Classic desserts like this vegan panna cotta and creme caramel are some of my favorite desserts!
What is panna cotta?
Panna cotta or "Cooked cream" is a traditional Italian dessert that is wildly popular and regularly featured on menus all over the world. This light and creamy pudding is subtle yet satisfying and is usually made with vanilla bean as the main flavor however there really aren't any limits to the flavor possibilities with this versatile dessert.
Traditional panna cotta is usually not vegan, as it contains dairy and gelatin. So we're making this panna cotta vegan by leaving out those ingredients and subbing in vegan alternatives. I've tested this vegan panna cotta recipe close to ten times to get the consistency and flavor balance just right and it is beyond delicious!
What to expect from this recipe
- Uses just 6 main ingredients
- Really easy to make
- Eggless and dairy-free
- Made without gelatin
- Gluten-free and nut-free
- Great for dinner parties and special occasions
For the panna cotta:
- Soy milk: I find soya milk works perfectly for this dessert as it's rich without an overpowering taste, feel free to sub it with coconut drinking milk, oat milk, or cashew milk if you'd prefer.
- Coconut cream: this is the key to getting a nice creamy consistency to your vegan panna cotta. You can also use tinned full fat coconut milk, in this case, refrigerate the can the night before and only use the thick cream that separates to the top.
- Caster sugar: I use caster sugar as it dissolves easily. If you're based in the US, be sure to go for organic white sugar as others may not be vegan-friendly due to the processing method.
- Cornstarch/cornflour: this is the thickening agent for the pudding, cornflour is known as cornstarch in the US.
- Agar-agar powder: the setting agent which replaces gelatine which is used in non-vegan panna cotta.
- Vanilla bean paste: you can also use a vanilla pod, by cutting through and cooking it with the mixture as it heats and removing it when done. I find vanilla bean paste to be much more cost-effective, and the quality is really great too. I usually use Neilsen Massey pure vanilla extract and Taylor and Colledge vanilla bean extract.
- Sea salt: although just a pinch, the salt helps to intensify that vanilla bean flavor of this dessert!
For the strawberry coulis:
If you plan on serving this dairy-free panna cotta with strawberry coulis you will also need the following ingredients.
- Strawberries: preferably fresh if they're in season, if not, you can go for frozen strawberries. The flavOr of the coulis will depend on the quality of strawberries you use.
- Caster sugar: you can also use pure maple syrup to sweeten the coulis if you'd prefer.
- Lime juice: a lot of coulis recipes will call for lemon juice, I personally love the combination of strawberries and lime!
- Cornflour: this helps to thicken the sauce slightly and make it a nice pourable consistency.
Making vegan panna cotta
(Full ingredient quantities and instructions can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post)
So here's how to make the perfect dairy-free panna cotta. First, make a paste with cornstarch and agar-agar powder with a little soy milk. This is also known as a cornstarch slurry, and it will prevent the custard from forming lumps when it's cooked later. Mix the ingredients well and set them aside, this prevents the cornflour from clumping and giving you a lumpy consistency!
Next, add the soy milk and sugar to a saucepan and heat whilst stirring for a couple of minutes until all of the sugar has dissolved. After that add in the coconut cream, vanilla, and salt and bring to a simmer.
For the next step, make sure you don't leave the saucepan out of your sight. Add the cornflour paste to the saucepan and whisk while it cooks for a few minutes. The mixture will thicken as the cornflour and agar-agar are activated by the heat, therefore it's important to keep stirring to prevent burning to the bottom of the saucepan.
The mixture will need to be set in the fridge for about 2 hours, in the meantime get started on making the strawberry coulis!
How to make strawberry coulis
Making the sauce is super easy, you can prepare it while the vegan panna cotta sets in the fridge so that it has time to cool before you serve them up!
Simply add all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender (strawberries, water, sugar, cornstarch, and lime juice) and blitz them until smooth. Then you'll need to cook out the cornstarch over medium heat while stirring for a few minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Spherical silicone molds or this panna cotta mold set
- You can also use jars or glasses to serve this dairy-free panna cotta.
This homemade panna cotta will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
Frequently asked questions
No, this recipe specifically calls for agar-agar powder. Agar flakes will not yield the same result.
I do not recommend freezing this panna cotta as the defrosting process may interfere with its creamy consistency.
Yes, it is nut-free, depending on the type of plant-based milk you use.
Yes, this panna cotta is gluten-free.
More vegan desserts
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star ★★★★★ rating in the recipe card below and consider leaving a comment as well, thanks!
Vanilla Panna Cotta
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) cornstarch (cornflour)
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) agar-agar powder, not agar flakes
- 1 cup (236 ml) soya milk
- ¼ cup (50 g) caster sugar
- 7 oz (200 g) coconut cream, or canned full fat coconut milk *see notes
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) vanilla bean paste, or vanilla pod
- pinch sea salt
- 8.8 oz (250 g) strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lime juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) cornstarch (cornflour)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
Vanilla Panna Cotta
- Add the cornstarch and agar agar powder to a small bowl with 4 tablespoons of the soya milk and stir well. Set aside. If using a whole vanilla pod, slice it down the middle and scrape out the seeds.
- Add the remaining soy milk and caster sugar to a saucepan on medium heat and stir for a couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Add the coconut cream, vanilla bean paste (or vanilla pod with the scraped out seeds), and salt to the saucepan and continue to heat until simmering.
- Add the cornstarch paste to the saucepan and simmer for another 3-4 minutes, whilst continuously whisking to ensure that it does not burn to the bottom of the pan. The mixture will thicken to a runny custard consistency.
- Pass the mixture through a sieve and distribute it between 4 silicone molds, or add to serving jars. Allow them to cool to room temperature for about 15 minutes before transferring them to the fridge to set for 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, follow the instructions to prepare the strawberry coulis. When the panna cotta has set, remove them from their molds by very gently pushing in the edges of the silicone mold, they should pop out after a little coaxing.
- Add the strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, water, and lime juice to a blender, or use an immersion blender to blitz them until smooth.
- Add the mixture to a saucepan and cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly with a whisk or rubber spatula to prevent it from burning to the pan. Once thickened, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
- Serve the panna cotta with some strawberry coulis drizzled on top.
- This panna cotta will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days.
- Chilled coconut milk: Refrigerate the tins of coconut milk overnight, then only use the thick cream from the top of the can. Every brand of coconut milk yields a different amount of cream but I've found this recipe generally calls for 2x400ml cans.
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