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How to make coconut panna cotta with amazing pandan flavor

There is a secret ingredient in this creamy coconut panna cotta – coconut milk!

The coconut panna cotta I had at a local cafe recently changed my perception of this perfect dessert. Although I do not fancy sweet desserts, this panna cotta captured my attention, and I immediately indulged in its unique flavor and delicate texture.

The traditional panna cotta tastes and looks pleasing with various berries and syrups. However, this luscious panna cotta blends seamlessly into the creamy texture with the subtle and aromatic pandan flavor.

You may notice that my recipes are mostly savory dishes, with only a few desserts and cakes.

But what attracts me to this coconut panna cotta is the unique combination of flavors. I love to create new recipes and explore various options to blend Asian flavor into western desserts.


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Coconut panna cotta infused with pandan flavor

When I was back in my kitchen, I made a few variants of coconut panna cotta and settled with one I liked. This panna cotta incorporates more Asian flavor, with not just pandan but groundnuts and coconut milk too.

After all the tweaks on the original recipe, I wonder if it is still qualified to call it panna cotta.

I know panna cotta is a luscious dessert made with heavy cream, popular throughout Italy and frequently served along with fruits and rose syrup, which provides a delicate and lovely floral flavor.

Is it still considered panna cotta with all the tweaks?

And the dictionary defines it as a chilled dessert made with cream. Milk is simmered with sugar and flavorings and set with gelatin. I also know that panna cotta means cooked cream in Italy.

Since my recipe fits the definition, I will officially include coconut panna cotta in the menu of my cafe.

11 Tips to be successful in making coconut panna cotta

  • Panna cotta looks great if you unmold it on a serving plate. Chill the panna cotta for at least half a day before attempting it.
  • Lightly oil the inner surface of the ramekin (or any small bowl) to help make the delicate dessert slide out from the milk. Oil should be minimum to avoid affecting the taste of the panna cotta. Using a clean finger to do it is the best.
  • If the panna cotta cannot slide out, dip the ramekin into the hot water for another five seconds and repeat the process. The panna cotta releases easily by doing so.
  • Add the gelatin to warm milk, not cold milk. Gelatin will form lumps in cold water or milk.
  • Do not boil the gelatin. Boil gelatin will never thicken. The best way is to add the bloomed gelatin mixture to the milk below 130 °F (55°C).
  • Boil the pandan leaves to extract the flavor. Remove the leaves with a fine sieve to get the extract. Blending the leaves with a food processor.
  • Substitute fresh coconut with full-fat coconut milk in cans or cartons is fine. Natural coconut milk contains about 25% of fat. Check the content of the coconut milk (or coconut cream) on the supermarket shelf is around this percentage. Otherwise, it is probably a diluted version.
  • Panna cotta can be kept chilled for up to three days. The texture will turn rubbery and harder beyond three days. (Panna cotta should be wobbly and velvety smooth, not rubbery.)
  • Groundnut is my choice, but crushed walnut and fresh fruit work well too.
  • Some recipes use toasted shredded coconut meat as the topping instead of nuts. You may want to try if you do not want to use nuts.
  • You may serve it with creme Anglaise, maple syrup, or strawberry sauce, but I like the flavor combination of chocolate and pandan.

What made this coconut panna cotta recipe special?

The panda panna cotta has a custard-like texture with a light green color. It is a head-turner at a party with its unique decoration, pandan leaves, crushed groundnuts, and unusual color.

Coconut panna cotta is utterly simple to prepare. It takes you less than twenty minutes to make and half a day in the refrigerator to let it set before serving.

The roasted groundnuts offer a nice contrast to creamy panna cotta. You may want to substitute with other nuts, like toasted almonds, but I will stick with dust to infuse more Asian elements in it.

You can enjoy this coconut milk panna cotta with fresh berries, baked fruit compote, creme Anglaise, or your favorite jam. I prefer to dazzle some chocolate sauce on it, as paired perfectly with the coconut flavor.

This recipe is a great interplay of Asian flavor with the creamy texture of custard.  You can make ahead some coconut panna cotta for your next party. Your guest will stare at it wide-eyed and ask for more for this creamy Asian-flavored dessert.

Note: Pandan is also called screwpine leaf. It is the equivalent of vanilla bean in the west and is widely used in Asia for making desserts.

coconut panna cotta
Coconut panna cotta

Coconut panna cotta

Yield: 4 small desserts
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

A special panna cotta make with coconut milk and infused with pandan flavor.


Ingredients (A)

Ingredients (B)

Ingredients (C)

Ingredients (D)


  1. Mix ingredients (A) together, set aside for five minutes Stir it gently for even distribution.
  2. Cut the pandan leaves into short pieces, Blend the leaves together with the coconut milk.
  3. Heat up ingredients (C) over a small flame in a small saucepan, add the blended pandan leaves and boil over medium heat for a minute.
  4. Strain the boiled liquid through a strainer to remove the leaves to make sure it is creamy and without a trace of grittiness or lumps.
  5. Let it cool down to about room temperature, mix with ingredients (A).
  6. Light oil the surface of the ramekin.
  7. Fill the coconut mixture into the small ramekin.
  8. Keep the ramekins in the refrigerator. The dessert will set after a few hours.
  9. When you want to serve, run a knife along the side of the ramekin. Dip the ramekin in hot water for five seconds. Invert and shake the ramekin. The panna cotta will detach from the ramekin and drop gently onto the serving plate.
  10. Decorate with pandan leaves, and served with roasted groundnuts and chocolate syrup.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 295Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 45mgSodium: 47mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 0gSugar: 16gProtein: 5g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutitionix on 5/31/2019.

coconut panna cotta

Curious Charlie

Saturday 3rd of October 2020


We only have gelatin sheets here how would we adjust or do we just replace? It's something like 200ml for every sheet.


KP Kwan

Sunday 4th of October 2020

Hi Charlie, I do not have the gelation sheet, so unable to confirm the number of sheets per 200ml. The gelatin (either powder or sheet) is 10g for this recipe, so I suggest you can validate it by weighting the gelatin sheet to get the quantity correct. Thanks. KP Kwan

Linda Hugo

Saturday 4th of January 2020

Can dried pandan leaves be used?

KP Kwan

Saturday 4th of January 2020

Dried pandan leaves can be used. Some places sell pandan extract (like vanilla extract) and you can try that too.

Lynn Le

Thursday 18th of July 2019

Hi! I was wondering if you could use pandan powder or pandan extract to flavor it if you don't have pandan leaves? Would you know the ratio?

KP Kwan

Friday 19th of July 2019

I am sorry I do not know the ratio, as I have never used powder/extract before.

Mango Pudding - How to make mango pudding in 3 simple steps

Monday 5th of November 2018

[…] the cream and milk to the puree. This step is quite similar to how I make the Pandan pannacotta in our restaurant. Stir it and pour the mixture into the food […]


Thursday 17th of May 2018

Dear Mr Kwan, I just found your website and I Will surely remain visiting. As a woman living in The north of Sweden I sometimes have difficulties in finding foreign ingredients. But as I have a red string attached to China I do my best. This pannacotta sounds delicious and my next mission is now to find pandanleafs!

All my best to you!

KP Kwan

Thursday 17th of May 2018

Hi Mona, Thank you for visiting my site. I can understand Pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) are hard to find at certain places. Maybe you can try online or ask for the pandan extract from the local store. Good luck :) KP Kwan

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