Lemon panna cotta is a light tangy pudding, a dairy-free twist on the classic treat to be enjoyed year round. This 4-ingredient version is made creamy with agar agar, and served in a shot glass with a bright mango compote on top.
This lemon panna cotta is tangy, sweet and creamy. The recipe is quick and easy, and served in individual portions. It's a vegan version of the elegant Italian dessert named panna cotta which means 'cooked cream.'
But my dairy-free recipe doesn't use cream, instead milk and agar to create the classic solid form of a panna cotta, which gels so that if turned upside down, the shape holds its form. Like my chocolate mousse cakes, and my chocolate cardamom cake, this dessert is elegant enough to serve at any dinner party. And this panna cotta has a mango top, but my homemade lemon curd work as well.
You'll Love This Panna Cotta
Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert made from heavy cream and gelatin. To keep mine vegan, I swapped the typical animal-based gelatin, for seaweed-based agar agar. Agar agar is a plant-based gelatin derived from seaweed so it's perfect for a recipe that requires gelatin to create structure. This easy swap also instantly improves the nutrition of this recipe.
Nutrition is high. This recipe produces a more nutritious panna cotta than the traditional cream-based version because agar agar brings the nutrition of seaweed, and is a good source of calcium and iron, and is very high in fiber.
Recipe is dairy-free. In this recipe I also used almond milk instead of heavy cream. This keeps allows me to keep the recipe dairy-free, and lighter in texture. Coconut cream could be used as the common dairy-free replacement for heavy cream but I didn't want a coconut-flavored panna cotta.
Easy to flavor with infusion. Panna cotta is famous for being able to take on any flavor that is added to the pot. I added lemon rind peels here, but other common flavors to add include other citrus fruit peels, chocolate, or even earl grey tea.
For lemon panna cotta:
dairy free milk
agar agar powder
lemon rind peels
For the mango puree:
agar agar powder
How to Make Lemon Panna Cotta
Simmer on stove the milk, maple syrup, lemon peels, and agar powder. Do not boil. Stir and keep on simmer until solution seems completely combined. It took me about 2 minutes.
Remove lemon peels. Fill 3 small shot or yogurt glasses. Let jars cool to room temperature and then refrigerate 1-2 hours or until panna cotta sets (it doesn't slosh when you move jars). It might take longer to set, there are a lot of influencing factors. If you want to be sure it will set in time, make it the day before and let it set overnight.
Make Mango Puree. Heat in pan the chopped mango, maple syrup, and water. Mash mango with a fork as it gets mushy. Simmer sauce a few minutes until it appears to thicken. It took me about 2 ½ minutes. Let sauce cool to room temperature. Stir in lemon juice.
Assemble & Serve Panna Cotta. Spoon puree in even amounts on top of each chilled panna cotta. Decorate with sliced lemon and lemon zest. The jars keep for about three days in the refrigerator.
Use agar agar instead of gelatin to make this suitable for vegan, vegetarian and dairy-free diets. Plus agar agar has a wonderful neutral taste and odor so that you'll notice the flavor you infused, not the agar agar.
Using almond milk instead of heavy cream is advisable to keep the recipe dairy-free, and also reduced the calorie, fat and cholesterol levels of the traditional recipe.
Use a whisk when stirring the mixture in the pot, not a spoon, to avoid clumps.
You can swap the almond milk for another, but choose cashew milk or hemp milk, not a low fat milk such as oat milk.
Instead of lemon rinds, add the following swaps to change the flavor.
Vanilla. Add 1 teaspoon quality vanilla paste.
Chocolate. Stir in 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder. Dutch process is sweeter. Instead of a mango top, add a layer of chocolate ganache.
Coffee. Stir in 1 teaspoon granulated instant coffee.
Fruit flavor. Chop a tablespoon of a soft fruit, and stir in a teaspoon, and muddle with the back of a spoon until you have a pulp. Add a teaspoon of that pulp to the pot instead of lemon rinds.
Serve this panna cotta in shot glasses, ramekins, or molds, and top with fruit, herbs, or nuts.
Pair or accompany this lemon panna cotta with things such as shortbread cookies, fresh berries, or sparkling wine.
Why Did My Panna Cotta Separate?
Panna cotta will curdle or separate if the mixture is boiled. Take care to keep the simmer low, and lift the pot while stirring if it threatens to boil. Boiling breaks down the structure of agar agar, destroying it.
Can You Leave Panna Cotta Overnight?
Panna cotta lasts overnight if refrigerated and in fact tastes better well chilled. It also lasts a long time refrigerated if tightly sealed, lasting at least a week.
More Healthy Lemon Recipes
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Lemon Panna Cotta
makes 1 cup panna cotta
- 1 cup dairy free milk
- 1 ½ teaspoon agar agar powder
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- lemon rind peels
Make Panna Cotta
- Simmer on stove the milk, maple syrup, lemon peels, and agar powder. Do not boil. Stir and keep on simmer until solution seems completely combined. It took me about 2 minutes.1 cup dairy free milk, 1 ½ teaspoon agar agar powder, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, lemon rind peels
- Remove lemon peels. Fill 3 small shot or yogurt glasses. Let jars cool to room temperature and then refrigerate 1-2 hours or until panna cotta sets (it doesn't slosh when you move jars). It might take longer to set, there are a lot of influencing factors. If you want to be sure it will set in time, make it the day before and let it set overnight.½ cup chopped mango, 2 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon agar agar powder, ¼ cup water
Make Mango Puree
- Heat in pan the chopped mango, maple syrup, and water. Mash mango with a fork as it gets mushy.
- Simmer sauce a few minutes until it appears to thicken. It took me about 2 ½ minutes. Let sauce cool to room temperature. Stir in lemon juice.
Assemble & Serve Panna Cotta
- Spoon puree in even amounts on top of each chilled panna cotta. Decorate with sliced lemon.
- Both recipes should be chilled before serving.
- Panna cotta can last a week in the refrigerator. Wrap the tops of the jars in plastic wrap. Panna cotta does not freeze.