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Coffee Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce

Coffee Panna Cotta with a thick chocolate sauce is the perfect make ahead dessert that is surprisingly easy to make. Just a few simple ingredients and a little hands-off time are all you need. This mocha panna cotta is so lusciously creamy with specks of real vanilla, and the thick chocolate sauce is just like the icing on the cake - delicious!


A vintage cup with coffee and chocolate dessert, on top of an open book.


I think a coffee panna cotta with chocolate sauce is perfect as an elegant Valentine's Day dessert. It is minimal effort, yet so pretty with distinguished flavors. And every Valentine's Dessert needs chocolate, so that is why I also love this white chocolate mousse with rose and pistachio, or a homemade box of chocolates.


What is panna cotta?


Panna cotta is an Italian dessert that is made from simple ingredients like heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and gelatin. Panna cotta means "cooked cream", which is exactly what it is! 


It is similar to a flan or caramel custard as it is a dessert that can stand on its own (it doesn't flow all over a plate). But because a flan's texture comes from eggs, it is a much heavier dessert than a panna cotta, which get its texture from the gelatin. However, I'm sure both will satisfy the same craving for a creamilicious dessert.


More gelatin desserts: Homemade jello, white chocolate no-bake cheesecake


Pink vintage cup with panna cotta and chocolate sauce. Pink tulips in the background.




All these ingredients are things that any home baker should already have in their kitchen and pantries, so it should be easy to whip up!


  • Heavy cream: you can't have a lusciously creamy panna cotta without heavy cream! But that doesn't mean there aren't other options if you so desire, see the variations paragraph. 
  • Gelatin: the gelatin is what gives this dessert its texture, if not it would just be a next-level coffee with a ton of heavy cream. It makes it creamy, not so firm like jello but not so loose like a pudding, the perfect in-between. For substitutions, keep reading.
  • Sugar: my guess is that this dessert would be bland without sugar, but how much you would need depends on your preferences, and yes you can use whatever sweetener you want.
  • Vanilla bean: A classic panna cotta is usually just flavored with a luxurious vanilla bean, but why take it out of this mocha panna cotta? Considering there are so few ingredients, I'm keeping it.
  • Coffee: Well, the name of this dish pretty much explains why this is here! You can use decaf coffee too!
  • Chocolate: I think coffee is always better with chocolate, hence this delish peppermint mocha as well.


Ingredients and a glass of gelatin sheets.




Instead of heavy cream

You can use milk or any other less fatty milk products, although it will not have such a creamy mouthfeel.  If that is your preference, then it's no problem at all! You can also use coconut milk for a dairy-free option.


Instead of gelatin

As gelatin isn't vegan or vegetarian, some may prefer not to use it. I have not tried any of these, but it is possible to use agar agar powder (in a 1:1 ratio) or even flour to thicken the mixture. I use flour mixed with milk when thickening chocolate pudding, so then this would be more like a coffee pudding - delicious anyway!


A pink vintage cup with coffee panna cotta, a bite taken out of it to show texture.


Sugar substitutes

Yes, it should be possible to reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe, down or up to your own liking. When I taste-tested this recipe, I found the liquid mixture to be too sweet with ½ cup (100 grams) of sugar, but when it had set and was ready to serve, I found that it was actually an appropriate amount for my sweet tooth. 


And yes, you can use other forms of sweeteners too. Use the one you are most comfortable with, and with the appropriate ratio for substituting with regular sugar. Read this sugar substitute guide by The Kitchn if you need more information.


Small glass with coffee panna cotta, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.


Vanilla beans

As panna cotta is such a clean flavor in itself, I highly recommend splurging on a vanilla bean. It is easy to split open with a sharp knife, and just scrape out the seeds. Add the bean itself too to the mixture to fully infuse the cream, but discard it once you add the gelatin. 


However, if you really want to use pure vanilla extract, use 1 teaspoon. 


Other panna cotta variations

So there are endless possibilities when making panna cotta, and you can use this recipe for it as well. Instead of the coffee, add the same amount of heavy cream, and you'll have a classic vanilla panna cotta. This dessert would be perfect with a berry sauce like blackberry sauce, raspberry sauce, or even a salted caramel sauce for an extra decadent treat.


And as mentioned, you could use coconut milk and if you follow the recipe for regular vanilla panna cotta, you will have a vanilla coconut panna cotta - right? So easy! I could go on and on about these variations, but I think you get it now. Endless possibilities.


