Toasted-Coconut Panna Cotta

Sugar Cube_Toasted Coconut Panna Cotta
Lisa Warninger
  • Yield: 8 servings

It’s not enough to just use coconut milk to make coconut panna cotta. I need the flavor to be deeper and fuller, so I steep the milk with toasted, sweetened, shredded coconut to make it truly coconutty. I prefer my panna cottas to be barely set, so they have a light, silky-smooth, melt-in-your mouth texture, like a good crème brûlee. This means that I use a lot less gelatin than most and that unmolding isn’t ideal. But I think panna cotta is much prettier served in a glass cup anyway. At the cart I serve them in little squat-bottomed mason jars, or you can dust off your grandma’s fancy vintage glassware and put it to good use.


1cup heaping, sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2cup almonds
3cups unsweetened coconut milk
4cups heavy cream
1/2cup granulated sugar
1/8teaspoon sea salt
1 vanilla bean
3tablespoons cold water
2teaspoons powdered unflavored gelatin
1/2 to 1cup Aunti Shirley's Chocolate Sauce (see link to recipe below)
Fresh whoop (See link to recipe below)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, until most of the shreds are dark golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Spread the almonds in an even layer on the baking sheet and toast until fragrant and beginning to color, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn off the heat. Place eight 4-ounce ramekins or small serving glasses in the fridge. (Chilling the cups helps the panna cotta set faster.)
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, cream, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of the toasted coconut (reserve the rest for garnish). Split the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds with the back of a knife directly into the pan. Add the pod and gently bring to a slight simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally (do not boil).
  3. While the cream is heating, pour the cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let stand (don’t stir) until the gelatin has absorbed the water, at least 5 minutes.
  4. When the cream has begun to simmer, remove it from the heat and strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl with a spout. Use a spatula to gently press the coconut against the sieve to force out all the liquid. Discard the solids and vanilla bean pod (or rinse,  dry, and save the pod for another use). Add the softened gelatin and whisk until incorporated. (You shouldn’t see any bits of solid gelatin.)
  5. Divide the mixture equally among the chilled cups (do not cover with plastic wrap) and refrigerate until set, least 3 hours. (It should have the texture of a soft pudding.) Serve with 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce, a dollop of whoop and a sprinkling of toasted, chopped almonds.

Click for Aunti Shirley’s Chocolate Sauce

Click for Fresh Whoop


  1. If you want to use sheet gelatin, use 3 1/2 sheets of silver gelatin.
  2. Ungarnished panna cottas will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Cover each with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

Reprinted with permission from Kir Jensen’s The Sugar Cube (Chronicle Books, 2012).