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3-Ingredient Coconut Panna Cotta {vegan & paleo}

I love custard, and panna cotta–a creamy, luxurious, Italian stovetop custard (no baking! no eggs!)–is one of my all-time favorites. It’s also one of the BEST make-ahead desserts when you have freiends or family over for a meal. It can be made a full day ahead, looks elegant, and everyone (children & adults) love it.

However, if I have friends over who are vegan, vegetarian, or Paleo, I am out of luck, since traditional panna cotta relies on gelatin (vegan & vegetarian friends, out) and dairy (Paleo friends are out, and a second strike for vegan friends).

So how about a solution that will please everyone? Yes, please! Moreover, the recipe is incredibly easy, with just 3 ingredients. Hurrah!


To replace the heavy cream, I turned to a reliable favorite: full fat, canned coconut milk. It delivers the traditional, unctuous texture that characterizes a great panna cotta. It has a divine flavor of its own, but it’s also simple to change it up, with extracts, citrus zest, a splash of booze, or spices.

To replace the gelatin, use agar agar instead. It is a flavorless gel, derived from cooked and pressed seaweed and sold as flakes or a powder.

It so happens that agar-agar has two bonuses that make it worth trying, regardless of vegetarian or carnivore status. First, whereas gelatin takes several hours to set, agar-agar takes about 1 hour. Procrastinators rejoice! Second, unlike gelatin, it does not require refrigeration to set.

Keep in mind that highly acidic ingredients, such as lemons, strawberries, oranges, and other citrus fruits, may require more agar-agar than the recipe calls for. Also, enzymes in fresh mangoes, papaya, fresh ginger and pineapple break down the gelling ability of the agar-agar so that it will not set.

I like to keep it simple and pile fruit or other toppings on top. Happy eats, everyone!

Yield: 3

3 Ingredient Panna Cotta {vegan& Paleo}

3 Ingredient Panna Cotta {vegan& Paleo}

Easy, amazing, 3-ingredient panna cotta (Italian custard) that can be eaten by one and all because it is naturally vegan, vegetarian and Paleo! The recipes serves two, but you can multiply the recipe to make as many servings as needed!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


1 13.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey, if not vegan)--or more, to taste 1 teaspoon agar powder OR 1 tablespoon agar agar flakes Optional: pinch of sea salt Optional: fresh berries, cut fruit, or any topping you prefer

  • 1 13.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey, if not vegan)--or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon agar powder OR 1 tablespoon agar agar flakes
  • Optional: pinch of sea salt


  1. In a medium saucepan combine the coconut milk, syrup, agar, and optional salt. Let stand 5 minutes. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, whisking occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes for powder or up to 8 minutes for flakes (simmer until flakes dissolve).
  2. Immediately pour into 3 small ramekins or decorative glasses. Transfer to refrigerator. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour until set (it can set up quickly, but allow 1 hour to thoroughly chill)
  3. Serve with toppings of choice.

Nutrition Information

Serving Size

1 ramekin

Amount Per Serving Calories 273Total Fat 23.5gSaturated Fat 20.1gCholesterol 0mgSodium 36mgCarbohydrates 15.2gFiber 0.1gSugar 10.6gProtein 1.8g

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Friday 14th of March 2014

thanks for this great recipe... i am doing a dinner party for some vegan guests and have been looking for tested panna cotta recipes to jump off from ! yours is great, although you should add in the recipe that the water is used to bloom the agar first. I also made testers of this recipe with maple syrup and with coconut palm sugar- although the coconut sugar is absolutely the most delicious, its just too dark for a panna cotta. The maple syrup's added moisture softened the agar bite just enough, and had a great coffee like note to the sweetness. Note- I did think a little more sweetner was necessary- i bumped this recipe up by a tablespoon or two. And I also heated up the sugar and vanilla and agar with only half of the coconut milk, and added the other half off the heat- I read in a Thai cookbook that coconut milk looses its brightness when cooked too much. Don't know if it helped but it was great with mandarin segments! Thanks again for a very good and thorough recipe


Tuesday 18th of March 2014

Thanks Amanda! And thanks for pointing out the error with the water, I'll correct that!


Sunday 29th of January 2012

I just had panna cotta for the first time last night at a restaurant. It was soooo good but I had no idea it had gelatin in it till I did this recipe search. It was buttermilk panna cotta. I'm going to try this recipe with agar agar flakes. Thanks for posting it.

Steph from

Friday 9th of September 2011

The only time I tried agar agar was years ago and the whole thing came out looking and tasting like cross country ski wax, old style.

Might try it again. What about pectin?


Sunday 24th of April 2011

Hi Camilla,Thanks for the recipe and the discussion about cooking with agar!Like the previous poster, I'm not vegetarian but the ideal of gelatin is disgusting. (I don't eat much meat either but I don't want to exclude it totally.)So, I've made the recipe with natural yoghurt, one extra tsp of vanilla extract, and about half a tsp of mixed spice. Looks good so far; currently awaiting results in the tasting later!Pushing the milk mixture through a fine sieve was a faff - I wonder if there is an easier way to make it smooth? Or do the flakes just never truly disappear? Off to make a rhubarb compote to go with the panna cotta later - it's forced rhubarb season here in the UK! Delicious!Best wishes, Lily x

steven prospero

Monday 7th of February 2011

Prospero back again...

...just to let you know that the Panna Cotta was a total knock out with the delightful AgnesG - she thought it was delicious, ate a double helping of the stuff, mumbling about its virtuous qualities "hmmm, not too sugary either..." in between mouthfuls.

She left a fair bit of the mango and lime behind, but I think my mango wasn't ripe enough as the mixture was a bit tart (and I had probably overdone it with the lime juice).

Incidentally the main course was your Quinoa Burgers, which was also my first time cooking them, which I did IN FRONT OF HER, so there was no margin for error and they worked a treat.

Didn't fancy a jar of peppers, so blended roasted red peppers and olives from the delicatessen with a single red chili and got a great chunky salsa which hit the spot.

(There was also a Carrot and Coriander Soup starter and a sticky ginger cake with coffee at the end. Not Camilla recipes there, but it was my first ever 4 course meal where i had made all the courses from scratch.)

Thanks a heap, I shall sing your praises to the world,

Steven Prospero

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