Various cups and glasses with panna cotta, pink tulips in the background.




This is a great make-ahead dessert! As it needs time to set, you can just continue to keep it in the fridge for days. It keeps pretty well for at least 5 days in the fridge, but I would add a plastic wrap directly on top of the panna cotta so that you don't get a thick skin on it. 


Make the chocolate sauce right before serving because it thickens considerably in the fridge. It can however be re-heated for a few seconds in the microwave if you want to make it ahead of time. 


Various glasses and cups with panna cotta, pink tulips and background.


How to make it


To make this dessert, first, gather the ingredients. Add the gelatin sheets to a bowl of cold water and let it sit for 5 minutes to rehydrate. Cut the vanilla bean open and scrape out the seeds, add the seeds and the beans to a large saucepan along with all the other ingredients apart from the chocolate sauce. 


Let it come up to almost a simmer, and take it off the heat. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin and add them to the heavy cream mixture. Stir to combine and then pour the mixture into heat-proof glasses. Let them sit for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator. 


Steps to make coffee panna cotta.


Right before serving, chop up some high-quality chocolate (I used 50/50 bittersweet and semisweet). Add heavy cream to a large bowl and microwave it for 30-60 seconds and then add in the chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes and then stir until completely melted.


If you want a thinner sauce, use more heavy cream. You can also use store-bought chocolate sauce, I won't judge. 


Dollop the thick chocolate sauce onto each serving of panna cotta. I also served it with mascarpone whipped cream (regular whipped cream works too!) and mocha beans as decorations. 


Pouring thick chocolate ganache on top of coffee panna cotta.




And if you liked this recipe, I'm confident you will love this romantic rhubarb custard tart for a spring and summer treat.


Did you like this recipe? Here are more make-ahead Valentine's Day desserts:




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📖 Recipe

Small glass with coffee panna cotta, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Coffee Panna Cotta with Chocolate Sauce

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Coffee Panna Cotta with a thick chocolate sauce is a super easy make ahead dessert. Creamy, flavorful and with specks of real vanilla too!


Coffee Panna Cotta

  • 5 gelatin sheets (or 5 teaspoons gelatin powder*)
  • 1 vanilla bean (or in a pinch, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups heavy cream (750 milliliters)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams, or to taste)
  • ½ cup very strong coffee (125 milliliters)

Thick Chocolate Ganache

  • 3 ½ oz dark chocolate** (100 grams)
  • 6-8 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Whipped cream and mocha beans (optional decorations)


  1. Place the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water and let sit to soften for about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add both the bean and seeds to a large saucepan along with the other ingredients for the panna cotta (apart from the gelatin).
  3. Let this mixture come to a gentle simmer, then take it off the heat. Remove the vanilla bean. Squeeze out the water from the gelatin sheets and add the gelatin to the warm cream mixture. Stir to dissolve the gelatin.
  4. Pour into 6-7 heatproof*** glasses or dessert bowls. Let set in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
  5. If you want to let them sit for longer, add plastic wrap directly on top of the panna cotta so it doesn't develop a thick skin. Keeps well in the refrigerator for 5 days.
  6. To make the chocolate sauce, add heavy cream to a heatproof bowl and microwave for 30-60 seconds. Add in chopped chocolate and let sit for about 2 minutes. Then stir until smooth. Serve over the chilled panna cotta immediately (it will thicken considerably in the fridge, so don't make it ahead). You can also add a little whipped cream and mocha beans for decorations.


* If you want to use gelatin powder instead of gelatin sheets, sprinkle it over ½ cup of water in an even layer. Let it soften for about 5 minutes.

** I use 50/50 bittersweet and semisweet chocolate for a dark yet not too bitter combination, but you can use either or too depending on your preferences.

*** If you're unsure if the glass can take the heat, make sure the glass is heated in advance. I put the glasses next to my electric heater for a couple of hours. Then I slowly pour the mixture into the glasses. The trick is to avoid big temperature differences between the glass and the mixture.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 410Total Fat: 30.8gSaturated Fat: 19.6gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 40mgCarbohydrates: 28.6gFiber: 0.6gSugar: 25.4gProtein: 6.7g

Nutrition information isn't always accurate, estimate for informational purposes only.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or tag @thegingerwithspice on Instagram, I'd love to see!

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Tuesday 25th of January 2022

This was so good! Everyone at my house really loved it!

Stine Mari | Ginger with Spice

Monday 31st of January 2022

I'm so glad Jen!

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