Velvety and creamy with a delightful little wobble, my Mango Panna Cotta is a true summertime delight. Made with agar agar in place of the normal gelatin, this tropically flavored Italian dessert is suitable for vegetarians and can easily be made vegan. Best of all, this vegetarian panna cotta comes together with just 15 minutes of active work!
Table of Contents
About Mango Panna Cotta
Panna cotta means “cooked cream” in Italian. It is a softly set pudding that is milky and rich, yet firm. Panna cotta can be wholly made with cream or with a combination of cream, milk, and fruits.
This famous Italian dessert is our favorite, so I try to make it at least a few times a year. Our favorite iteration comes about when mango season is in full swing. I make my mango panna cotta with the heaps of Alphonso mangoes I can’t help but purchase; they’re too delicious!
Aside from this mango-flavored recipe, I also make a strawberry panna cotta in the spring, and regular Panna Cotta Recipe during the rest of the year. If you have never made it, fear not! This is a simple, straightforward recipe that I am certain you can master.
Generally speaking, gelatin is used to set panna cotta, but being vegetarians we do not use gelatin. Luckily, there is a clever method for making this a vegetarian version.
The thickening & setting ingredient in this vegetarian mango panna cotta is an ingredient known as agar agar, and not the gelatin that is typically used. Agar agar is a vegan ingredient acquired from a particular kind of algae. It is often used in vegan or vegetarian desserts as a stand-in for gelatin.
If you’ve ever had the flavored china grass that is available in the stores, then you’ve already tried agar agar! It is a nearly flavorless ingredient, and a real boon in any vegetarian or vegan kitchen. It can act as an egg substitute in puddings and a gelatin substitute in jellies.
Agar agar strands and powder are available easily online and in some Indian metro cities — either will work for this mango panna cotta recipe.
If you’re worried about buying an ingredient for just a single recipe, I’m here to allay your concerns. Aside from my panna cotta recipes, agar agar is also used in my Mango Pudding and Mango Cheesecake recipes!
Once set, the panna cotta should gently wobble. I have used 1.5 tablespoons of chopped agar agar strands, which set this vegetarian panna cotta perfectly. I have used less amount of agar agar in the past and the panna cotta did not set well, so be sure to measure accurately.
Perhaps the most fear-inducing step of making panna cotta is the unmolding process. You just created a gorgeous dessert and want it to look pretty on the plate! Here’s the deal: so long as you oil your serving bowls or ramekins, the mango panna cotta should easily release from the container for a flawless presentation.
How To Make Mango Panna Cotta
Making mango panna cotta is easy. I have used Alphonso mangoes to make the mango pulp because they are abundant here. Feel free to use any good-quality sweet , ripe mangoes. Just make sure they are not fibrous.
For the cream, I used light cream (25 to 35% fat) to save on some calories, but regular whipping or heavy cream will also work.
1. First, chop the agar agar strands into small pieces and soak them in ¼ cup of warm water for 10 minutes. You will need 1.5 tablespoons of chopped agar agar strands.
I like to use kitchen scissors to chop the agar agar strands. Remember to chop the agar agar into very small pieces. You can also use 1.5 teaspoons of powdered agar agar if you would prefer to skip this step.
2. Meanwhile, peel, chop, and then purée 2 medium-sized alphonso mangoes in a blender.
Make sure to use mangoes which yield a thick pulp. Mangoes which make for a juicy or runny pulp will affect the texture and consistency of panna cotta making it more like a pudding.
Cook Cream Mixture
3. Mix 1.25 cups light cream or whipping cream, 1 cup whole milk, and ½ cup sugar in a saucepan and place it over low to medium-low heat. Stir with a wired whisk.
The sugar should dissolve completely. Keep stirring at intervals while the cream mixture comes to a gentle simmer.
Cook Agar Agar
4. At the same time, place the agar agar and water solution on the stovetop. Keep stirring until the agar agar strands are dissolved.
5. The cream+milk+sugar mixture should come to a gentle simmer. Turn off the heat as soon as it does.
6. The agar agar has also dissolved by now.
7. Mix the hot agar agar solution into the hot cream+milk+sugar mixture and stir very well with a wired whisk.
8. Wait for about 5 minutes to allow the panna cotta mixture to cool a bit, then add the prepared mango purée and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract.
9. Mix very well with a whisk until the mixture is entirely uniform.
Assemble and Refrigerate
10. If you plan to serve your mango panna cotta on a plate, be sure to grease your bowls.
Pour the panna cotta mixture into serving bowls. Cover the serving bowls with a lid, or aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Allow it to cool for about an hour, or until it is just warm to the touch. Place the bowls in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or more till the mango panna cotta looks wobbly and is perfectly set.
