Sunday 5 September 2010

How to make gelatine free panna cotta

A short while ago, I wrote about agar agar as an alternative to gelatine and I promised you I would road test the ingredient in the kitchen. True to my word, I did. Panna cotta is a beautiful dessert that can be found on menus everywhere, but I wanted to see if it could be made using agar agar in place of gelatine.

The real test was to replicate the texture of panna cotta, famously decribed by Nigella Lawson when she said that it should have "the quiver of a 17th century courtesan's inner thigh". What a way to describe it! But really... how does she come up with these analogies?!

At any rate, I set about my task. It was a bit frustrating to begin with.. I found that agar agara is a far stronger setting agent than gelatine, so getting the amount right required lots of trial and error. However, 3 attempts later, I bring you successful gelatine-free panna cotta. It has the wonderful wobbliness and silkiness you'd expect of panna cotta, and is beautifully speckled with vanilla seeds.

I served this with strawberries in a simple balsamic syrup made by macerating the berries in balsamic vinegar and caster sugar to taste for about an hour (whilst the panna cotta was setting). Really though, there are so many ways to serve panna cotta. You could serve it with fresh fruit - whatever is in season and whatever takes your fancy :)

Vanilla Panna Cotta (egg, gluten and gelatine free)
an original Diary of a Ladybird recipe
(Serves 4)

300 ml pure (pouring) cream
1 vanilla bean
75g caster sugar
exact 1/2 tsp agar agar powder
sunflower (or other flavour-neutral) oil, to brush

1. In a small saucepan combine the cream and agar agar powder and set aside for 15 minutes.
2. Add the sugar and split, scraped vanilla bean along with its seeds. Place over medium heat and gently bring to a boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly to stop the agar agar sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
3. Remove from the heat and set aside. Meanwhile, lightly brush 1/2 cup capacity moulds with a little oil.
4. Remove and discard the vanilla bean pod, and straining the mixture through a sieve before pouring into the greased moulds. Allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating for 1-2 hours minimum.
5. When read to serve, simply tip out onto the plate and add your chosen accompaniment.

So.. the verdict?
I was very happy with agar agar's results in this dish. It is an excellent gelatine substitute and is flavourless. Not only is it cheaper than gelatine, but it also sets in about an hour (not 4-5 like gelatine)! It requires a bit of trial and error to get the amount just right in a recipe, but when you do the texture and flavour is perfectly on par.

To read more about agar agar, check out my recent agar agar post here.

Ladybird x


  1. First photo = cook book cover!

  2. wow. i'm keeping this recipe in my notes :-)

  3. Third time lucky! It looks great, Ive never actually tried panna cotta. Reading this makes me feel like making sweets. I finally tracked down a candy themometer so shall soon be making vegan marshmallows :)


  4. Just gorgeous, with those delicious vanilla seeds running through. Great to see such lovely results without gelatine too.

  5. ooh i do love a good thigh... i mean pannacotta! heh thanks for persevering with the recipe i cant wait to try this!

  6. This looks delicious! Perfect consistency :-)

  7. looking great!! _The texture looks perfecto!

  8. I love it! I never tried panna cotta and i think i'm gonaa give it a try now! and those photos, they look so amazing :)

  9. This looks delectable!! I can never get the texture right... will definately give this one a try!!

  10. It's great to read about a pannacotta without using gelatine. Agar-agar powder is good replacement.

  11. Thank you for your comment love, everyone! Hope you all have a great week x

  12. Your pictures are beautiful!
    And great minds think alike! I made panna cotta with agar agar (and plums/prunes topping) on Saturday... I will try your quantities, coz mine was again a little to strongly set!!

  13. i just discovered your blog and I'm in LOVE =)

  14. Thanks, Sweet Artichoke. Yes you're right! Great minds do think alike :D Hope your panna cotta turns out well.

    Thanks, Shana. Your site is very inspiring!

  15. Well done getting the right consistency without gelatine. It's so simple but so hard to get right! :D

  16. We are lucky we have someone testing the exact amounts of agar agar to use for us. So this recipe becomes so much simpler!


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