I found a cauliflower gnocchi that’s even better than Trader Joe’s—but there’s a big catch
Anyone who knows me knows that I need a minute to come to terms with healthy food trends. I turned up my nose at kale for years until I was okay with it being in every salad I ate; I gave oat milk the side eye for months until I realized that it makes a mean latte; I am the first to admit that I still don’t enjoy matcha. I’m not a picky eater per se, I am just deeply skeptical of most trends. (Call me the Dana Scully to the wellness world’s Fox Mulder—I do not want to believe.)
This is part of the reason why it took me a full year to try Trader Joe’s famous cauliflower gnocchi for myself. The other reason for the delay is that it was always sold out at my local TJ’s. I went to buy it and couldn’t. For 12 months. That’s how popular it is.
The anticipation was so great, the wait was so long, the hype was so huge, that once I finally got my hands on it, I was a bit underwhelmed. It’s good, but not the mind-blowing food that Instagram made it out to be. I considered myself not into the trend, and moved on.
But I kept hearing about cauliflower gnocchi everywhere—including from fellow staffers at Well+Good. Then in September, grocery store staple Green Giant (distributor of frozen peas and also my beloved broccoli tots) reached out to inform me that they were launching their own cauliflower gnocchi product. Clearly, cauli gnocchi was primed to go mainstream—so what was I missing? I began to doubt my own taste as a food editor.
I decided it was time for me to do an official taste test. So I called in the product, put on my best apron, and got to work.
Nutrition per serving: 220 calories, 1.5 grams fat (0 grams sat fat), 380 milligrams sodium, 45 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 13 grams sugar, 8 grams protein
The cooking process: All in all, cooking this guy took me about 25 minutes. Following the package directions, I heated up a large pot of water until boiling, then poured in the bag of gnocchi. You boil the gnocchi until they start to float (about two minutes), then drain them. Then you transfer the drained gnocchi into a preheated pan and sauté them with some olive oil for about five minutes until they’re golden.
This might sound like a lot of unnecessary steps (I have to boil and then cook it?) but the multi-step process is honestly pretty similar to how traditional gnocchi is cooked. And apart from having to clean two pans instead of just one, I found it to be a pretty seamless process. The only hiccup came when I was sautéeing—despite using allegedly non-stick pans and a hefty dose of my favorite olive oil, some of the gnocchis stuck to the pan, which made it really tricky to brown them evenly. The plus side was that the crispy remains left behind once I unstuck said gnocchis were really, really delicious, and added some nice color to the pre-sauced pasta.
The final product: 9/10
I usually hate people who try to convince me that healthier knockoffs taste just as good as the original. So I’m surprised to admit that these gnocchi were freaking delicious. I served the gnocchi with some Otamot tomato sauce topped with fresh mozzarella, chopped fresh basil, and salt and pepper. The finished product tasted very, very similar to traditional gnocchi that you’d buy at the grocery store. No overpowering cauliflower aftertaste, no funky texture, nothing. I honestly thought I was eating regular pasta. SOLD.
Taste Test II: Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi
Price: $4 for 12 ounces
Nutrition per serving: 140 calories, 3 grams fat (0.5 grams saturated fat), 460 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, 2 grams protein
The cooking process: Before I leapt to any conclusions, I decided I had to re-try Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi in order to make a fair comparison. To keep my tests as fair as possible, I decided to prepare it according to package directions, just like I had with the Green Giant version (no air fryer shortcuts here!), and serve it with the same way (with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and herbs).
Cooking Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi was simultaneously easier and harder than cooking the Green Giant’s. You don’t have to pre-boil the pasta in water first, so you’re saving a step and a pan. But I had so much more trouble with the pasta sticking to the pan. Per the directions, I pre-heated a pan, tossed the frozen gnocchi in, added 1/4 cup of water, and covered the pan with a lid to cook undisturbed for six minutes. Then, following the instructions, I uncovered them and added some olive oil and cooked them until they were brown. Total cook time was roughly 15 minutes.
However, the damn things insisted on sticking to the bottom of the pan, and they were really quick to burn. (See the image above.) I worked quickly to unstick the pasta and keep it moving around in the pan so things would brown evenly, but this process somewhat mangled the gnocchi. The crispy bits were also harder to get off of the pan than they were for the Green Giant batch. I have no idea how IG influencers manage to get their cauli gnocchi so pretty for their feeds, but they all need to share their cooking secrets.
The final product: 7/10
Apart from how much of a pain they were to cook, these tasted pretty good. They definitely couldn’t be confused with traditional gnocchi, though—the texture is a bit chewier (kind of like a gummy, honestly) and there is a stronger (but still subtle) cauliflower taste than the Green Giant variety, which is why I gave them a slightly lower score. But all in all, a pretty tasty experience that didn’t take me very long to cook at all—a definite win for easy weeknight cooking.
In case you couldn’t already tell, Green Giant Cauliflower Gnocchi is the clear winner for me. It was pretty easy to make (gnocchi stickiness aside), the portion was filling and satisfying, each serving had a nice amount of protein and fiber, and most importantly, it tasted really, really good. So good that it made me suspicious—how could these taste so much like pasta but be made out of cauliflower?
Well, that answer revealed itself as soon as I flipped over the package to read the ingredients list: cauliflower, water, durum wheat semolina, dried cauliflower, sea salt. Ah, there we go—it has wheat flour in it! That explains why it tasted and acted similarly to regular pasta—because, you know, it contains a primary ingredient of regular pasta.
This is great news for me, a pasta lover who does not have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. But this is not so great for people who cannot eat gluten, particularly since cauliflower gnocchi in generally is often so strongly associated with being gluten-free. The Trader Joe’s version, on the other hand, is made with cauliflower, cassava flour, potato starch, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. No wheat flour in sight. (However, they do not have a certified gluten-free label on their packaging, which means there’s a chance that the product could have been cross-contaminated by wheat during processing. If you have celiac or a non-celiac gluten intolerance, proceed with caution.)
If anything, this experiment has reminded me that my innate skepticism towards food trends has made me miss out on some pretty tasty food innovations—including, yes, cauliflower gnocchi. Messy, sticky pans aside, it’s pretty clear that this is a food trend that’s here to stay. Open mind, full stomach, can’t lose.