Buttermilk Panna Cotta

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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Recipe for Buttermilk Panna Cotta

adapted from Francis Lam
Serves 6


  • * ½ cup raw or organic milk
  • * 2 teaspoons ¼ ounce envelope powdered, unflavored gelatin
  • * 1 cup raw or organic heavy cream
  • * ½ cup organic sugar
  • * ¼ tsp. fine sea salt
  • * 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
  • * 2 cups all natural buttermilk
  • * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 1. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup milk; whisk with a fork, then let stand to soften, about 5 minutes.
  • 2. In a small pot on the stove, heat cream, sugar, salt and lemon juice over low heat. Whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add the gelatin-milk mixture, and continue to heat, whisking constantly. Take it off the heat just before it comes to a simmer.
  • 3. Transfer to a different bowl and allow to cool. Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature.
  • 4. Carefully pour into jelly jars (I filled three 8 oz. jars about half-way) or into six 4 oz. glasses or ramekins and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Chill for several hours (or overnight) in the refrigerator until set.
  • 5. Serve in the jelly jars or ramekins (or unmold by dipping ramekins briefly into hot water and running tip of a knife around edges, then invert onto plates). Serve topped with macerated/preserved fruit.

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21 thoughts on “Buttermilk Panna Cotta”

  1. Pingback: Rise and Shine: Yogurt, Plum and Granola Parfait | TasteFood
  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM,…Your buttermilk panna cotta looks just stunning!

    Yummie & lovely food!

    Many greets from a foodie from Brussels, Belgium!

  6. 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 :)

  7. 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!

  8. 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. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. 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!