Smooth, Creamy Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta is a simple dessert of just cream, sugar, vanilla beans and a little gelatin to hold it all together. It is the simplicity of it that makes this wobbly, creamy, smooth dessert so elegant and memorable.

Serve Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta plain or garnished with berries, fruit coulis, and even espresso.

For a recipe for Strawberry Vanilla Bean Coulis to drizzle over your Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, scroll down or click HERE.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

For some helpful tips before you begin, click here.

Makes 6 servings.


  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) beef gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold half & half
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) half & half
  • 1/3 cup (67 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans


1. Prepare the ramekins.

– Lightly coat 6 ramekins with cooking spray. Wipe out any excess cooking spray with a paper towel.
– Place the ramekins in the refrigerator to chill.

2. Soften the gelatin.

– In a small microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 3 tablespoons cold half & half. Stir briefly and let stand at least 3 minutes to soften.

3. heat the cream, half & half, vanilla and sugar until almost boiling.

– Pour the heavy cream, the remaining half & half and sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
– With a sharp-tipped knife, cut a slit down the length of the vanilla beans. Split the beans open and scrape the seeds into the cream. Drop the pods into the cream as well.
– Heat the cream over medium-high, stirring continuously, until it just begins to steam. Do NOT boil.
– Remove the cream mixture from the heat.

4. Melt the softened gelatin and add to the cream.

– Microwave the softened gelatin for about 10 to 15 seconds at 50% power until the gelatin is just melted. Do not boil.
– Stir the melted gelatin into the hot cream mixture. Continue to stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved. (Check by occasionally dipping your fingers into the cream and rubbing together to feel for any grittiness – undissolved gelatin.)

5. Pour the cream mixture through a sieve. Chill and stir until thickened.

– Pour the cream mixture through a sieve into a large bowl to remove the vanilla pods and any grains of undissolved gelatin.
– Place the bowl into the refrigerator. Stir every 15 minutes until the mixture has chilled and thickened just enough that the vanilla seeds remain suspended in the cream and don’t sink to the bottom anymore. (See TIPS)

6. Pour the panna cotta into the chilled ramekins and chill until set.

– Divide the cooled cream mixture among the chilled ramekins.
– Chill the panna cottas until set, at least 4 hours.

7. Unmold the panna cottas.

– To unmold the panna cotta, first run a thin knife around just the rim of the ramekin.
– Then dip the ramekin into a bowl of hot water for about 5 seconds.
– Invert the ramekin onto the center of a small dessert plate. Give it a very gentle shake, if necessary, to loosen the panna cotta from the ramekin.
– If it still doesn’t unmold, repeat dipping the ramekin into the hot water for 5 seconds at a time until it comes loose.

Serve plain, garnished with berries, fruit coulis, espresso or whatever you like.

Panna Cotta Affogato
Panna Cotta Affogato – Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with a shot of sweet espresso

About this recipe

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta is pure simplicity. It’s just sweetened cream, vanilla and a bit of gelatin. We love this kind of simplicity. It’s delicious, it’s elegant and it’s easy.


Here are 5 helpful tips:

1) No vanilla beans?

Vanilla bean paste is a good substitute for vanilla beans. If you don’t have that either, vanilla extract will do just fine. Just do not use imitation vanilla.

1 vanilla bean = 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla bean paste = 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

Vanilla beans, paste and extract
Vanilla paste, vanilla extract and vanilla beans

2) If your panna cotta set too soft or too hard:

– The texture of panna cottas must be smooth, shiny and wobbly. Panna cottas must wobble. It is the wobble that promises that this dessert will be soft, light and will melt into a smooth and silky cream.
– If your Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta doesn’t wobble, it has set too hard. And, clearly, if the panna cotta just oozes into a puddle, it has set too soft.

  • If, for whatever reason, your panna cottas have not set right, they can be fixed. All you need to do is melt your panna cottas back into liquid form and warm up the mixture over low heat. (Do not boil.) Then add a little more softened, melted gelatin for a firmer set, or a little more cream and sugar for a softer set.

– Make your changes conservatively. Just an additional 1/2 teaspoon of gelatin or 1/2 cup of liquid to the entire recipe can make a marked difference.

beef gelatin

– This is the gelatin we use. (It is kosher and halal.) Since different types of gelatin, as well as different brands, may differ in its efficacy, you may need to make adjustments to get your perfect texture. Once you find what works for you, stick with it.

3) Don’t skip the sieve.

– Pour your panna cotta mixture through a sieve to get out any undetected grains of unmelted gelatin or bits of vanilla bean pod. Any lumps or grittiness will certainly ruin the smooth, silky experience.

Panna Cotta poured through a sieve
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t skip this step.

4) Why chill (and stir) the panna cotta mixture before pouring it into the ramekins?

There are 2 main reasons for chilling your panna cotta mixture before pouring it into the ramekins:

1. Vanilla seeds tend to sink. That could mean that all the vanilla flavor will be concentrated at the bottom of your ramekins, or worse, will be concentrated all in the last panna cotta poured out.

  • Chill and stir until the mixture has thickened just enough to keep the vanilla seeds suspended. Then pour the panna cotta mixture into the ramekins or dessert bowls to chill and set.
Creamy Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta
Look at all those beautiful little vanilla seeds dispersed throughout the Panna Cotta, and not just at the bottom.

2. Fat rises to the top. Some people have experienced their panna cottas separating into layers while cooling, with a fattier layer on top.

  • Chilling and stirring your panna cotta until slightly thickened will ensure the fattier cream is evenly mixed throughout.

5) How to unmold your panna cotta:

  • Run a thin-tipped knife around the rim of the ramekin.
  • Dip the ramekin in hot water for about 5 seconds.
  • Tip the ramekin upside down onto a dessert plate and give a gentle shake or tap on the counter.
  • If the panna cotta does not release, dip the ramekin in the hot water again and try again.
Vanilla bean panna cotta
Vanilla panna cotta with strawberry sauce

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Coulis

Serve this smooth strawberry, vanilla bean-infused sauce over ice creams, cakes or Vanilla Bean Panna Cottas.


  • 2 cups (283 g or 10 oz) fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar, plus more, if desired
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) water
  • 1 vanilla bean


– Combine the strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan.
– With a sharp-tipped knife, cut a slit down the length of the vanilla bean. Split the bean open and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Drop the pod in as well.
– Stir over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Let boil for 5 to 10 minutes until thickened.
– Add more sugar to taste, if needed.
– Remove from the heat and let cool.
– Remove the pod from the saucepan and then puree the mixture until smooth.
– Push the puree through a sieve.


– Store the coulis refrigerated in a sealed container or jar for up to a week.

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