This panna cotta recipe is made with agar agar, a vegetarian gelatin substitute made from red algae. While you can make panna cotta with gelatin, the advantage of agar agar (other than the fact that it’s vegetarian) is that it is stable at room temperature.
What is Panna Cotta?
Panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) is a dessert made of cream, sugar, sweetener, a gelling agent (gelatin or agar agar), and any flavorings that you choose to add. You heat the mixture so the sugar dissolves and the gelling agent activates. You then let it cool slightly, pour it into molds, and chill it before serving.
It’s a refreshing recipe and requires very little preparation to make.
What Do You Need to Make Vegetarian Panna Cotta?
I substitute agar agar, a natural gelling agent, for the animal-based gelatin typically found in the dessert.
To make this vegetarian panna cotta recipe, you’ll need:
- Whole milk
- Heavy cream
- Agar agar powder
- Something to flavor the panna cotta (This could be coffee, tea, spices, or in the recipe below, honey.)
Which Agar Agar Should You Use?
You can find agar agar in the Asian section of your grocery (I found it at Whole Foods) or in an Asian market.
I recommend either using the powder or grinding the flakes in a spice grinder before using them. If you don’t grind the flakes first, you may see some flakes in the end result of your panna cotta.
If an otherwise vegetarian recipe calls for gelatin and you want to substitute agar agar, you can substitute gelatin with powdered agar agar in equal amounts.
How to Make Panna Cotta with Agar Agar
Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat and stir occasionally until the agar agar has dissolved completely. The mixture should remain simmering, but not come to a heavy boil.
Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature and pour into a silicone mold (any shape you’d like) or ramekins. I like using silicone molds because it’s easy to pop the panna cotta out to serve it.
Refrigerate until the panna cotta sets, 2-3 hours.
Regular panna cotta eaters should also know that this panna cotta is more solid than typical panna cotta. It will easily hold the shape of whatever silicone mold you pour it into.
Panna Cotta Made with Agar Agar
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons agar agar powder
- 1/4 cup honey plus extra for drizzling
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat and stir occasionally until the agar-agar has dissolved completely or almost completely (as noted above, I could never get the flakes to completely dissolve), about 15 minutes. The mixture should remain simmering, but not come to a heavy boil.
- Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature and pour into a silicone mold (any shape you'd like) or ramekins. I made mine in a silicone cupcake tin. I filled the molds 3/4 full and the recipe made eight.
- Refrigerate until the panna cotta sets, 2-3 hours.
- Serve cold, drizzled with honey.