I Finally Tried Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi, And Honestly, I Can’t Say I Agree With Their “Preferred Method” For Cooking It

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By now, you’ve likely heard of Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi. If you live near a Trader Joe’s, you’ve probably even tried it for yourself! And if you’ve tried it…I bet you have strong feelings about it. If you do, you’re not alone.

author holding up a big of trader joe's cauliflower gnocchi

While many folks are genuinely obsessed with Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi (using it to make things like three-ingredient meals), I’ve definitely heard my fair share of complaints: everything from qualms about its “gummy texture” to those passionate cries for people to just LEAVE GNOCCHI ALONE! I mean, with cauliflower rice, cauliflower pizza, and cauliflower gnocchi…I get it! Cauliflower is having its moment. (Trader Joe’s also has a kale gnocchi version, FWIW.)

Ross Yoder

No matter how you feel about this product, I’m sure we can all agree that the cult following is real. And in a shocking twist of fate (as both a gnocchi lover and cauliflower lover), I’ve never actually tried it for myself! So, I decided to give it a taste — once and for all — and test out some of the most popular cooking methods while doing so.

THE PRODUCT:

Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi come frozen in plastic bag, like many of their other freezer-section offerings. They’re only $2.99 for a 12-ounce bag (that makes 2.5 servings), so they’re basically as cost-efficient as they are wildly popular.

I don’t really know what I was expecting these to look like, but after thinking about it for far too long, I’ve decided that they look like what I would create if someone instructed me to make tater tots out of clay. Specific, I know, but just look at them…

frozen cauliflower gnocchi in a package

Ross Yoder

Unlike shelf-stable or fresh gnocchi, these ones don’t have any ridges on them — which are usually there to help every last pillowy bite cling onto all the sauce it can. These gnocchi are nearly cylindrical in shape, and yes, very reminiscent of a tater tot.

regular gnocchi with ridges

© Eleonora Galli / Getty Images, Ross Yoder

People talk a lot about cauliflower gnocchi when it comes to finding low-carb substitutions for popular foods, and people clearly aren’t wrong. When looking at the nutrition facts, a single serving comes in at just 140 calories and contains only 22 grams of total carbs.

back of nutrition facts for trader joe's cauliflower gnocchi

The ingredients are seriously impressive too. The main ingredient: cauliflower. Surprise, surprise. In addition, there’s cassava flour and potato starch (to bind things together), extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. And…that’s it!

Ross Yoder

On the updated packaging, you’ll now find four methods for cooking the gnocchi: pan frying (their “preferred method”), air frying, boiling, and microwaving.

four different directions on package for air fryer gnocchi

Fun fact: When TJ’s first released their cauliflower gnocchi, the original packaging only provided instructions for pan frying, boiling, and microwaving. When air fryers became all the rage in coming years, they ended up adding the fan-favorite “air-fry” method to the packaging. Since the internet told me that boiling or microwaving my cauliflower gnocchi would undoubtedly produce gummy results (and I honestly believe the internet here), I decided to try air-frying and pan-frying — and taste-tested the results from both against each other.

Ross Yoder

METHOD #1: Pan-Frying

No matter what method you choose, the directions are very clear about making sure you cook them from frozen — no defrosting necessary, Personally, I really appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to defrost anything. To pan-fry these babies, I started with a hot skillet and added some oil. The directions called for 1–2 tablespoons, and I added 1. This, my friends, was a not-so-great decision on my part.

Since the gnocchi aren’t flat, it’s a liiiiittle tricky to get even contact with the skillet — unless you’re using enough oil to really coat each and every one. I found 1 tablespoon to be not even close to enough, and I’ll double down on this observation considering I was only cooking half a bag this time around.

arrow pointing to slightly-burnt gnocchi with text "not my best work, tbh"

Ross Yoder

After getting the first side of my gnocchi a bit too toasty for my liking (and yes, that was over VERY moderate heat), I drizzled in another tablespoon or two of oil for the second side. This side came out much nicer, and it’s partially because the gnocchi had defrosted enough to lie flatter on the skillet, too. All in all, I’d say that the 7- to 10-minute suggested cook time by TJ’s was 100% accurate, too, so this really was a shockingly efficient way to cook up a bag of cauliflower gnocchi at a moment’s notice.

golden brown gnocchi in a skillet

Ross Yoder

While I waited for my air-fried gnocchi to finish up, I gave these pan-fried ones a ~sauceless~ taste. With a sprinkling of salt, of course. (I’m not a monster.)

pan-fried gnocchi on a spoon

The outside? Delightfully crisp. For something that started out rock-hard frozen and obviously held in a lot of moisture, I was genuinely surprised at how nicely crisp they got — just remember to use enough oil when you fry ’em.

