Panna Cotta

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Panna cotta is an elegant Italian custard that’s silky smooth, and melt-in-your-mouth creamy, The macerated strawberries are just the cherry on top! It’s a combination that can’t be beaten for an easy yet luxurious dessert — right at home.

A white plate of panna cotta
Photo: Gayle McLeod

What Is Panna Cotta?

There’s just something about mini desserts that bring me joy. Especially panna cotta (and this chocolate pots de creme of course). They’re the most luscious bites of creamy custard you’ll ever have. And believe be when I say, anyone and everyone will swoon over this recipe.

If you haven’t had panna cotta before though, it’s a classic Italian dessert that cooks cream, gelatin, and sugars together, then chills overnight. This combination gives the custard a slightly firm, yet delicate and creamy texture with a hint of sweet vanilla. And while it may be classified as a decadent dessert, I’m here to show you that making panna cotta is really quite simple!

Ingredients for panna cotta

Panna Cotta Ingredients

Unlike flan, panna cotta is an eggless custard that uses gelatin to form its mold. And while there aren’t that many ingredients, read through the notes below to get a better understanding of how each ingredient is used and the different options you may have.

  • Creams and Milk: The combination of heavy cream and whole milk is the key to making the base of this panna cotta extra creamy. If you’d like to make it dairy-free, see the FAQ section below.
  • Gelatin: What makes panna cotta solidify and able to turn upside down is gelatin. You can find this in the baking aisle at your local market, but look for unflavored powdered gelatin instead of sheet gelatin. I’ve been using this gelatin for years (starting with my homemade marshmallows recipe) and have loved it ever since!
  • Sweetener: While granulated sugar is commonly used, honey or maple syrup is my go-to sugar option. In fact — I think it makes for an even more luscious base that’s not overly sweet.
  • Vanilla: While I do love a vanilla bean panna cotta, vanilla beans can be a bit pricey. So to keep this easy and budget-friendly, vanilla extract works perfectly fine.
  • For the macerated strawberries: All you need are fresh strawberries and some honey or maple syrup — easy! I’ll show you how to make these below.

Find the printable recipe with measurements below in the recipe card.

How To Make Panna Cotta

Bloom the gelatin: Place the water in a small, wide bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and allow it to dissolve for about 5 minutes. If you find that there isn’t enough water, you can add a half tablespoon more on top of the gelatin to completely dissolve it.

Melting gelatin in a bowl for panna cotta

Warm the cream: The key is to simmer (not boil) the cream! Add the cream, milk, and honey to a pot over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture until a few bubbles appear on the outside edge, before it reaches the boiling point. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Side note — don’t turn your back on milk being cooked on the stovetop because it can quickly bubble and spill over!

Whisking panna cotta in a pot

Stir in gelatin: Add the bloomed gelatin to the pot of hot cream and whisk until fully dissolved. You want to avoid any lumps for a perfectly smooth panna cotta.

Whisking panna cotta custard

Pour and chill: Carefully pour the hot cream into six (4-ounce) ramekins or bowls. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 to 6 hours or overnight. Reference my notes in the recipe card about covering the ramekins!

Pouring panna cotta into bowls

To invert the panna cotta: Remove the ramekins from the fridge and run a small knife around the edge and/or dip the bottom of the ramekin in hot tap water for a few seconds. Then, invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and give it a gentle tap to release it.

Panna cotta out of the bowl

Make the macerated strawberries. Add the sliced strawberries and maple syrup to a mixing bowl and stir together. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, until they start to release their natural juices. Then, spoon the strawberries and some juice on top of each panna cotta, and voila!

A bowl of macerated strawberries

Storing Panna Cotta

If you’ve got a dinner party planned, I highly recommend making panna cotta. It’s always a stunning dessert! And good news – you can make it a day in advance, along with the macerated fruit. Here’s how to store it:

  • To store for the week: Surprisingly, panna cotta has a great shelf life in the fridge. Cover each bowl tightly (to prevent drying out) and store in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.
  • To freeze for later: Although panna cotta is best fresh, you’ll be glad to hear that it can be frozen for up to 3 months! Store it in an airtight container in the freezer. When you’re ready to enjoy, let it thaw in the fridge overnight.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is panna cotta the same as creme brulee or flan?

No. Unlike flan and creme brulee, panna cotta is an eggless custard that uses gelatin to form its mold.

Why is my panna cotta separating?

If you find that your panna cotta separates into two layers, one that’s creamy and one that’s more gelatin-like — there can be two reasons. First, either your gelatin didn’t bloom and dissolve properly when stirred into the cream. Second, the cream mixture boiled after the gelatin was added. Always make sure to remove the cream mixture from the heat before adding the gelatin.

Are there any dairy-free options to make panna cotta?

While full-fat cream is used in a traditional panna cotta, yes, you can use dairy-free options such as coconut or nut milk. To make sure you’ve got the ratios right, reference my dairy-free panna cotta recipes, such as pomegranate panna cotta, berry coconut panna cotta or nectarine panna cotta.

