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vanilla bean-speckled white chocolate lemon poppyseed panna cotta in the shape of a Pandora star with the seeds and lemon zest visibly concentrated on top with a perfect squeeze of dark berry sauce in the middle and chopped pink white chocolate pieces as decoration and a spoonful removed

Velvety White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta (w/Lemon Zest and Poppy Seeds)

This smooth, creamy, perfectly sweetened milky white chocolate panna cotta recipe is as delicious as it is simple to make. When translated, “panna cotta” means cooked cream in Italian. And when made in its most basic form, it requires just 3 ingredients — heavy cream, gelatine, and sugar. We’ve removed the added sugar and replaced it with rich Belgian white chocolate, and added vanilla bean, and a pinch of salt (plus poppy seeds and a little lemon zest which are optional of course), and then we’ve topped it all off with homemade Fruitti di Bosco coulis. Occasionally we pair this dolce al cucchiaio or ‘spoon dessert’ with strawberry coulis because strawberries and cream always work, but caramel and chocolate sauce are also tasty. This is an easy recipe for kiddos to help prepare and you can make it even easier by serving panna cotta family-style chilled in a single large brioche tin, or other pie or casserole dish and let everyone help themselves. And for anyone new to making panna cotta, we’ve included step-by-step recipe photos at the end of the post.  

Where is Panna Cotta From?

Panna cotta comes from the northwest region of Piedmont, Italy, and borders both France and Switzerland. This is where Barolo wine comes from and it also just happens to have lots of free-roaming dairy cows so it’s not surprising that this cream-based dessert would find its way into the local cuisine. Originally, cream and sugar were boiled together with fish bones to provide the gelatin needed to structure the dessert. Nowadays, it’s made with commercial gelatine, or agar agar can be substituted if you need a vegetarian panna cotta.

What Texture Should Panna Cotta Be + What Does it Taste Like? 

Velvety, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Creamy, and Silky with Notes of Sweet Milky Cream and Pure Vanilla


We’ve included two 10-second videos for you below that show what a really good panna cotta should look like. The consistency should be smooth and velvety and melt in your mouth and when you shake it, a well-made panna cotta will gently wobble. This dessert should hold its shape, but you shouldn’t be able to tell it has gelatin holding everything together. In fact, adding just the right amount of gelatin seems to be what many find most difficult about making the dessert. There’s no need to worry because this recipe has just the right amount of gelatine needed for the perfect consistency, so as long as you follow the basic recipe you’ll have perfect panna cotta every time. 

Watch How Perfect Panna Cotta Jiggles 

Then Watch Us Grab a Spoonful

5 STEPS TO MAKING PERFECTLY SMOOTH + VELVETY PANNA COTTA FROM SCRATCH

How to Avoid Rubbery Panna Cotta or Panna Cotta that Doesn’t Set Correctly 

Getting the best consistency in homemade panna cotta isn’t difficult, but having a few helpful tips in your back pocket never hurt. Use these techniques to get a super smooth, and delicious creamy panna cotta every time. 

  1. Use the right amount of gelatine. Using too much gelatine will turn this creamy dessert from velvet to rubber in a heartbeat. Using too little on the other hand will leave you with something more akin to a pudding. While both are edible, they’re not desirable. So, whether you use powdered gelatin, or sheet gelatine (as we have in this recipe), stick with the amount provided in the recipe and the panna cotta consistently turns out smooth and delicious.
  2. Always bloom the gelatine before adding it to the cream mixture. This helps ensure the gelatine will properly dissolve once it hits the hot cream mixture which means you’ll end up without granules (if using powdered gelatin) or pieces of undissolved gelatin sheets. 
  3. Do not boil the cream mixture. Watch the cream mixture very carefully and do not allow it to boil. As soon as it looks like it’s about to boil, remove it from the heat and add the gelatine at this point. 
  4. Make sure to whisk the gelatin into the cream mixture until it’s completely dissolved. When you place the bloomed gelatin into the hot cream mixture, make sure all dissolves. Not only because you don’t want to bite down on a grainy panna cotta (as mentioned above), but also because the panna cotta won’t properly set up if the gelatin isn’t adequately distributed. This will leave you with a panna cotta that isn’t quite firm enough.
  5. Do not add mango, guava, kiwi, pineapple, fresh ginger, figs, or pawpaw to the panna cotta base. Each of these fruits contains different enzymes that keep the gelatin from setting properly, so it’s best to add these flavors (if desired) in the form of fruit sauces drizzled over panna cotta, or fresh chopped fruit sprinkled on top. 

