This Chai Panna Cotta with Pistachio Toffee is an easy Italian dessert with an exotic twist. It’s a silky smooth Italian panna cotta with the comforting flavour of chai spices that only takes 20 minutes to make

A creamy panna cotta dessert on a grey plate, topped with pistachio toffee and rose petals

One of my favourite desserts, panna cotta is also elegant and incredibly easy to make. It’s an absolute bonus that it can be created in so many different flavours like this Chai Panna Cotta. Warming, soothing and uplifting all at once this is one of my favourite panna cotta flavours.

Using tea from simple chai tea bags, those comforting chai spices and tea flavour get infused into this panna cotta. Once it sets, it’s topped off with an easy Pistachio toffee and beautiful rose petals, the perfect accompaniment to such an exotic and elegant dessert.

6 dessert plates on a table with panna cotta on each - top down view

An easy dinner party dessert

For the longest time I thought panna cotta must be difficult to make – I mean it’s so elegant it surely can’t be easy, can it?. Yes it can and it is. I’m talking 5-10 minutes effort and you can make it way in advance kind of easy.  

This fancy dessert has to be the simplest dessert of all time and it’s a crowd pleaser. Since it can be made ahead, it’s also perfect for  a dinner party. Though, don’t save it just for that – spoil yourself with a classy dessert just for the fun of it.

Ingredients in panna cotta

Panna cotta uses just a handful of simple ingredients

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Sugar
  • Gelatine
  • Flavour of your choice.

Milk and cream form the base of this no bake Italian dessert, sugar for sweetness and gelatine is the setting agent. Then you just add your flavouring. A classic panna cotta uses vanilla as the flavouring but panna cotta is extremely versatile so it can be made using loads of different flavours.

You can try egg nog panna cotta at Christmas time or coffee panna cotta for a classy end to dinner. 

This version uses chai.

A panna cotta on a grey plate topped with toffee pieces and rose petals with a spoonful already taken

Closeup of a glass filled with coffee panna cotta, Sits on a blue napkin with more surrounding it

 

What is chai?

Chai is a blend of aromatic and comforting spices like cardamom, ginger and cloves with black tea. It’s an Indian tea and is delicious with a little milk and sugar or honey to sweeten it. 

Being a drink that’s enjoyed creamy and sweet, it’s an absolute dream flavour for dessert and in particular panna cotta.

How to turn it into panna cotta

To get the flavour into the dessert, chai tea bags are steeped in hot milk for 15 minutes. Once infused, you remove the spices and add the gelatine, cream, sugar and vanilla and in minutes, it’s done. Into the fridge for 4 hours, then serve to your about-to-be-seriously-impressed guests. And you didn’t even need to break a sweat.

The pistachio toffee

These little desserts are topped with a really easy pistachio toffee and it’s as easy as caramelising some sugar, tipping it over some crushed pistachios and letting it firm up.

How to serve panna cotta

There are so many ways to serve panna cotta. 

a collage of images showing different ways to serve panna cotta

Getting panna cotta out of moulds

Getting panna cotta out of moulds is actually very simple. For a start, you can use almost anything as a mould. For this Chai Panna Cotta, I used regular little white ramekins but dariole moulds work great too. Any small dish should work fine.

  1. Make sure the bowls are very lightly greased before you even pour the mixture into them.
  2. Sit them in a bowl of hot water for 10-30 seconds (depending on how hot the water is). 
  3. Dab a little water onto the dessert plate – this will help you adjust their position after they’ve been turned out.
  4. Use your finger to very gently press against one edge of the panna cotta to allow some air down the side of the panna cotta.
  5. Place the upturned dish over the top, then flip them both over.
  6. Give the dish a little wiggle and you should hear a satisfying ‘ploop’ as the panna cotta drops down onto the plate.

If it’s not coming out, just put the dish back into the hot water for a few more seconds.