Scooping into a panna cotta

More Decadent Dessert Recipes

I hope you and your friends love this panna cotta as much as I do! Let me know how this recipe turned out in the comment box below.

Plates of panna cotta

Panna Cotta

5 from 9 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Chill: 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

This panna cotta recipe is the best Italian dessert made with a luscious vanilla custard topped with sweet macerated strawberries. Watch how I make it in the video below!

Video

Equipment

  • Ramekins Here are some great classic ramekins.
  • Small Bowls These are the small bowls I use for this recipe.

Ingredients 
 

Panna Cotta

Macerated Strawberries

  • 10 to 12 strawberries, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

Instructions 

To make the panna cotta

  • To bloom the gelatin: Place the water in a small dish or bowl (wider is better). Sprinkle the gelatin on top, and allow it to dissolve for 5 minutes.
    Melting gelatin in a bowl for panna cotta
  • Warm the cream: Add the cream, milk, and honey to a pot over medium-high heat. Heat the mixture and stir together until a few bubbles appear on the outside edge, just before the boiling point. Then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.
    Making panna cotta in a white pot
  • Stir in gelatin: Add the bloomed gelatine to the pot of cream and whisk until fully dissolved, making sure there are no lumps.
    Whisking panna cotta base in pot
  • Pour and chill: Carefully pour the hot cream into six (4-ounce) ramekins. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
    Pouring panna cotta into small bowls

To make the macerated berries

  • Stir together: Add the sliced strawberries and maple syrup to a mixing bowl and stir together. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, until they start to release their natural juices.
    A bowl of macerated strawberries

To assemble

  • To invert the panna cotta: Remove the ramekins from the fridge and run a small knife around the edge and/or dip the bottom of the panna cotta in hot tap water for a few seconds. Then, invert each ramekin onto a dessert plate and give it a gentle tap to release it.
    Panna cotta next to a knife
  • Top with strawberries: Spoon the strawberries and some juice on top of each panna cotta.
    Plates of panna cotta with strawberries

Lisa’s Tips

  • If you find that pouring directly from your pot into the ramekins creates a mess, transfer the liquid to a 4-cup measuring cup first. Then you can pour with a bit more precision into the individual ramekins. 
  • Do you really need to cover the panna cotta with plastic wrap? I don’t find that it’s completely necessary if you’re going to invert the panna cotta before serving. But it does help to reduce the “skin” that forms on top a little bit. 
  • I prefer to use white honey in the panna cotta and maple syrup in the macerated berries (as it’s more liquidy), but really any sugar or sweetener works just fine. So choose your favorite. 

Nutrition

Calories: 372kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 95mg | Sodium: 41mg | Potassium: 180mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 1234IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 108mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: panna cotta, panna cotta recipe, Strawberry Panna Cotta
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




29 Comments

  1. What would you suggest. I can have full cream milk as I get A2 milk I’m fine with but what cream would you suggest maybe just a DF one or coconut ???

  2. I made this recipe for the first time while visiting friends in Michigan as a thank you for letting us stay with them. Because we were in blueberry country during the blueberry festival, I used blueberries instead of strawberries. It was so delicious! It was creamy, lightly sweet and oh so good!5 stars

  3. Delicious and very easy to make. Brilliant for a dinner party as you can make it the day before. It is idiot proof as long as you follow the recipe. I forgot to dip the bottom of the ramekin in hot water which is why I had trouble dropping it out, but still managed! I used maple syrup in the panna cotta as I don’t have white honey. Full marks from all my guests.5 stars

    1. You should search for your own alternatives rather than expect others to cater to you. It’s a whole lot of extra effort and time (and money) for Lisa to recipe test for your sake, and shes not even vegetarian… so “Would be nice…” is quite an entitled way to make the suggestion andrea!5 stars

  4. I made this for a dinner party and everyone loved it. I actually used 2% milk instead of the whole milk and it still came out rich and creamy!! I used the maple syrup instead of honey so at first I thought it looked slightly dark – but as it set up it looked beautiful and white enough next to the beautiful fresh berries! Sorry I didn’t take pictures as I took it to someone’s house for the dinner party and everyone just dug in!5 stars

  5. This turned out great! Thanks for sharing. Do you have any tips on how to make a chocolate version? I imagine we could do everything the same, except skip the vanilla and add dutch cocoa powder to the hot liquid?5 stars

    1. I’m happy you loved it, Jack! And I don’t have tips as I haven’t tried it yet… but guess what’s on my to-do list now. ;)

    1. Hi Sophie – I have several dairy-free panna cotta recipes on my website. I recommend following those instructions. :)

  6. Could you provide the gelatine sheet equivalent ?
    and i am assuming that you are using the US cup size ? ( 237ml )5 stars

    1. I just Googled it, and it says 4 gelatin sheets are equivalent to 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder. Hope that helps!

  7. This recipe looks delicious and also easy to make.

    Can you give me a vegetarian alternative for the gelatin?5 stars

    1. Hi Sheila – you can use agar agar as well. But because I haven’t tested it with that, I’m not sure of the exact quantity. I’d recommend playing around with the quantity to find a texture you like.