Recipe: Coconut Panna Cotta

Recipe: Coconut Panna Cotta

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Meghan Splawn
May 3, 2017
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Not to be too brazen here, but coconut panna cotta is the perfect dessert. Need something stunning for a dinner party that is gluten- and dairy-free? Coconut panna cotta can be dressed up a bit with coconut flakes and some chopped pineapple and become a show-stopper. Want an everyday dessert that your children will delight in without giving them a sugar high? Coconut panna cotta does that too.

Luscious, creamy, and velvety aren't words we always associate with dairy-free desserts, but this coconut panna cotta is all that and even more. Lightly sweetened and set with just enough gelatin to make it stand, this dessert is supple and luxurious — like the best puddings — and almost effortless to make.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How to Make Panna Cotta

Panna cotta is little more than lightly sweetened dairy warmed and then set with gelatin. A perfect panna cotta should be supple, on the verge of slumping, and super smooth. You can use almost any form of milk — nut milk, coconut milk, even yogurt — but for that luscious texture, you want a rough 50/50 mix of a full-fat milk with a lower-fat milk. Here, we are using both coconut milk and coconut cream to achieve this, but you can certainly use two cans of coconut milk to great success too.

Blooming the gelatin is the most important step for a smooth texture. Whisk together the dry granulated gelatin and some of the coconut milk until smooth. Use a bigger bowl than you think you need to ensure that every granule gets hydrated to prevent lumps in the finished panna cotta.

The universal method: How To Make Panna Cotta

Tips for Triumph

  • Make sure your ramekins are oiled before the panna cotta mixture goes in. I prefer coconut oil for flavor, but you can use cooking spray or any neutral oil too.
  • For a super-smooth appearance in the finished dessert, whiz the milk mixture with an immersion blender before adding the gelatin. This is a completely optional step, as it dirties another tool, but sometimes while setting, the fuller-fat coconut cream sets on top if you don't blend it well enough. There's no effect on flavor from this — just appearance.
  • You can remove stuck panna cotta by dunking the molds briefly in warm water before inverting. You can also serve the panna cotta straight in the mold.

Coconut Panna Cotta

Serves 6

1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 (1/4 ounce) envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
1 (13-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, divided
1 (15-ounce) can coconut cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt

For serving (optional):
Toasted coconut chips
Pineapple
Honey
Maraschino cherries

Place 6 (4-ounce) ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and make sure that you have room for them in the refrigerator. Coat the ramekins with the coconut oil.

Place the gelatin in a small bowl, add 1/2 cup of the coconut milk, and whisk until smooth. Set aside to bloom for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining the ingredients.

Place the remaining coconut milk, coconut cream, and maple syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Pour into the prepared ramekins. Refrigerate until set, 3 to 4 hours, or overnight.

To serve, remove the panna cottas from the refrigerator and invert the molds onto serving plates. A few minutes at room temperature should release the panna cotta from the mold. You can also remove stuck panna cotta by dunking the molds briefly in warm water before inverting. You can also serve the panna cotta straight in the mold.

Top with the crushed pineapple, toasted coconut, honey, or cherries, if using.

Recipe Notes

  • Coconut cream substitute: You can substitute the coconut cream for another 13-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk.
  • Storage: Leftover panna cotta can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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