Rich, smooth and luxurious, this Chocolate Panna Cotta made with only 7-ingredients takes just ten minutes to prepare. This elegant dessert makes a fabulous treat for special occasions, celebrations and Christmas.
With the festive season only a couple of months away, you may be thinking of mouth-watering desserts that you're like to make. This Chocolate Panna Cotta is one of my favourite Italian Chocolate Desserts to make that I know you'll love!
It's a simple, understated and elegant treat that's undeniably impressive. You guests will think this is far more complicated to make than it actually is and I can't wait to share the ins and outs for this wonderful dessert today.
Enjoy more individual desserts over the Holidays such as Cherry Cream Puffs, Cranberry Meringue Nests, Strawberry Eton Mess or Tiramisu Cups.
❓ What is Panna Cotta?
Panna Cotta translates as 'cooked cream', and is a dessert originating from the Piedmont region of Italy. Made with a dairy base, usually consisting of cream and milk, panna cotta is typically sweetened with sugar and flavoured with vanilla.
Gelatin is added for the liquid to set in ramekins. It takes under ten minutes to make but does need up to 4 hours to set in the fridge.
From there, the panna cotta is de-moulded onto the serving plate and has a signature wobble indicating the perfect consistency! With a smooth and silky texture, it's typically served with a fruit sauce topping such as raspberry or mango coulis.
Read on to find out about the many ways that you can vary your panna cotta. It's one of those desserts that lends itself to many iterations.
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. The 5 ingredients are basic pantry or fridge staples. I bet you have them on hand already.
- Simple to make. This fool-proof Choco Panna Cotta Recipe is made in only a few steps. Gotta love a recipe that comes together quickly.
- Tastes sensational. Dark chocolate is so rich and tasty. This is definitely one for the chocolate lovers out there.
- No stress un-moulding the panna cotta. Keep it simple by serving this dessert in a glass, teacup, espresso cup, ramekin, or any cute serving cup you have. It looks just as elegant and is stress-free!
🧾 Ingredients Needed
With only 5 core ingredients, each one plays an important part in the recipe. I've given substitutions where I can, as the recipe is pretty forgiving for swapping out ingredients.
I've also made stand-alone notes regarding the chocolate and gelatine, as these two ingredients form the most important part of the recipe. The chocolate for the taste, and the gelatine sets the panna cotta so that you don't end up with a soupy mess.
Milk - Whole milk is preferred over skim milk or half-fat milk. You can also substitute the milk for almond or another nut milk.
Double Cream - Use double cream (heavy cream) with 35% fat. This makes the pan cotta lovely and smooth. To make this dairy free, use coconut cream in its place.
Sugar - Caster or granulated white sugar is best here. But you can swap out the sweetening component of the recipe with honey or maple syrup if you prefer.
Vanilla Extract - Vanilla is an ingredient that you could leave out of the recipe, but it adds another layer of flavour to the dessert. You can also use vanilla bean paste or scrape the seeds from a vanilla pod. Try to use vanilla extract or paste rather than imitation 'essence'.
Salt - Another ingredient that can be omitted, but salt is renowned for bringing out the flavour of chocolate. I love salt with chocolate and sometimes go so far as to add a little flaked salt sprinkled over the finished panna cotta!
Choosing the Best Chocolate for Panna Cotta
The chocolate forms the main flavouring for the panna cotta. With so few ingredients in the recipe, you must pick the best quality chocolate that you can so that the taste can shine through. There's no hiding behind other ingredients!
I prefer to use a good quality 70% cacao dark chocolate (bittersweet chocolate) as in my Mini Chocolate Tarts. It holds the perfect depth of flavour and bitterness in the chocolate without going too far on the bitterness spectrum.
I regularly use Lindt Dark 70% Chocolate Bar, but other brands such as Valrhona, Guittard, or Callebaut are amazing too.
Using Gelatin Powder or Gelatin Leaves
Unflavoured gelatin is the primary setting agent within this dessert. Without it, or if you don't put enough of it in the mixture, you'll end up with a soupy mess. However, put too much, and your panna cotta will have a thick, gummy texture.
