Delicious & Divine: Vegan Panna Cotta

This week’s post is my take on a vegan panna cotta, based on a colleague’s vegan take on ordinary panna cotta (although is there  really anything ordinary about panna cotta?). I used the vegan recipe devised by the inimitable Rebecca Coleman, whose Cooking by Laptop blog is one of my favourites.

So this recipe is a take on a take, if you will.

I basically stuck pretty exactly to what Rebecca outlines. My switches: I used coconut palm sugar instead of regular sugar. I reduced the amount slightly, as I find coconut sugar to be a bit sweeter than everyday sugar. I used palm sugar because I have a sensitivity to cane sugar and I know many people are trying to avoid it.

Doesn’t make us any less sweet though, in my humble opinion.

Vegan panna cotta

I also doubled the compote recipe (again slightly reducing the sugar from six tablespoons to five). The compote recipe seemed a little scanty to me, plus I used some sweet little vintage dessert bowls  for serving. Their wider mouths seemed to say “More blueberries, please.”

What I really like about this recipe is that it uses coconut milk instead of regular cream. My favorite “healthy” panna cotta recipe uses yogurt, but it does include a healthy (*ahem*) amount of cream. I’ve been successful using coconut palm  sugar in that one, too. It works just fine.

For vegans, or those with a dairy sensitivity, Rebecca’s recipe is a winner. Here it is with my twists interjected in italics, the rest of the words in the recipe are hers:

For the panna cotta:


  • 1 can coconut milk (400 mls)
  • 2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 3/4 tsp agar-agar
  • 1 tbsp cold water


  • In a small bowl, place the tablespoon of cold water, then sprinkle the agar-agar in a layer over top. Allow it to sit for a few minutes.
  • In a medium saucepan, place the coconut milk and the sugar. Heat gently just until warm and the sugar is dissolved.
  • Pour a couple of tablespoons of the hot coconut milk into the bowl with the agar-agar, and stir well. Add it slowly back into the pot, whisking the whole time. Heat for another 5 minutes, until the milk is steaming, but don’t let it boil. Add the vanilla at the end.
  • Divide between 4 containers. Rebecca has used mason jars, ramekins, martini glasses, juice glasses or teacups. I used sweet little vintage dishes.
  • Refrigerate until set.

For the compote:

  • 1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)
  • 5 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  • 4 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar


  • In a small saucepan, combine all three ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes or so.  Rebecca used a potato masher on the blueberries to break them up and thicken them a little. She says you could use an immersion blender if you wanted your compote to be really smooth. She likes hers chunky. So do I.  Cook until it is thickened. You’ll know it’s done when you draw a line on the back of a spoon, and it holds. This method worked fine with the palm sugar as well.
  • Spoon a couple tablespoons of the compote over the set panna cotta. Refrigerate for at least a half hour more, then serve.

So the result? I served up the ‘take-on-the-take’ to Rachel, Patty, and Erin – three colleagues who are co-creating an awesome mindfulness retreat with me. We were planning and lunching (the best way to plan). In Patty’s words: “Delicious and divine – without any guilt!”

Personally, I found the compote a tad too sweet and intense – one of the challenges of using palm sugar (and maybe I didn’t need to double the recipe) – but the others gave it a universal “YUM”.

Give it a try and let me know what you think – if you can stop eating it long enough – *wink*.


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About Vicki

I’m a coach and consultant and in my spare time I like to cook and play house. I believe happy idleness is a purposeful pathway to a contented life. And I am happiest either in my pajamas or an apron – or both.


  1. Hi Vicki. The Panna Cotta looks great – I was wondering if I didn’t have agar-agar if I could substitute anything like chia seeds or tapioca starch? Thanks for the post!

    • Vicki McLeod says:

      Hi Suzan – in this recipe (to make it vegan) the agar-agar is replacing gelatin. So, if you are not vegan, you could just use gelatin. I’m not sure how tapioca or chia would work for the panna cotta – they would definitely work in the compote as a thickener. Try it and let me know how it goes…Cheers!

  2. Rebecca Coleman says:

    Cool, Vicki!! I haven’t tried it this way, but I think you could totally use agave to sweeten, as well.

    And I heartily approve of you doubling the compote–I might have done the same, had I used a wider-mouthed vessel. I flirted with the idea of using a martini glass, for examples, but this is how it turned out. It’s all experimenting, right? If it works for you, go for it! :-)

    • That’s right! I hadn’t thought of agave. I’d think the compote might need some sort of thickener if using agave. Good (healthy) tip, Rebecca!

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