Panna Cotta with Figs and Honey: The Ideal Make-Ahead Dessert

“You take two cups of milk and two cups of cream and warm it on the stove,” Tim’s saying to me from the dining room.

Vertical image of a plate with panna cotta and fresh fruit, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I place a saucepan on the back burner.

“Okay, then what?” I call back to him.

“Add half a cup of Sucanat and stir until it dissolves.”

While the unrefined sugar combines with the milk and cream, I set out a bowl and fill it with six tablespoons of water, then toss five teaspoons of gelatin over the top.

I return to the stove. A couple minutes and a few stirs later, the sugar has totally dissolved, and I remove the saucepan from the heat.

Vertical top-down image of three plates with desserts topped with figs, next to napkins, forks, and honey.

I add vanilla extract and almond extract, stir, and pour the saucepan’s contents into the gelatin mixture. I stir, and let it all dissolve.

“Then I just pour it into the cups?” I say to Tim, thinking aloud that this has been too simple, wondering if we’ve somehow skipped a step.

He’s in the kitchen next to me now, right beside me while I divvy up the mixture, pour it into oiled ramekins and set them in the fridge.

“I told you it was easy,” he responds, his back to me now while he begins washing dishes and setting them to dry.

This is not the first time I’ve made panna cotta, nor is it Tim’s, but it is the first time we’ve made it together.

Horizontal image of two plates with circular cream desserts topped with figs in front of a black background.

Also, more notably, it’s the first time the process has been so easy that as soon as we’re done, I find that I’ve got it memorized. Repeating the whole process back to Tim minutes later when we settle in on the sofa, and I take out a piece of paper and write it down.

Tim made this exact same recipe for me a few weeks ago. One or the other of us had heard someone say “panna cotta,” developed a craving, and quickly passed the obsession along to the other. Pretty soon, both of us were regularly saying out loud, “Doesn’t that sound so good? I wish we had some right now!”

Vertical top-down image of a cream dessert topped with three sliced figs on a blue and white plate next to metal forks.

But it wasn’t until late one night, when the sky had already grown dark, that we finally made good on these daydreams. When the cooking was done, sitting side by side on the couch with a Netflix movie on the TV, we ate rich, luxurious, creamy bowl after bowl of it, licking our lips as we went.

I have to warn you now that once you’ve tasted it, a craving for this type of panna cotta isn’t the kind that abates when you feed it. It isn’t the kind that allows you to make a batch for yourself one night, and give it nary a thought for months afterward, after the bowls are clean.

No, this panna cotta is the chocolate chip cookie of the magical custardy world: with every bite you take, you just want more.

Vertical image of two plates with panna cotta garnished with figs on black and white napkins, with honey pouring over one.

So that’s how we found ourselves in the kitchen tonight, with a batch chilling in the fridge while we clean the kitchen and return to our laptops, eagerly anticipating the sweet treat to come.

It’ll be past 10 p.m. when the desserts are finally set enough to warrant sharing one, and the next morning when we finally get to turn two out onto plates and top them with sliced fresh figs and honey.

Vertical image of a half-eaten dessert topped with fresh fruit on a blue and white surrounded by metal forks, fresh fruit, and black and white napkins.

But even after we do, after we’ve consumed dish after dish after dish between the two of us, with the rich cream cut by the sweet and caramel-like milk layer with fresh figs on top, after every last bite is gone less than a full day after we made it, we will look at each other and still think the same thing:

Let’s make more!

Soon.

Print
Horizontal image of a creamy dessert garnished with three sliced figs and honey on a blue and white plate.

Panna Cotta with Figs and Honey


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Panna cotta with fresh figs and honey is a showstopping make-ahead dessert that’s elegant and surprisingly easy to prepare.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons cold water
  • 5 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar (Sucanat)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 5 large figs, sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons honey

Instructions

  1. Grease four 4-inch ramekins with olive oil and set aside. 
  2. In a medium bowl, add cold water and sprinkle gelatin on top. Set aside to hydrate for 3-5 minutes.
  3. While the gelatin blooms, in a medium saucepan over moderate heat, warm the milk, cream, and Sucanat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. This will take about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in vanilla and almond extracts until combined. Pour the warm milk mixture into the gelatin mixture. Stir until well-combined.
  5. Divide mixture evenly between the 4 ramekins. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or until fully set.
  6. Serve either in the ramekins or turned out onto a plate, topped with sliced figs and a drizzle of honey.

  • Category: Custard
  • Method: No-Bake
  • Cuisine: Dessert

Keywords: panna cotta, honey, fig, gelatin, no-bake

Cooking by the Numbers…

Step 1 – Slice Figs and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Horizontal image of assorted ingredients in glass and metal bowls on a dark gray surface.

Slice the figs with a sharp knife and set them aside.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

Grease four 4-inch ramekins with olive oil. Set aside.

Step 2 – Bloom Gelatin

Horizontal image of a blue bowl with gelatin and water.

Add cold water to a medium bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top.

Let the mixture rest for 3-5 minutes. Don’t wait too long to use it, or it will begin to solidify.

