Trader Joe's Cauliflower Gnocchi Deserves Its Cult Following
Prepared correctly and with the right expectations, it can change your life.
Composite image by MUNCHIES Staff
Welcome to #NotAnAd, where we post enthusiastically and without reservation about things we’re obsessed with from the world of food.
If you go to the Union Square Trader Joe’s anytime after 9 AM on a Monday morning—only an hour after opening, and on a weekday, no less—you will find an empty freezer section where packages of Cauliflower Gnocchi should be. You’ll notice it right away, because everything else around it (the Sweet Potato Gnocchi, the Mashed Cauliflower, the Cauliflower Stir Fry) is still stocked up, like mountains to Cauliflower Gnocchi’s valley. The same goes for the Chelsea Trader Joe’s, a 17-minute walk from the Union Square location.
I know this because I’ve made the trek to both Trader’s, multiple times, in search of the elusive and almost magical product. I then resort to my last-case scenario: the Downtown Brooklyn Trader Joe’s, a 20-minute train ride from the Manhattan locations.
I have to take two different trains in order to get home from this TJ’s, but it has an advantage the others don’t: It opens at 9 AM instead of 8. I can get there later and stock up on packages of Cauliflower Gnocchi before all the other yuppies of New York City get their grubby hands on it. Once there, I take as many packages as I can before the feeling of embarrassment overwhelms me. This usually means I walk out with six packages, to be stored in my freezer like savings under a mattress.
It may seem like a shocking waste of time to go to three different Trader Joe’s locations on my day off for one and only one item. And you’re right—it absolutely is. But I don’t care.
It’s not that the other products I mentioned (Sweet Potato Gnocchi et al.) aren’t worthy of attention or praise, because they are. But they are not Cauliflower Gnocchi. You don’t ask the employee of your hometown (Staten Island) TJ’s to check in the back for more Cauliflower Stir Fry. Who cares?
You do, however, ask if they have more cauli gnocchi (my affectionate name for the stuff) in the back, only to see them emerge with an entire box seemingly just for you (it is not). You, triumphant, fish out six packages; your shame is nowhere to be found. I have done this multiple times, storing packages in my parents’ freezer in Staten Island before returning home to Brooklyn with the precious cargo.
If you’ve tasted Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi and like it, you understand what I mean. This distinction is key. This ode isn’t for people who don’t like cauliflower, or have “issues with the texture,” or expect it to taste like real gnocchi. These pillows of heaven are not meant to be microwaved, and not meant to convert people who hate vegetables. Prepared correctly and with the right expectations, though, cauli gnocchi can change your life.
Perhaps one of the magical qualities of this innovation is how simple it is. The gnocchi has five ingredients: cauliflower, cassava flour, potato starch, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. What sounds like the most bland combination of foods actually comes together beautifully and tastes as such. I can prepare them in less than ten minutes. Half a package is a dank side dish, and an entire package is an easy, equally-if-not-more dank meal.
I have to admit, what attracted me to the gnocchi in the beginning was the fact that it promised some servings of veggies—and yes, that its calorie count is lower than real pasta.
I try to be “healthy” in my food choices. I try to eat my roughage and not eat a half of jar of peanut butter while high in my bed watching Netflix (though I have definitely done that numerous times and almost definitely will again).
But that’s not why I act like a doomsday prepper in terms of stocking up. There aren’t eight packages of cauli gnocchi currently in my freezer (sorry, roommates) because it is “good for me.” The frozen broccoli and carrot packages keeping them company have been there for months. I do this because the gnocchi is, for lack of a better way of phrasing, really fucking good.
The lengths I have to go to prove that I’m not alone in this opinion. When I say the product is “cult,” I mean it. Last year it was apparently “taking over Instagram” and cooking websites racked up dozens of recipes specific to the product. It did not win an award for TJ’s tenth annual Customer Choice Awards (it was a runner-up for three categories), but Philly Voice mused that that could be solely because they’re so hard to find. “Trader Joe’s locations nationwide get a limited amount delivered each week and they go quick,” the article warned.
Furthermore, unlike other TJ’s products, Cauliflower Gnocchi has no imitator (yet). Pretty much every food, for example, has a Market Pantry version at Target. Not this. It also doesn’t appear to have a black market following, like TJ’s Everything But the Bagel Seasoning does. Even an eBay search comes up short.
“But what about Amazon,” you, a Cauliflower Gnocchi Novice, must be asking. “Surely you must be able to find these there.” Indeed, if you search on the site you will find the gnocchi—but for an astonishing price: a six-pack for $84.99. The gnocchi retails for $2.69 in store. The gnocchi six-pack on the evil behemoth warehouse site goes for an almost $70 upcharge.
If this isn’t proof that the public is going absolutely bonkers over this frozen food, I don’t know what is. (Maybe the fact that I’ve written 1,000 words about it.)
I implore you to buy the gnocchi—if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who can find it, that is. I like mine pan-fried; I follow the instructions on the back. Sometimes I top it with parmesan cheese and garlic salt; other times, I eat it plain. I encourage you to cook it the way you would other pasta, and let the gnocchi melt in your mouth and warm your heart.
But save some for the rest of us, please.