You can use either powdered gelatine or gelatine leaves/sheets. I use powdered gelatine in this recipe, and you'll see how to use it in my Step-by-Step section.
Gelatin leaves are just as easy to use and effective. You can check out my Almond Panna Cotta, where I've used gelatine leaves. Throughout my step-by-step process documented below, I've made notes if you are using gelatine leaves. You can replace powdered gelatine with 4 gelatine leaves.
- Super Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta- ramp up the deep chocolate notes and use 90% dark chocolate instead. Serve with fresh blackberries.
- Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta: Don't fancy the richer tones of dark chocolate, then use milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate for a change. The flavour will be mild, sweet and familiar.
- White Chocolate Panna Cotta: Gloriously creamy and smooth, pair the white chocolate panna cotta with fresh raspberries. The combo is perfect!
- Chocolate Mocha Panna Cotta: A mocha is one of my favourite cafe drinks, and I love creating a dessert from the chocolate and coffee combination. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of espresso powder with 1 tablespoon of boiling water and into the simmering milk with the chocolate.
- Mint Chocolate Panna Cotta: Perfect for Christmas. Use mint dark chocolate or add in a teaspoon of peppermint extract to the melted chocolate. Garnish with crushed candy cakes or After Eight Chocolates.
- Chocolate Orange Panna Cotta: By far my favourite variations. Add orange zest to cream when warming and set aside to infuse. Warm the cream again to melt the chocolate but make sure to strain to remove the zest.
Note: Don't be tempted to use chocolate chips instead of a chocolate bar. Chocolate chips are designed to maintain their shape when heated up so you'll end up with a gritty panna cotta.
👩🏻🍳 Step by Step Instructions
Making Panna Cotta is a straightforward process with only a few steps. I've added a couple of tips that I found helpful during the recipe testing process.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
How to Bloom The Gelatin
STEP 1: Bloom the powdered gelatine. Add 2 tablespoons of hot water to a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine powder into the water (Image 1). Stir until the gelatine dissolves into the water (Image 2). Always add the powder to the water and not the other way around, as this can affect the setting ability.
Make sure to read the back of the gelatine packet. Mine from Dr Oetker requires hot water for it to bloom and soften. However, some brands require the gelatine to be added to a room-temperature liquid to soften.
NOTE: If using gelatine leaves then add them to a bowl of water and set them aside to soften for ten minutes.
STEP 2. Simmer the milk and cream and dissolve the sugar. Add the milk, cream and sugar to a heavy-based non-stick pan and heat gently on low (Image 3).
Heat till you see simmering bubbles around the edges of the pan and the mixture is steaming. Stir continuously for even heating and for the sugar to dissolve. Don't let the mixture bubble or boil, as this can cause the mixture to split and can impact the setting ability of the gelatin.
STEP 3. Add the remaining ingredients. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped chocolate, vanilla extract and salt. Scrape in the softened gelatine (Image 4).
Let it sit for a minute as the heat of the cream warms the chocolate, then return the pan to the stove on low heat and whisk continuously until the chocolate is fully melted and combined, then remove from the heat. You should only have it back on the heat for a minute at most (Images 5 & 6).
TIP: Why whisk continuously?
This allows the heat distributes evenly throughout the mixture and prevents the cream or chocolate from scalding on the bottom of the pan.
NOTE: If using gelatine leaves, once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat. Squeeze the gelatine leaves to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Add them to the saucepan and stir until melted and combined.
STEP 4. Pass the mixture through a sieve and pour it into moulds. This is optional, but I like to pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a jug (Image 7). Any un-dissolved bits of gelatine can be caught and discarded.
Plus, pouring the mixture from the jug into small dishes (Image 8) is way easier with a spout than straight from the saucepan! Divide the mixture between 8 glasses or moulds. I find a 120ml (½ cup) portion to be a good serving size.
Refrigerate for 3-4 hours. The chocolate panna cotta needs to set until it has a soft jiggle in the centre (Images 9 & 10). Having poured the mixture into glasses that don't need de-moulding relieves the fear that the panna cotta hasn't set fully.