Step 3 – Make Milk Mixture

Horizontal image of a black pot with white liquid.

While the gelatin is resting, add the milk, cream, and Sucanat to a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. This will take about 5  minutes.

Horizontal image of a saucepan with cream and flavorings.

Once the sugar has dissolved completely, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts.

Step 4 – Make Base

Horizontal image of a blue bowl filled with a creamy white mixture on a black surface.

Pour the warm milk mixture over the gelatin mixture. Stir until everything is well-combined.

Divide the mixture evenly between the 4 ramekins.

Step 5 – Chill

Horizontal image of 4 ramekins filled with an off-white liquid mixture.

Place the ramekins in the refrigerator to chill for 4 at least hours. The panna cotta should be fully set before you serve it.

Step 6 – Top And Serve

Top the ramekins with fig slices and a drizzle of honey. Or, if you like, you can turn the panna cotta out onto dessert plates before garnishing and serving.

Heat up a knife under hot running water, and run it around the inside of each ramekin before putting a plate on top and then inverting. The custard should come right out.

Horizontal image of three plates with panna cotta garnished with figs next to a bowl of honey and metal forks.

If it doesn’t, try loosening the edges a little more, and then invert again. As an alternative method, you can also try dipping the base of the ramekins into a bowl of hot water for a few seconds, and then invert onto a plate.

Serve chilled.

What If I Can’t Find Fresh Figs?

Figs come and go pretty quickly in the summer. It can be tough to track them down in the first place, without them selling out from under your nose.

And when they are out of season? Forget it.

If you are still hoping to make this recipe without the fresh figs, but you’re craving that fig flavor, you have a couple of options:

Horizontal image of half a creamy dessert topped with fresh fruit next to a fork.

You can use halved dried figs, either as is or reconstituted in warm water, fruit juice, or a sweet dessert wine. Or you can top them with fig jam if that’s what you have on hand.

This way, you’ll still be able to get the flavor from the fruit that you so desire whenever you are craving this recipe out of season.

Still hungry? Check out some other make-ahead dessert recipes here:

What type of figs are your favorite when fig season rolls around? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to rate the recipe after you try it.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by on September 11, 2012. Last updated: November 13, 2019 at 18:54 pm. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

31 thoughts on “Panna Cotta with Figs and Honey: The Ideal Make-Ahead Dessert”

  1. This does look so easy! I have never made panna cotta, but have always been interested in it. Do you think you can replace the sucanat with regular sugar in this recipe? Thanks for sharing!

  2. Those figs look perfect! Glossy and pink and perfect! If you ask me – I like that layered look that you get with the milk and cream combo, too. And it’s true, what’s up with half and half that it doesn’t separate? Hmmmm….

  3. Dude, I’ve never had panna cotta. And now that I think of it, I can’t think of what a fig tastes like, either. This has to change, obviously.

    • I never had fresh figs until this year, I think, and while they aren’t as sweet as dried figs, they’re lovely in their own right… especially as an extra feature in a dessert like this one. : ) Would love to hear what you think!

    • Hi Kristina, That’s because our recipe uses half milk and half cream. If you want to avoid the separated look, you can use half-and-half.

  4. I always appreciate recipes that acknowledge real-life appetites — particularly when it comes to dessert! I’m sure it would serve just two in this house as well. ; )

  5. We’re on the same wavelength with the whole fig/almond extract theme. So yum. I’m actually with Jacqui though, never had panna cotta! The texture has always turned me off. This would be worth a try, though! Do you think I could use agar agar instead of gelatin?

    • You know, Kelsey, I’m not sure, but only because I’ve never used agar agar before. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  6. Oh my! This looks heavenly! I love the combination, and yes, panna cotta is one of the easiest things ever.

    It’s a great recipe to pull out for large groups of people coming over. People are always amazed.

    As for alternate baking – I know a lot of people say to use agar agar. It’s great, but you have to be careful. Alico (my partner in crime) and I once mixed up our measurements and made something that we like to call ‘wub’. Essentially, we put it in a plastic bag and proceeded to throw it to the ground with great gusto. The ‘wub’ sound is what hit our ears as it bounced almost back to the height of our knees.

    Keep it up! I look forward to reading through your entries and sharing them with friends.

  7. Love this. Panna cotta has long been on my list of desserts to make, and yet I still haven’t. Seems so perfect for this time of year. And even more, your perfect late summer use of figs.

  8. It was stupid of me to read this before breakfast because now I’m famished and craving figs! This looks excellent- have never made panna cotta, I didn’t think it was that simple- will definitely be trying it. Me and my husband’s stomach thank you 🙂

  9. I’ve forgotten how easy it is to make panna cotta – thank you for reminding me! Did you create that illustration by hand? It’s beautiful!

  10. Catching up on all the posts I’ve missed… This looks scrumptious, I LOVE panna cotta! And admire Tim for being able to “wing” it so easily! And BTW, I love your new banner, looks just beautiful.

  11. Last year was the first time I ate Panna Cotta and I was hooked. This recipe look good and easy and I really need to make it one day.

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