11. Serve mango panna cotta chilled. I like to top the serving bowls with some chopped mango pieces or garnish with mint leaves for a bit of extra flair. Enjoy!
Making this vegetarian panna cotta recipe is easy, but I do have a few tips to share to ensure your success:
- Be sure to chop your agar agar strands into very small pieces. This will help it dissolve more easily. I find that using scissors makes the process easy, but you can also use your spice grinder or a sharp chef’s knife if you prefer. You can also opt to use agar agar powder if you would prefer to skip this step.
- Be sure to grease your bowls if you want to unmold the panna cotta onto a serving plate. I generally serve it straight from the bowls, but the traditional Italian presentation usually has it served on a plate. If you are using a complexly patterned mold, be sure to get all the nooks and crannies well oiled.
- Plan ahead! Panna cotta requires at least 4 to 5 hours to set up in the fridge. I recommend making it the night before you plan on serving it to ensure you have ample chilling time.
No! Crème brûlée is a French dessert made from a custard that is first cooked in a water bath, then topped with sugar. The sugar is then caramelized by using a blow-torch or a broiler (the name means “burnt cream,” which refers to this caramelization process).
Panna cotta, on the other hand, is more like a pudding in preparation. While it means “cooked cream,” all of the cooking is done on the stovetop; the oven and water-bath never come into the equation. Panna cotta is also usually made without eggs, whereas eggs are usually a big component of crème brûlée.
If you’re eager to make a comparison, panna cotta is similar to Mexican flan, but without the built-in caramel sauce.
Sure! Simply swap in coconut cream and full-fat canned coconut milk for the dairy.
I usually serve my panna cotta straight from the bowls I use to set it up. I like to add a little texture by adding chopped fruit, but you can also use a fruit coulis if you prefer.
If you’d like a slightly fancier presentation, you can serve the set panna cotta on a plate — just be sure to thoroughly grease your molds so you have a smooth, shiny surface.
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Mango Panna Cotta
- 2 alphonso mangoes – medium-sized, about 225 to 250 grams and yields about 1.5 cups mango puree
- 1.25 cups light cream – 25% to 35% fat or 1.25 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1.5 tablespoons chopped agar agar strands or 1.5 teaspoons agar agar powder
- ¼ cup water for soaking the agar agar strands
- ½ cup raw sugar or white sugar – add as per taste
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla essence
- First chop the agar agar strands in small pieces and soak them in warm water for 10 mins.
- Rinse, peel and chop the mangoes. Add the chopped mangoes in a blender and make a smooth puree. Keep the mango puree aside.
Making mango panna cotta
- Mix cream, milk and sugar in a pan or saucepan and keep it on the stove top on a low to medium-low heat. Stir with a wired whisk.
- Keep on stirring at intervals while the cream mixture comes to a gentle simmer. The sugar should also dissolve completely.
- Also at the same time, keep the agar agar and water solution on the stove top. Keep on stirring the agar agar solution and let it cook till the agar agar strands are dissolved completely.
- The cream+milk+sugar mixture should just gently come to a simmer. Turn off the heat.
- Mix the hot agar agar solution into the hot cream+milk+sugar mixture and stir very well with a wired whisk. * Check notes
- Wait for about 5 minutes till the panna cotta mixture becomes less hot. Then add the mango puree and vanilla extract. Mix very well with the wired whisk.
- Pour it in serving bowls. Cover the serving bowls with a lid or aluminium foil/plastic wrap. Let it become warm. Then place the bowls in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 hours or more till it is set and becomes wobbly.
- While serving, top with some chopped mango cubes or garnish with mint leaves and serve mango panna cotta cold.
- * Both the agar agar solution and the cream mixture should be hot when you mix them. If in case one of them cools or becomes warm:
– for agar agar: on cooling the agar agar sets and becomes gelatinous, so add some hot water and reheat them with continuous stirring. You can also use a hot water bath.
– for the cream mixture: gently reheat this mixture on a low flame till its hot.
- Do use mangoes that make for a thick pulp. Alphonso mangoes works best in this recipe.
- Adjust the sugar as required keeping in mind the sweetness of the mangoes. Remember to make the recipe with sweet tasting. mangoes.
- The recipe can be scaled to make a small or a large batch.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Mango Panna Cotta recipe post from the blog archives first published in April 2014 has been republished and updated on 27 April 2022.