This easy Panna Cotta recipe has a velvety smooth and creamy custard consistency and only requires a few simple ingredients. It’s a great dessert to make in advance, and only takes 15 minutes to prep.
Why I love this dessert:
- Make Ahead – Panna Cotta is my go-to dessert when I’m entertaining and want something simple, but elegant and something I can make ahead of time, so it’s ready to serve.
- 5 Ingredients: all you need is whipping cream, unflavored gelatin, sugar, Greek yogurt (or sour cream), and vanilla. Simple and delicious.
- Customize Toppings: this easy panna cotta can be served with a variety of toppings or in-season fruit, and enjoyed all year.
What is it?
Panna cotta is an Italian dessert that means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian. It has a smooth, custard like consistency that is lightly sweet and delicious.
How to make Panna Cotta:
Dissolve Gelatin: ½ cup of cream to a bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Heat: Pour remaining 1 ½ cups cream and ½ cup of sugar into a 2-quart saucepan and cook on medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat.
Whisk softened gelatin into mixture. Stir in yogurt and vanilla.
Divide Italian panna cotta between cups, or baking molds sprayed with nonstick cooking spray if you plan to invert the panna cotta onto a plate for serving. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.
Serve the best panna cotta recipe in dessert cups, ramekins, or for a more traditional Italian panna cotta, invert it onto a plate. Add toppings just before serving.
- Berry Sauce: To a saucepan add 1 ½ cups fresh of frozen berries, juice from ½ a lemon, and ¼ cup granulated sugar. Bring to a low boil and cook 5-6 minutes. Stir in and additional 1 cup berries and remove from heat. Cool before topping on panna cotta.
- Fresh Sliced Fruit: Berries, mango, peaches, pineapple, or cherries with fresh mint leaves, for garnish.
- Chopped Nuts: Pistachios or walnuts, with a drizzle of honey.
- Lemon Curd
- Chocolate or Caramel Sauce
- Cocoa powder dusting and shaved chocolate curls
- Cookie Crumbs
Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:
To Make Ahead: Prepare homemade panna cotta 1-3 days in advance and store covered in the refrigerator. Wait to add toppings until serving.
To Freeze: Cover with plastic wrap and freeze in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Let panna cotta custard thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.
- Vanilla Panna Cotta: For a stronger vanilla flavor, split a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add seeds and vanilla bean pod to the pot with the cream and sugar. After stirring in the gelatin, remove the vanilla bean and seeds and discard them.
- Chocolate Panna Cotta: Add 3.5 oz of chopped dark baking chocolate to the cream and sugar mixture once you’ve turned off the heat but before you add the gelatin. Stir until the chocolate melts, then stir in the unflavored gelatin.
- Add Flavor: Try adding orange essential oil or other flavors for recipe twists!
- Dairy Free Panna Cotta: Try this recipe using coconut milk.
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- Add ½ cup of cream to a bowl and carefully sprinkle gelatin into an even layer over the top. Set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.
- Pour remaining 1 ½ cups cream and ½ cup of sugar into a saucepan. Turn to medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved and mixture is hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat.
- Add softened gelatin and whisk together to combine. Stir in yogurt and vanilla until smooth.
- Coat baking molds or ramekins with a thin layer of non-stick cooking spray, (or skip this step if serving the panna cotta in a cup).
- Divide panna cotta mixture between the containers and refrigerate for at least 4-5 hours, or overnight, until set.
- If transferring the panna cotta to a plate from the mold or ramekin, remove from the fridge a few minutes before serving and gently run a dull knife along the edge to help release it before inverting onto serving dish.
- Add toppings just before serving.
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I originally shared this recipe June 2021. Updated February 2024.
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