Our vegan panna cotta is similar to the original Italian panna cotta in both texture and flavour. When we first tried it we were surprised by how simple and delicious it is. You can make it in 10 minutes, without gelatine, dairy-free and nut-free.

You’ll need your plant-based cream of choice and a little agar agar to make this refreshing Italian dessert that everyone will love. We think this is the best vegan panna cotta recipe.

vegan panna cotta with strawberry sauce
dairy-free, vegan, no gelatine

Panna cotta is an Italian dessert traditionally made of cooked dairy cream, sugar, gelatine and vanilla. It’s widely popular all over Italy – and around the world – where it’s served with 3 main toppings: caramel, chocolate and mixed berries.

Panna cotta has a pudding-like consistency, not too soft and not too firm. It can be eaten with a spoon, but not like a soup, more like sweet pudding. When you put it in your mouth, it should feel silky and smooth, and not creamy like a custard.

vegan Italian panna cotta on a plate
panna cotta no dairy no nuts

We tested this recipe 7 times to get the right texture and consistency. In the end, even my very-traditional non-vegan Italian dad could not tell the difference between our vegan panna cotta and the one from our local restaurant.

For other delicious Italian desserts, check out our vegan strawberry tart, our no-bake no-cashew vegan cheesecake, or our vegan vanilla cake.

Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Cream: if you can find it, use vegan whipping cream, without whipping it. If you cannot find that, go for soy cream, rice cream, or coconut cream. Alternatively use coconut milk. To make a lighter, low-fat vegan panna cotta you can simply replace cream with your favourite plant-milk.
  • Milk: any type of plant milk will work. We like rice, soy and almond for this recipe.
  • Sugar: any sugar will work, but to give it its classic white colour, you’ll need white sugar. You can also use syrups like maple, agave, or other.
  • Vanilla: you can use vanilla extract or the seeds of a vanilla bean.
  • Agar powder: we use this as a substitute for gelatine, it works perfectly if you get the quantities right, but don’t worry, we are here for that.

IMPORTANT: always read the instructions on the back your agar powder package before using it. For most agar brands, our quantities are correct.

However, we noticed that with some brands, you’ll need to use more or less agar agar. The quantities that you need to use are always indicated in the back of the agar powder package.

panna cotta in a glass jar
panna cotta in a glass jar

What is agar agar?

Agar, or agar agar, is a healthy plant-based substitute for gelatine as it is made from algae, and it does not have any flavour. It is very popular in Asia, and it is becoming more and more common in the western world in vegetarian and vegan cooking.

You can find agar powder in many supermarkets these days, or in health stores, or online. It looks like a fine white powder and it needs to be dissolved in boiling liquid to work. Note: you need agar powder, not agar flakes.

agar agar on my hand
this is agar agar

We tested 7 different panna cotta recipes with different quantities of agar powder to find the right amount. We tried making vegan panna cotta with cornstarch, but it really doesn’t taste or feels the same as the real Italian recipe. With cornstarch it’s more like a vanilla custard pudding. So we do not recommend cornstarch for this recipe.

Equipment

  • Sauce pan + whisk
  • Silicon molds or small glass jars
  • Precision scale to weigh the agar agar.

Mistakes I made

  • Not reading the agar instructions: please always read the instructions on the back of your package. I noticed that some brands require you to use a lot less agar powder than the brand I used, so to avoid panna cotta that is hard as a stone, always follow instructions of your agar manufacturer.
  • Too much agar agar: in mosto cases you should only use only 1g of agar powder for 100g of liquid. The first time I made this recipe I used 3g per 100g of liquid and the panna cotta turned out as hard as a stone. Note that 1 US tsp of agar agar is equal to 3g.

Tips 

  • Boil 4 times: the best way to know that the agar powder has been activated is to bring the liquid to a boil for 4 times. If agar powder doesn’t boil long enough, it will not thicken your panna cotta.
  • Adjust the sugar: depending on the type of cream or milk that you use, you might need to adjust our sugar quantities. For example, if you use an already sweetened vegan whipping cream, or a sweetened plant-milk, it is possible that you need a lot less sugar than mentioned in our recipe. Taste your liquids, then adjust.
spooned panna cotta
spooned panna cotta

Frequently asked questions

Why did my panna cotta not set?

There are two possible reasons: 1) you did not use enough agar powder. Read instructions on your agar package. 2) you did not activate the agar powder correctly. To activate agar powder, first dissolve it in the liquids off the heat. Then bring the liquids to a boil for at least 2 minutes.

Why is my panna cotta so hard?

You most probably added too much agar powder. Read and follow instructions on your agar package.

spoonful of panna cotta from a glass

Can you make vegan panna cotta without agar powder?

Some people make it with cornstarch, but in my opinion cornstarch will give you a custard like consistency, not jellied enough for panna cotta. Other people do it with carrageenan, but it is not quite clear if its use is safe for humans, so I’d rather use agar powder, which is 100% safe.

Can I use a different topping?

Absolutely. You can use any topping of your choice, made with any type of fruit, chocolate, caramel, etc.

close up whole vegan panna cotta
made in a silicone baking mold

Storage

You can store our vegan panna cotta without gelatine in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. We do not recommend freezing it, due to the fact that agar powder will lose its structure when frozen.

