This panna cotta recipe is foolproof and adaptable. If you’ve always wondered how to make perfect Classic Panna Cotta, this is for you! A simple, delicious, and an always impressive dessert, perfect for dinner parties or any occasion. The only panna cotta recipe you will need + many variations!
A classic panna cotta that is ultra creamy, soft, and perfectly sweet!
I’ve shared several panna cotta recipes before, but never a classic panna cotta. Time to fix that. Here, I’m going to share how to make the perfect panna cotta recipe. This is the base recipe that every other panna cotta recipe is derived from. And I’m also sharing all the tips and tricks to help you perfect this recipe, and even jazz it up!
What is panna cotta made of?
A classic Panna Cotta is a dairy based, creamy dessert that is set with gelatin, and flavored with vanilla. It’s silky smooth deliciousness, in other words. It’s usually made with a mixture of,
- vanilla, and
You can change these ingredients to adapt your panna cotta recipe to create different flavors. But the most important ingredients for any panna cotta are,
- A high fat dairy or plant milk base (milk + cream, almond milk + coconut cream),
- Sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup etc.),
- Flavoring (vanilla, fruits, chocolate, tea, coffee etc.),
- Gelatin (powdered gelatin, leaf gelatin).
Here I wanted to make a classic panna cotta recipe that not only has perfect texture, but perfect flavor as well. So I use,
- Full cream milk (3% fat) or half and half (makes the panna cotta ultra creamy!).
- Raw honey (lends an incomparable floral fragrance and flavor).
- Vanilla bean paste (or vanilla beans).
- Powdered gelatin or gold leaf gelatin (I have tested this recipe with both, and either option works).
- Heavy cream (35% fat), aka whipping cream (not whipped cream).
How to make panna cotta (classic panna cotta recipe)
Pour some water into a small bowl, and sprinkle gelatin over it. Let the gelatin bloom for a few minutes. Alternatively, soak gelatin leaves in a bowl of water until softened.
In a small saucepan, place the milk / half and half, honey, salt and vanilla. Heat and stir the mixture until the honey and salt dissolve. The milk mixture should be steaming, but not boiling. Do NOT let it boil.
When the milk mixture is hot, remove from the heat, and add the bloomed gelatin mixture. If you’re using leaf gelatin, remove the softened gelatin leaves from the water bowl, and squeeze the gelatin leaves to get rid of excess water. Then place the squeezed, softened gelatin leaves in the hot milk mixture.
The gelatin will dissolve readily in the hot mixture. All you have to do is simply stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
Once the gelatin is fully dissolved, stir in the heavy cream. This is the last step of the recipe to make the panna cotta mixture. This milk cream mixture is now ready to be poured into single serving dishes.
Pour the panna cotta mixture evenly into 6 serving dishes, and refrigerate until the panna cotta mixture sets.
I prefer to make it the day before I need it, and allow the panna cotta to set overnight.
Tips for serving this dessert
This panna cotta recipe can be made to be served in individual dishes, OR you can unmold and serve that way as well.
If you’re hoping to unmold the panna cotta, then make sure to use metal or silicone molds. These are easier to unmold. Just place the mold in mildly hot water for a few seconds, and then turn it over onto the serving dish.
Tap or lightly squeeze the mold to release the panna cotta. If needed, return the mold to warm water to help it release from the mold.
There are ENDLESS ways to serve this classic panna cotta recipe!
Here, I used a slightly sweetened berry gel, but you can serve them however you like. Here are some options,
- Fruit compote
- Fresh fruits
- Fruit syrup (like passion fruit syrup)
- Fruit curds (like lemon curd, lime curd or passion fruit curd)
- Chocolate sauce
- Caramel sauce
- Whipped cream
- Chocolate shavings (from dark, milk or white chocolate)
This panna cotta recipe is firmly in my top three panna cotta versions. That wonderful flavor of honey shines through and complements the creaminess of the pudding.
Easy panna cotta substitutions
You can substitute the honey with sugar. The amount is indicated in the recipe below. Honey adds deeper flavor however.
Substitute the honey for brown sugar or maple syrup to add a different flavor profile.
Caramelize the sugar, and use this sugar to make salted caramel panna cotta.
Milk can be substituted with buttermilk for a tangy, creamy buttermilk panna cotta! This is one of my absolute favorite substitutions.
You can also make this recipe dairy free by using almond milk and coconut cream (at least 20% fat content). You can see my recipe for refined sugar free coconut panna cotta here.
The Art of Panna Cotta
I’ve been making panna cotta for years. But it did take me a few of those years to perfect my panna cotta recipe.
Some recipes call for cooked cream in the base mixture. I prefer not to cook the cream or boil the milk. Boiling the cream will create a skin on top of the panna cotta mixture as it cools down. That’s not very appetizing.
A perfect panna cotta only has JUST ENOUGH gelatin to hold the cream mixture together. This means that the texture is really jiggly.
Too much gelatin and the panna cotta has more of a jello-like consistency.
Too little gelatin and the panna cotta won’t set properly and you got a recipe for disaster in your hands.
With just the right amount of gelatin, this italian dessert is very jiggly, and a spoonful will instantly melt in your mouth, as if you were eating a luscious, creamy pudding. That my friends, is the perfect panna cotta.
