Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta

Thinking of a famous dessert you can find in almost every italian restaurant, I remembered how my grandmothers use to do it, with simple and easy available ingredients. I’ve made several tests to achieve a perfect result because unfortunately I didn’t have a recipe in hand….. so now let’s talk about a delicious, creamy, delicate and authentic gelatin-free Panna Cotta!


authentic gelatin-free panna cotta best perfect italian

Panna Cotta (pron. pun-nuh cot-tuh – means “cooked cream”) is a great italian dessert, born in the Piedmont region and then widespread all over Italy, generally made from cream, set with gelatine, served chilled and topped with chocolate, wild berries or caramel sauce.

But some time ago people didn’t have widely available gelatin in their pantry and they used egg whites instead. So this recipe can be useful to use up leftover egg whites instead of throwing them away (you can freeze extra egg whites and defrost them in the fridge when you’re ready to use them).

Today you can find gelatin in every grocery store and you can do Panna Cotta easily in few minutes, but I like this traditional Panna Cotta recipe the most because I think it has the real Panna Cotta taste.

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Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta

Difficulty: medium
Preparation: 5 minutes + cooling time Cooking Time: 90 minutes
Yield: 4

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml double / heavy cream (2+1/3 cup)
  • 150 gr egg whites (about 5 medium eggs, but try to be precise) *
  • 80/100 gr granulated white sugar (I use 80 gr / 3 oz) *
  • 1/2 empty vanilla pod or 1/4 vanilla pod with seeds

(*I prefer to not convert these ingredients in volume measures because in desserts the weights are essential for the final result)

Instructions:

Place the cream, sugar and vanilla pod in a pan and bring to the simmer. Remove from heat, remove the vanilla pod and let cool.

cream vanilla pod sugar panna cotta

Preheat oven to 300°F – 150°C – gas mark 2.

In a bowl beat the egg whites with a fork, paying attention to not create foam or bubbles or your Panna Cotta will come out with holes, until the whites are become liquid quite like water and have lost elasticity. If you can find them at the grocery store, use pasteurized egg whites that are better because they usually are perfectly liquid.

Update: a reader commented saying that she used an immersion blender to beat the egg whites instead of a fork. It took about 15 seconds to make the texture like water, and by keeping the whole blade under the surface it made no bubbles.

egg whites bubbles

Add egg whites to the cream mixture (as you can see from the picture above, I created foam, because I was in a hurry, but I resolved by using a sieve in adding egg whites to the cream mixture and it also stopped any egg whites impurities).

Mix well with a fork and divide the mixture among buttered non-stick moulds.

panna cotta mixture mould

Immediately, pour boiling water into a baking pan until the water level reach 3/4 of the moulds.

panna cotta boiling water

Place the moulds in the pan (bain-marie method).

panna cotta moulds baking pan

The picture may show 1/3, but the boiling water has to reach 3/4 of the moulds height.

Bake at 300°F – 150°C – gas mark 2 for 1 1/2 hour (90 minutes) or until the surface is golden brown.
If you bake Panna Cotta at 275°F – 140°C – gas mark 1 you would need about 2 hours and the surface will be less coloured.

Turn off the oven and let cool Panna Cotta completely inside it before covering the moulds with plastic wrap.

panna cotta baked

Refrigerate several hours (at least 4).

To serve, unmould the Panna Cotta by passing a thin knife, or a long needle, heated in boiling water around the inside of each one. Turn each Panna Cotta out onto a dessert plate holding the base with a warm cloth to help the release. If you don’t like the soft brown crust at the end of Panna Cotta, remove it before serving.

Spoon your favourite sauce or fresh fruit over or just dust with some icing sugar.

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Ooops! Sorry, I couldn’t wait! 😉

authentic gelatin-free panna cotta eat best

And now you have your creamy, hearty, authentic Panna Cotta! Yes, it’s a bit long recipe but really worth the results!

Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Creamy, hearty, authentic Panna Cotta!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500 ml double / heavy cream (2+1/3 cup)
  • 150 gr egg whites (about 5 medium eggs, but try to be precise) *
  • 80/100 gr granulated white sugar (I use 80 gr / 3 oz) *
  • ½ empty vanilla pod or ¼ vanilla pod with seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the cream, sugar and vanilla pod in a pan and bring to the simmer.
  2. Remove from heat, remove the vanilla pod and let cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°F - 150°C - gas mark 2.
  4. In a bowl beat the egg whites with a fork, paying attention to not create foam or bubbles or your Panna Cotta will come out with holes, until the whites are become liquid quite like water and have lost elasticity.
  5. Add egg whites to the cream mixture..
  6. Mix well with a fork and divide the mixture among buttered non-stick moulds.
  7. Immediately, pour boiling water into a baking pan until the water level reach ¾ of the moulds.
  8. Place the moulds into the pan (bain-marie method).
  9. Bake at 300°F - 150°C - gas mark 2 for 1½ hour (90 minutes) or until the surface is golden brown. If you bake Panna Cotta at 275°F - 140°C - gas mark 1 you would need about 2 hours and the surface will be less coloured.
  10. Turn off the oven and let cool Panna Cotta completely inside it before covering the moulds with plastic wrap.
  11. Refrigerate several hours (at least 4).
  12. To serve, unmould the Panna Cotta by passing a thin knife, or a long needle, heated in boiling water around the inside of each one. Turn each Panna Cotta out onto a dessert plate holding the base with a warm cloth to help the release.
  13. If you don't like the soft brown crust at the end of Panna Cotta, remove it before serving.
  14. Spoon your favourite sauce or fresh fruit over or just dust with some icing sugar.

27 thoughts on “Authentic Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta

  1. What is the optimal percentage of fat in the cream? And what is the minimum? In Sweden we have cream up to 40℅ fat but almost impossible to get higher percentage. Should I use more cream and reduce it so I get the higher percentage?

  2. Hi Ilaria – I haven’t tried your recipe yet, but want to say thank you for making every step of the way so clear. Also, having explanations makes it so baker-friendly – especially for not-such-confident-bakers, like me!!. Looking very forward to making this recipe – (I think I’ll have to use about 100 egg whites, though, since I have a very big family!) Thanks again – and I LOVE your last caption and pic!!

  3. I love this recipe so much! Have you ever done it in a large dish?How long would it have to bake to set the middle?
    Thank you so much! You are amazing!

    ~ Denise XxXxXx

  4. I made this successfully with UK double cream (50% approx. fat content) and vanilla essence. I also used 40g honey instead of sugar to make it more “Primal”. It cooked quite a lot quicker at 140C than the recipe indicated. my oven is a fan oven so that may be why.

    I tried to let it cool in the oven but I needed it for something else so I took it out to let it cool in the bain marie, but got impatient and took it out of the bain marie too! I ate some warm and it was like delicious eggy cream pudding but when fully cooled it was much nicer.

    It was really dense, I would compare it to clotted cream, not like the gelatin-set panna cotta I have eaten elsewhere. It also had a bit of a skin on top. But I finished it off over a couple of days and am now craving it!

  5. Hello, great recipe!
    Just a tip- the second time I made this I got lazy and used an immersion blender to beat the egg whites instead of a fork. It took about 15 seconds to make the texture like water, and by keeping the whole blade under the surface it made no bubbles (which I had trouble achieving with the fork).
    Thanks, super delicious.

  6. Hi Ilaria. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe… I’ve been looking for this recipe for ages and none of them really satisfies me except for yours so thumbs up! Just curious, what should we do if we do not have a microwave/an oven? Can we just cool it in the freezer?

    • Thank you Hanis for your feedback!
      For this recipe the oven heat is necessary to set Panna Cotta because the egg whites need to be cooked to give support.
      If you want to experiment you could try to cook Panna Cotta on the stove at bain-marie but I think that it would take too long so you’d better use a quick recipe with agar agar or gelatine in it instead of egg whites and put it in the fridge, but, as you already know, this is something different :)

  7. Thank you so much for this recipe. I ve been looking for a good recipe to make panna cotta without gelatine. This is going to be my first try. I’m trying Passion Fruit Panna Cotta. Again, thankyou so much. God bless

  8. Thank you so much for this recipe. I cannot use gelatin in anything so this sounds right up my street. I shall be trying this, when I do I will report back! Thanks

      • One question : in the UK we have single cream and double cream. Is it better to use double or can I get away with using single cream? I have guests coming next weekend so want to do a couple of practice runs before the grande finale ! Thanks

        • Hi Sitara,
          I’ve already updated the ingredients because another reader asked me that.
          Here in Italy we just call it Panna (cream) because we don’t have single cream.
          If you use single cream, that is more liquid, I think you would have to increase the amount of egg whites, but this can compromise the panna cotta taste, so just use double/heavy cream.
          Bye!

  9. Ciao Ilaria, Another great post! We always wondered what the Piemontese did with all of their leftover egg whites since they make their pasta with egg yolks. We thought they might have used leftover whites for Torrone nougat, but it makes perfect sense to make Panna Cotta too!

Have you tried my recipe? Please leave a comment!