Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spiced Taro Dessert Gnocchi

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Makes about 100, 1-inch gnocchi pieces
Total time: 45 minutes to an hour

During my last visit to Chinatown, I picked up some taro with no real plan on how I was going to use it. After seeing some gorgeous pictures of potato gnocchi on Pinterest, I decided to make a taro-based version, and loved how easy and blissfully meditative the gnocchi-making process turned out to be. 

After a quick boil of the taro, I pureed it to create a subtly purple mash, and spiked it with some Chinese Five-spice powder (which I've used before and love), then sprinkled with "00" flour to create a fluffy dough. The dough was separated into six pieces, rolled into long strips, then chopped into 1-inch pieces. After boiling a small batch, I decided they needed a quick saute, which produced a flavor reminiscent of french toast or funnel cake. So it became a dessert, which I rounded out with a savory salted coconut sauce and a dark and subtly sweet raw chocolate sauce. Once drizzled over the warmed gnocchi, everything sort of melted together, creating a beautiful and unique dessert. 

This recipe makes a lot of gnocchi, so I froze them on a baking sheet lined with a silpat, then transferred them to a ziploc bag. They can then simply be pulled from the bag as needed, defrosted, boiled and sauteed for an easy dessert. 

for the gnocchi
500 grams taro, cubed
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 2 TB water
1/2 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
120 grams of "00" flour
extra "00" flour, for dusting

for the coconut sauce (makes enough for 2-4 servings)   

1 TB Earth Balance vegan butter
small can (5.46 fl. oz.) unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 tsp salt

for the chocolate sauce (makes enough for 2-4 servings)

1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli brand)

1/8 cup raw agave syrup (add more to sweeten as desired)

to serve
halved fresh cherries
extra raw agave syrup
powdered sugar


Boil the cubed taro in plenty of salted water for 10-12 minutes, or until it mashes easily with a fork. Drain very well, mash and add the Ener-G/water mixture, along with the Chinese 5-spice, then puree with an immersion blender until silky. Add about half of the flour, and stir to combine while the taro mixture is still warm. Then, add in the rest of the flour to form a slightly sticky and shaggy ball.

Transfer to a well-floured surface and allow the taro ball to slightly cool. Knead for about 3 minutes, tossing in little handfuls of extra "00" flour until it is no longer sticky. Divide into 6 pieces, then roll each one into a long 1-inch thick piece, then cut into 1-inch thick pieces

Place the gnocchi pieces so they are not touching each other on a baking sheet lined with a silpat. You can either proceed to boiling/sauteing the desired amount of gnocchi to serve immediately, or you can place the entire baking sheet in the freezer, then transfer the frozen gnocchi to a ziploc bag once they are frozen. Just let them thaw out a bit before boiling them.

To make the coconut sauce, melt the vegan butter, coconut milk and salt together in a small saucepan. Once it reaches a small simmer, remove from the heat. Place in the refrigerator to chill. Before serving, allow it to sit out at room temperature while you boil/saute your gnocchi.

To make the chocolate sauce, melt the coconut oil in a saucepan or microwave, then whisk in the cocoa powder. Add in the agave, taste, and add more until desired sweetness is achieved. Place in the refrigerator to chill. Before serving, melt it in the microwave for a few seconds to achieve a pourable consistency.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in the desired amount of gnocchi. They will immediately sink to the bottom—once they rise to the top after a couple of minutes, they are done. Remove them with a skimmer and pat dry with a paper towel. (Any water left on the gnocchi will cause a bit of sputtering during sauteeing, so use caution.) 

Heat a little olive oil in a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add in the gnocchi, and allow to slightly brown on one side for 2-4 minutes. Flip over, and allow the other side to brown. Remove from the heat.

To serve, place the desired amount of browned gnocchi into bowls. Drizzle with the two sauces and garnish with the cherries. Serve immediately.


  1. this is so unique! typically when i have gnocchi it's kinda filling and heavy, does using taro lighten it up a bit?

    1. Thanks! I would classify this as a rich dessert, on the heavier side. I've only had prepared gnocchi once (most have egg in them), but I would say they are lighter and fluffier -- not sure if that is because of the taro, the 00 flour, or the combination ... I would say they are definitely "pillow-y"

  2. oh MAN! that sounds and looks totally amazeballs! what an adventurous cook you are! I really love taro. There's a little vegan Chinese spot in San Francisco that serves fried taro cakes with candied walnuts and they are GLORIOUS.

    1. Thanks Amey -- I was originally going to use walnuts in this dish, until I spotted some beautiful cherries -- maybe I'll try that on the next batch!

      and, um ... vegan Chinese spot in SF? Sounds like heaven!

  3. you make the most amazing things!

  4. Cool stuff, great photos too!

  5. Erin, I have had so little time to eat right let alone experiment with your wonderful recipes. Tonight I made this little dish. Very interesting! I am pretty sure my result was off. I am not sure if it is the kind of Japanese taro I used, or the fact that I had to use regular flour. It was much denser than you described in yours, though delicious none the less! What a harmonious marriage of flavors! A night with one of your recipes paired with a glass of wine and painting leaves me in a state of bliss~

  6. Leila, those math classes sound so difficult -- kudos to you for doing that, it does not sound like an easy thing to do!

    Glad you tried the gnocchi. It was really hard to measure the amount of flour needed during the kneading/rolling process, so that may have been it. But glad you still enjoyed. Many thanks as always for your honest feedback -- it's so helpful to me!

  7. Interesting dish! In Chinese Hakka cuisine we have a savoury gnocchi-like taro dish called abacus beads named after its shape. Instead of wheat flour tapioca flour is used, which gives it a chewy texture. I like this dessert variation too!

    1. Using tapioca flour sounds interesting, and I can almost imagine what a great chewy texture that would create. Thanks for sharing!


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