I Was So Ready to Hate the New Trader Joe's Kale Gnocchi

Life is full of twists and turns.

January 27, 2020
Photo by Erin Alexander

I have always had faith in Trader Joe's, adding a new product or two to my basket with complete certainty that they will be good, if not great. But when I recently stumbled upon a brand-new product in the frozen section, I found myself wondering, Has Trader Joe's gone too far?

I'm talking about their Kale Gnocchi, which first hit shelves earlier this month and has been the focus of Internet food chatter since.

Before committing to purchasing a bag, I took a photo of the packaging and posed the question to my Instagram followers (a solid mix of friends, family, and total strangers): Yay or nay?

The results were close, but ultimately favored giving the plump, forest-green orbs a try. The people had spoken.

Photo by Erin Alexander, aka @you_feta_believe_it

The instructions on the back of the package offer two options: sauté or boil. I trusted my instincts and sautéed first, heating up half of the gnocchi in a skillet pooled with bubbling butter. At first, they turned cloudy white from the shock of the heat, but as the minutes went by, slowly softened and crisped.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Their Cauliflower Gnocchi are brilliant but I took one look at the bag in the freezer case and knew that would not be the same reaction with the Kale. Somethings in life are meant to be green and others not so much. So funny you mentioned Veggie Booty I just ate something the other day that brought back that taste memory as well. No one in the room knew what I was talking about.”
— magictrunk

The key word there is crisped. And that's why I suspect, after sprinkling the cooked gnocchi with little more than flaky salt and grated Parmesan, the texture was good: buttery-crusty on the outside, tender on the inside. They had a distinct grassy taste, but it wasn't too overpowering.

Strangely (or maybe not so strangely) it reminded me of Veggie Pirate's Booty, a brand of puffed rice and corn snacks I ate often growing up. In other words, I kind of liked it. Though I'll be honest, and there's really no nice way of saying this: They look like little green turds (turdlets, if you will).

I tried boiling the gnocchi next. This was a mistake. Prepared this way, they were decidedly unpleasant: slimy on the outside, with a texture resembling the Play-Doh you kept playing with as a kid even though it had crumbs and dirt stuck to it. The taste was overpoweringly vegetal. If you (foolishly) opt for this method, you can redeem yourself by crisping up the boiled gnocchi in a pan (which is what I did).

Trader Joe's Kale Gnocchi sautéed (left) and boiled (right)—nobody said they were pretty. Photo by Erin Alexander

Of course, I'm not the only one with a review. Michelle Santiago Cortés at Refinery29 wrote, "They're not as light and pillowy as regular gnocchi, but extremely delectable nonetheless." Lauren Masur from The Kitchn described them as "an unequivocal home run." Not sure I'd ever go so far as to call these delectable—let alone a home run—but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Our managing editor, Brinda Ayer, on the other hand, was not a fan. "These were uniquely awful—even pan-fried in a ton of olive oil, they appeared and tasted like pieces of Play-Doh [Author's note: We're on the same page there] that had rolled around in grass all afternoon and somehow found their way onto my plate. And this is coming from someone who actually enjoys zeitgeisty wellness stuff, like green juices and spirulina-flavored, date-sweetened desserts (it's the Californian in me)."

As for my final verdict on Trader Joe's Kale Gnocchi, I'm a bit conflicted. I didn't hate the sautéed version, but I don't feel the need to buy it again anytime soon, maybe ever. (I'll stick to their Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, thank you very much.)

I guess the real question we should all be asking isn't whether or not we can gnocchi-fy all sorts of vegetables (and in one recent case, dessert). The question is, should we?

Trader Joe's, my Instagram dm's await your response.

Have you tried Trader Joe's Kale Gnocchi? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

More Trader Joe's Goodies


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Andrea R
    Andrea R
  • abbyarnold
  • Hannah
  • cosmiccook
  • Gail
Erin Alexander

Written by: Erin Alexander

Erin Alexander is the Managing Editor of Food52.


Andrea R. March 6, 2020
Well, hubby and I like them, possibly better than the cauliflower, shocker! We made our own pesto and sautéed some veggies as a topper with fresh grated parmesan, thought it was delicious. And, when you need something quick, this is our go to when we don’t feel like making a bigger effort. Also, we are low carb, but didn’t think it was too high in carbs, a little bit of a splurge but not bad really. Now, I have to try the sheet pan bake version!
abbyarnold March 1, 2020
I just want to take this moment to bless the life of Trader Joe Coulombe, who died yesterday in Pasadena, CA. He was a friend of my Dad's; they all lived in a senior housing development together. I was over there this evening and they have a little memorial set up for him, with a picture of him holding a bottle of wine. Joe was a lovely person and he will be missed. He totally changed our way of thinking about food and wine!
Hannah March 1, 2020
I’ve always enjoyed the cauliflower gnocchi, so I gave these a shot. I did not find them tasty one bit. Kale is great for making crunchy snack food but definitely not gnocchi.

