Home » Panna Cotta (Plus Dairy-Free Variation)

Panna Cotta (Plus Dairy-Free Variation)

Panna Cotta (Plus Dairy-Free Variation)

From Chef Oonagh Williams of Royal Temptations Catering

Makes 4 portions


Panna Cotta:

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (7g or ¼ oz weight)
  • 2 cups (1 pint carton) of heavy cream (or 15-16 oz can of coconut milk)
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp rum (optional)

Fruit Sauce:

  • 12-16 oz. bag frozen mixed berries or equivalent of fresh berries
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white sugar or 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Amaretto, Chambord or your favorite gluten-free liqueur


Panna Cotta:

1. Sprinkle the contents of the gelatin packet over the water in a small microwave safe cup. Stir in. The gelatin will look like a thick paste as it mixes with the liquid. Stand for 5 minutes, then melt the gelatin in the microwave for about 15 seconds. It will be translucent but a pale brown color. It is very important to ensure the gelatin totally dissolves; otherwise, your custard will have chewy bits.

2. Heat 1 cup of heavy cream, sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla extract in a 4 cup microwave safe bowl or jug in the microwave. Slowly heat until the sugar is dissolved.Do not boil.Add second cup of heavy cream and dissolved gelatin. This cools the mixture and makes it set quicker.

3. Taste the mixture and decide if you want to add 1-2 tablespoons more sugar or the second teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add rum or other liqueur to taste.

4. Moisten a small piece of paper towel with a tasteless oil (not olive, sesame, peanut oil, etc.) and wipe the oil around the inside of four ½ cup ramekins, cocotte dishes or custard cups. You could even use regularly shaped tea cups as molds if you don’t own ramekins. Stand the ramekins in a dish such as a 9” pie plate.

5. Use a half cup measure to carefully ladle custard into the ramekins. Leave to cool, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Once the custard is set firm, run around the inside edge with a thin knife or spatula to loosen the custard and then invert onto individual small serving plates and shake to loosen. You can also stand the custards in hot water reaching about half way up the sides for 10 seconds to loosen the custard before turning out.

6. Serve as they are or finish with fresh fruit, fruit sauce or fresh chocolate sauce.

Fruit Sauce:

1. Mix water and sugar in a non-stick 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and cook over a medium flame for about 3-5 minutes until liquid is slightly thickened.

2. Add contents of bag of fruit – no need to thaw. Cook over a low heat until fruit breaks up, releases juices and softens. Add liqueur and simmer for 1-2 more minutes. Taste and add more sugar if desired.

3. Serve warm or cold. This sauce keeps in the refrigerator for about a week. It is great with gluten-free waffles, pancakes, ice cream, etc.

Tips & Alternatives:

I have tried making these by adding 4 teaspoons of liqueur to the total liquid custard quantity (that is 1 teaspoon per individual cup), but I really prefer the simple flavor of vanilla. You can try adding 1 teaspoon of liqueur to one ramekin and see what you like. I have tried Grand Marnier and Kahlua, as well as lemon zest, but I still prefer plain vanilla.


I have made this with Asian style coconut milk and Piña Colada coconut milk. The Piña Colada style coconut milk has a far richer texture but makes the panna cotta very sweet, even without the addition of sugar. Ask your grocer for an Asian style coconut cream and add sugar as per recipe or to your taste.

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