Gnocchi is a variety of pasta consisting of various small, thick, and soft dough dumplings.
This Italian original can be made from different ingredients such as semolina, ordinary wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or similar ingredients.
So whether gnocchi is vegan or not depends on the recipe.
Like many Italian dishes, gnocchi has several recipe variations (as well as names) in different regions. Some of these recipes contain milk and eggs, unfortunately.
If you want to avoid non-vegan gnocchi you will probably have to either:
- Ask the restaurant in advance if they can prepare a vegan gnocchi recipe for you;
- Or prepare your own vegan gnocchi dish at home.
Let’s dive a bit further and understand what can make gnocchi vegan and vice-versa.
What does it take to keep gnocchi vegan-friendly?
To put it simply, you just have to keep the main ingredient (pasta) vegan, and whatever you complement the dish with must also remain animal-free.
Keeping the pasta vegan
For instance, a common approach from a culinary perspective is to stuff the dough (pasta) with cheese, so that the pasta and cheese melt simultaneously in your mouth.
However, that’s not vegan-friendly, right?
To keep it vegan-friendly, you have to limit the pasta to starches. It can be any form of starch that gelatinizes when exposed to heat and water.
A common example is a semolina, the wheat that makes up couscous, a very popular Morrocan grain. Other forms of starch include polenta (cornflour), rice flour, and the most common.
Also, the past must be without eggs. For example, in this potato gnocchi recipe, eggs are added to the dough to help it rise. Plus, the yolk helps tenderize the crumb and lighten the texture, which affects the taste of the final product.
The gnocchi dishes are several.
But cheese and eggs are probably the most commonly used ingredients in a gnocchi dish.
This four-cheese gnocchi bake uses four different kinds of cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, provolone, and asiago) both as a topping and as part of the pasta. This recipe also includes heavy cream, for a more melting texture.
Tuscan butter gnocchi is another recipe with different animal-based ingredients. Butter is melted in advance before the garlic and tomatoes are added to create the fragrance. Parmesan and heavy cream are stirred together in a broth to simmer until the sauce is reduced.
Then again, the dish is topped with mozzarella, so it’s a rather cheese-packed dish. Just like many other gnocchi (and pasta) recipes.
Trader’s Joe has a cauliflower gnocchi recipe that incorporates almond flour, riced cauliflower, mozzarella, and egg yolks to create the pasta. Those components are then simmered in marinara sauce and garnished with parmesan and parsley.
As you see from the recipes, there’s plenty of cheese, eggs, and butter— ingredients that are ubiquitous in Italian cuisine. It’s not very common to see meat used in gnocchi, but there’s certainly a recipe that demands it.
Don’t forget the sauce.
Most gnocchi recipes are not complete without the sauce.
A simple sauce of butter, fresh sage leaves, and Parmesan is considered a classic accompaniment to gnocchi. But that sauce is obviously not vegan.
Pesto and gorgonzola sauce are also part of other popular recipes. Both of which contain cheese and butter.
I seriously think it’s difficult to find a legitimate vegan gnocchi recipe in a restaurant unless you ask them to improvise. In which case, making a recipe at home is a more viable solution.
Making Vegan Gnocchi At Home
Normally, you wouldn’t be able to find a vegan gnocchi recipe in a typical Italian restaurant, but perhaps you can find one in a specialized vegan restaurant.
However, since that is unlikely, let’s stick to vegan homemade recipes.
The image above is a vegan gnocchi recipe with creamy lemon garlic sauce. It is served with kale and seasoned with garlic and a hint of thyme. Pure vegan comfort.
This recipe does not contain vegan cheese, but you’re free to add some to it.
This is a simple homemade vegan potato gnocchi recipe made with russet potatoes, flour, and a touch of nutritional yeast.
What makes both these recipes similar is the fact you have to create the pasta from scratch.
However, you can actually buy “vegan gnocchi” without having to make it yourself. This allows you to skip probably the most complicated step in those recipes.
Store-bought Vegan Gnocchi
Thankfully, most vegan gnocchi (pasta) is vegan.
#1 – De Cecco Pasta, Potato Gnocchi
This potato gnocchi is considered vegan, but first I want to dispel some doubts.
Lactic acid seems to suggest something derived from milk, but it’s actually a product of bacterial fermentation and it can be found in anything other than milk. Even something like water with sugar may produce lactic acid after fermentation.
Thus, this substance can be considered safe for vegans.
#2 – Le Veneziane Gluten-Free Potato Gnocchi
This is a gluten-free version, which actually claims to be vegan on the package.
Both these options are available through Amazon, but surely you can find other options in a store near you. Plus, you don’t have to restrict your choice to potato-made gnocchi.
Walmart sells a sweet potato gnocchi version bound with whole wheat.
Most of the commercially available gnocchi is made from potato, so if you want a different type of starch, consider making your own. Semolina and polenta are both viable solutions.
Gnocchi pasta is mostly considered vegan.
As you’ve seen, store-bought gnocchi pasta consists of wheat and potato in most cases.
However, gnocchi recipes usually contain animal products like cheese and eggs. A gnocchi dish can be vegan, but it depends on the recipe used in the restaurant or at home.
The probability of you finding a vegan gnocchi dish in a restaurant is low, so the best option is to make your own version at home. There are several gnocchi recipes I’ve linked to in this blog post.
Thank you for reading!