Vanilla Panna Cotta

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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 on a plate served with macerated strawberries with a spoonful removed

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.

Ingredients

panna cotta on a plate served with macerated strawberries

To make this, you’ll need:

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.

warm panna cotta being poured from a pot into a ramekin

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

Can I add flavorings to this dessert?

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.

Where can I buy agar agar?

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 and as a powder.

Which type of agar agar should I get?

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.

Can I substitute agar agar for gelatin in any recipe?

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.

Did you make this recipe? Leave a review!
panna cotta on a plate served with macerated strawberries with a spoonful removed
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4.88 from 8 votes

Vanilla Panna Cotta

This vanilla panna cotta is a delightful creamy, rich dessert made with a vegetarian gelatin substitute.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, Italian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chill 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 405kcal
Author Stefani

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon agar agar powder
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 teaspoons vanilla bean paste substitute with vanilla extract; 8 teaspoons = 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

While I love the look of vanilla bean specks in my dessert, vanilla extract will work perfectly well.
I made my panna cotta recipe by modifying one from Linden Tea.

Nutrition

Calories: 405kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 100mg | Sodium: 101mg | Potassium: 286mg | Sugar: 28g | Vitamin A: 1171IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 245mg | Iron: 1mg
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