Classic panna cotta ratio (can be applied to other versions as well)
The ratio for this perfection is 3 cups (720 mL) of liquid (with an average fat content of 15 – 25%), set with 1 packet of powdered gelatin (about a 1/4 ounce).
I use powdered Knox gelatin that has a bloom strength of 225.
If you’re using leaf gelatin, I recommend using gold leaf gelatin which has a bloom strength of 200. Usually 1 packet of gelatin is = 4 – 5 gelatin leaves, but for this recipe, I find that 5 gelatin leaves made the panna cotta too stiff, and 4 leaves were the perfect amount to set the mixture.
Troubleshooting this panna cotta recipe
It’s likely that you either didn’t dissolve the gelatin properly, or didn’t use enough gelatin.
Another reason could be that you’re making panna cotta with kiwi fruit or another fruit that interferes with the ability of gelatin to set.
If you boiled the mixture with the gelatin, the high heat can also affect its setting ability.
Yes you can, but I prefer not to.
The fridge will cool down the panna cotta more evenly, so that you get a consistent texture as it sets. If you keep it in the freezer, the outside could cool down and freeze faster than the center. This will give the panna cotta two different textures. Not appetizing.
It’s also possible that you could forget the panna cotta in the freezer, and end up with a weird-ass frozen panna cotta the next day.
But, do note that you CAN store panna cotta in the freezer (the plain panna cotta). Once frozen, transfer the panna cotta to the fridge and leave it overnight, so that the frozen parts can thaw out slowly and evenly.
I have stored this classic panna cotta in the fridge for up to 5 days. Make sure they are tightly wrapped before you store it in the fridge.
I haven’t tried to make this vegan. However, you can certainly substitute with non dairy ingredients to make this dairy free. You could also substitute the gelatin for an equal amount of agar agar powder (not flakes). Please note that agar agar does need to be boiled to activate the gelling properties.
Also please note that I haven’t personally tested this substitution, so for best results, I recommend following a vegan panna cotta recipe so you know it’ll work.
Classic Panna Cotta Recipe
- 1 packet of powdered Knox gelatin or 4 gold gelatin sheets (8.4 g)
- 3 tbsp water if using powdered gelatin
- 1 ½ cups half and half or 3% milk
- ¼ cup honey see recipe notes, or ⅓ cup / 66 g sugar
- Generous pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract or vanilla caviar scraped from 1 vanilla bean pod
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream / whipping cream
Berry fluid gel
- 200 g berries I use a mix of raspberries and strawberries
- 3 tbsp honey
- ½ tbsp lemon juice
- Pinch of salt
- ½ tsp powdered gelatin 1 gold gelatin sheet
Bloom the gelatin
- Pour the water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the water, and mix well. Set aside until the gelatin absorbs the water.
- If using gelatin sheets, break the gelatin sheets in half. Fill a small bowl (that can fit the gelatin sheets) with cold tap water and submerge the gelatin sheets in the water. Set aside for at least 10 minutes until the gelatin softens. Before using the gelatin sheets, remove them from the water bowl and squeeze excess water out.
- Place the half and half in a small saucepan, along with the honey, salt, and vanilla.
- Heat over medium heat and stir the mixture while it's heating. Make sure the salt and honey dissolve and mix into the base. Do NOT allow the mixture to come to a boil.
- When the half and half - milk base is steaming, remove it from the heat.
- Add the bloomed gelatin straight into the hot mixture and gently stir / whisk until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
- Add the heavy cream and stir it in.
- Divide the mixture into 6 dishes (with a ¾ cup capacity). Each serving will be about ½ cup capacity.
- Make sure to stir the panna cotta mixture each time you pour it into a serving dish so that the vanilla seeds are properly dispersed through the mixture.
- Allow the panna cotta to cool down slightly, then cover them with plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
Berry fluid gel
Bloom the gelatin
- Mix the ½ tsp of gelatin with ½ tbsp of water, and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
- If you’re using gelatin sheets, soak the gelatin sheets in a bowl of water for at least 10 minutes until softened. Make sure to squeeze out extra water before adding the sheets to the berry mix.
- Place the berries, honey, salt, and lemon juice in a small saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat until the berries break down. This can take about 10 - 15 minutes.
- Cook the mixture down until you have about 1 cup of berry coulis.
- You can use the berry coulis as is, if you prefer. But to make a fluid gel, you will need to add gelatin.
- Stir in the bloomed gelatin until it completely dissolves in the berry coulis.
- Place the coulis jello in the fridge until it sets.
- Once set, break the jello layer and place it in a container that can be used with a stick blender (i.e. a narrow and tall container that fits a stick blender).
- Blend the berry jello until you have a smooth paste. You will end up with a fluid gel (i.e. a berry sauce that still has some viscosity).
- Once the panna cotta has set, you can keep it in the fridge for up to 3 - 4 days.
- Serve the panna cotta with a dollop of the berry fluid gel and fresh berries on top.
- If you’re unmolding the panna cotta, place the mold in warm water for a few seconds until the panna cotta is slightly loosened and can be released from the mold.
- Turn it out onto a serving plate and tap or gently squeeze the mold (if using silicone) to release the panna cotta. Spoon the raspberry coulis on top, and serve immediately.