Get your coffee fix in dessert form with this coffee panna cotta. A rich and creamy dessert that looks like it belongs in a restaurant, but secretly takes only minutes to make (plus chilling time).
Panna cotta is one of my favorite luxurious desserts to enjoy. While I usually order it at restaurants, it’s actually such an easy recipe to make. I was surprised when many of my blog readers asked for a coffee panna cotta recipe, but since I started my culinary career with mini desserts — including a classic vanilla panna cotta — I knew I could make a recipe for coffee panna cotta.
Panna cotta is one of those desserts that’s light and refreshing, just what you’ll crave after a heavy meal. This no-bake dessert is perfect to make the day before a fancy meal, since it needs several hours to set in the refrigerator.
What is panna cotta?
Panna cotta has the consistency of custard, but is made with gelatin rather than eggs. This means it’s incredibly easy to make! You don’t need to worry about curdling your eggs, making a water bath, or checking the oven every couple of minutes to make sure it’s done.
The name panna cotta in Italian means “cooked cream,” but I like to add some milk as well so it’s not overly rich. Using unflavored powered gelatin, you can easily achieve a nice, creamy pudding-like consistency that just melts in your mouth.
How to make coffee panna cotta
The first step to making panna cotta is preparing the gelatin. Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the surface in a single layer, not a pile. Let this stand for 5-10 minutes to soften.
While the gelatin is softening, it’s time to make the rest of the cappuccino panna cotta. Heat the heavy cream, milk, coffee, sugar, and vanilla on medium heat and bring to a boil just until the sugar dissolves.
You can use any type of coffee you prefer — instant or brewed — and you can always add a bit more or less coffee depending on your personal taste. I use 1/2 cup of strong coffee and it makes the panna cotta taste exactly like coffee ice cream!
Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat. Stir in the gelatin immediately and whisk until smooth and dissolved. If the gelatin hasn’t fully dissolved, return the saucepan to the stove and heat over low heat until dissolved and don’t let the mixture boil.
Pour the coffee panna cotta mixture into 4-6 individual serving dishes. Let them chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or until completely set. These can easily be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Coffee syrup topping
While entirely optional, I find a simple syrup takes this coffee panna cotta to the next level. It’s not very sweet, but adds an extra burst of sweet coffee to each bite. If you have Kahlua, or another coffee liqueur, use it here since it really complements the flavors in this dessert.
To make the coffee syrup, heat the coffee and sugar on medium heat in a small saucepan. Bring this mixture to a boil until the sugar dissolves and remove from the heat. Add the Kahlua, if using, and mix until combined. Transfer the syrup to a small bowl and place in the refrigerator until serving.
Right before serving this coffee panna cotta, I like to spoon 1-2 tablespoons of syrup on top of each dish. I also put the extra on the table so people can add more if they prefer. Whether you’re trying to impress guests or just want a restaurant-style dessert at home, this coffee panna cotta will be your secret weapon. It’s easy to make, but only you will know that!
Other coffee recipes:
- Coffee Loaf Cake
- Coffee Nut Shortbread Cookies
- Chocolate Pecan Espresso Cake
- Chocolate Espresso Muffins
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cold water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons (7 g/0.25 oz.) unflavored powdered gelatin
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) strong brewed coffee (or 1 tablespoon coffee granules/powder dissolved in 1/2 cup water)
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) brewed coffee (or 1 teaspoon coffee granules/powder dissolved in 1/2 cup water)
- 1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Kahlua or another coffee liqueur, optional but so good!
- Place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface in a single layer. Be sure not to pile it as that will prevent the crystals from dissolving properly. Let stand for 5-10 minutes to soften.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream, milk, coffee, sugar, and vanilla on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in gelatin and immediately whisk until smooth and dissolved. If the gelatin hasn’t fully dissolved, return the saucepan to the stove and heat gently over low heat. Stir constantly and don’t let the mixture boil.
- Pour cream into 4-6 individual serving dishes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or until completely set.
To make the syrup: in a small saucepan, heat coffee and sugar on medium heat and bring just to a boil until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add Kahlua and mix until combined. Transfer to a small bowl and place in the fridge until serving.
- Just before serving add 1-2 tablespoons of the syrup on top of the panna cotta and serve.
- Panna cotta can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 3 days.