Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce is a light, bright and intensely flavoured dish, swirled with fresh spinach. Below I give you my easy method for making cauliflower gnocchi from scratch. But feel free to use frozen cauliflower or regular gnocchi, and smother it in the creamy tomato sauce. Oh, and this cauliflower gnocchi is vegan and low-carb.
It all started at Trader Joe’s
If you are in the US, I have little doubt that you will have at least heard of Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi. Many of you – including myself – have tried it. And it’s pretty darn good, isn’t it? Think soft and pillowy, with not much hint of the main ingredient. In most respects it is very like a proper potato, flour and egg-made gnocchi. It’s so convincing that even the pickiest of picky-pants might deign to eat it. And certainly no self-respecting vegan or gluten-free home-cook in the US would be without a pack or two in the freezer.
But us poor sods elsewhere, with our cauliflower gnocchi-less freezers? What about us?
Now we can all try cauliflower gnocchi
Numerous recipe developers have replicated this now-famous product. They tasted the original, read the packet and made their own to stash in their freezers for a quick, nutritious meal. And I’m sure that they are all delicious. They certainly look great.
So, here I am with my own version. And it’s pretty good! But a bit different to the original.
The ingredients in the Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi are cauliflower, cassava flour, potato starch, olive oil and salt. I actually have all of those ingredients but, in the interest of keeping things as low-carb as possible, I am opting for another path.
What’s in this cauliflower gnocchi?
Just four ingredients!
*Xanthan gum (can use ground flaxseed, ground psyllium or cornstarch, but I think xanthan gum is best here)
Nutritional yeast/aka nooch (optional)
As for the Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce, you will need the following: olive oil, a clove of garlic, a shallot, a few sun-dried tomatoes in oil (antipasti-style tomatoes), sun-dried tomato paste, almond cream (or single cream/half and half), vegetable stock, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, fresh thyme leaves and baby spinach leaves.
That’s it! I’ve massively lowered the carbohydrates from the original – and definitely more than “proper” gnocchi. I could lower it further by using sunflower seed flour. But the almond suits me just fine.
How to make Food To Glow’s low-carb cauliflower gnocchi
The first step is to rice the cauliflower. I detail my foolproof, non-messy method for making cauliflower rice in this recipe, and use it in this Scandinavian Cauliflower Rösti recipe – among others. But, in a nutshell, you rough-chop the cauliflower, pop it in a blender and fill with enough water for the cauliflower to float. Then you pulse it just enough to mince it into tiny pieces. Next you pour the pieces and water into a tea towel or muslin cloth-lined sieve to drain. Finally, draw up the towel, twist and squeeze very hard. And when you think you can’t squeeze it harder, do it some more!
The next step for the cauliflower gnocchi is to add all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until it comes together. Scrape down the sides, and continue blending until it is a smooth, thick paste. It won’t look very promising at this point. You might need to trust me.
Now scrape the mixture into a bowl and pop it in the fridge to cool down and allow the xanthan gum to properly coalesce. No need to cover unless you have stinky cheese or kimchi in there. 🙂 Once cool, turn out the dough onto an almond flour-sprinkled sheet of baking parchment or board and shape into a large rectangle. Cut into four long pieces and gently, with your hands, roll them out to make long “sausages”. Then you cut them into gnocchi-sized pieces, rolling them into ovals if you like – I don’t bother.
To cook, bring a pan of water to the boil and gently lower some of the gnocchi into the water to cook for 45 seconds, or until they start to pop to the surface. Scoop them up with a slotted spoon and pop them onto a parchment paper-lined and oil tray. Once the gnocchi are all lightly boiled you will slick with a little olive oil and bake them until golden.
You can bake all of the gnocchi and save some to reheat in a microwave or steamer for a couple of minutes. I’ve tried this, and it works just fine!
Just a note: If you use any other thickener/binder than xanthan gum do a single “test gnocchi” in simmering water. If it breaks apart, add a small egg to the mixture and chill for a further 15 minutes. 🙂
The full recipe is, as always, in the recipe card below.
Making the sauce
While the gnocchi are baking, you can prepare the easy, creamy sun-dried tomato sauce. To do this, gently sauté the minced garlic and shallot on a low heat until soft and lightly coloured. Then add everything but the spinach leaves. Let the sauce gently bubble for a few minutes before stirring in washed spinach leaves, stirring to let them wilt in the heat.
To serve with the gnocchi, divide up the gnocchi between two pasta bowls (shallow and wide) or soup bowls and spoon over the sauce. Eat while warm. This sauce is also fab over any cooked protein – chicken, tofu, beans, shrimp – so make more than you need for another meal (this sauce can be frozen).
So, why would I want to make cauliflower gnocchi?
To be honest, it is a fabulous way to satisfy a carb craving. Even us dedicated low-carbers fancy a bowl of pasta every once in a while. Although shirataki/konjac products are a pretty good sub for rice and noodles, they don’t always have the appeal of something like pillowy nuggets of gnocchi. But really, what does? The look and feel of gnocchi is just so comforting, isn’t it? Not only do these cauliflower gnocchi look like gnocchi, the mild taste mimics gnocchi really well. And I’ve balanced out the ever-so-slight sweetness of the almond flour by adding a touch of nutritional yeast. But this isn’t necessary at all. Especially if you are covering your cauliflower gnocchi in creamy sun-dried tomato sauce!
