Lemon Panna Cotta

Lemon Panna Cotta | The View from Great Island 3

This light Lemon Panna Cotta is the perfect early spring dessert, it’s no-bake, super simple, and you can make it dairy free with coconut milk!

    This light Lemon Panna Cotta is the perfect early spring dessert, it's no-bake, super simple, and you can make it dairy free with coconut milk!

I knew one of the first things I was going to make once the weather turned warm was a panna cotta.  I discovered it last year and fell in love with the smooth, silky texture.  Panna cotta, or cooked cream, is an old treat from the mountains of northern Italy, where the cream is so spectacular it’s been eaten as a dessert all by itself for generations.   This lemon version is super tangy with the zest and juice of 2 lemons.   It’s the perfect backdrop for a cluster of fresh fruit and an edible blossom or two, and therefore the perfect dessert for an occasion like Mother’s Day,  a spring shower, or a just because romantic dinner.

    This light Lemon Panna Cotta is the perfect early spring dessert, it's no-bake, super simple, and you can make it dairy free with coconut milk!

I dug out my mini cookie and fondant cutters for this, and  the thinly sliced pieces of papaya, below, made beautiful little flowers and butterflies to scatter among the berries.   Use slices of melon, mango, kiwi, banana, whatever you like.  You can find these cute little sets in cooking stores, discount department stores, or HERE online.

No-Bake Lemon Panna Cotta

But even though I lavished attention on the fruit garnish, the flavor of this lemon panna cotta stands on its own.  I would be totally happy with a little pot of it all by itself.   You know me, I’m not happy unless I’m going all the way with whatever flavor I’m playing with, so there’s nothing wishy-washy about the lemon presence here.   The zest of 2 lemons begins the process as it infuses the essence of lemon into the cream and milk.  Then the juice of both lemons goes in, followed by a dose of lemon extract.

Lemon Panna Cotta | The View from Great Island 5

The panna cotta can be made ahead of time so all you have to do is assemble the fruit at the last minute.  This could be made into a beautiful tart with a graham cracker crust, and I also like it poured into small jam jars and garnished with a simple wedge of lemon and a sprig of mint.  It can be rustic, or elegant, depending on how you present it.

Making No Bake Lemon Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is a no bake dessert, and it’s one of the easiest there is.  It basically consists of heating cream and milk, and adding gelatin.  That’s about the extent of it.  Once it sets up in the refrigerator, it’s done.

    This light Lemon Panna Cotta is the perfect early spring dessert, it's no-bake, super simple, and you can make it dairy free with coconut milk!

For  vegan panna cotta, substitute full fat coconut milk for the dairy cream and milk.  You can use agar-agar, a seaweed derived gelatin substitute, in place of the gelatin.  Don’t try to go with a low fat version of this, though, because the lemon juice can curdle regular milk.

    This light Lemon Panna Cotta is the perfect early spring dessert, it's no-bake, super simple, and you can make it dairy free with coconut milk!

If you cover it well, this can sit in the fridge for a couple of days before you serve it.  Don’t add the fruit until you are ready to serve, and be sure to serve it cold, because gelatin will soften as it comes to room temperature.  If you haven’t had panna cotta, I highly recommend it,  not only for the ease of preparation, but because it has a unique cool silky texture and can be flavored in a million ways.  It makes a very elegant presentation with hardly any effort!

    This light Lemon Panna Cotta is the perfect early spring dessert, it's no-bake, super simple, and you can make it dairy free with coconut milk!

No bake desserts are so welcome when it gets really warm.  I’ve made lots of fabulous no bake treats on the blog, and two of my favorites are my NO BAKE RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE SQUARES, and my LEMON CRUNCH BARS ~ the texture is amazingly light and airy!

Lemon Panna Cotta

Yield: serves 4-6


  • the zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope powdered gelatin
  • 1/4 tsp lemon extract


  1. Wash the lemons well. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rinds from the lemons. You only want the yellow part, not the bitter white.
  2. Pour the cream and the milk into a saucepan and stir in the sugar until it is dissolved. Add the lemon rinds to it and heat it just until it almost comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Strain the cream mixture and put back in the pan. Stir in the juice from both lemons, you'll notice that the cream will thicken.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of cold water in a small cup and sprinkle on the gelatin. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften and then stir.
  5. Meanwhile, reheat the cream mixture to just below a simmer. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the gelatin, stirring until it is completely dissolved. Stir in the extract.
  6. Pour the cream mixture into small jars, bowls, or cups. Refrigerate until completely firm. Depending on the size of your cups, this may take 2-3 hours. You can do this ahead of time, and let it sit there.
  7. When you are ready to serve, garnish with berries, fruit cut outs, and a few edible blossoms.
  8. Serve cold.


  • Panna Cotta is such a versatile dessert, there are literally thousands of ways to make it.  I love this Clementine Panna Cotta, with it’s luscious chocolate sauce!  And this Key Lime Panna Cotta sounds so refreshing!


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No Bake Lemon Panna Cotta is a light and refreshing gluten free dessert that can also be made dairy free using coconut milk! | gelatin | Citrus | Summer dessert | Custard |




  • Reply
    Sharmila Sutaria
    July 27, 2017 at 5:23 am

    Lovely lemon flavour and great texture.
    Just the right amount of ‘jiggle’
    great recipe
    thank you

    • Reply
      July 27, 2017 at 6:46 am

      Thanks Sharmila, panna cotta has such a fun texture, I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Reply
    October 9, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    What would the measurement for agar agar

  • Reply
    Julia @ Sprinkled With Jules
    April 10, 2015 at 11:25 am

    This is absolutely beautiful! I tried panna cotta for the first time when I was in Rome and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever tased!!! I love the presentation of these.

