Grapefruit and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta

Grapefruit and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Recipe

I feel like it’s only fair for me to warn you about this panna cotta. It’s not for everyone. The first taste brings a powerful intensity of grapefruit flavor—tart and more than a little bitter—followed by the smooth, sweet, vanilla-scented cream. For me, this marriage of tart and sweet, bitter and smooth, is completely addictive. My friend Devon, a wonderful pastry chef, taught me that not all panna cotta has to be made of milk and cream. You can replace some of the dairy in a panna cotta with fruit juice for a lighter, fresher taste and texture, as I do here. Be sure to use a grapefruit juice with no added sugar or flavorings. If you would prefer another flavor, nearly any juice will do—apple, grape, cranberry. You can even use iced green tea.–Faith Durand

LC Bakeless Sweets Note

In addition to everything else this lovely little recipe has going for it, there’s something else that hasn’t been mentioned yet. It requires no oven, making it an easy option for crazy holidays when the stove is already spoken for as well as casual summer entertaining.

Special Equipment: Ramekins or dessert glasses

Grapefruit and Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 2 H, 25 M
  • Serves 6


  • 1 1/2 cups pulp-free pink grapefruit juice
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, or to taste
  • Fresh grapefruit segments, for serving (optional)
  • Mint sprigs, for serving (optional)


  • 1. Pour the grapefruit juice into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Set the pan aside, off the heat, for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.
  • 2. Place the pan of grapefruit and gelatin over medium heat and warm it gently, stirring constantly, until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  • 3. Meanwhile, warm the cream and sugar in a separate saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is fully dissolved. If using the vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the pan and toss the pod in as well, then whisk to incorporate. If using vanilla extract, do not add it yet. Remove from the heat and let the mixture steep for 5 minutes.
  • 4. Whisk the grapefruit juice and gelatin mixture into the cream mixture. Taste to check sweetness; if necessary, add more sugar. Stir in the salt, ginger, and vanilla extract, if using, and whisk vigorously. Remove the vanilla bean pod if needed. Taste and adjust the amount of ginger accordingly.
  • 5. Divide the panna cotta mixture among 6 ramekins or dessert glasses. Loosely cover the panna cotta with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and preferably overnight, especially if you plan to unmold it. (The panna cotta can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.) If desired, garnish each serving with a peeled segment of grapefruit and a short sprig of mint.
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