I still remember when I first made panna cotta and realised how incredibly simple it was to make. Here I was thinking it was this decadent specialty dessert that only restaurants could serve up and I couldn’t be further from the truth.

In actual fact, panna cotta is the work of literally minutes. It’s not only very, very easy to make but it also tastes luxurious and rich yet somehow light all at once and in this post I’ll give you all the best tips and tricks. It will likely take you longer to read the post than it would to make panna cotta.

For all of these reasons, it is absolutely the best dessert for entertaining.

10 minutes people, is all you need 🙂 No, really. 10 minutes.

You’ll love the tropical twist in this passionfruit panna cotta too.

Birdseye view of 4 panna cotta desserts on a white boards, with gold spoons, a slice of orange in the front of the board

What is Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta is a traditional Italian dessert made from cream, milk and sugar, plus a setting agent (normally gelatine). It has a silky smooth jelly-like consistency once set and these days can be made in a variety of flavours.

From strawberry to honey, chai to mango there is no end to the variety you can add to this creamy dessert.

Panna cotta ingredients

This classic panna cotta recipe uses a handful of everyday ingredients.

  • Whole milk
  • Cream
  • Sugar
  • Gelatine powder
  • Vanilla bean paste

This is quite simply the best panna cotta recipe – it’s not only the most simple method but also is so versatile. I’ve used this base recipe over and over and I truly will never stray from it because it turns out perfect every time.

Every mouthful of this Vanilla Panna Cotta is filled with that vanilla flavour coming straight from those gorgeous little black vanilla bean specks.

A panna cotta dessert, with orange syrup on a small plate, surrounded by 3 more.

How to make Panna Cotta

In just 6 easy steps and less than 10 minutes you can have your dessert done.

  1. Bloom the gelatine in cold milk
  2. Heat the milk to lukewarm to dissolve the gelatine
  3. Dissolve the sugar in the milk
  4. Add flavouring
  5. Pour into cold cream
  6. Pour into serving dishes and set in the fridge.

I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d been missing out on before I made it myself. I’d never attempted it before Sugar Salt Magic as I thought it was difficult but these days I like a new challenge from time to time. The only thing Panna Cotta challenged was my belief of how hard they were to make.

A saucepan showing gelatine blooming in milk

First and most important (do not skip this step), sprinkle your gelatine over the cold milk in a saucepan and let it sit. After about 5 minutes it will look all wrinkly like photo 1. This is called ‘blooming’ the gelatine and all that really means is it is softening the gelatine to make it dissolve easier.

Now turn the heat on very low and stir it until the gelatine dissolves. Make sure you DON’T bring the milk to a simmer. It should only ever get to lukewarm which is enough to dissolve the gelatine and sugar.

Once the gelatine has dissolved, add the sugar and do the same. Add the vanilla.

Pouring a gelatine milk mixture into cold cream

Pour the mixture (through a strainer if you’re worried there may be lumps) into the cold cream and stir well (photo 2).

Panna Cotta moulds

Panna Cotta can be served innumerable ways. I’ve served it in pretty wine glasses, preserve jars, drinking glasses, in tart form, in a cheesecake and then there is this way – in panna cotta moulds. I use dariole moulds, so these pretty little desserts can be unmoulded onto a serving plate.

Dariole moulds are small round tin cups with straight sides and are made specifically to give a shape to something that you later want to unmould. I’ve even made cakes in dariole moulds.

2 photos: Pouring panna cotta mixture into dariole moulds

Once the mixture is all combined just pour it evenly into pre-greased dariole moulds (photos 3 & 4)

How to get panna cotta out of the mould

  1. It’s best to give your moulds a light rub of oil before pouring your panna cotta mixture in.
  2. Once set, just dip the base of the mould in some tap warm water for 10 seconds.
  3. Use your finger to very carefully pull one side of the panna cotta away from the side of the mould, just enough to let some air in to release it. You’ll also be able to see if the panna cotta is moving freely in the mould this way.
  4. Dab your serving plate with a little water (this will allow you to move the panna cotta slightly once unmoulded if it’s not where you want it)
  5. Place the plate upside down over the panna cotta mould and flip them over.
  6. Give the panna cotta mould a little wiggle and it should slide out.
  7. If it doesn’t work the first time, give it a few more seconds in the warm water and try again.

Panna cotta desserts on small plates, on a board & 2 gold spoons

Can panna cotta be made the day before

Yes, they can. Once made, the panna cotta will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.

If you weren’t already convinced what a wonderfully easy and delicious dessert this is, it just got even better because you can make them ahead of time.

How to serve panna cotta

I serve this Vanilla Panna Cotta with an easy Orange Syrup but, being a vanilla base, you could serve it with so many different flavours. Try fresh fruit, rosewater, crushed nuts, praline, meringues, crumbled cookies, chocolate – the list is endless.

Let’s recap why you should try this Vanilla Panna Cotta with Orange Syrup

  • 10 minutes to make
  • It looks pretty
  • It’s creamy, rich and luxurious
  • It can be made ahead
  • Endless flavour combinations
  • This base recipe is extremely versatile

Click here to Pin this recipe for later!

A panna cotta dessert on a white plate with the front sliced away to reveal a creamy texture speckled with vanilla bean

Did I mention it’s easy? Ok I’ll stop but seriously this is such a beautiful dessert and something your guests will truly love.

There is a little gelatine in the orange syrup and you could likely get away without it but I just love the extra silkiness it adds. Any leftover syrup will set like a jelly (which is also delicious) in the fridge but as soon as you warm it slightly it will melt again.

More panna cotta recipes

A panna cotta dessert, with orange syrup on a small plate, surrounded by 3 more.
5 from 21 ratings
Vanilla Panna Cotta is a rich and creamy, yet light dessert, perfect for entertaining. This classic panna cotta recipe is easy and delicious and it can be made in only 10 minutes! Wow your guests with this stunning sweet.


For the Panna Cotta

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk (375ml)
  • 3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
  • cup caster sugar (66g / 2.3oz)
  • 1 ½ cups cream (375ml)
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • pinch of salt

For the Orange Syrup

  • Zest of half a large orange
  • ¾ cup orange juice (180ml)
  • ¼ cup water (60ml)
  • ¼ cup caster sugar (50g / 1.8oz)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatine

For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided


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 (I find dariole moulds easier to use). Wipe them with paper towel so there is only a light covering.
  • Pour the cold milk into a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatine over the top. Allow it to "bloom" for 5 minutes (it should look a bit wrinkly by the end). Turn the heat on low under the saucepan 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. Don't let the milk get too hot or to come to a simmer. It should only be just warm.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat. Pour in the cream, vanilla and salt and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour into 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).
  • To unmould, fill a dish with warm water just an inch or so, then sit the moulds into the warm water for 10-20 seconds. Place your serving dish 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. These will melt if left for too long so make sure you don't turn them out until ready to serve.

For the Orange Syrup

  • Place the zest, juice, water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat off and stir in the gelatine until dissolved.
  • Leave it to cool down and it should become nice and thick and syrupy. Drizzle over the top of the Panna Cotta


  1. Before turning the panna cotta out, dab a little water onto the serving plate. This will allow you to move it around a little once turned onto the plate, in the case it doesn't end up right where you want it.
  2. You don't need to use dariole moulds. You can serve panna cotta in any kind of glass or serving dish.



Have you tried this recipe?Don't forget to leave a rating and comment below and let me know how it was! I love hearing from you. Nutrition information is approximate and derived from an online calculator. The brands you use may cause variations.

Closeup of a single panna cotta dessert in syrup on a white plate