This delicious and super easy lemon gnocchi is the perfect weeknight dinner that will be ready in 30 minutes! It's ready in one pan, is super creamy, and is dairy-free (if you can believe me!)!
Why This Recipe Is Awesome
This lemon gnocchi recipe has so much going for it! The fresh lemon brings out the energy of spring, the creamy sauce keeps you warm on a cool night, and one-pot cooking makes any busy person very happy to have fewer dishes! But for real, some key reasons why we think this recipe is so awesome are:
- Quick: This quick dinner is ready in 30 minutes making it the perfect meal for the entire family. It also doesn’t require any prep other than slicing open a lemon, so 30 minutes includes all the time to make the recipe! In my experience, that is about the maximum time I have between tummies rumbling and folks' grumbling.
- One Pan: The gnocchi for this dish cooks right in the sauce! This means less work for cleanup and less equipment needed. All you need is a large pot or deep skillet.
- Vegan and can be Gluten Free: I am obsessed with this lemon gnocchi! And, because I am mostly dairy free, I knew it needed to be creamy AND dairy free considering how much I am eating it. As for gluten-free, that is thanks to gluten-free gnocchi if you want to use that.
- But it doesn’t have to be vegan or gluten-free! Although our household has a more limited diet, you do not need to make this dairy-free or gluten-free if you don’t want to or don’t have those ingredients. It is such a simple recipe that to make this with dairy and gluten, you just have to use regular milk and potato gnocchi instead of what we use.
- Simple Ingredients: I feel like recipes that meet dietary restrictions often use specialty ingredients, but this recipe doesn’t! Yes, you'll need gluten-free gnocchi and oat milk but both of those we are able to find at our local grocery store, Target, and Walmart.
Ingredients and Substitutions
All substitutions are a 1:1 substitutes unless otherwise noted.
Dairy-Free Gnocchi: We like to use the 40% cauliflower gnocchi from Green Giant, found in the frozen aisle like this one, but you can use gluten-free gnocchi with a few modifications. When I refer to gluten-free gnocchi, I mean one made with gluten-free flour - not cauliflower or veggie gnocchi.
If using gluten-free gnocchi or veggie gnocchi, you will need 2 packs of it (rather than 1 for regular gnocchi) because the gluten-free and veggie gnocchi does not absorb or thicken the sauce as gluten gnocchi does. If you need dairy-free or vegan gnocchi, just be sure to check the ingredients as some store-bought versions use milk.
Substitutions: You can use any kind of gnocchi you like - potato, kale, etc, it does not have to be gluten-free. It can be frozen, shelf-stable, or refrigerated. Depending on the type you use, the sauce may react differently. If you are using a type of gnocchi other than a gluten-free gnocchi and your sauce seems different than our photos, check out our Joy Tips for troubleshooting.
Oat Milk: Oat milk doesn’t have much flavor, making it a great choice for a creamy base for this lemon pasta.
Substitutions: You can use your milk of choice coconut milk. This can be cow’s milk, heavy cream, cashew milk, soy milk, etc.
Corn Starch: Corn starch is awesome when used sparingly. In this sauce, it's used to thicken the sauce without needing cheese or dairy. But, if too much is used, the sauce will become gluey. Also, be careful to ensure your cornstarch is gluten-free if you are celiac.
Substitutions: You can use arrowroot powder if you do not have corn starch.
Lemon: We use the zest of a lemon and fresh lemon juice to pack a real lemon punch!
Substitutions: You can leave out the lemon zest if you don't have a lemon and just use 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
Dijon Mustard: I always like to add a little mustard to pasta sauce that isn’t red sauce. It adds tons of flavor and spice without us having to add tons of ingredients.
Substitutions: You can use spicy mustard or another type of brown mustard in place of Dijon.
Basil: Of course we need basil in this Italian-inspired pasta dish!
Substitutions: Fresh is always best for basil but if you cannot find fresh, sometimes stores sell tubs of minced basil in the produce section. You can use 2 tablespoons of this instead of fresh basil in a pinch.
Petite Sweet Peas: Nothing says spring like peas and lemon! A region in the north of Italy called Lumignano actually grows some of the best and sweetest peas around and even has a pea celebration festival every year!
Substitutions: We use frozen peas, but you can certainly use fresh peas. I don't recommend using any kind of green peas other than petite peas because they are SO much sweeter than regular peas and have a crisp bite to them. You can also swap out peas for baby spinach.
Basics: You will also need some basics like salt, black pepper, minced garlic or garlic cloves, and oil (olive oil or avocado oil work great!).
Recipe Testing Notes
Throughout our testing of this lemon gnocchi, we learned some key things that worked and didn't work. Here are the key takeaways!
- Gnocchi types can react differently: While we were testing, we realized this sauce relies partially on the gnocchi releasing starches as it cooks. But, because we used a cornstarch slurry, the sauce was pretty robust and didn’t change very much based on the type of gnocchi we used. But, if your sauce does look different, we have a few Joy Tips to troubleshoot depending on the type of gnocchi you are using.
- Corn starch is the wonder kid: Initially, I tested this recipe using cashew yogurt to hopefully get a thicker texture than just plant-based milk. However, I still needed to use cornstarch to thicken it slightly. So, thanks to corn starch, this sauce is deliciously creamy with just using plant-based milk as the base - no specialty yogurt required.
- A note about homemade and cauliflower gnocchi: We learned quickly while testing that both homemade gnocchi and cauliflower gnocchi are very delicate and tender. For these reasons, I don't recommend cooking these in the sauce. Instead, we had better luck pan-frying the cauliflower gnocchi and adding it to the sauce. For the homemade, I recommend boiling it in water (or cooking how you normally would) and then adding it to the sauce.