White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Ingredients 

You only need 4 ingredients to make this delicious panna cotta recipe.  You can use powdered or sheet gelatine (I used the sheets for this recipe) and the lemon zest and poppy seeds are totally optional (especially if you don’t like seeds in your teeth♡). You’ll notice in the photo of the ingredients above that sugar was included in the shot. I had it nearby in case I decided to add it to the base but I ended up not using any additional sugar because, for us, the white chocolate provided just enough sweetness on its own. See the notes section in the recipe card for adding more sugar if desired.

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Callebaut (or other high-quality) white chocolate (80g)
  • 1/2 ounce gelatine sheets (8g) *see notes below for substituting powdered gelatine or agar agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 1 vanilla bean split and seeded)
  • a dash of salt (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)
  • lemon zest to taste (optional)

*It’s best to use the type of gelatine called for in any given recipe, but sometimes you want to make a recipe and you don’t have gelatine sheets lying around. You should be able to successfully substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of powdered gelatin for the sheet gelatine called for. Although I’ve not yet tried this particular recipe with powdered gelatine, I believe it should give you just the right delicate panna cotta consistency. Do not use more than 2 teaspoons for 2 cups of liquid, or it may be too firm. If substituting gelatin sheets with agar agar, use the same amount of agar agar in weight as called for in the recipe using a 1:1 ratio. 

How to Make the Best White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Making really good homemade scones is easy. Just be sure to follow all of the helpful tips and techniques above to make sure they’re perfectly tender and never dry or hard. 

  • Bloom the gelatine sheets + chop the chocolate. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold tap water for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the white chocolate finely so that it will melt into the hot cream mixture more quickly and easily later on. 
  • Heat the cream and sugar mixture. Pour the cream into a saucepan, add the vanilla, and heat on low stirring constantly until the mixture is very hot, but do not allow it to boil. Remove it from the heat.
  • Add the gelatine + white chocolate. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine sheets and add it to the hot cream mixture and whisk for a few seconds to allow it to completely dissolve into the mixture. Then add the white chocolate and do not stir for 10 to 20 seconds or so. This allows the white chocolate to melt a little bit more before whisking it into the cream mixture. Whisk until the white chocolate is fully combined and pour the mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout (which will make it easier to pour the panna cotta into smaller molds). Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds (if using) and whisk well to combine. 
  • Pour + chill the panna cotta.  Pour the panna cotta directly into individual molds (or into one large mold that has a 750ml capacity). Allow the panna cotta to cool before placing into the refrigerator to set up for at least 6 hours or even better overnight. 
  • Unmold the panna cotta + serve. When ready to serve, immerse the molds 3/4 of the way into hot just-boiled water for 2 seconds and flip them out onto a serving plate. Top with your favorite sauce, fruit, or nuts, and Enjoy!

The Best Sauces and Toppings for Panna Cotta

Once you have a no-fail panna cotta recipe under your belt, it’s time to get creative with how you’d like to top it. Here are a few of our favorite ways to enjoy this velvety creamy dessert. 

Looking for More Delicious Desserts?

If you love dessert or just need to make something for a special occasion or holiday, we’ve got a few recipes we think you might also enjoy. Below are a few of our favorites in the Biting household♡.

