Delicious Italian Panna Cotta has a velvety smooth and creamy custard consistency and only requires a few simple ingredients!

Panna Cotta in a cup with berry sauce and fresh berries on top.

The best panna cotta recipe because:

  • Quick prep: 15 minutes to prepare a fancy dessert.
  • Only 5 ingredients: whipping cream (or half and half), unflavored gelatin, sugar, Greek yogurt (or sour cream), vanilla (or substitute vanilla beans-see variations).
  • Customize toppings: can be served with a variety of toppings or in season fruit, and enjoyed all year. Sure to be a crowd pleaser.
  • Make it ahead of time: this is one of my go-to desserts when I have company over because I can make it the night before or first thing in the morning.

What is it?

Panna cotta literally means ‘cooked cream’ in Italian. It’s essentially sweet cream that is thickened with gelatin, set up in the refrigerator, and served cold. It has a smooth, custard like consistency similar to creme brûlée and we love it because it not only tastes delicious, but it only requires five basic ingredients to make! 

How to make Panna Cotta:

Add ½ cup of cream to a bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top. Let stand for 10 minutes.

A bowl with cream and unflavored gelatin sprinkled on top.

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.

Panna cotta ingredients added to a saucepan.

Prepare baking molds by spraying with non-stick cooking spray, unless you are serving it in a dessert cup.

Divide mixture 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.

Eight small cups filled with panna cotta.

To serve: serve in dessert cups, ramekins, or for a more traditional Italian panna cotta, invert it onto a plate. Add toppings just before serving.

Topping Ideas:

  • 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, cherries with fresh mint leave, for garnish.
  • Chopped nuts: pistachios or walnuts, with a drizzle of honey.
  • Lemon curd.
  • Granola.
  • Chocolate or Caramel Sauce.
  • Cocoa powder dusting and shaved chocolate curls.
  • Cookie crumbs.
Cups filled with panna cotta with different toppings, including berry sauce, lemon curd and pistachios.

Make Ahead and Freezing Instructions:

To Make Ahead: prepare 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 thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.

Recipe Variations

  • Vanilla panna cotta: for a stronger vanilla flavor, split a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds and vanilla bean pod to the pot with the cream and sugar, heat.  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 (at the end of step 2).  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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Recipe

Panna Cotta in a cup with berry sauce and fresh berries on top.
Prep 5 mins
Cook 10 mins
Refrigerate 4 hrs
Total 4 hrs 15 mins
Add to Meal Plan

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 cups whipping cream or half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin , (about 2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 2/3 cups plain Greek yogurt , or sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

See Notes* for Topping Ideas.

    Instructions
     

    • 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.
      A bowl with cream and unflavored gelatin sprinkled on top.
    • While gelatin is softening, 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.
      Panna cotta ingredients added to a saucepan.
    • Coat baking molds or ramekins with a thin layer of non-stick cooking spray, or skip this step and serve 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.
      Eight small cups filled with panna cotta.
    • If transferring the panna cotta to a plate from a 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.

    Video

    Notes

    Yield: this recipe makes about 4 cups (8 servings of ½ cup).
    Gelatin is essential to the recipe to allow the panna cotta to set up. It can be found near the flavored jello in the baking aisle.
    Vanilla panna cotta: for a stronger vanilla flavor, split a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Add the seeds and vanilla bean pod to the pot with the cream and sugar, heat.  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 (at the end of step 2).  Stir until the chocolate melts then stir in the unflavored gelatin.
    Flavored panna cotta: Try adding orange essential oil or other oil flavors for recipe twists!
    Dairy Free panna cotta: try this recipe using coconut milk.
    Topping Ideas:
    • 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, cherries with fresh mint leave, for garnish.
    • Granola.
    • 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 Instructions: prepare 1-3 days in advance and store covered in the refrigerator. Wait to add toppings until serving.
    Freezing Instructions: Cover with plastic wrap and freeze in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw in refrigerator overnight before serving.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 280kcalCarbohydrates: 16gProtein: 6gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 84mgSodium: 38mgPotassium: 104mgSugar: 14gVitamin A: 876IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 85mgIron: 1mg

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    About The Author

    Lauren Allen

    Welcome! I’m Lauren, a mom of four and lover of good food. Here you’ll find easy recipes and weeknight meal ideas made with real ingredients, with step-by-step photos and videos.

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    1. 5 stars
      To be honest, I had never heard of Panna Cotta, but was intrigued when I came across your recipe. I will say this was delicious! I especially loved how quick and easy it was to throw together. Thanks for another great recipe!