This delicious and festive dessert seems complex, but it’s actually quite simple. This easy and delicious recipe is the best vegan panna cotta you’ve ever tried!
What is panna cotta?
For our recipe, we won’t be using gelatin, as it is not a vegetarian ingredient. Instead, we’ll be using an ingredient called agar agar. Our recipe is vegan-approved, meaning it’s great for those that are dairy-free too!
I’m making this recipe using raspberries, but stick around to the end for some extra delicious flavor ideas! Did someone say mango, lemon, chocolate, and strawberry?! Yum!
Though the completed dessert looks totally gourmet, it’s actually an easy dish to whip together. You’ve got to try it!
Ingredients for this vegan dessert
Though many panna cotta dessert recipes include gelatin, this one uses agar agar instead. Agar agar is a jelly-like powder derived from algae. It’s tasteless and works wonderfully for this recipe! In addition to agar agar, we’ll be using some easy and delicious ingredients as outlined below:
To make the vegan panna cotta:
- Coconut Milk: Coconut milk will form the bulk of the main dish. We will boil it to achieve a nice, thick texture.
- Sugar: To give this dish a bit of a sweet kick, we’ll use sugar!
- Powdered Agar Agar: In place of gelatin, agar agar will be used to give the dessert its jelly-like substance (we’ve also used it previously to make gummies and sriracha “caviar”!)
- Vanilla Bean: Vanilla beans will be used to add flavor to this dish. Here’s how to cut and seed vanilla.
To make the fruity topping:
- Raspberries: Raspberries make the perfect topping. They’re so delicious, especially when paired with this recipe!
- Sugar: Much like in the main portion of this dessert, sugar will be used to give the raspberry mixture a sweet zing.
- Lemon Juice: We’ll use lemon juice to add tangy flavor and keep the red raspberries brightly colored when cooking.
- Water: Last but not least, a bit of water will give the topping the perfect texture.
How do you make vegan panna cotta?
Panna cotta has a reputation of being a high maintenance dessert. But the truth is, with easy to follow instructions it’s actually quite simple!
Here’s how it’s done:
- Boil the mixture: First, start by adding the coconut milk and sugar to a medium saucepan and set over medium/high heat. Then, bring to a boil (or at least 185°F, 85°C), and whisk in the agar agar. Continue boiling for 3 minutes, watching to ensure it doesn’t spill over.
Note: The agar agar needs to reach 185°F to activate, so pay close attention to the temperature.
- Add the vanilla: Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use the back of your knife to scrape out the seeds. Then, add the seeds to the mixture, whisking well to combine.
- Cool the mixture: Next, pour the mixture into 6 individual serving bowls or ramekins (you may choose to lightly grease them if you want to serve the dish out of the bowls). Set in the fridge to cool until set, which will take about 1 hour.
- Prepare the toppings: Meanwhile, add raspberries, sugar, lemon, and water to a medium saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the raspberries have broken down and the mixture has thickened more.
- Serve and enjoy: Finally, invert the panna cotta onto plates, or serve in the bowls/ramekins. Top with the raspberry topping, and enjoy!
Can you make milk-based panna cotta with agar agar?
Yes! Use 2.5 cups heavy cream boiled, mix in agar agar, and continue boiling for 3 minutes (to activate). Remove from heat, and stir in the milk and vanilla.
Best panna cotta flavors
Panna cotta recipes come in a ton of different flavors and variations. We used raspberries for this recipe, but here are some additional ideas for you to try out!
Raspberries (or other berries): Not to sound biased, but I think raspberries (or any berry for that matter) taste absolutely fantastic with this dessert. You could also try strawberries, blueberries, or blackberries! Whatever your choice, follow the directions as laid out in this recipe.
Mango: For a mango panna cotta dessert (YUM!), use one cup of mango (either fresh or frozen) with the lemon and sugar and cook as listed above. Do not include the water. Feel free to puree before cooking for a smoother texture.
Chocolate: For a classic chocolate variation of this dish, melt 3 oz (½ cup) of dark chocolate, and then whisk into the coconut mixture after cooking.
Lemon: Lemon is a tangy and delightful option! After cooking the coconut mixture, remove from heat and add 3 tbsp lemon juice and the grated zest from 2 lemons. Do not include the vanilla bean.
Strawberry: Last but not least, though you can use strawberries following the “berry” guidelines above, you could also opt to incorporate strawberries into the panna cotta itself. For the latter, omit ½ cup of coconut milk. After cooking the coconut mixture, whisk in ½ cup pureed strawberries.
Are you a berry lover at heart?
If so, you’ll want to try these berry dishes too!
- 3 Ingredient Berry Jam
- Berry Baked Alaska Cookies
- Berry Plum Cobbler Smoothie
- Watermelon Berry Fruit Salad
- Berry Salad With Lavender Lemon Vinaigrette
- 2 14-oz cans coconut milk 400 mL each
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp powdered agar agar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup raspberries fresh or frozen, 125 g
- 1 to 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice 5 mL
- ½ cup water 120 mL
- Boil: Add coconut milk and sugar to a medium saucepan and set over medium/high heat. Bring to a boil (or at least 185°F, 85°C), then whisk in agar agar. Continue boiling for 3 minutes, watching to ensure it doesn't spill over.
- Vanilla: Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and use the back of your knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the mixture, whisking well to combine.
- Cool: Pour mixture into 6 individual serving bowls or ramekins (you may choose to lightly grease them if you want to serve the panna cotta out of the bowls). Set in the fridge to cool until set, about 1 hour.
- Topping: Meanwhile, add raspberries, sugar, lemon, and water to a medium saucepan. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until raspberries have broken down and mixture has thickened some.
- Serve: Optionally invert the panna cotta onto plates or serve in the bowls/ramekins. Top with raspberry topping.
Tips & Tricks
- Berry: Replace the raspberries with your favorite berry and cook the same way.
- Mango: Use 1 cup of mango (fresh or frozen), along with the lemon, sugar listed above (not water). Optionally puree before cooking for a smoother texture.
- Chocolate: Melt 3 oz (½ cup) dark chocolate, then whisk into the coconut mixture after cooking.
- Lemon: After cooking the coconut mixture, remove from heat and add 3 Tbsp lemon juice and the grated zest from 2 lemons (no vanilla bean).
- Strawberry: You can either do a simple strawberry topping by replacing the raspberries, or incorporate strawberries into the panna cotta itself. For the later, omit ½ cup of coconut milk. After cooking the coconut mixture, whisk in ½ cup pureed strawberries.
Use 2 ½ cups heavy cream, ½ cup milk, and the same sugar, agar, and vanilla amounts as above. Bring the heavy cream to a boil, then add agar agar and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in all remaining ingredients, then pour into ramekins and cool as instructed above!