This orange blossom panna cotta is a delightful take on the classic Italian dessert. It's smooth, creamy, and delicately flavored with orange blossom water. It's an easy make-ahead dessert that's perfect for dinner parties or special occasions like Mother's Day!

Try our buttermilk panna cotta recipe for another simple and delicious take on the classic Italian dessert!

Orange Blossom Panna Cotta in a glass mason jar topped with a candied mandarin orange

This orange blossom panna cotta is lusciously smooth and creamy, and it's surprisingly easy to make!

If you've ever hesitated at the thought of making panna cotta, you're not alone. It's one of those impressive desserts that, until you make it, seems tricky or difficult.

The surprising thing is, panna cotta is a really easy dessert to make. The words panna cotta translates to “cooked cream” and that's essentially all it is. It's made with simple ingredients using simple methods.

All you do is heat whole milk with gelatin and sugar in a pot, remove it from the heat, and stir in the cream and orange blossom water. Place the pot in the fridge to cool, then whisk it before pouring it into little jars or cups. Pop them in the fridge to set, and top each one with a candied mandarin to serve.

The candied mandarins are optional, but they add a pretty visual element, and they taste great, too. To make them, simply coat sliced mandarin oranges in sugar, and bake them until they're slightly dried out.

These individual little panna cottas are a delightful make-ahead dessert for dinner parties, or to celebrate special occasions like birthdays or Mother's Day.

What is orange blossom water?

Orange blossom water is essentially water flavored with orange blossoms. It's made by distilling fresh bitter-orange blossoms for their essential oil. It's aromatic and slightly bitter with delicate floral and citrus notes.

It's commonly used in Mediterranean desserts like pastries and more recently madeleines, scones, and even marshmallows. It's also a traditional ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern cooking, often used to flavor the syrup used in baklava or to mask the flavor of plain water.

Looking down on Orange Panna Cotta in a dish

Orange blossom panna cotta ingredients

Here's everything you need to make this orange blossom panna cotta:

  • Whole milk – traditional panna cotta is made with cream, but we find using some whole milk works well and makes it lighter in texture.
  • Gelatin – we use powdered gelatin but you can use the sheets if you prefer. This important ingredient gives the panna cotta its structure.
  • Granulated sugar – for sweetness; granulated sugar is light in color and dissolves easily into the milk mixture.
  • Heavy cream – for that classic creamy taste and texture.
  • Orange blossom water – orange blossom water is delicate and floral, and can easily be found at most grocery stores or Middle Eastern markets.

Here's what you need to make the pretty candied oranges:

  • Mini mandarin oranges – we use mini mandarin oranges because their size fits well into the mason jars, but you can use any variety of sliced orange.
  • Granulated sugar – granulated sugar is ideal for candied orange slices. Other sugars like brown or raw will color the panna cotta so it will look muddy.

You will also need six (6) little mason jars, cups, or containers for serving.

A spoon scooping some Orange Blossom Panna Cotta.

How to make orange blossom panna cotta

This orange blossom panna cotta is an easy and elegant dessert that's perfect for Mother's Day, birthdays, or any time of year. Here's how to make it in a few simple steps:

  1. Add the milk to a small pot and sprinkle the gelatin overtop until it begins to ‘bloom'.
  2. Stir in the sugar, gently heat it and stir until everything is dissolved.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat, whisk in the cream and orange blossom water (to taste), then place it in the fridge to cool.
  4. Whisk it once more, then pour it into cute little cups or jars. Cover and refrigerate until it sets.

Here's how to make the pretty candied mandarin oranges:

  1. Leaving the peel intact, cut each orange in half, then into half circles. Put them into a bowl and coat them with sugar.
  2. Place the oranges on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes (flipping halfway through).
  3. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Serve them on top of the set panna cotta!

Full recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.

FAQS

Where can I buy orange blossom water?

Look for orange blossom water at well-stocked grocery stores or Middle Eastern markets. It's rather inexpensive and sold in bottles.

What's the best kind of gelatin to use?

We use powdered gelatin but gelatin sheets work well, too.

Can I make these ahead of time?

Absolutely! These individual panna cottas are a great make-ahead dessert and will keep in the fridge in sealed containers for up to 3 days.

Can I make it in molds instead?

Yes, you can. It can be tricky to unmold panna cotta, so we recommend using silicone molds to make things easier.

Can I use orange extract instead of orange blossom water?

If you can't find orange blossom water, you can use a bit of orange extract. You won't get the floral notes, but you will still get some orange flavor. We've never made it with orange extract so you'll have to experiment with how many drops you use.

When to serve orange blossom panna cotta

Orange blossom panna cotta is a simple but elegant dessert that's perfect for special occasions, or anytime after a delicious meal. It's not heavy like some desserts, and the individual jars or cups make it easy (and pretty) to serve!

a hand scooping some Orange Blossom Panna Cotta out of a dish
Orange Blossom Panna Cotta in a glass mason jar topped with a candied mandarin orange

Orange Blossom Panna Cotta with Candied Mandarines

This orange blossom panna cotta is a delightful take on the classic Italian dessert. It's smooth, creamy, and delicately flavored with orange blossom water. It's an easy make-ahead dessert that's perfect for dinner parties or special occasions like mother's day!

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

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Ingredients

Panna Cotta

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • 3 teaspoons gelatin
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ – 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, based on your taste

Candied Mandarin Oranges

  • 4 mini mandarin oranges
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Instructions 

Panna Cotta

  • Pour the milk into a small pot and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let it sit for 2 minutes, or until the gelatin grains start to swell or “bloom.”
    1 ½ cups whole milk, 3 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 the pot from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream and orange blossom water. Start by adding ¾ teaspoon of the orange blossom water and increase it if you would like the flavor to be stronger. Place it in the fridge for 30 minutes, or until cool to the touch.
    1 ½ cups heavy cream, ¾ – 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
    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.
    image for recipe instruction

Candied Mandarin Oranges

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Leaving the peel on, cut off the ends and then slice them into 3 circles. Cut each orange circle in half and add them to a small bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and toss gently to coat.
    2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 4 mini mandarin oranges
    image for recipe instruction
  • Place the orange circles on the baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. You want them to still be chewy and not completely dried out.
    image for recipe instruction
  • Remove from oven and let cool completely. Serve on top of panna cotta.
Serving: 1 serving = ½ cup, Calories: 324kcal, Carbohydrates: 24g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 88mg, Sodium: 54mg, Potassium: 210mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 21g, Vitamin A: 1319IU, Vitamin C: 14mg, Calcium: 128mg, Iron: 1mg
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