Coconut Panna Cotta is a deceptively easy dairy-free dessert, that looks totally impressive! All you need is a few simple ingredients to make it, with or without using gelatin. (Vegan option included below!)
What is panna cotta? It’s a creamy dessert that originates from Italy, featuring heavy whipping cream, sugar, and gelatin. You can serve it in a molded shape (similar to Jello), or serve it directly in small dishes for an easier presentation.
It reminds me of whipped cream, only it’s a little sweeter and holds its shape.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in coconut panna cotta?
- Coconut cream (see tips below)
- Maple syrup
- Gelatin (or agar agar flakes for a vegan version)
- Vanilla extract
I recommend looking for canned coconut cream for this recipe, for the best results. (This isn’t to be confused with creamed coconut, which is more similar to coconut butter.)
Using canned coconut cream will have more of the creamy solids you’d find in a regular can of coconut milk, with less liquid. This means your coconut panna cotta will turn out much more creamy, without separating as it cools and firms up.
In my experience, certain brands of coconut milk will separate when you make this recipe, leaving behind a layer of fat on top. This hasn’t happened to me when using coconut cream, so I think it’s worth searching for at the store. (I tested this recipe with the 365 brand from Whole Foods, FYI.)
Only have canned coconut milk on hand? I measured out the ratio of coconut cream to liquid in a can of “coconut cream,” so you could achieve a similar ratio at home using canned coconut milk.
To get similar results, you’ll need to use 1 1/4 cups of the solid coconut cream, plus a 1/2 cup of liquid found in a can of coconut milk. You may need to open two cans of coconut milk to get this amount of cream.
How to Make Coconut Panna Cotta
1. Bloom the gelatin. If you’re using gelatin for this recipe, it’s important that you mix it with a bit of cool water first. (Skip this step if you’re going to try the vegetarian substitution below.)
In a large bowl, add a 1/4 cup of cool water and the gelatin, and mix well. Let it rest during the next step, but keep in mind you don’t want it to rest too long, because gelatin becomes stronger the longer it blooms.
This means your coconut panna cotta may turn out too firm if you let it rest for too long.
2. Heat the coconut milk. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add in the whole can of coconut cream, along with the maple syrup, vanilla, and a pinch of salt.
Stir well as it starts to heat up, and remove the pan from the heat as soon as it starts to boil.
3. Combine. Pour a little bit of the hot coconut milk mixture into the bowl of bloomed gelatin, and mix well with a whisk.
As soon as it looks smooth, pour in the rest of the heated coconut milk and whisk well to combine.
4. Chill. This recipe makes roughly 4 to 5 servings, depending on the size of your serving bowls. (If using a small 1/2 cup bowl, you should get about 5 servings.) Divide the mixture into 4 or 5 small bowls, then place them in a flat surface in the fridge to chill until firm, about 6 hours.
When the center of the panna cotta feels firm to the touch, it’s ready to serve. Top with sliced fruit and serve these directly in the bowls for an easy presentation.
How to Release Panna Cotta from the Mold
If you’d like to serve the coconut panna cotta on a plate, like a little jello mold, place the bowls in a shallow dish of very hot tap water, for about 30 to 60 seconds. You want the outside of the bowl to warm up, without the hot water reaching the inside of the bowl, with the panna cotta inside.
Once the bowls are warm, you’ll notice that the panna cotta starts to look a little wet around the edges. This is a good sign, and means it will probably release easily from the mold. (There’s no need to grease the bowls; I tested it both ways and greasing didn’t make a difference.)
Don’t let the bowls sit in the hot water too long, or the entire panna cotta will start to become too soft for serving.
Place the serving plate on top of the bowl, then flip it over and give the bottom of the bowl a tap, to help the panna cotta release on to the plate.
Serve chilled right away, with fresh fruit on top. It reminds me of strawberries and whipped cream, only this version looks more impressive!
How to Make Vegan Panna Cotta
If you’re using coconut milk to make this dessert because you need a vegan option, then you will want to skip the gelatin and use agar agar flakes instead.
