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.

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Top Comment:
“Trader Joe's has given flour intolerant people an alternative. I am so grateful for the effort being made today in the food industry to bring to all of us that have food issues (Keto, Paleo, Celiac, etc.) great choices.”
— jjr

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!

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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.


Grace February 9, 2020
I will try these. We love Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi.
PS - definitely sauteed is the way to go over boiled.
Annab February 9, 2020
I air fried these and they were terrific, for what it's worth.
Ellen L. February 9, 2020
We've consumed at least 3 bags of these already. Whereas the cauliflower gnocchi kept sticking to the pan, these saute up nicely. Add some sauce and goat cheese and it's a quick and tasty meal.
jjr February 9, 2020
Trader Joe's has given flour intolerant people an alternative. I am so grateful for the effort being made today in the food industry to bring to all of us that have food issues (Keto, Paleo, Celiac, etc.) great choices.
Lauren B. January 28, 2020
Gotta put those puppies in the air fryer...that's how I have perfected the Kale Gnocchi's sister, the Cauliflower Gnocchi. Game changer in terms of texture.
Sarah January 29, 2020
Yes! It's soooo good. My kids BEG for the cauliflower gnocchi in the air fryer. I just bought a bag of the kale gnocchi to try.
Danielle C. February 7, 2020
this is a great tip!
None N. January 28, 2020
Ever had spinach gnocchi?
susielou February 9, 2020
I've made spinach and ricotta gnocchi (Gnocchi verdi) using Marcella Hazan's recipe from "The Classic Italian Cook Book). They were boiled and buttered.
Dana E. January 27, 2020
My Italian ancestors are roooolling in their graves. Why make kale into something it is not meant to be? You want your veggies: roast the kale, eat in a salad, saute, etc. No need to destroy the good name of gnocchi.
Danielle February 9, 2020
Relax, I didn’t realize there are gnocchi police. Let people enjoy things. This is the only way I can get my kid to eat kale.