Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert that can be updated in so many ways, my Coconut Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce is a light and refreshing way to end a meal, it’s vegan, too!
Panna cotta’s one of those desserts that practically everybody likes, it has that nursery food sort of universal appeal. I mean, you can’t really make a wrong turn with milk, cream, sugar, and gelatin. But I’ve found that coconut milk works just as well, and as a bonus you get great flavor, plus it’s healthy! Panna cottas are lighter by nature than puddings and custards because they don’t contain eggs. The silky texture is really unique, it has a pleasant slippery feel on the tongue…kind of a cross between a custard and jello. I added vanilla to mine, but you could use coconut, almond, or lemon extract if you like.
This coconut panna cotta goes really well with all kinds of fruit, either fresh or cooked. You can make a simple sauce with just about any fruit, just add a bit of water, some sugar, and optional cornstarch to thicken it. Simmer for about 5 minutes in a saucepan and you’ve got a fruit sauce. I think raspberries would be really nice with this.
TIP: Let any hot sauce cool before topping your panna cotta or you may melt the gelatin.
This recipe was inspired by the little tin molds I’ve collected over the years. You might have some that you’ve inherited from your grandmother, or maybe you found them in thrift stores like I did. Molded desserts have been popular for generations, but not so much anymore. The molds come in all shapes and sizes and were used for jellies, custards, puddings and cakes. Panna Cotta can be served in little glasses or bowls, too, but if you have the molds hiding away in your cupboards, this can be a fun way to use them. I just sprayed the insides lightly with cooking spray, and then wiped out the excess before filling.
TIP: If you don’t have grandma’s molds, you can find small tin molds in cooking stores and online. Silicon molds will work well, too, but I recommend individual molds, which are easier to work with than a sheet of molds.
The un-molding is surprisingly easy, thanks to the gelatin, which makes the panna cotta fairly sturdy. Once out of the mold the panna cotta is your oyster — you don’t have to use fruit — chocolate or caramel sauce is nice, or even just a drizzle of honey.
TIP: You can make this up to a day ahead, but keep the panna cotta in the molds until you are ready to serve, it’ll stay fresher that way.
Coconut Panna Cotta with Blueberry Sauce
- 2 13 ounce cans coconut milk (I used full fat)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 envelopes gelatin about 5 teaspoons or gelatin substitute for vegan, such as agar agar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 pint blueberries
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- If you are using metal molds, spray them lightly with cooking spray and wipe out the extra. If you are using silicone molds, no prep is necessary. You can also use small bowls or glasses.
- Heat the coconut milk and sugar in a small saucepan until it comes to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Meanwhile put 1/4 cup water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir.
- Take the coconut milk off the heat and whisk in the gelatin, stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir in the vanilla. Strain through a mesh strainer into a measuring cup with a pour spout. Fill each of your molds to the brim. Refrigerate until firm, 2-3 hours.
- To make the sauce, put the blueberries, sugar, and 3 tablespoons of water into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Dissolve the cornstarch in a little cold water and stir until smooth. Add to the hot sauce, stirring to blend well. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. if it gets too thick, add a bit more water. Set aside to cool.
- To un-mold the panna cotta, gently loosen it from the edges of the mold with your fingers, it should pull away easily. Invert on a serving plate. If it doesn't come out easily, dip the mold in a little warm water for a few seconds first, then invert.
- Serve the panna cotta chilled, with the fruit sauce.
- Panna cotta, like jello, needs to be kept chilled until it’s served.
- Gelatin is made from animal products, so if you are vegan or vegetarian you can use a substitute, I think agar agar is the simplest and most straightforward.
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