Vegetarian Panna Cotta With Agar Agar

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This panna cotta recipe is made with agar agar, a gelatin substitute derived from red algae. While the dessert is traditionally made with gelatin, this gelatin-free version makes it vegetarian as well as stable at room temperature.

panna cotta on a plate served with macerated strawberries with a spoonful removed

What is Panna Cotta?

Panna cotta (Italian for “cooked cream”) is a dessert made of milk, cream, sugar, and a gelling agent (gelatin or agar agar). 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.

People often add flavorings like extracts or spices to give the dessert a unique taste.

It’s a refreshing recipe and requires very little preparation to make.

Ingredients

panna cotta on a plate served with macerated strawberries

I substitute agar agar, a natural gelling agent, for the animal-based gelatin typically found in the dessert.

To make this recipe, you’ll need:

  • Whole milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Sugar
  • Agar agar powder
  • 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.

Which Agar Agar Should You Use?

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.

I recommend using the powder, but you can always grinding 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.

If an otherwise vegetarian recipe calls for gelatin and you want to substitute agar agar, you can typically 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, about 10 minutes. 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 through. Avoid boiling the mixture if at all possible.

Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature and then pour into ramekins or silicone molds.

warm panna cotta being poured into a ramekin

Refrigerate until the mixture sets, 2-3 hours.

Serve in the ramekins or molds you used or carefully invert onto a plate.

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panna cotta on a plate served with macerated strawberries with a spoonful removed
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4.84 from 6 votes

Vegetarian Panna Cotta With Agar Agar

This panna cotta is made with agar agar, a vegetarian gelatin substitute made from red algae.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
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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9 comments on “Vegetarian Panna Cotta With Agar Agar”

  1. Stefsays:

    Humble Food Snob – You should be able to substitute 1 for 1. I haven’t personally tried it, but it should work.

  2. The Humble Food Snobsays:

    I just found this on Foodgawker and it looks wonderful! I’ve never made panna cotta before and this looks like a very nice recipe to try out as an inaugural run! I was wondering though; can you use regular gelatin in it in the same amount or is there a different ratio? I don’t want to go out and buy agar agar when I have gelatin in my pantry already. Thanks!

  3. Heidi @ Food Doodlessays:

    Beautiful! I love that you used agar agar too – I’ve been wanting to try it forever(it’s been in my cupboard for soo long!) Can’t wait to try it in a panna cotta and milk and honey sounds so good.

  4. Dixie Belle's Cupcakessays:

    The desert looks amazing. If it has honey my family will eat it. My husband is a beekeeper and he will use any excuse to throw honey on food.

  5. Sarahsays:

    Who can say no to an edible hug?! :)

    Love your blog! So happy to have stumbled across it.

  6. Anonymoussays:

    Who can say no to an edible hug?! :)

    Love your blog! So happy to have stumbled across it.

  7. Cupcake Activistsays:

    I’ve never tried milk and honey together, but it sounds delicious.

  8. Anonymoussays:

    LOVE this comfort food!
    Just a suggestion, you can soak the agar flakes for at least 30 min before heating. That should give a good melt-down

  9. Joysays:

    The panna cotta looks so good. I liked the add of honey on top.

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