Vanilla-Buttermilk Panna Cotta

One misconception about panna cotta is that it must always be served turned-out, standing on its own like a flan. That to me presents a fundamental problem, which is to say, too much gelatin. My personal feeling is that panna cotta needn’t be terribly firm, just enough to give it a silky and elegant mouthfeel. Much more than that and we get into true “gelatin dessert” territory, where I’d rather not be. This panna cotta can be turned out by either running a sharp knife around the rim of the cup or dipping it briefly in hot water, but don’t expect the presentation to be perfectly geometric.

2 1/3 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
2 cups buttermilk

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla seeds in a sauce pan and whisk to combine. Heat the mixture gently, bringing it up to the boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Then, while whisking gently, sprinkle in the powdered gelatin and stir until it dissolves. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Add the buttermilk and stir until smooth. Pour into ramekins, cups or glasses and chill for a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.

7 thoughts on “Vanilla-Buttermilk Panna Cotta”

  1. I have a question regarding the gelatin. I live in Norway and I could only find gelatin sheets. How much should I use?

    Also, I think I found buttermilk but it’s the fermented kind (in Norwegian it is “kulturmelk”). Is it the same? Would it work?


    1. Hello, Camila! One sheet of gelatin is equivalent to one teaspoon of the powdered gelatin we get here in the states, so, one and a half sheets is the answer. Regarding the buttermilk, all buttermilk is cultured (fermented) here in the US, so kulturmelk will work very well! Thanks for the comment! – Joe

  2. Hello Joe!
    I just wanted first to thank you very much for this website! It’s been a great help ever since I started doing my own baking!
    I live in japan and now we’re starting the Sakura, Cherry Blossom, season. And i thought panna cotta would be a nice spring dessert for a change!
    So I was wondering if it was possible to infuse the cream and sugar mixture with sakura tea? And if i wanted to add a drop of food dye (to make it pink) at what point would it be best to do so?
    Thank you!

    1. Hello Rita! And welcome. Since red traditional food coloring is temperature stable, you can add it at any point in the process, early or late. If you’re planning on using a vegetable-based color, it’s best to add it after the mixture cools (but is still liquid). Let me know how it turns out! Cheers,

      – Joe

  3. My mom makes a cream/sour cream panna cotta that’s really delightful and serves with lightly sweetened berries — yummy! I’m going to try this one as I always have buttermilk on hand (I use a lot of buttermilk in my baking!).

  4. Hi Joe,

    I’ve been reading my way through your recipes and it seems like you love trying new things as much as I do.
    Just found your panna cotta. I’m sure that you’ve added a lot of twists to yours over the years but have you tried unmoulding it on a bed of fresh strawberries with a little elderflower cordial? If not, I think you’ll like it 🙂

    1. Holy cow that sounds fantastic!

      I shall do that at me very next opportunity. Thank you, Renee!

      – Joe

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