You're Probably Cooking Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi All Wrong

Spoiler alert: Do not follow the directions on the packaging!

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February 03, 2020

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While some eagerly anticipate the glitz and the glamor of award show season, each year I look forward to another accolade: Trader Joe’s Customer Choice Awards. The beloved grocery store annually polls their customers to find out which products are the best of the best.

This year’s winner? Unsurprisingly, the chain’s famous Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend took home the top honor, followed by its Cauliflower Gnocchi, Mandarin Orange Chicken, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Unexpected Cheddar.

As a self-proclaimed Trader Joe’s junkie, I’ve tried just about every one of these fan-favorite products (except for the dark chocolate peanut butter cups — I’m not a dark chocolate person). So, I was a bit shocked to find that the cauliflower gnocchi is a favorite among customers, especially considering that my first attempt at cooking it was disastrous, to say the least.

You see, ever since Trader Joe’s first released the uber-trendy cauliflower gnocchi in April 2018, it’s had a cult following. Instagram is obsessed with this frozen bag of Italian-style dumplings. Even though they’re made with 75% cauliflower, people swear they taste nearly identical to traditional potato gnocchi.

As an avid fan of the company’s other cauliflower-based products (the cauliflower crust cheese pizza is a staple in my freezer), I was eager to give the cauliflower gnocchi a try. However, it was so popular upon release that my local Trader Joe’s was out of stock for weeks. After scouring the freezer aisles of what seemed like every Trader Joe’s in Manhattan, I finally got my hands on a bag.

I rushed home to whip the cauliflower gnocchi up for dinner and was shocked at how easy the cooking directions on the packaging seemed. Trader Joe’s lists three different cooking methods — microwaving, boiling or pan-sautéing — but recommends sautéing the gnocchi in an olive oil-coated pan for a crispy texture.

I opened the bag, placed the frozen gnocchi (no need to thaw) straight onto the hot, oiled pan, added water and cooked according to the instructions on the bag.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.

The end result wasn’t the crisp, golden brown gnocchi I was craving. Instead, I was left with a soggy bowl of mush. The little pieces of gnocchi were so clumped together that I couldn’t even toss in sauce!

Super disappointed, I was ready to throw in the towel until a few weeks later when I learned I wasn’t the only person with this problem. While talking to another cauliflower-loving friend, she mentioned that her gnocchi initially turned out the same exact way, but she found a way to get ’em nice and crispy. She recommended ditching the directions on the bag and opting to roast the gnocchi in the oven instead.

Willing to give the cauliflower gnocchi one more chance, I snagged another bag. Following my friend’s instructions, I preheated the oven to 425 degrees F. Then, I arranged the frozen gnocchi in a single layer on a baking sheet without any olive oil or water drizzled on top. I popped the gnocchi in the oven for 20 minutes, and sure enough they came out deliciously golden and crisp.

Once the gnocchi cooled, I served them up with pasta sauce, but you could also use pesto or olive oil for a quick and easy dinner. And yes, when prepared properly these little cauliflower dumplings do taste exactly like potato gnocchi!

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