Agar agar is made from red algae, but has properties very similar to gelatin, so it’s perfect for making thing like Vegan Jello and Vegan French Silk Pie.
It’s important to know that agar agar comes in two forms: flakes or powder. The powder form is much more concentrated, and isn’t available at any of my local grocery stores, so I’ve only tested this recipe with the flakes. If you use the powdered version, you’ll need to use much less than what is called for here.
Tip: You can typically find agar agar flakes near other seaweed products in your local grocery store, where sushi making supplies are sold.
To make vegan coconut panna cotta, replace the gelatin with 1 1/2 tablespoons of agar agar flakes instead. Agar needs to be boiled in order to dissolve, so add it directly into the saucepan with the coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt and bring the liquid to a boil.
Whisk often as the coconut milk boils, and lower the heat if the coconut milk starts to boil over. After 2 to 3 minutes of stirring and boiling, the agar flakes should be completely dissolved.
Pour the mixture into 4 bowls, and place them in the fridge to set. This should take 6 hours, or overnight. You’ll be able to release these from the bowl using the same method above, or serve them directly in the bowl for an easier presentation.
Agar agar flakes make things set up very firmly, so the panna cotta will hold its shape well, but the texture still feels very creamy when you bite into it. Feel free to experiment with using only 1 tablespoon of agar flakes, if you’d like an even softer result.
Curious about another binder? I also tested this recipe using arrowroot starch as a binder instead of the agar agar flakes, and the results were not appealing at all. I don’t have another vegan option at the moment, but please let me know if you experiment with anything else!
Want to skip the coconut milk? I tested this recipe using almond milk years ago, and it did not turn out as creamy as this coconut milk version. (Using homemade almond milk will cause it to separate into layers as it firms up, too. It’s not very appealing.) Experiment with other milks at your own risk, and use a store-bought version with an emulsifier if you are hoping that it won’t separate into layers.
Coconut Panna Cotta
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grass-fed gelatin (see notes for vegan version)
- 1 (13.5 oz.) can coconut cream (see notes)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- In a large bowl, combine the cool water and gelatin and stir well. Let it rest while you finish the next step. (This is called letting the gelatin "bloom.")
- In a small saucepan over medium high heat, combine the coconut cream, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then remove it from the heat.
- Pour a small amount of the hot coconut mixture over the bloomed gelatin, and whisk well until it looks smooth. Add in the remaining coconut mixture and whisk well.
- Pour the liquid into 4 small bowls. (You can stretch this to 5 bowls if you use about a 1/2 cup serving for each.) Place the bowls on a flat shelf in the fridge and let them chill until firm, about 6 hours or overnight.
- Serve the panna cotta chilled directly in the bowls with fresh fruit on top for the easiest presentation. Or, you can release the panna cotta from the bowls, similar to a jello mold. To do this, place each bowl in a shallow bowl of hot tap water for 30 to 60 seconds, to help loosen the panna cotta. Then place the serving plate on top of the bowl and flip it over. Give the bottom of the bowl a tap (or gently shake it) to release the panna cotta from the bowl. Then serve chilled right away with fresh fruit on top.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
If you try this Coconut Panna Cotta recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it!
Questions and Reviews
YUM! I want to try this, but can’t use sugar of any kind, so will try it with stevia. Also, can I use lower fat coconut milk? Thanks
Coconut fat is a good fat and if you are sugar free you should be increasing your good fats intake
rowyn- coconut is very calorie dense though and not everyone can eat that much especially me- i am an 85lb woman w/ thyroid issues.
lite is just regular coconut milk mixed with water
I think you can use UHT coconut milk, it’s zero carbo. Here in my country it really helps to lose gains. In low carbo high fat diet
How did the stevia turn out? I’d like to try that too
lower fat coconut is not healthful. The full fat is a medium chain fatty acid that is good for you. Count your calories and don’t skimp and make it unhealthy.
Thank you for sharing this recipe! I attempted to make a “vegan flan” last week with almond milk and agar agar – and it turned out terrible! I’ll have to get some coconut milk, give this a try and hope for a much tastier result! Thanks again! 🙂
This looks so creamy and delicious! I would be interested to see how it works with the agar agar for a veggie version!
Hi Megan, can agar agar be used in place of gelatin?
Yes, but the ratio will need to be adjusted. Since I’m not as familiar with agar agar, I’d recommend looking up substitution recommendations for best results.
Tried this with 1 tbsp agar powder instead of gelatin. It was delicious but the texture wasn’t quite the same as original.
I am looking to add gelatin to my diet. Have you had good results? How often do you use it?
Made this tonight…so yummy! Thanks for the really easy recipe!
Anyone know how much agar agar to add? Also has anyone tried making their own full fat coconut milk?
You can’t get the same result with agar-agar. It’s more crunchy and stiff than using gelatine. 1 sachet of agar-agar about 7 grams is enough
why do you care if its non-dairy, if you are using BEEF gelatin? seems silly to me!
how about making an actual vegan dish ???
Many people are not vegan or vegetarian but still need to avoid dairy. There are plenty of vegan recipes on my website, if that’s what you’re looking for, and I have offered a vegan alternative in the notes above, for those who would prefer a gelatin-free version.
I can’t have dairy, but I have a collagen deficiency, so recipes like this are SO GOOD for me. Thank you, Megan!
sheesh grizzly. it’s possible to be allergic to dairy and not be a vegan yknow. i subbed for porcine because i am allergic to beef too
What a stupid statement, I have a very serious illness related to dairy and if I was to mistakenly eat something with a form of dairy in it there is no doubt I would be in hospital fighting for my life but this certainly does not make me a vegan as meat, eggs etc are a very important part of my diet so if you care to make a statement make it an educated one thanks
Maybe because some people like me Are lactose intolerant? And since there’s no dairy in beef, I’m not so sure why you would think it’s silly.
Grizzly – if you want a vegan dish then go to a vegan website. Megan is awesome and amazing and makes the most delicious foods, I’m vegetarian and avoid lactose but don’t have a problem with eggs and I would still eat something with gelatin in although I don’t eat meat.
Thank you Megan for another recipe 🙂 Please keep them coming.
Grizzly, some people can not tolerate dairy or eggs or they are allergens for them but are not vegan or even vegetarian. While I have to avoid dairy and eggs I do eat meat and meat products. Megan’s recipes are delicious and easy to make. There are many who are quite thankful for her hard work!
Ooh yummy! Do you think it would work by adding a little cocoa powder to make this a chocolate/coconut Panna Cotta?
I just made this, using full fat organic coconut milk. I had two problems: it separated (into a dark and a light layer) after I put it in the fridge so I stirred it and after a few hours it had separated again where the oil had separated out into a thicker and somewhat grainy layer on the top. Any ideas for avoiding the second separating? The coconut milk I was using has no emulsifiers or additives, and I would rather avoid them if possible. Still tastes great, though 🙂
This is great! I love coconut everything (so far :0)!) I will make sure to make this for my mom (and myself :0) ), as she’s allergic to lactose & dairy fat! Thank you so much!
I made this last night and it was really tasty. I made it with stevia and it turned out great. I’m excited to try it with different milk combinations (almond, regular milk/cream). Great, easy dessert!
Inga, how much stevia did you use?
Oh, great! Really need to know how much stevia. Then I can actually have birthday dessert next week! Yay!
Much gratitude to anyone who can help.
Yum! Can you use Coconut cream?
would regular Knox unflavored gelatin work, if you don’t care about the health benefits of the dietary supplement you linked to? I want to make this today and don’t have time to order the fancy gelatin.
Yes. I use both types of gelatin and they work/set the same.
