Easy and Creamy Coconut Panna Cotta Recipe

Picture this: You’re wandering through the sun-drenched, cobble-stone filled streets in the midst of Italy as you’re noticing a sweet aroma of fresh espresso and baked delicacies. A small trattoria tucked away in a side alley that you’ve almost oversaw with a sign that reads “Fresh Coconut Panna Cotta” in Italian. As soon as you buy and decide to try it, you’re tasting the essence of pure coconut, rich yet subtle, perfectly balanced with the smoothness of cream – best part? You’ve brought this recipe back home and want to make it yourself!

Tip: This is perfect for a Christmas dinner dessert or a Valentine’s Day one! 

How to Make Coconut Panna Cotta

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (13.5 oz) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about one packet)
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • Fresh berries or tropical fruits, for garnish
  • Optional: Mint leaves, for garnish 

Alternative Ingredients and substitution:

    • Coconut Milk – Almond milk, cashew milk, whole milk, half-and-half
    • Heavy Cream – Coconut cream, light cream (for lower fat content), More coconut milk (for lighter texture)
    • Sugar – Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, stevia or erythritol (for sugar-free)
    • Gelatin – Agar agar (for vegan/vegetarian option)
    • Vanilla Extract – Vanilla bean paste, almond extract
    • Garnish Alternatives – Tropical fruits like mango or pineapple, toasted coconut flakes
    • Flavor Additions – Lime zest or juice, Spices like cinnamon or cardamom

Ready to make it? Let’s go!

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Prepare the gelatin by taking a small bowl and filling it with 3 tbsp of cold water, then sprinkling the gelatin over it – let it sit for 5-10 minutes or until it becomes spongy. 

Step 2: Meanwhile, take a saucepan and combine the coconut milk, heavy cream, and sugar in it, then heat it over medium heat while stirring occasionally – make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling. 

Step 3: Add the bloomed gelatin to the hot coconut milk mixture, while you’re stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved – then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Step 4: Let the Panna Cotta mixture cool off for a few minutes at room temperature before pouring it into ramekins or dessert bowls.

Tip: If you plan to unmold the Panna Cotta onto a serving plate later, grease the molds with some coconut oil. 

Step 5: Put the Panna Cotta into the refrigerator and leave it there for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results – it should be firm to touch but still wobbly when it’s set.

Step 6 (optional): If you plan to unmold the Panna Cotta, dip a knife briefly into hot water and run it around the edges of the ramekins or dessert bowl – you can also gently shake it to release.

Finally, garnish with some fresh berries, tropical fruits, or some coconut flakes and enjoy!

Expert Tips

  • Use full-fat canned coconut milk for a richer taste and creamier texture.
  • When heating the coconut milk and cream mixture, make sure you have it just below boiling it otherwise you might end up with curdling and scalding. 
  • Consider straining the mix through a fine-mesh sieve to catch any undissolved gelatin or coconut bits – so you end up with a smooth texture. 
  • If you plan to unmold the Panna Cotta, dip the bottom of the molds into warm water for a short amount of time and invert it onto a plate – just don’t let water seep into the Panna Cotta!
  • Before pouring it into the ramekins or little bowls taste it first to make sure it’s sweet enough – while coconut milk has a natural sweetness to it, it can vary.
  • If you’re making a dairy-free or vegan version, use agar-agar instead of gelatin and omit the heavy cream.
  • To store the Panna Cotta, put it in the fridge in an airtight container or the dessert plates covered with plastic wrap.

What to Serve with This Dish

Looking for ideas on the entire course? Coconut Panna Cotta is a desert with a light, creamy texture, so you want to make sure the flavors balance each other.

Here are some recommendations:

    • Appetizers – Chilled seafood salad with shrimp,  calamari, and avocado dressed in a citrus vinaigrette to set the stage for a light, coastal-inspired meal.
    • Main course (Primi)Fish with tomato sauce, lasagna, or a grilled fish topped with a mango salsa.
    • Side dish – Jasmine rice, grilled vegetables, fresh fruit, or roasted potatoes. 
    • Salad – Simple arugula or fresh mix with a strawberry vinaigrette
    • Wine – White wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling or sweet dessert wine, such as a Moscato.
    • Non-alcoholic drinks – Tropical fruit-infused water, ginger tea, espresso, or a cappuccino 

Panna Cotta makes the perfect dessert for almost any course as it’s made in only a couple of minutes with a fresh taste.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got more questions about this luscious dessert? Comment below!

What is Coconut Panna Cotta?

Coconut Panna Cotta is a very creamy dessert that’s made with coconut milk or cream, sweetened with honey or sugar, and set with gelatin. It’s a tropical twist on the classic Italian Panna Cotta, known for its silky texture and delicate coconut flavor – a hit for any party!

Is Coconut Panna Cotta dairy-free?

You can make coconut panna cotta dairy-free if you only use coconut milk or a combination of coconut milk and dairy-free cream instead of the traditional dairy heavy cream.

What toppings go well with Coconut Panna Cotta?

Coconut Panna Cotta is very versatile as the coconut is not as overpowering as many other ingredients, so you can use mango, pineapple, passion fruit, strawberry, or even raspberries to garnish it – if you want to create a more elegant look, use berry compotes, chocolate shavings, or toasted coconut flakes.

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Easy and Creamy Coconut Panna Cotta Recipe


  • Author: Anna Dykeman

Ingredients

Scale

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (13.5 oz) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (about one packet)
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • Fresh berries or tropical fruits, for garnish
  • Optional: Mint leaves, for garnish 

Alternative Ingredients and substitution:

    • Coconut Milk – Almond milk, cashew milk, whole milk, half-and-half
    • Heavy Cream – Coconut cream, light cream (for lower fat content), More coconut milk (for lighter texture)
    • Sugar – Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, stevia or erythritol (for sugar-free)
    • Gelatin – Agar agar (for vegan/vegetarian option)
    • Vanilla Extract – Vanilla bean paste, almond extract
    • Garnish Alternatives – Tropical fruits like mango or pineapple, toasted coconut flakes
    • Flavor Additions – Lime zest or juice, Spices like cinnamon or cardamom

Instructions

  1. Prepare the gelatin by taking a small bowl and filling it with 3 tbsp of cold water, then sprinkling the gelatin over it – let it sit for 5-10 minutes or until it becomes spongy. 
  2. Meanwhile, take a saucepan and combine the coconut milk, heavy cream, and sugar in it, then heat it over medium heat while stirring occasionally – make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling. 
  3. Add the bloomed gelatin to the hot coconut milk mixture, while you’re stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved – then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
  4. Let the Panna Cotta mixture cool off for a few minutes at room temperature before pouring it into ramekins or dessert bowls.
  5. Put the Panna Cotta into the refrigerator and leave it there for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results – it should be firm to touch but still wobbly when it’s set.
  6. (Optional): If you plan to unmold the Panna Cotta, dip a knife briefly into hot water and run it around the edges of the ramekins or dessert bowl – you can also gently shake it to release.

 

Finally, garnish with some fresh berries, tropical fruits, or some coconut flakes and enjoy!

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