Variations

  • Mango: peel and cut the pulp of a mango into dice, then blend it till very smooth. Drizzle on top of the panna cotta. This is especially delicious if your panna cotta base is made with coconut milk.
  • Caramel: this is actually how original panna cotta was first served. You can either make home made caramel or drizzle with store bough, just read the label to make sure it’s vegan.
  • Chocolate: melt about 7 oz or 200 g of dark chocolate bain-marie or in the microwave on low heat, then add about 80 g of your favourite plant milk and stir till smooth. Drizzle over your panna cotta.
close up dairy free panna cotta with dripping strawberry sauce

Vegan Panna Cotta

By: Nico Pallotta
4.77 from 13 votes
Our vegan panna cotta is similar to the original Italian panna cotta in both texture and flavour. When we first tried it we were surprised by how simple and delicious it is. You can make it in 10 minutes, without gelatine, dairy-free and nut-free.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooling time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 12 small servings
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian

Equipment

  • Precision scale to weigh the agar agar
  • Sauce Pan
  • Whisk
  • Glass jars, small glasses, or silicon moulds to shape the panna cotta

Ingredients

For the panna cotta

  • 400 g any vegan whipping cream if you can't find that, then coconut cream or coconut milk
  • 200 g any plant milk soy, almonds, oats, rice, etc
  • 60 g sugar if your vegan whipping cream is already sweetened then you only need half the sugar
  • 6 g agar powder read instructions on the back of your agar package, different brands require different quantities.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the topping

  • 500 g fresh berries strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.
  • 4 tbsp sugar

Instructions 

  • In a sauce pan, add all the ingredients for the panna cotta and whisk till the agar agar is dissolved. On medium heat, bring to a boil for 4 times, while whisking continuously.
    This means, every time the liquid boils, take it away from the heat, then when it stops boiling put it back on, until it boils again. Repeat this 4 times. This is necessary to activate the agar agar.
    I let all the ingredients for the panna cotta boil in a sauce pan
  • Pour the hot liquid into silicone molds, in small jars, or in small glasses, and let set in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
    panna cotta in the silicon baking molds
  • Serve the panna cotta:
    – If you made it in silicon molds, then first go around the edge of the panna cotta with a small knife, then gently take it out of the mold, one by one, and flip it upside down on a plate. Cover with your favourite topping.
    – If you made it in jars or glasses, go ahead and pour your topping on top of the panna cotta directly in the jar or glass.
    – We like to serve panna cotta with a bright red topping of strawberry syrup or raspberry syrup and some fresh berries on the side.
    removing the vegan panna cotta from the mold

For the strawberry or raspberry topping

  • In a sauce pan, add your fruit of choice and the sugar. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, adding a dash of water or lemon juice if necessary. When the fruit is soft, blend it, then let cool down and pour it over the panna cotta.
    You can leave some of the fresh fruit aside to garnish the plates.
    ready to eat vegan panna cotta with strawberry syrup on top

Notes

IMPORTANT: always read the instructions on the back your agar powder package before using it. For most agar brands, our quantities are correct.

However, we noticed that some with some brands, you’ll need to use more or less agar agar. The quantities that you need to use are always indicated in the back of the agar powder package.
We use a generic agar powder purchased on amazon and we need 1 gram of agar powder for 100g of liquid. Sometimes, you might need as little as 0.2g of agar powder for 100g of liquid. Read the instructions on your agar package.
MEASUREMENTS
We recommend using the metric system for this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 168kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Potassium: 202mg, Dietary Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 71IU, Vitamin B6: 1mg, Vitamin C: 27mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 1µg, Calcium: 37mg, Folate: 26µg, Iron: 1mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 19mg, Zinc: 1mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks for this very simple and clear recipe! I just made this and was surprised how easily it set. Since I’ve never had panna cotta before, I wanted to know if the little bubbles at the top are “normal”? It kind of gives it a bit of a mousse like consistency; the bottom seems more smooth as the weight of the liquid may have collapsed the bubbles. Should I try to collapse the bubbles somehow before pouring into the silicon mold? I used soy cream and soy milk, will try again with whipping cream. Thanks again!

  2. 5 stars
    Ciao Nico! Ho fatto la tua pannacotta ed il sapore è ottimo, grazie per la ricetta! L’unica cosa è che mi si è separato parzialmente il grasso del latte di cocco, raffrendandosi ha formato uno strato in superficie. Secondo te come mai può essere successo? Grazie!

  3. 5 stars
    I’ve not made this recipe though I do intend to so the review I’m leaving is just on the recipe but more particularly it’s actually simply to say that I love the clarity of the explanation of the method.

    The idea of warning people of a commonly made mistake should be part of every recipe and makes this reader trust the writer and so, the recipe.

    Thank you

  4. 5 stars
    I made this in small Weck jars/molds and was still able to get the panna cotta out with a whack on the end of it. I had agar flakes, not powder, so tripled the amount. Perfect amount of jiggle! I used Silk brand Heavy Cream and Milkadamia brand macadamia nut milk.

    1. Hi Kelly! Thanks so much for your comment and valuable information. We are happy to hear that the panna cotta works in Weck jars and with agar flakes! It’s not always easy to get the right amount of jiggle, so well done! Also thanks for sharing the brands you used ❤️🙏