- Use a large skillet: Don’t be like me and start the sauce in a fry pan… Because the gnocchi is cooking directly in the sauce, you need to use either a saucepan or a skillet that is at least 2.5” deep.
How to Make This - Step by Step
Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for the full recipe card and nutritional information.
Step one: Flavor base
Cook your garlic and mustard in a little oil over medium heat for a minute or two. The house should smell amazing with the garlic! Be sure to use a pan at least 2.5” deep to accommodate the gnocchi.
Step two: Add the liquid
Add the oat milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil.
Step three: Cook the gnocchi
Drop your gnocchi into the boiling liquid. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the gnocchi floats to the top for as long as directed on the packaging.
Step four: Make the slurry
To thicken the sauce, we will make a cornstarch slurry by removing a few spoonful's of the hot liquid into a small bowl or cup. Add the cornstarch to this small dish and mix until fully combined.
Step five: Mix it all
Now, add the peas and cornstarch slurry to the pan with the gnocchi. Gently stir to combine it. Let this mixture boil for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the peas are soft.
Step six: Finish
To finish up the lemon gnocchi sauce, add the torn or chopped basil and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve with a little pink peppercorn if you have it and your desired protein or side dish! If you aren't dairy free, you can also finish with a little parmesan cheese.
Watch How to Make This - Step by Step
Does your sauce look too thin or too thick? Depending on the type of gnocchi you use, your sauce may react slightly differently. If the sauce is too thin add another ¼ teaspoon of cornstarch by repeating the slurry process. If the sauce is too thick, mix in another ¼ cup of oat milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
Both? Gnocchi’s main ingredient is potato but it uses some type of flour to bind it. Because of this, it is often considered a dumpling rather than a pasta.
This depends on your preference. Gnocchi is delicious on its own, fried or sautéed, but is better with sauce when boiled. Cauliflower gnocchi, on the other hand, is almost always better fried. When frying, you also will need to use and clean another pan if that matters to you.
First, I highly recommend checking out our post on How Long to Cook Gnocchi. Second, is your gnocchi homemade or store-bought? Homemade and cauliflower gnocchi are much more prone to becoming mushy when boiled because the binders used can very much more than shelf-stable gnocchi that has been made to survive transport.
If this happens, you can either do your best to carefully stir the sauce to preserve the gnocchi as best you can or remove the gnocchi and enjoy the sauce on something else like chicken or meatballs.
Want to Save It For Later? Here's How!
This lemon gnocchi can be kept in the fridge with a few considerations. It isn't freezer friendly.
- Fridge: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. As gnocchi sits, it continues to release starch thus thickening the sauce further. Gluten-free gnocchi also has a tendency to harden when cold so reheating is a must.
- Reheating: To reheat, you can either microwave for 1 minute, add in a splash of oat milk or broth (chicken broth, vegetable stock, or beef broth is fine), and stir, then heat another 1 minute. Or, you can add it to a saucepan or large nonstick skillet over low heat with a splash of oat milk to reheat it while slowly stirring.
Despite what I’ve been describing as pasta, gnocchi is not pasta. Because it's made with potatoes, they are actually considered Italian dumplings! Most Italian families have their own gnocchi recipe meaning there is no specific way to make it. Sadly, I do not yet have my own gnocchi recipe because I was 21 before I ate gnocchi for the first time. Safe to say, I am now obsessed! (source)
What Goes Well With Gnocchi
This gnocchi can be served with so many things. In fact, we have an entire post about What Goes With Gnocchi! But, here are a few of our favorites to serve with Lemon gnocchi.
- Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts: These crispy brussels sprouts with honey and bacon are the perfect complement to the lemon cream sauce!
- Stuffed Chicken: This is a great protein to serve with the bright flavor of this gnocchi. It is easy to pop in the oven and let it bake while you work on the lemon gnocchi undisturbed.
- Vegan Apricot Cinnamon Ice Cream (No churn!): Who wouldn’t love a little fresh ice cream after dinner? You can also use it in an affogato to have a full Italian experience at home!
Did you try this and love it? Leave us a review, we would love to hear from you!
- 1 tablespoon oil avocado or olive
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1.5 cups oat milk unsweetened
- zest from 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 9 oz gnocchi shelf stable or frozen- if using pure cauliflower gnocchi, you will need 2 packs, see notes*
- 2 teaspoon cornstarch gluten free if needed
- 1.5 cups petite sweet peas frozen
- ¼ cup basil torn or thinly sliced
- pink peppercorn optional - for topping
- Heat a pan over medium heat and add the oil and garlic. Sauté until fragrant - 1-2 minutes. Then add your mustard while mixing to keep it from burning.1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon garlic, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Deglaze the pan by adding the oat milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly.1.5 cups oat milk, zest from 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon salt
- Add the gnocchi to the liquid and leave at a simmer on low. Let this cook as directed on the gnocchi package or until it floats to the surface and is soft. This is usually 5-7 minutes depending on the type of gnocchi.9 oz gnocchi
- After the gnocchi is soft, remove some of the sauce into a small bowl (2-3 spoonful's). Add the cornstarch to this and mix until a paste is formed. Add this back to the sauce along with the frozen peas.2 teaspoon cornstarch, 1.5 cups petite sweet peas
- Mix gently to combine. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes until the peas are soft and the sauce as thickened. If the sauce is too thick or thin, see post notes for troubleshooting.
- To finish the sauce, remove from heat and add in the torn basil. Plate the gnocchi and top with pink peppercorn if desired.¼ cup basil