I would love butternut, sweet potato, or possibly jicama gnocchi. Parsnips and apples would be great, too.
cosmiccook February 29, 2020
At least Trader Joe will give you your money back for the product. We don't care for Kale period but I bet you could make a Parisian gnocchi w Kale. My husband isn't a huge fan of gnocchi UNLESS its the Parisian type so I make these. I do love a good gnocchi though.
Gail February 29, 2020
I have a Meishan pig that produces something that looks like that, with great regularity (pun intended).
ustabahippie February 29, 2020
Ann H. February 29, 2020
Homemade is always best. I like TJ's sweet potato gnocchi with sage butter better than their kale. But I was warned to stay away from kale because it interferes with my thyroid meds.
Richard B. February 29, 2020
Having been raised in a large Italian family with a mother and several aunts and grandmothers who were all wonderful cooks, and having lived in Italy and visited there several times eating with friends and relatives, and finding kale revolting anyway, I must say your review, which places the product somewhere between blah and bad depending on preparation, confirms my impression that anyone offering gnocchi made with kale for a meal in Italy would be arrested.
ustabahippie February 29, 2020
🤣 hope someday you’ll find a way to enjoy kale. It’s so easy to grow!
Richard B. March 1, 2020
Forgive my for my thoughts about what is easy to grow....
karin.anderson.52 March 1, 2020
Amen, brother!
Heidi February 28, 2020
You should try air frying them. I know it is not on the package as a way to cook them, but it really is the best way. Boiling them is truly a slimy mess, and we were not a fan of the sauté method, but the air fryer was delicious.
dmv February 28, 2020
I agree with Dana E.
TJ's Gnocchi Al Gorgonzola & Sorrentino are good; but making your own from scratch is BEST!
ustabahippie February 28, 2020
I’d probably toss them with veggies and a little olive oil on a sheet pan and bake them. Love gnocchi this way.
Joeyw February 28, 2020
Sweet potato gnocchi has less calories sodium and sugar than the previous. All 3 trader products are delicious. The addition of trader pesto compliments all 3 gnocchi products
EBP February 28, 2020
The Kale Gnocchi was good sauteed in garlic butter. Generally we try to eat Mediterranean/lower carbs. It was a splurge for us. I am not sure we will have it again very soon because the carb count is high enough there are many other alternatives. Lots of things taste good with butter and garlic.
Nancy M. February 28, 2020
I am so over kale. I could barf just reading about this.
abbyarnold February 28, 2020
I stay away from ANYTHING kale!
Maire M. February 28, 2020
I have not tried these but I make Al di La's Swiss Chard Malfatti and they are amazing. It's a bit of a labor of love but worth every minute of the effort (definitely more a weekend thing). Ridiculously melt in the mouth impress all your friends kind of amazing and then everyone asks for the recipe.
Jennifer D. February 28, 2020
I would definitely try these and sauté them. I only eat boiled gnocchi in trusted Italian restaurants. Mmmmmm green turdlets, lol.
anne R. February 28, 2020
Their cauliflower gnocchi is really good in the pan. But now I have to to buy an air fryer and try it that way!
magictrunk February 28, 2020
Their Cauliflower Gnocchi are brilliant but I took one look at the bag in the freezer case and knew that would not be the same reaction with the Kale. Somethings in life are meant to be green and others not so much. So funny you mentioned Veggie Booty I just ate something the other day that brought back that taste memory as well. No one in the room knew what I was talking about.
Jenn N. February 28, 2020
Sautéed version + pesto and a little bit of parm is the chef's kiss.
Christina February 28, 2020
I grabbed a bag last week but have yet to try them.
Honestly, the cauliflower gnocchi was a challenge. As instructed, we boiled and wept. The saute with butter, sage and garlic was still a disappointment. But...when roasting a chicken, add them to the pan, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, sit the chicken on top and let the chicken fat work magic.
Jennifer D. February 28, 2020
Roasting gnocchi is life changing. I do it with mini bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and shallots. An easier meal does not exist.