TIP: How to de-mold your panna cotta
If you've decided to pour the chocolate cream into a metal or ceramic ramekin with plans to un-mould it onto individual serving plates, then here are a couple of pointers to help you succeed with your Italian Gelatine Dessert.
- Grease the ramekins with a flavourless oil before filling them. This helps the panna cotta slip out once inverted.
- Once the panna cotta is set, dip the base of the ramekins into a bowl of hot water for a couple of seconds.
- Run a knife around the edge of the ramekin to loosen the seal.
- Invert the ramekin onto the plate and gently tap and wait a couple of seconds for it to drop onto the plate.
🥣 How To Serve
You can serve the chocolate panna cotta directly from the fridge as is, but I think that smooth, shiny surface is the perfect canvas for decorating.
Here are a couple of my favourite ways to serve the panna cotta.
- With a dollop of whipped cream or Creme Chantilly (Image 11)
- Dark, milk or white Chocolate Shavings (Image 12)
- Fresh fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, and cherries.
- A spoonful of fruit compôte or fruit curds such as Pear Compôte or Lemon Curd.
- A drizzle of Homemade Caramel Sauce or Chocolate Fudge Sauce.
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Don't let the milk-cream mixture boil at any point, and this affects the integrity of the gelatine's setting power!
- Make sure the gelatine is fully softened and dissolved into the chocolate mixture to avoid the panna cotta being gritty.
- Pass the liquid through a sieve for a foolproof step to avoid this.
- Pour the panna cotta mix from a jug with a pouring spout into the individual pots. It's way easier and cleaner than straight from the saucepan.
- Make sure to set the panna cotta for long enough in the fridge.
📋 Recipe FAQs
Absolutely! It absolutely needs to be made ahead of time in order for the mixture to set. Either make it the night before or the morning of the day you are serving it.
This Italian chocolate dessert is a pudding as it doesn't have any eggs and needs gelatine for it to set. A custard is made with eggs, sugar, cream and milk.
Creme brûlée are made with a custard base and then cooked in a water bath in the oven to set before a layer of sugar is torched on the top. The panna cotta base is creamed based that does need heating to help the gelatine to dissolve but does not need cooking in the oven to set.
Unfortunately, no, you aren't able to. It needs the gelatine to set in place and give it a firm but smooth texture. You can make it vegetarian by using Vege-gel or agar agar, but note that I haven't tested this.
❄️ Storage and Freezer Instructions
To store: Panna Cotta can be stored covered in plastic wrap in the fridge for up to 5 days.
To freeze: Wrap individual ramekins well in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Not though to freeze in plastic or ceramic cups, rather than glass, to prevent breakage.
🇮🇹 More Italian Recipes
If you tried this Chocolate Panna Cotta Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you!
Chocolate Panna Cotta Recipe
- 8 g powdered gelatine
- 480 ml double cream (heavy cream)
- 240 ml whole milk
- 75 g granulated sugar
- 200 g dark 70% chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- double cream (heavy cream) - optional, decoration
- chocolate shavings - optional, decoration
- Bloom the powdered gelatine. Add 2 tablespoons of hot water to a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine powder into the water, then stir until the gelatine dissolves into the water.
- Simmer the milk and cream and dissolve the sugar. Add the milk, cream and sugar to a heavy based non-stick pan and heat gently on low. Heat till you see simmering bubbles around the edges of the pan and the mixture is steaming. Stir continuously for even heating and for the sugar to dissolve. Don't let the mixture bubble or boil.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped chocolate, vanilla extract and salt. Scrape in the softened gelatine.Let it sit for a minute as the heat of the cream warms the chocolate, then return the pan to the stove on low heat and whisk continuously until the chocolate is fully melted and combined then remove from the heat. You should only have it back on the heat for a minute at most
- Pass mixture through a sieve and pour into moulds. This is optional but I personally like to pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a jug. Any un-dissolved bits of gelatine can be caught and discarded.Pouring the mixture from the jug into small dishes is way easier with a spout than straight from the saucepan! Divide the mixture between 8 glasses or moulds. I find a 120ml (½ cup) portion to be a good serving size.Refrigerate for 3-4 hours until the panna cotta is set with a jiggle in the centre.
- Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
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