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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Panna cotta is a simple, yet fancy, dessert. In this Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta recipe, it is flavored with vanilla and a hint of lemon and topped with fresh strawberry rhubarb compote.

A glass jar of vanilla bean panna cotta topped with strawberry rhubarb compote. More compote is in a tea cup in the background.

Creating This Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Recipe

There are a few ways that I know Spring is truly here when it comes to living in New Mexico. The first: the wind has started.

I’m not talking about a few breezy days here and there, but rather months on end of days where we regularly see winds raging from 20 miles per hour. The Sandia Mountain vanishes from view because the winds have kicked up so much dust.

There are other more subtle signs too. The hibernating trees in our yard slowly start coming back to life and are eventually covered in beautiful pink and white blossoms. Green is a color that creeps its way back into the landscape.

The birds chip happily. Once or twice a week there is no wind and the days is so absolutely beautiful that you can’t help but want to spend it outside. And our rhubarb plants begin coming back to life.

Spring is the perfect time for strawberry and rhubarb. Over the years we’ve made Lemon Cloud Tart with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, Rhubarb Crumb Coffee Cake, pies, and crisps featuring that iconic spring pairing.

So when I knew that spring had arrived here in New Mexico, I decided that it was indeed time for a new strawberry rhubarb recipe to make a debut on our family’s dessert table.

What Is Panna Cotta?

Panna Cotta is a fabulously simple, yet seemingly fancy, dessert recipe. Essentially, it is just gelled sweetened cream, but it tastes so much more than that.

In this recipe, the Panna Cotta is flavored with vanilla bean and a hint of lemon essential oil. Then, after chilling the Panna Cotta is served with spoonfuls of fresh Strawberry Rhubarb Compote, which incidentally tastes also delicious spooned onto ice cream, yogurt, or oatmeal.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Ingredients

This vanilla panna cotta recipe may look fancy, but it actually uses fairly basic ingredients. For the panna cotta itself, you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • Heavy cream
  • Granulated sugar
  • Half and half (or whole milk)
  • Salt
  • Pure lemon essential oil
  • Vanilla bean

And to make the strawberry rhubarb compote, you’ll need:

  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Granulated sugar
  • Lemon juice
  • Cornstarch

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

A glass jar of vanilla bean panna cotta topped with strawberry rhubarb compote

How to Make Panna Cotta

Below is an overview of how the vanilla bean panna cotta is made. I’ve given detailed instructions in the recipe card below on how to make the strawberry rhubarb compote as well.

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the of water in a small bowl. Let it sit to soften.
  2. Put the half and half in a small saucepan with the sugar over medium heat. Cook until bubbles form around the edges. Whisk until all the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until completely dissolved.
  4. Whisk in the cream, salt, lemon essential oil, and vanilla bean seeds.
  5. Divide the panna cotta mixture between four 6 – 8 ounce individual serving containers and chill until set.
  6. Before serving, top with spoonfuls of strawberry rhubarb compote.

The above is simply a quick summary of this recipe. Check out the free printable card at the bottom of this post for all the detailed instructions.

How to Store Panna Cotta

The panna cotta can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, and the compote can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. I recommend storing the panna cotta and compote separately.

Can Panna Cotta Be Frozen?

Most likely, yes. You’d need to store the panna cotta in an airtight container. It should last up to two months. To thaw, place in the fridge overnight.

Recipe Substitutions

  • Half and half: You can replace the half and half in the panna cotta recipe with whole milk, if desired.
  • Lemon essential oil: If you don’t keep essential oils in the house, you can omit it entirely or add some lemon zest instead.
  • Compote: This vanilla bean panna cotta pairs well with any fruit compote. You could also drizzle it with Bourbon Caramel Sauce, Pumpkin Caramel Sauce, or stewed (then cooled) fruit.

Typically I don’t recommend making a bunch of substitutions when preparing a new recipe. When making substitutes, you won’t know if you don’t like the recipe or if the recipe didn’t turn out due to a preparation mistake, an ill effect from the substitute, or something else.

However, if you do choose to make substitutions in a recipe, I recommend only making one substitute at a time so you don’t have a building effect of multiple poor substitutions.

Tips for Making Vanilla Panna Cotta

  • Be very careful when heating the cream mixture on the stove. Cream can easily burn and / or bubble over, so warm just until bubbles begin forming at the edges of the pot.
  • The strawberry rhubarb compote can be made days in advance, so consider making a batch ahead of time.
  • You only need to use the seeds from the vanilla bean for this recipe. Save the rest of the vanilla bean to make vanilla extract or vanilla sugar.

More Easy Puddings & Custards:

These Pumpkin No Bake Cheesecake Jars are so good and so easy! They feature yummy layers of gingersnap crust and no bake pumpkin cheesecake filling.

These Individual No Bake Mango Lime Cheesecakes are an easy summertime dessert that provides a fun new take on cheesecake. 

This Salted Caramel Budino recipe is such an easy Italian dessert! It features a cookie crust that’s topped with vanilla pudding and then a layer of homemade caramel sauce.

This homemade Pumpkin Custard is incredibly easy to prepare and makes for a wonderful fall dessert. Perfect for family gatherings!

Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream are layered together in these tasty Chocolate Chip Cookie Pudding Parfaits.

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 5 hours 50 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours

Panna Cotta is a fabulously simple, yet seemingly fancy, dessert recipe. Essentially, it is just gelled sweetened cream, but it tastes so much more than that.

Ingredients

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 3/4 cups cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup half and half or whole milk
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 - 2 drops 100% Pure Lemon Essential Oil
  • 1/2 of a vanilla bean, seeds only

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

  • 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces fresh rhubarb
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch, if desired (to thicken)

Instructions

For the Panna Cotta

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin over the of water in a small bowl. Let sit to soften.
  2. Put the half and half or milk in a small saucepan with the sugar over medium heat and heat until bubbles form around the edges. Whisk until all the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and whisk in the gelatin mixture until completely dissolved. Whisk in the cream, salt, lemon essential oil, and vanilla bean seeds.
  3. Divide the panna cotta mixture between four 6 - 8 ounce individual serving containers and chill until set. Before serving, top with spoonfuls of strawberry rhubarb compote.

For the Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

  1. Combine rhubarb, sugar, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rhubarb is tender, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the cornstarch to the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and add to the rhubarb mixture. Add strawberries, and simmer for 2-3 minutes, uncovered.
  4. Transfer rhubarb mixture to bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 876Total Fat 46gSaturated Fat 29gTrans Fat 2gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 145mgSodium 131mgCarbohydrates 113gFiber 3gSugar 106gProtein 9g

GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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