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vanilla bean-speckled white chocolate lemon poppyseed panna cotta in the shape of a Pandora star with the seeds and lemon zest visibly concentrated on top with a perfect squeeze of dark berry sauce in the middle and chopped pink white chocolate pieces as decoration with a spoonful removed to reveal its soft and luscious interior

The Best White Chocolate Panna Cotta w/Fruitti di Bosco Sauce


  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: 8 (4-ounce) servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This smooth, creamy, perfectly sweetened milky white chocolate panna cotta recipe is as delicious as it is simple to make.  And when made in its most basic form, it requires just 3 ingredients — heavy cream, gelatine, and sugar. We’ve removed the added sugar and replaced it with rich Belgian white chocolate, and added vanilla bean, and a pinch of salt (plus poppy seeds and a little lemon zest which are optional of course), and then we’ve topped it all off with homemade Fruitti di Bosco coulis. Make this dish even easier to pull off by serving it family-style, chilled in a single large brioche tin, or other pie or casserole dish, and let everyone help themselves. No need for unmolding and it still looks beautiful drizzled with sauce and chopped fruit or nuts. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Callebaut (or other high-quality) white chocolate (80g)
  • 1/2 ounce gelatine sheets (8g) *see notes below for substituting powdered gelatine or agar agar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder (or 1 vanilla bean split and seeded)
  • a dash of salt (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)
  • lemon zest to taste (optional)

Instructions

  • Bloom the gelatine sheets + chop the chocolate. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold tap water for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the white chocolate finely so that it will melt into the hot cream mixture more quickly and easily later on. 
  • Heat the cream and sugar mixture. Pour the cream into a saucepan, add the vanilla, and heat on low stirring constantly until the mixture is very hot, but do not allow it to boil. Remove it from the heat.
  • Add the gelatine + white chocolate. Squeeze the water out of the gelatine sheets and add it to the hot cream mixture and whisk for a few seconds to allow it to completely dissolve into the mixture. Then add the white chocolate and do not stir for 10 to 20 seconds or so. This allows the white chocolate to melt a little bit more before whisking it into the cream mixture. Whisk until the white chocolate is fully combined and pour the mixture into a measuring cup with a pour spout (which will make it easier to pour the panna cotta into smaller molds). Add the lemon zest and poppy seeds (if using) and whisk well to combine. 
  • Pour + chill the panna cotta.  Pour the panna cotta directly into individual molds (or into one large mold that has a 750ml capacity). Allow the panna cotta to cool before placing into the refrigerator to set up for at least 6 hours or even better overnight. 
  • Unmold the panna cotta + serve. When ready to serve, immerse the molds 3/4 of the way into hot just-boiled water for 2 seconds and flip them out onto a serving plate. Top with your favorite sauce, fruit, or nuts, and Enjoy!

Notes

  • If you want a sweeter panna cotta, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar to the cream and vanilla mixture as it is heating up. But be sure not to add too much sugar because too much can keep gelatine from setting properly.
  • If you want a lemon-flavored white chocolate panna cotta, add the desired amount of lemon zest to the cream and vanilla mixture as it is heating up to allow it to infuse the cream.

How to Substitute Gelatine Sheets in this Recipe

It’s always best to use the type of gelatine called for in any given recipe, but sometimes you want to make a recipe and you just don’t have gelatine sheets lying around.

  • You should be able to successfully substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons of powdered gelatin for the sheet gelatine called for. Although I’ve not yet tried this particular recipe with powdered gelatine, I believe it should give you just the right delicate panna cotta consistency. Do not use more than 2 teaspoons for 2 cups of liquid, or it may be too firm.
  • If substituting gelatin sheets with agar agar, use the same amount of agar agar in weight as called for in the recipe using a 1:1 ratio.
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Desserts
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 ounce serving

Keywords: a better panna cotta recipe, best panna cotta recipe, panna cotta recipe, panne cotta recipe, white chocolate panna cotta recipe, Italian panna cotta, perfect panna cotta

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White Chocolate Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta step-by-step recipe photos 

 

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