This was AMAZING, Megan! Great job! I went to grab a can of coconut milk and OOPS! I was out! I did have a can of the coconut cream from Trader Joe’s on hand. So, I used half a can of that and filled the rest of the measuring cup with Almond Milk. I used my immersion blender to combine them, then just dumped the whole thing in with the gelatin and whisked thoroughly. After heating it up just enough to make sure the gelatin was dissolved, I poured it into little bowls (yesterday). I just indulged now as my little nap time reward for getting 4 kids to sleep at the same time! 🙂 Woohoo! It was restaurant quality!
And to whoever was complaining about the beef gelatin – be positive, my friends and look elsewhere if what you don’t want is here. I have tried many, many of Megan’s recipes and never.not.one disappoints! They are all FABULOUS and delicious. Several have become staples in my household.
Thanks for sharing your gift with us, Megan! 🙂
I agree. People who post recipes and experiment to get things comparable to foods we know and love, but can’t have anymore are my angels!! I appreciate their hard work so much!
Hi, I made this and it was wonderful! Thanks for the recipe. It didn’t set though using this amount of gelatin. It was half set at best. When I made it again I used 2 teaspoons gelatin and it set just the right amount. I also used 2 teaspoons of raw honey instead of so much maple syrup the second and third times and it was still lovely and sweet. It tastes extra good with a half tablespoon of rosewater added as well…mmmm Turkish Delight flavour! Thanks again.
Would this work with cold version gelatin (the one used for “coffee milkshake)? Thanks!
No, the cold gelatin will not set like the hot version does.
I did it on Easter Sunday. All my quests loved it. Worth doing again .i used jelly sheets instead of agar agar.thank you.
Could you use honey instead of maple syrup? Thanks!
To the people who have set layers in 2 different colors:
After many trial and error sessions with every panna cotta recipe on the internet, I finally figured it out by reading the comments somewhere.
You have to let the mix come to room temperature before you put it in the fridge to set. I give mine a stir after letting them cool but before I put them in the fridge.
I you get the temperature just right and you use fresh vanilla beans, there is a way that you can get the seeds to condense at the bottom, so that when you flip it you have a beautiful gradiated vanilla beans, dark at the top fading to just a few seeds.
Did it once by accident :/ Can’t figure out how…
how much vanilla bean did you add? Looking forward to making this
Loved this! Has anyone tried lite coconut milk? I’d like to cut some calories if possible.
I used coconut milk with honey and it did not set…not my first time making that mistake either…I think i have learned my lesson now tho.
I see others have used honey and had no problem. Wonder if there is differences in types of honey that affect the setting of the gelatin??
Real honey is quite acidic compared to maple syrup, and there are many different kinds of honey, either one of those two things could be messing you up.
Made this using 3 stevia packets rather than the maple syrup. Served with grilled peaches. Turned out great!
Julie, I make it with honey all the time & mine sets. Although I generally use more gelatin, because I like mine firm. I wind up using a tbsp. or slightly more. Also, did you use the coconut milk in the can, or the carton? I’m thinking that would make a big difference.
This was wonderful. I made it with Stevia using a mix of vanilla cream liquid and plain powdered and it turned out really well. Thanks so much!
Thanks so much for this!! I took your recipe, tripled the gelatin and used it as the “cream” layer in the old favourite “knox blocks”!! The kids loved it and the school loved the fact that it was a dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free treat that was ACTUALLY kid-friendly!! Thanks so much!!!!
Thank you for this recipe! I made this last night and it was absolutely delicious! And so easy. I will definitely be making this again. And again. And again.
Megan, thanks so much for posting this recipe! I layered it with maple syrup for a family member who follows the FODMAP diet for medical reasons. She was so thrilled to eat something so tasty after a year of figuring out her new restrictions.
I’ve posted my dessert images on my blog, and gave you thanks and a link to your site. Thank you for this recipe, and I’ll be sure to follow your site more closely.
Tomorrow I am catering a gluten-free, dairy-free event for 60 people and I will be serving this, in small shot glasses, garnished with pistachio brittle (for “spoons”) and a few fresh raspberries. When I did a trial run of this recipe, it was so good that I virtually inhaled the whole batch. I added 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom and a couple of drops of coconut extract because I cannot leave well enough alone. Anyway, THANK YOU.