Can panna cotta be frozen

It’s best not to freeze panna cotta as it will affect the texture but it can be made 2-3 days ahead of time and store in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap. Don’t turn them out until you’re near to serving time.

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Closeup of a panna cotta on a grey plate, topped with toffee pieces and rose petals

So there you have it a really simple dessert that looks classy and tastes just as amazing. Chai Panna Cotta and Pistachio Toffee take mere minutes to make and can be made ahead as well. A great one for the family or for a crowd. 

A creamy panna cotta dessert on a grey plate, topped with pistachio toffee and rose petals

Chai Panna Cotta with Pistachio Toffee

3.6 from 15 votes
This Chai Panna Cotta with Pistachio Toffee is an easy Italian dessert with an exotic twist. It's a silky smooth Italian panna cotta recipe with the comforting flavour of chai spices that only takes 20 minutes to make. 

Ingredients

For the Panna Cotta

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, in 2 parts - see recipe
  • 6 chai tea bags, good quality
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 teaspoons powdered gelatine (unflavoured)
  • 1/3 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups thickened (heavy) cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Pistachio Brittle

  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions
 

For the Panna Cotta

  • If you want to turn the Panna Cotta out onto a plate when set, first start by spraying your dariole moulds or ramekins with oil spray. Wipe them with paper towel so there is only a light covering.
  • Pour 1 cup of cold milk into a saucepan and add the teabags, cinnamon stick, cloves, ginger and allspice. Sit over low heat swirling the pan every so often, until the milk is steaming and bubbles start appearing around the edge. Turn off the heat.
  • Cover saucepan and allow the flavours to infuse for 15 minutes. Then strain the mixture, making sure to squeeze the teabags well. Set aside.
  • Add the final 3/4 cup of cold milk to the empty saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatine over the top - don't stir it in yet. Allow the gelatine to soften for 5 minutes (it should look a bit wrinkly by the end).
  • Turn the heat on low under the saucepan, add back the chai infused milk and stir for a minute or two until the gelatine has dissolved.
  • Add the sugar and stir again until dissolved. This should only take another minute or two. Make sure not to let the milk boil, you just want to heat it gently until everything is dissolved and no lumps remain.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat. Pour in the cream, vanilla and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Strain the mixture again to make sure you aren’t left with any lumps of undissolved gelatine.
  • Pour evenly between your dishes or moulds. Place immediately in the fridge and allow to set for at least 4 hours (or they can be made a day ahead). See notes to unmould.

For the pistachio toffee

  • Line a small baking tray with baking paper. Place the pistachios in the middle in one layer.
  • In small saucepan, combine the water and sugar and stir over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Once it comes to a bubble, stop stirring. Use wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals that form around the sides. Swirl the pan from time to time so that it cooks evenly, until the caramel turns amber.
  • Pour it over the pistachios on the tray. Once set, break it into small pieces. Store in a sealed container at room temperature until required. Sprinkle on top of the Panna Cotta just before serving.

Notes

Recommended equipment: heavy based saucepan, ramekins, dariole moulds, coffee glasses
  1. To unmould, work with just 2-3 at a time, so they don't all melt by the time you get to the last one.
    • fill a dish with hot (not boiling) water just an inch or so, then sit the moulds into the water for 20-30 seconds.
    • Dab a little water onto your serving plate (this will make it easier to adjust the position of your panna cotta after plating it)
    • Place your serving plate on top of the Panna Cotta mould and flip it over. Give the Panna Cotta a gentle shake. They may take a little bit of encouragement but should slide out perfectly. 
    • You can return them to the fridge until ready to serve. Don't unmould them too early or they can end up looking dried out after being in the fridge but a couple of hours is fine.
  2. The Pistachio Toffee may make more than you require, so you can put the rest on the table and let people pick at it or keep it stored in an airtight container, at room temperature for a few days.
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A chai panna cotta on a grey plate topped with toffee pieces and rose petals

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