A simple vegan gnocchi recipe with mushrooms and spinach in a creamy coconut milk sauce. This comes together easily on weeknights but has a touch of luxury and a unique mix of Italian and Mediterranean flavors.
This creamy gnocchi is a fusion delight
It’s hard to describe this one! I set about to make a vegan gnocchi with a coconut sauce, and I had no idea where I was going with it, but after lots and lots of testing, I landed right here. With a pan of soft potato gnocchi, slivers of browned mushroom and fresh spinach, all enveloped in a coconut cream sauce. And I love it.
This is very much a fusion dish, with a unique flavor that doesn’t belong to any particular genre. It’s not an attempt to veganize a more traditional Italian or American-Italian dairy cream sauce. We have fennel seeds and oregano, which are a nod to a Tuscan sausage flavor, but we also have smoked paprika, lemon and turmeric, which swing it a little more Mediterranean. It just kind of does its own thing, so approach it with an open mind.
It’s a simple enough recipe which can be tended to without too much focus or precision, so it makes for an easygoing dinner on a weeknight when you don’t have to rush out the door.
What to know about the ingredients
- Gnocchi: You can use any gnocchi for this. You cook it separately to the sauce and add it in at the end so it doesn’t need to be a particular type to work with this recipe. Mine is dried, but feel free to use fresh or frozen.
- Onion: Red onion or shallots are ideal but white or brown are fine too.
- Mushrooms: I use the white button mushrooms here because we aren’t going for a strong mushroomy flavor and I find they blend into the sauce more easily aesthetically. You can definitely use a chestnut, portobello, whatever your heart desires – you may just end up with a darker sauce.
- Spinach: Feel free to swap in kale, though it will be a different result: more bulky and less smooth.
- Dried herbs and spices: We have fennel seeds, smoked paprika, oregano and turmeric.
- Fresh chives: An optional topping, or you could use another fresh herb like parsley or basil if you’d rather.
- Coconut milk: full fat! Lighter coconut milk might be OK, but the sauce would be much more runny so it’s up to you if you want to try that.
- Lemon: for zest and juice.
Tip: You can make this with frozen mushrooms and spinach
My early tests used frozen mushrooms and spinach, and it works perfectly, but there are a couple of things you need to be aware of:
- If you use frozen mushrooms, note that they will take a while longer to cook. They leach a LOT of liquid as they cook, so all of that needs to evaporate from the pan before they can start to brown. They also reduce in size a lot more.
- If you use frozen spinach, you need to defrost and squeeze the liquid out before adding it to the pan. Don’t add it in whole or you’ll get a lot of spinach water in the sauce which will compromise both the color and consistency.
More Vegan Pasta & Gnocchi
Easy Creamy Vegan Gnocchi
- 18 oz (500 g) packaged dry gnocchi
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 8 oz (250 g) mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1-2 pinches chili flakes, to taste
- 14 oz (400 g) canned coconut milk, full fat
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp lemon zest
- 3 cups (90 g) spinach
- ½ lemon juice
- 2 tbsp chopped chives, for serving
- lemon wedges, for serving
- Saute the mushrooms and onions. In a large, deep pan, heat a little olive oil and add the onions to the pan. Saute for a few minutes until they are starting to soften, then add the mushrooms. Cook over a medium-high heat until the mushrooms are well reduced and browned. This can take about 10 minutes, though it depends on the size of your pan. You may want to cook the mushrooms in two batches, adding the first batch back in with the second batch once it's done cooking, but I find with a 30cm (12 inch) pan I can do it all at the same time – they will cook down and brown eventually.1 medium red onion, 8 oz mushrooms
- Add the garlic and spices in quick succession. First, add the crushed fennel seeds and garlic and stir through until you can smell the fennel seeds toasting. Then add the smoked paprika, oregano, lemon zest and chili flakes and stir through until the mushrooms are well coated – add extra oil to the pan if everything seems too dry. Move on to the next step very quickly so that nothing gets a chance to burn.3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp lemon zest, 1-2 pinches chili flakes
- Add the coconut milk and turmeric to the pan. Stir until the coconut milk is a uniform creamy texture (it is often separated in the can) and bring to a very gentle simmer. You want to cook it for about 15 minutes, until it's reduced and thickened up just a little (it will still be runnier than a heavy cream style sauce, but just a little thicker than our starting point).14 oz canned coconut milk, 1/4 tsp turmeric
- Start your gnocchi boiling according to package instructions.18 oz packaged dry gnocchi
- While the gnocchi cooks, add the spinach to the sauce and stir through over a low heat until the spinach is wilted, then add the lemon juice and let it sit, off the heat, until the gnocchi is ready to go in.3 cups spinach, 1/2 lemon juice
- Once cooked, drain the gnocchi and add to the sauce.
- Serve immediately, with chives and lemon wedges for topping.2 tbsp chopped chives, lemon wedges