As for the texture, you mightn’t mistake it for regular potato and flour-based gnocchi, but I think it is superior to the rather gluey – but still pleasant! – texture of commercially made cauliflower gnocchi. It’s just my opinion, but please do try this and tell me what you think.
How else can I serve this cauliflower gnocchi?
Well, just like any other gnocchi! Recently I sautéed wedges of a small, round yellow squash with slices of garlic and sage, as well as some chopped garden chard. I lightly tossed this into the baked cauliflower gnocchi, and it was very good indeed (above). But for a weeknight family meal a jar of good quality pasta sauce (I like – Amazon UK link – Mr Organic no-sugar-added pasta sauce. I am an unpaid ambassador for Mr Organic. Love their products.). To this you could add leftover roast vegetables or some steamed greens. Even just mashed confit garlic (see this Instagram post of mine for deets!) and crispy oil-fried sage leaves, with maybe some toasted pine nuts. Now this would be gorgeous! Okay, now I need to go and cook the extra cauliflower gnocchi I have in the freezer to make this one!
Do you have a pack of Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi in your freezer? Whether or not you do, will you be giving this homemade, low-carb version a try? Do let me know in the comments. And if you make it, please be sure to rate it, using the little stars below the image in the recipe card below. Thanks so much! This helps search engines to steer others to my recipes.
Cauliflower Gnocchi with Creamy Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
A low-carb alternative to gnocchi, made with just 4 ingredients. Add the deeply comforting creamy sun-dried tomato sauce with silky spinach for a very special, but very simple, meal. Both the gnocchi and sauce are freezable.
- 375 g cauliflower about half a medium, trimmed, cauliflower
- 70 g almond flour
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum or cornstarch, ground flax, or ground psyllium*
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast optional but balances the faint sweetness of the almond
- Oil for the baking tray and to brush on gnocchi
- extra almond flour for rolling
Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Sauce with Spinach
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 eschallot/French shallot peeled
- 1 small clove of garlic smashed and peeled
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil if small use more
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste or tomato paste concentrate
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 120 ml plant-based cream or single (half-and-half) cream
- 100 ml light vegetable stock or water or plant milk
- 50 g fresh baby spinach leaves or equivalent of frozen, defrosted and drained
Cut up the cauliflower and place in a blender. Fill the blender with enough water to allow the cauliflower to float. Pop on the top and pulse until you get "grains" - about 6 times.
Line a colander with a clean tea towel and pour the cauliflower in, allowing the water to drain freely. Bring up the edges of the towel and twist hard. Twist and squeeze to release as much water as humanly possibly. And then try harder. 🙂 Tip the dry cauliflower into the bowl of your food processor.
Add the almond flour, xanthan gum, salt and optional nutritional yeast to the food processor and blend until your get a soft dough. You may want to scrape the sides once or twice. Roll a piece in between your fingers to form a ball. If it does, great. If not, add a little more almond flour if the ball is too wet. And a tiny drop of water if too dry. Blend again and test. Scrape into a bowl and lightly cover - or just cover the food processor bowl - and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. This lets the xanthan gum do its binding job better.
Line a tray or two with parchement paper and slick with oil. Keep the oil handy for later. Preheat the oven to 200°C/425°F.
Scatter a handful of almond flour onto a piece of parchment paper and tip out the cauliflower dough. Roughly shape into a rectangle, then cut into 4 lengths. Gently use your hands to roll each piece into a slim cylinder, reshaping and pressing together as needed - hopefully not necessary if you are gently enough. Remember, it has no gluten so doesn't act like a proper dough. Then use a knife to cut into 2 cm pieces or thereabouts. At this stage you can cover and chill for a day or two before cooking.
Once you are ready to cook, bring a pan of water to a steady simmer (not boil or the gnocchi may break apart) and, using a slotted spoon, lower some of the gnocchi into the bubbling water. Leave for 45 seconds then gently scoop them out, letting the water drip away, then place onto the oiled parchment paper. It doesn't matter if they are a bit wet. Carry on with the remaining dough. Slick each gnocchi with a little oil as best you can.
Place the trays into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently turn each gnocchi and return to the oven - swap them round - for a further 10 minutes. You don't have to flip them, It is more to get the gnocchi evenly golden.
Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Sauce
Finely mince the shallot and garlic. Finely mince the sun-dried tomatoes Heat the oil over a medium-low flame and saute the shallot and garlic until the shallot is soft and taking on colour - about five minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, mustard, thyme leaves, vinegar/lemon, cream and stock/water. Let this all bubble up on a low heat for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Rinse the spinach and stir in to the sauce. Let the sauce spinach just wilt down. Taste for seasoning. Add black pepper if you wish.
Divide the warm gnocchi between two wide pasta bowls and pour over the sauce. Top with extra fresh thyme leaves and chopped sun-dried or fersh tomatoes if you like.
- The gnocchi can be simmered and drained then placed on baking paper-lined tray for covering and refrigerating for a couple of days before baking.
- You can also simmer and fully bake the gnocchi then store in a lidded container. Just reheat by popping in the microwave for one minute then pour over with warm sauce.
- The gnocchi can be frozen before simmering and baking. Open-freeze on a lined tray and once fully frozen, carefully tipped into a sealable bag. To cook, simmer for 30 seconds and no longer.
- A note on the binding ingredient suggestions. If not using xanthan gum you may need to use more than the quarter teaspoon in the recipe card. For flax and cornstarch I would up to 1 tsp. For the psyllium I would up to half teaspoon. But I have not made this recipe with any of these ingredients.