The inside was…a different story.

Ross Yoder

I know these aren’t meant to be a magical, low-carb dupe for potato gnocchi, but I can’t say I was 100% impressed. The cauliflower taste (and faint smell) was definitely there, but it was way less overpowering than I thought it would be. Major win! The texture, however, was disappointing.

After biting into that mouthwateringly crisp exterior, I found the inside to be a little too gummy for my liking. I was expecting a dense-but-fluffy bite — similar to the pre-packaged, shelf-stable variety — but these were just way too chewy. It’s not bad by any means, but if you’re looking for some classic gnocchi fluffiness, you won’t find it here…at least not through pan-frying. After that bite, I was really stoked to try out the air-fryer version.

METHOD #2: Air-Frying

oven set on air fry mode

Small caveat here: I was actually without my stand-alone air fryer when I did this…but the oven I used had an ~air fryer function~! Having used it before, I’ve actually found that it produces identical results to the stand-alone kind — it just generally takes longer to get there.

Ross Yoder

Since I wasn’t using a traditional air fryer basket, I actually preheated my baking sheet before arranging the gnocchi on it. Getting things nice and hot right off the bat meant that my final results were evenly cooked across the board. I coated the frozen gnocchi in a little bit of oil, tossed them in at 400ºF, and let the oven do its thing.

Hot sheet pan covered in olive oil

I’ve gotta say: Compared to the pan-fry method (where I was constantly checking and adjusting the heat to make sure I was cooking them evenly), I much preferred the “set it and forget it” practicality of this one.

Ross Yoder

From frozen to cooked, it took me about 20 minutes total — 5 minutes longer than the instructions suggested — but again, I’d chalk it up to the equipment itself.

gnocchi that's halfway done and finished cooking, side by side

Ross Yoder

Like the pan-fried version, I tested this one on its own, and TBH, I was shocked at just how different the results of these two cooking methods were.

Air-fried gnocchi on a spoon

The air fried gnocchi were simply delightful…even if they didn’t resemble any gnocchi I’ve ever tried before. These were perfectly crisp all around! The crispiness wasn’t as pronounced as the pan-fried version, but I found that it made the interior texture way more enjoyable too. My hypothesis: All that hot, circulating air actually dried the gnocchi out a bit, which ultimately drew out some of that excess moisture (and gumminess) and produced a texture that was far more reminiscent of traditional gnocchi.

Ross Yoder

THE VERDICT:

After tasting both versions without sauce, I obviously had to sauce ’em up and reconsider. I dunno about you, but when I think of gnocchi, I think of sage and brown butter…or maaaaaybe that’s just because of the packaging.

cauliflower gnocchi packaging

Ross Yoder

Regardless, I whipped up a quick sage and brown butter sauce for these gnocchi, and added a nice pinch of bright lemon zest to counteract all that richness.

sauce with lemon, butter, garlic, and sage and those ingredients cooking in a pot

Ross Yoder

I poured all that saucy goodness over the pan-fried and air-fried versions, and not to toot my own horn, but when compared to the TJ’s bag…I thought I did a pretty good job!

homemade version vs. trader joe's package

Ross Yoder

When it came to taste, however, I still think the air fryer version reigned supreme…even if the pan-fried version looked way better. Don’t get me wrong — I’d eat just about anything covered in brown butter (and these gnocchi were no exception), but I felt that the richness of the sauce combined with the excessive chewiness of the pan-fried gnocchi made for a result that was overwhelmingly rich. Overall, the air fryer gnocchi felt lighter and more enjoyable to eat…the only thing I was sad about was that I didn’t have any more of it to chow down on.

pan fried vs. air fried gnocchi, side by side

That said, I definitely think there’s a time and place for the pan-fried version. In a more acidic, tomato-based sauce, it might work really nicely! If you’re in a rush, you also can’t go wrong with pan-frying — it took just about 10 minutes from start to finish as opposed to the air-fry method, which clocked in around 15 minutes, plus preheating time.

If you’re just dying to try the air fryer version but don’t have an air fryer yourself, I feel pretty strongly that you can replicate these results in a traditional (or convection) oven. Just make sure they’re nicely coated in oil, flip ’em halfway through, and bake them until they’re nice and crispy — about 17–20 minutes.

Ross Yoder

If you’ve tried Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi and have thoughts, tell me about them below. Or, if you have a cooking method you’re particularly obsessed with, drop it in the comments! 👇

Theresa D. Begay

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