Looking for a vegan alternative without the gelatin to the classic Italian dessert? This Panna Cotta recipe will not only wow you, but also everyone else! Using agar agar, a plant-based thickener made from seaweed, you will barely taste a difference compared to the traditional Panna Cotta!
Why? Because gelatin and agar agar both have very neutral tastes, so you really can’t tell a difference in the taste.
This custard-like dessert will quickly become your new fave!
How to Make Panna Cotta Without Gelatin
Here are the ingredients for a traditional Panna Cotta without Gelatin:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 6 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp agar-agar powder (not flakes, as they have different setting properties)
- Fresh berries or fruit coulis for serving
- Optional: 1/2 cup whole milk
- Optional: Lemon juice
- Milk – almond milk, oat milk, soy milk, full-fat coconut milk, or buttermilk
- Honey – sugar, stevia
- Vanilla extract – 1-2 fresh vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (make sure to remove the vanilla pod at the end)
Step-by-Step Instructions for Panna Cotta Without Gelatin
Step 1: Start preparing the agar agar in a small bowl, where you mix the agar agar powder with the milk (or milk substitute) – then let it sit for 5-10 minutes to hydrate.
Step 2: In a medium saucepan, add the heavy cream, honey (or sugar) while gently mixing it on medium-low heat – just make sure it won’t boil!
Step 3: Add the milk and agar-agar mix to the saucepan with the panna cotta mixture and bring it to a boil for a short amount of time before simmering it again for 1-2 minutes, while you’re stirring constantly.
Note: You only boil it for a few seconds to activate the gelling properties of the agar agar, just don’t let it boil any longer, or your cream will start separating.
Step 4: Once everything is well mixed, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla extract to it.
Step 5: Add the creamy mixture to the ramekins or glasses and let it cool off at room temperature before you refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until it’s fully set – since agar agar sets quicklier than gelatin, you won’t need to chill it as long.Finally, the best way to serve your Panna Cotta is with fresh berries, fruit coulis, fresh mint leaves, or some chocolate sauce on top – yes, it truly is one of the easiest desserts!
Here are some tips that may help you when making this traditional Panna Cotta recipe for the first time:
- Agar agar powder vs flakes – as mentioned before, you want to use powder for this recipe because if you use flakes you’ll need to increase the amount by three times as the flakes are less potent than the powder.
- Agar agar sets at room temperature, so make sure not to disturb the Panna Cotta until it’s fully set.
- Agar agar has a firmer texture than gelatin, so if you want it smoother, kind of like custards, use less agar agar.
- If you’re not a fan of honey, you can also experiment with different substitutes, like maple syrup, brown sugar, or adding fruits to the cream.
- Experiment with different flavors by infusing the cream with citrus zest, spices like cinnamon or cardamom, or even espresso.
- If you plan to unmold the Panna Cotta onto a serving plate, consider using silicone molds to make it easier.
What to Serve With This Dessert
Looking for ideas to make this panna cotta dessert part of a full-course menu?
Here’s what you can serve before the Panna Cotta:
- Olives and Aged Parmesan
- Bruschetta al Pomodoro – check for our popular recipe here!
- Affettati Misti – An assortment of Italian cured meats such as prosciutto di Parma, salami, and mortadella.
Primo (First Course):
- Risotto al Limone – A zesty lemon risotto
- Pasta alla Puttanesca – A pasta dish with a tangy sauce
Secondi (Second Course):
- Pesce alla Griglia – Grilled fish, such as branzino or sea bass, dressed with olive oil, lemon, and fresh herbs.
- Lasagna – check for our homemade recipe here!
- Limoncello – A lemon liqueur served chilled to aid digestion after a multi-course meal.
- Amaro – A herbal liqueur enjoyed for its digestive properties.
- Moscato d’Asti – A lightly sparkling, sweet white wine
- Brachetto d’Acqui – A sweet, sparkling red wine with flavors of strawberries and rose petals
- Passito – Sweet wine made from dried grapes
- Vin Santo – This Tuscan “holy wine” often has nutty flavor with caramelized notes
- Sauternes – This French sweet wine is rich and honeyed
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Got questions? We’ve got the answers to help out!
What if my Panna Cotta doesn’t set?
Very frustrating! There could be a few reasons why your Panna Cotta doesn’t set. For example:
- Not enough agar-agar
- Gelling agent didn’t dissolve properly
- Didn’t chill long enough
- You didn’t boil it to activate it
Can I freeze Panna Cotta to make it set faster?
While it seems like an easy solution, freezing Panna Cotta changes the texture (it becomes too firm or it frosts), so it’s not a good idea to do – be patient or make it a day ahead.
What toppings go well with Panna Cotta?
Panna Cotta is so versatile! You can have various toppings, such as fresh fruit, berries, fruit compotes, honey, caramel sauce, chocolate shavings, or even a balsamic reduction – check our Panna Cotta with Strawberry Sauce here!Print