section of the company website.
Common Dunkin' Flavor Shot & Swirl Questions
Are flavor shots at Dunkin healthy?
No, they are not healthy, per se–but they do not do much harm: They are nearly sugar-free, have negligible calories, and have no artificial dyes.
Are flavor swirls at Dunkin healthy?
No, flavor swirls are not healthy: While mostly fat-free, flavor swirls add a substantial number of calories, as they are quite sweet. Moreover, they are a processed food containing small amounts of artificial flavoring, salt, and preservatives.
Does Dunkin have sugar-free flavor shots and swirls?
No, Dunkin does not offer sugar-free flavor shots and swirls; moreover, neither of the two ever contain artificial sweeteners. However, flavor shots are nearly unsweetened anyway. (Incidentally, I just saw that the WHO no longer recommends artificial sweeteners to reduce calories.)
Can I buy flavor swirls or shots for home use?
No, you cannot purchase Dunkin flavor shots or flavor swirls for home use, but you can purchase Dunkin coffee, available as pods or ground coffee, on the Dunkin At Home section of the company website. They offer an impressive variety of flavored coffees, all modeled after shop recipes.
How are flavor shots and swirls different from flavor syrups?
Ultimately, flavor swirls are a kind of flavor syrup; flavor shots, on the other hand, are lighter and simply infuse beverages with the indicated flavor itself.
Do added swirls or shots cost extra at Dunkin?
Added flavor swirls, or shots can cost extra at Dunkin. It is hard to get a straight answer about this; it seems it might vary by individual shop. The good news is that if a shop does charge, the maximum price per added pump is $0.10.
Are there dairy-free swirls?
No, Dunkin does not offer dairy-free swirls. However, the Mocha Flavor Swirl is already dairy-free. Also, you can always use, say, almond milk or coconut milk with flavor shots, sweetened however you wish, to make a creamy, flavorful drink.
Which One Will You Try Next?
Now you understand the notable differences between shots and swirls. Dunkin swirls "kill two birds with one stone"--satisfy dessert cravings and give a caffeine rush.
With this one-two punch, your mood will be lifted, and a long morning, afternoon, or evening of work will seem much less daunting.
Of course, speaking as a chocolate lover, I champion the Dunkin Donuts Mocha Swirl: It offers the proverbial chocolate fix, as it contains cocoa processed with alkali (a key ingredient in hot chocolate).
On the other end of the spectrum, to stay adventuresome when getting a Dunkin' low-calorie coffee drink, I would recommend adding a flavor shot or two.
This is not a letdown; maintaining an even blood sugar might be more energizing in the long run.