Buttermilk panna cotta is a simple and elegant dessert that's endlessly adaptable. It's easy to make ahead and stores perfectly for parties or special occasions. You only need a handful of ingredients and 40 minutes to make it!

If you love easy make-ahead desserts, also try our cranberry and white chocolate mini cheesecakes and vegan pots de creme.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta topped with a strawberry

For a long time we avoided making panna cotta because, after ordering it at restaurants, we assumed it was a fancy or fussy dessert to make. It always looks so elegant on the plate drizzled in coulis or topped with fresh berries.

We were pleasantly surprised when we learned how ridiculously simple it is to make, and how versatile the flavors can be. Needless to say, we've been experimenting with it ever since.

This buttermilk panna cotta recipe is soft, creamy, and mildly tangy from the buttermilk. It's perfect on its own or as a base for layering in other flavors like vanilla, coffee, chocolate, or fruit.

It's a great make-ahead dessert so it's perfect for dinner parties. We like to pour it into cute ½ cup jars then top it with fresh ripe berries when we're ready to serve.

What is buttermilk panna cotta?

Panna cotta is a classic Italian dessert made from sweetened cream thickened with gelatin. It's often molded and garnished with a berry, chocolate, or caramel coulis.

In this recipe, we use buttermilk in place of some of the cream to add a bit of tang and balance out the richness. It's an easily adaptable base for experimenting with other flavors like vanilla, orange blossom, coffee, or even a little liquor.

strawberries on top of Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Buttermilk panna cotta ingredients

This buttermilk panna cotta takes only 5 simple ingredients! Here's everything you'll need to make it at home:

  • Buttermilk – buttermilk is thicker than milk but not as heavy as cream. It's what you're left with after making butter. It adds a mild tang to this panna cotta that helps to balance out the taste.
  • Gelatin – plain, unflavored gelatin is used to thicken the milk mixture. We use granulated gelatin (as opposed to sheets).
  • Sugar – to sweeten everything up!
  • Sour cream – this unexpected ingredient makes the panna cotta taste richer, and adds a bit more tang.
  • Heavy cream – this essential ingredient ensures a smooth, creamy panna cotta.

You'll also need six ½ cup mason jars, small cups, ramekins, or other cute vessels for serving.

How to make buttermilk panna cotta

If this is your first time making panna cotta, you'll be shocked at how easy it is to make. As simple as it is, you still need the right ratio of ingredients and gentle heat to achieve the silky smooth consistency.

Here's how it comes together in a few simple steps:

  1. To start, ‘bloom' your gelatin. This essential step involves pouring the buttermilk into a small saucepan, then sprinkling on the gelatin and letting it sit until it swells.
  2. Then, stir in the sugar and gently heat the mixture without letting it come to a boil.
  3. When everything has dissolved, remove it from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and heavy cream. Then, place the pot in the fridge to cool.
  4. When it's cool, pour it into cute little jars or cups and refrigerate it until set. Serve the panna cotta with fresh berries on top. That's it!

Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.

4 Buttermilk Panna Cottas with strawberries

FAQS

Where can I buy gelatin?

Gelatin can be found at any grocery store close to the baking supplies and Jell-O.

How long does it keep in the fridge?

You can store it in a sealed jar or container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

How do I avoid rubbery panna cotta?

To avoid rubbery panna cotta, make sure your gelatin is completely dissolved. Use low heat, and make the milk mixture doesn't boil. When it's set, it should be a bit wobbly and silky smooth.

How do I unmold panna cotta?

To unmold your panna cotta for serving, hold a plate against the set mold and flip it. You may need to jiggle it a bit to get it to release. If it doesn't release easily, run a knife around the edge and repeat. It also helps to oil the mold with a light, flavorless oil ahead of time.

What to serve with buttermilk panna cotta

Buttermilk panna cotta is the perfect end to an Italian meal, or anytime you're after a sweet creamy treat.

Enjoy it on its own or have fun experimenting with other classic flavors like vanilla bean, chocolate, coffee, caramel, or orange blossom water. We keep it simple and serve it with ripe berries, but other fresh fruit like mango or passionfruit also taste great.

Everyone will love the pure creamy taste of buttermilk panna cotta!

a spoon scooping some Buttermilk Panna Cotta out of a glass jar

More cute dessert recipes

4 Buttermilk Panna Cottas with strawberries

Buttermilk Panna Cotta Recipe

Buttermilk panna cotta is a simple and elegant dessert that's endlessly adaptable. It's easy to make ahead and stores perfectly for parties or special occasions. You only need a handful of ingredients and 40 minutes to make it!

If you love this recipe as much as we do, let us know with a 5-star rating!

5 stars (10 ratings)
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Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons gelatin
  • cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

Instructions 

  • Pour the buttermilk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let it sit for 2 minutes, or until the gelatin grains start to swell or "bloom."
    1 ¼ cups buttermilk, 2 ¼ teaspoons gelatin
    image for recipe instruction
  • Stir in the sugar and heat gently over low heat until the sugar and gelatin have completely dissolved. DO NOT BOIL.
    ⅓ cup granulated sugar
    image for recipe instruction
  • Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and heavy cream. Place the pot in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until it's cool to the touch.
    ¼ cup sour cream, 1 ½ cups heavy cream
    image for recipe instruction
  • Once cool, whisk the panna cotta once more and then pour it into little mason jars, cups, or whatever cute little jars you plan on serving it in. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Serve the panna cotta with berries on top.
    image for recipe instruction

Notes

Total time does not include the 4 hours it takes to refrigerate the panna cotta after it is made. 
Serving: 1 serving = ⅙ of the recipe, Calories: 303kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 26g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 92mg, Sodium: 86mg, Potassium: 126mg, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 1017IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 108mg, Iron: 1mg
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