    • Reply
      April 10, 2015 at 11:36 am

      Thanks Julia, I loved making these, I am definitely going to do another flavor this spring!

  • Reply
    20 Tiny Fruit Desserts to Eat This Summer
    June 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    […] Get the recipe from The View From Great Island. […]

  • Reply
    May 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I Had never heard of Panna Cotta prior to coming across your recipe (on foodgawker?). I am a fan of creamy, smooth flan and crime brûlée..but not cheesecake. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I bookmarked your recipe (was already a fan of your blog) made the Panna Cotta last night and took it (in half size mason jars just like yours) to work today to share with my co-workers. I served the Panna Cotta topped with fresh blueberries, fresh raspberries, and a few baby mint leaves from my garden… WOW WOW WOW luscious, elegant, and yet so surprisingly easy to make. It was a HUGE hit with my co-workers/friends. They all wanted the recipe!! (Compliments to you!), The bright lemon paired perfectly with the sweet berries. Lemon Panna Cotta is now on my short list of recipes to make when I am invited to dinner. Thank You!

    • Reply
      May 26, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      I’m really glad to hear this, Mary, thanks. I loved making it, and you’re right, it’s surprisingly easy. I really liked how strong the lemon flavor was. I’m so glad it was a hit!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Fabulous, Elegant and SO easy. Made your recipe today and poured it into the mini mason jars, just like the ones shown in your photos. Served topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries! Divine. Sharing the remainder with coworkers tomorrow as a surprise. Sharing this reviled with several friends !

  • Reply
    May 25, 2014 at 6:14 am

    Thanks so much for mentioning this dessert in your comment, Sue! This would be a lovely addition to the menu when we host our gourmet group this summer.

  • Reply
    Karen (Back Road Journal)
    May 13, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    I think this is the prettiest presentation of panna cotta I have ever seen. I love all things lemon and I’m sure your panna cotta is delicious.

    • Reply
      May 13, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Karen I really appreciate your comment, glad to have you visit!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I don’t make panna cotta often enough, and I should. It’s one of my favorite desserts, and it’s a blank canvas to play with different flavors. As always, your presentation is so beautiful.

    • Reply
      May 11, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      It really is a blank canvas, that’s another reason I like it so much!

  • Reply
    Helen @ Scrummy Lane
    May 11, 2014 at 11:21 am

    I don’t really like cream by itself, but I think that panna cotta is absolutely delicious. It’s interesting to see a recipe. So beautifully simple, especially with those cute little papaya shapes on top!

  • Reply
    Jean | DelightfulRepast.com
    May 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

    This is so beautiful! This reminds me of the way my mother always decorated food. People hesitated to start eating because they didn’t want to mess it up. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. Just added TVFGI to my “Sites I Visit” page!

  • Reply
    May 10, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Such an elegant dessert…and thank you for the fondant cutter inspiration!!

  • Reply
    May 10, 2014 at 7:48 am

    the panna cotta sounds delicious and i love the way you decorated it. the fruit cutters are a great idea!

  • Reply
    Julia @Vikalinka
    May 10, 2014 at 3:50 am

    What a gorgeous spring dessert, Sue!! I love panna cotta.

  • Reply
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef
    May 9, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    I’m sitting here with my mouth hanging open. What a beautiful dessert!

  • Reply
    Kumar's Kitchen
    May 9, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Hi Sue, your recipes are such an inspiration….you make all of them beautifully customized…and we love it…those papaya flowers look so adorable on that soft,silky panna cotta,thanks for sharing :-)

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Oh Sue this is SO beautiful! I’ve never made panna cotta – it’s time I did!

  • Reply
    Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    May 9, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Such a pretty panna cotta, love the lemon flavor!

  • Reply
    Chris @ The Café Sucré Farine
    May 9, 2014 at 10:19 am

    You have totally outdone your talented self Sue! This is one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen!

    • Reply
      May 9, 2014 at 10:23 am

      That means a lot coming from you, Chris, thanks!

    • Reply
      May 9, 2014 at 11:03 am

      I agree!

      • Reply
        May 9, 2014 at 11:05 am

        Chris is absolutely right : )

  • Reply
    Tricia @ Saving room for dessert
    May 9, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Do you know what a talented food stylist you are? This is one of the most beautiful desserts I’ve ever seen. I adore lemon and bet it is very tasty. You are an artist Sue!

    • Reply
      May 9, 2014 at 10:25 am

      You are so sweet — but you know, I think the fruit is just naturally photogenic :)

  • Reply
    Matt Robinson
    May 9, 2014 at 8:42 am

    What an incredible creation, and your presentation is always beautiful. This sounds like the perfect summer drink, especially with the lemons. Have a fantastic weekend!

  • Reply
    May 9, 2014 at 8:34 am

    I have yet to make a PC..I think your embellishments have nudged me big time:)

    • Reply
      May 9, 2014 at 8:48 am

      You’ll love it, Monique, and you’ll wonder why it took you so long. I think I avoided it for a while because I didn’t really get what it was. But I think it’s so much better than pudding, or pot de creme, or mousse, or any of those other creamy desserts, plus it’s no-bake!

  • Reply
    Jane and Lance Hattatt
    May 9, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Hello Sue:

    One of our all time favourite puddings and yours really does sound and look to be delicious.

    • Reply
      May 9, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Thanks Jane and Lance!

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