This recipe is super easy to make, though you have to make sure to account for the 4 hrs it takes to set!
Other than that, it got RAVE reviews from friends!
Thank you for the recipe. I replaced maple syrup with 1/3 cup of granulated Splenda and used 2 and a half gelatin sheets. 30 mins in the freezer and they turned out fabulous! So very pleased 🙂
This looks so good ! Thanks for posting this recipe … How long do you think you can store this in the fridge? I can make it 2 days in advance?
I think you can make it ahead of time (it never lasts that long in my house!) but I would be sure to wrap the tops very well so they don’t develop too much of a dry crust on top.
I think you can make it ahead of time (it never lasts that long in my house!) but I would be sure to wrap the tops very well so they don’t develop too much of a dry crust on top.
Megan – making this for dessert tonight. Can you tell me if the picture displayed is the consistency the panna cotta will be? I have made a few recipes with varying results. This one looks perfect . . .
Thanks for the recipe! I made mine a little different as I am avoiding all added sugar right now. I omitted the syrup and added a few sliced strawberries. It came out delicious, no (added) sugar necessary. Oh but I ate it as jello – not panna cotta!
I’m glad you posted this comment, Rosie. I also need to avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners. I like jello, too.
Thank you! I substituted the maple syrup for stevia. To lighten it up, you can use lite coconut milk. I’ve tried both. (it’s just watered down coconut milk, lol.) I am on keto and often have trouble getting enough fat, so this is perfect for me!
I made this last night. We loved it. I topped mine with blueberries. I will definitely be making this again.
Delicious recipe. I used date syrup instead of Maple Syrup, oh my god, so good and served with a mango coulis…
I had mine in dessert glasses and noticed it was starting to separate. I poured them all into a glass bowl and set it in the freezer for about 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes. Then I poured it back into the dessert glasses and put them in the fridge. It worked and was so delicious. My children still rave about it a month later.
Thanks so much for this! Delicious!
Looking on Amazon for the ingredients as we speak, thanks an immense amount for the inspiration and I will report back after I made some (woo!).
One of my favorite Detoxinista desserts! It’s fantastic. Thanks so much Megan!!
Made it with 2tbsp of confectioners swerve (erthyritol) in place of the syrup,and a dash of cinnamon
It was great!
Love the colors to this Dessert. Sounds interesting too. Surely tasty and great as a party option too. Looks colorful and cute as well
Everytime I try to make this with canned coconut milk that comes separated in the can, it separates again as the geletin/milk mixture cools. I end up with a layer of tasteless, unpalatable fat floating on top of the gelled mixture. Like all other recipes I’ve tried, this one does not address this problem. How do I stop this from happening? I do not boil the mixture and follow recipes as directed. Gave up trying.Please let me know how to fix this problem.
Hi Sandra! I recently updated this recipe to address this. The separation seems to happen more often with canned coconut milk, rather than canned coconut cream. (It may also vary across brands– I find Whole Foods 365 brand to be the most consistent when it comes to texture.) I hope you’ll give this updated recipe a try and let me know how it turns out for you. I’ve made it 5 times in the last 2 weeks, and haven’t had any separation when using the canned coconut cream.
The recipe look good, how many envelope of Knox gelatin I should use.? Thanks.
Made it last night and love it!!! I reduced the honey a bit as I dont like mine too sweet. Agree with the others that while cooling, I had to stir the liquid a bit as it started to separate. Overnight, it sets very well! thank you for the recipe!
I liked the simplicity of this recipe and it did set up well with 1-1/2 cups of cream and 1/4 cup of the liquid (from 3 small cans of coconut cream), but the maple syrup completely overpowered the taste of the coconut, so I was disappointed. Light maple syrup may have helped, but I will definitely use sugar next time.
Simple and effective – I use it when I have peeps for dinner and it always get lots of praise – thx