Having recently rediscovered panna cotta, when I was thinking about vegan desserts I thought that it must be possible to make panna cotta with coconut milk. The recipes I initially found online included cows milk as well as coconut milk, and although one could substitute almond milk, I thought that just using coconut milk should be fine, as I was looking for a creamy dessert that could be served in small portions with fruit. I also realised that I couldn’t use leaf gelatine, as I normally do, as that would be no good for vegetarians or vegans. So I experimented with making pure coconut panna cotta using agar agar flakes, a vegetarian alternative to gelatine.
It was delicious – quite creamy but the rich/sharp combination of mango and lime stopped it being cloying. Other exotic fruit, such as pineapple or passion fruit, would be good with this too I think, or you could try raspberries, maybe with redcurrants to add sharpness. I’m really pleased to have such a simple vegan dessert in my repertoire – and one that I really like too.
400ml tin coconut milk
2 tbsps caster sugar (or more to taste)
½ vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
2 dstsp agar agar flakes
1 Mango, peeled and cubed
juice of ½ lime (or more to taste)
Pour the coconut milk into a pan, add the vanilla pod (or essence) and sprinkle the agar agar flakes on the top. Heat, without stirring, until the mixture comes to the boil. Stir in the sugar and bash the vanilla pod (if using) to release the seeds. Simmer the coconut milk for 5 minutes or so until the agar agar has completely dissolved (this is easiest to check by looking at a spoonful of the mixture – you shouldn’t be able to see any little clear grains).
Fish out the vanilla pod and pour the panna cotta into small bowls or moulds if you want to turn it out. Cool and then chill in the fridge until set (mine took about 2 hours to set). I made mine in small glass bowls, so I could add the fruit on top, but if you want to turn it out see instructions on my Yoghurt Panna Cotta recipe.
Serve with the mango dressed with lime juice.