Vanilla Panna Cotta
My vanilla panna cotta is so refreshing and requires almost no preparation to make!
I make the recipe vegetarian and stable at room temperature by using agar agar powder, a gelatin substitute derived from red algae.
Panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) is a dessert made of milk, cream, sugar, and a gelling agent. 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 smooth and creamy and a great dessert for any occasion.
To make this, you’ll need:
- Whole milk
- Heavy cream
- Agar agar powder [paid link]
- Vanilla bean paste (I like the look of vanilla bean specks in my dessert, but you can also use pure vanilla extract.)
I top the finished dessert with macerated strawberries, but any berries, fresh mint, or fresh lavender work perfectly as a garnish.
How It’s Made
Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat and stir occasionally until the agar agar has dissolved completely, about 10 minutes.
Tip: Agar agar melts at 185 F (85 C), so you’ll want to make sure that the mixture reaches that temperature and is fully heated throughout. Avoid boiling it if at all possible – a thermometer will definitely help with this.
Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature to cool slightly and then pour into ramekins or silicone molds.
Refrigerate until the mixture sets, 2-3 hours.
Serve in the ramekins or molds you used or carefully invert them onto plates.
Expert Tips and FAQs
Absolutely! People often add extracts and spices to give panna cotta a unique taste. (I love the combination of ginger and cardamom.) You can add to the vanilla flavor or substitute with your own flavorings.
You can find agar agar in the Asian section of your grocery (I found it at Whole Foods), in an Asian market, or online where it’s sold as both flakes [paid link] and as a powder [paid link].
I recommend using the powdered version, but you can always grind agar agar flakes in a spice grinder before using them. If you don’t grind the flakes first, you may see some flakes in your panna cotta and it may not set up as well.
You may be able to directly substitute gelatin with powdered agar agar in equal amounts. Agar agar melts at a higher point than gelatin, and the recipe won’t be as firm if you use the plant-based gelling agent.
- Macerated strawberries
- Vanilla bean paste
- Vanilla buttercream
- Toasted coconut chips
- Sweet and salty roasted chickpeas
Vanilla Panna Cotta
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon agar agar powder
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 8 teaspoons vanilla bean paste [paid link] substitute with vanilla extract; 8 teaspoons = 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons
- Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium high heat and stir occasionally until the agar agar has dissolved completely, about 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a rapid boil.
- Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature and divide into four ramekins or silicone molds.
- Refrigerate until the panna cotta sets, 2-3 hours.
- Serve cold, garnished with macerated strawberries, fresh fruit, fresh mint, or fresh lavender.
Join my mailing list - and receive a free eBook!