Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

by | Apr 14, 2016 | All, Desserts

Everyone needs a go-to dessert when entertaining. This indulgent, make-ahead Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta recipe is mine. 

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta is a simple but classy make ahead dessert that is perfect for parties. Set up a variety of toppings and let your guests serve themselves!

Pat and I went to Italy to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary a few years ago. It was the best vacation we’ve ever taken, not just for the amazing scenery and quality time together, but – naturally -because of the FOOD!

This recipe for Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta is the closest thing I’ve found to reliving our time there. It’s THAT good.

Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for another trip to Italy to enjoy panna cotta. This Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta recipe makes a super easy, luxurious-tasting dessert that is equally at home on a weeknight or for company.

The most complicated part is scraping the seeds from the vanilla bean, but trust me, it’s completely worth the extra effort for that deep, rich vanilla flavor.

What is panna cotta made of?

This traditional Italian dessert actually translates to “cooked cream” in Italian. In this recipe, you heat heavy cream and sugar and infuse it with the flavor-packed seeds of a vanilla bean. Then you stir in gelatin and milk.

The extra special ingredient here is whole milk Greek yogurt. It adds just a hint of tartness to this sweet, indulgent recipe.

Glass jar of Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta topped with chopped strawberries.

What toppings should I add to my panna cotta?

The sky is the limit here! Ripe, ruby red strawberries are my go-to topping. They pair so beautifully with the vanilla bean flavor of the panna cotta. But really, any berry will work.

If you’re feeling particularly indulgent, you can also top them with a drizzle of caramel or hot fudge. Or simply keep them plain. They are definitely rich enough to stand on their own without any additional adornment.

Panna Cotta is a great make-ahead dessert for parties.

Short on time and need to prep ahead? This Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta recipe is great for time-strapped hosts! You can make this dessert up to three days ahead of time. Simply cover and keep in the fridge until party time.

This Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta is also tailor-made for your dessert buffet.

Typically not everyone is hungry for dessert at once, so I love to set out a tray of panna cotta along with a variety of toppings for guests to add whenever they are ready to indulge. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Small glass jar filled with Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta and topped with strawberries.
Until I can make a return trip to Italy, you’ll find me here reliving my memories one mouthful of Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta at a time!
Yield: Makes 6 panna cotta

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta is a simple but classy make ahead dessert that is perfect for parties. Set up a variety of toppings and let your guests serve themselves!

Active Time 20 minutes
Additional Time 6 hours
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% because that's what I had in the fridge)
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt


  1. Pour the cream into a medium saucepan. Using the sharp tip of a paring knife, cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Open up the bean and flatten out the halves. Scrape out the seeds with the back of the knife blade and add the seeds and vanilla bean to the saucepan. Stir in the sugar. Bring the cream mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, whisking occasionally. Remove the vanilla bean from the cream and discard.
  2. Meanwhile, pour the milk into a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand about 5 minutes and then mix the milk into the hot cream. Add in the yogurt and stir until smooth. Pour mixture into ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.


Recipe adapted from Food Network.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 365Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 19gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 40mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 0gSugar: 20gProtein: 5g

LOVE this recipe?

Follow us on Pinterest for more great recipes! Just click the little pin button at the top of the recipe card.

collage image of glasses of Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta topped with strawberries

We're the creative juices behind Garnish with Lemon. In the past 8 years, millions of people have sipped & snacked on our recipes. Need easy, delicious party food and drinks for your next shindig? You’ve come to the right place.

Our Story

About Anna

Hi, I’m Anna, a former corporate communications nerd turned food fanatic. Turns out I like cooking for others A LOT more than explaining HR policies to them. C’mon over!


  1. Avatar

    Yum! I remember when you made this treat for our family! This one is a keeper!

    • Avatar

      Thanks, Donelle! It’s one of our favorites, too.

    • Avatar

      Thanks, Ai. They are a family favorite.

  2. Avatar

    Is it right the recipe calls for 1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin? Or do you mean tablespoon? I just made a batch and it’s thick but not set…it’s been four or more hours since I refrigerated it.

    • Avatar

      Hi Liz, I’ve made this recipe numerous times with the 1 1/2 teaspoons gelatin, and it’s worked perfectly every time. Did you use the heavy cream and whole milk Greek yogurt?

      • Avatar

        Hi Anna, yes I did… I actually used whole milk instead of 1percent. It set a little this morning when I checked though it’s more on a softer side. But it is really delicious. I think I’m accustomed to more firmer panna cota. I really appreciate your speedy reply!

        • Avatar

          Great to hear, Liz. Enjoy!

  3. Avatar

    Hi, I love this recipe and so does everyone I’ve made it for. Was wondering if I can add puréed strained strawberries to the cream and vanilla to make a strawberry version or where would I need to add the strawberries?

    • Avatar

      Hi Sandi, so glad you love the panna cotta! I’ve never incorporated strawberries directly into the mixture, but it sounds heavenly. My only thought is that you MIGHT have to increase the gelatin just a bit to get it to set correctly since you’re adding more “liquid” (strawberries) to the mixture. But I wouldn’t think you’d need much more, if any. Please give it a go and let me know how it turns out!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *