buttermilk panna cotta

Last weekend, to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday, we had dinner at American Bounty. Every aspect of the meal was terrific, but it was the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Winter Fruits that stayed with me.

I am just a little obsessed with Panna Cotta, you see. I am of the opinion that it is truly a special food- rich and velvety yet ethereal- and there’s just nothing else like it.

Last year, I made several attempts to create a Panna Cotta without dairy (I used coconut milk) and without gelatin (I used agar agar, a seaweed). It sucked. Let’s just say it was not exactly blog-worthy and leave it at that.

Since I’ve not yet discovered how to make a great vegan Panna Cotta, I decided to give a lighter version of the classic Italian dessert a go. It is generally made with 100% heavy cream; I got the idea to replace some of the cream with buttermilk from a twitter conversation with my friend Ken. I like this buttermilk Panna Cotta because it’s still creamy, but also has a nice tang from the buttermilk- it also pairs really well with a sweet fruit topping.

Please know that I don’t like the idea of how gelatin is made and I am generally opposed to using it in my recipes. So I use it very seldom. As stated above, I’ve tried to make Panna Cotta without it and it didn’t work. Agar agar has worked for others, though: this gorgeous Panna Cotta from Food and Style is made without gelatin, so I will definitely be giving it another try.

One of the best things about Panna Cotta is that it’s so easy to make. I poured mine into these pretty 2 cup glass jelly jars but you could also let yours set in ramekins and unmold them for a more traditional presentation. This recipe theoretically makes 6 servings, but I made my servings bigger, so only used three jars. When set, I topped the Panna Cotta with some of these Nectarines in Spiced Rum Syrup that I preserved last summer. Wow.

Ps I think his would make a lovely dessert for Valentine’s Day. Maybe with some sliced strawberries macerated in a little lemon juice and organic sugar? Or with a few dollops of homemade strawberry jam? Yum. You could also serve it like they do at American Bounty, with delicate slices of beautiful blood oranges.

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buttermilk panna cotta

More Fabulous Panna Cotta Recipes:
Perfect Panna Cotta from David Lebovitz
Panna Cotta from Bell’ Alimento
Strawberry Panna Cotta from Chocolate and Zucchini


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  1. 1

    Jill Colonna — February 11, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

    Oh my. I’m totally with you. I am one of Panna Cotta’s biggest fans. Dressed up, dressed down it’s always fabulous. Yours sounds so interesting with buttermilk. Must give it a try!

  2. 2

    Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen — February 11, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

    You panna cotta is so pretty, I love that you put it in a jar. I’ve been meaning to try this, hopefully soon!

  3. 3

    Michelle — February 11, 2011 @ 1:08 pm

    Such gorgeous photos but you’re photos are always impressive!
    Wish I could find more of those tall jelly jars!

  4. 4

    Maria — February 11, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    I want to dive right in!

  5. 5

    Ethan — February 11, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

    I’ve only had Panna cotta once and I was unimpressed, but I think it was more the restaurant than the dish itself because yours looks great and I want to dive in right after Maria!

  6. 6

    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — February 11, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

    Love that gorgeous jar! I’ve been considering the idea of using agar agar as a replacement for gelatin since I don’t like the idea of using gelatin too much either, it’s too bad that it doesn’t seem to be a good replacement.

  7. 7

    Megan — February 12, 2011 @ 8:40 am

    I like panna cotta but never thought to a buttermilk one. Sounds interesting but delicious!

  8. 8

    deeba — February 12, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    I ♥ panna cotta, and too find that gelatin seems to work best here. I have to make some soon as am also very panna cotta obsessed, and buttermilk obsessed as well. I’ve never noticed lemon being used in the cream before, and am super intrigued. Bookmarking it for an indulgent day! Gorgeous post Winnie!!

  9. 9

    Lynda - TasteFood — February 12, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

    Great photos, Winnie. I love the use of buttermilk in this. And I am in the same camp with you regarding gelatin – but I will give it a try!

  10. 10

    Cookin' Canuck — February 12, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

    What a gorgeous dessert! I love that spoon in the photos.

  11. 11

    Nutmeg Nanny — February 12, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

    This looks great! I had the tart that night but my boyfriend had the panna cotta….amazing! I bet yours is even better :)

  12. 12

    Joyti — February 13, 2011 @ 12:53 am

    Yum….I’ve had buttermilk panna cotta only once, and it had strawberries on top. Divine indeed.
    Yours looks so pretty too.

  13. 13

    marla — February 13, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    How cool that you lightened up a traditional panna cotta with the buttermilk. This is something I must try. Such an elegant yet simple dessert. Happy b’day to your hubs :)

  14. 14

    Sophie — February 13, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMM,…Your buttermilk panna cotta looks just stunning!

    Yummie & lovely food!

    Many greets from a foodie from Brussels, Belgium!

  15. 15

    SaraOneTribeGourmet — February 13, 2011 @ 9:00 am

    Winnie, I’m loving this buttermilk panna cotta! Yum!

  16. 16

    Oui, Chef — February 13, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    Love your top down photo and am with you in creating larger portions by using a canning jar! Looks delicious with your fruit compote. – S

  17. 17

    Jennifer — February 13, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

    Simply delicious! I also love panna cotta – I’ve got to try your recipe!

  18. 18

    Monet — February 13, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

    Goodness…you have such skill with the camera. I loved that first photograph. I wanted to print it off and hang it in my kitchen! I have never tried Panna Cotta before (shocking, I know) but now I need to make this recipe…you simply tempted me too much! I hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow. Take time to love yourself and those that are dearest to your heart!

  19. 19

    Jaden — February 16, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

    You’re the queen of panna cotta! Lovely.

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    Deanna — February 23, 2011 @ 10:23 am

    I have no idea if this would work, but have you tried using pectin instead of gelatin? Its made from apples so the moral component is gone. I guess if you try it and it doesn’t set you could churn it into ice cream.

    Please, please tell me that Apple Pie bakery is still serving the Monkey Danish it was the pastry I ate the most when I (briefly) attended the CIA.

  21. 21

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