Vegetarian Agar Panna Cotta Recipe

Vegetarian Agar Panna Cotta Recipe Recipe

Panna cotta is probably the easiest vegetarian appetizer to prepare once you've figured out how to deal with agar agar. It’s all about the liquid to powder ratio. In case you don’t know, agar agar is a seaweed substitute for gelatin. I've created several savory and sweet panna cottas in the past using it.

Like other gelatin-based products, panna cotta can be be formed in any shape you want. I shaped the ones I made today in verrine glasses. I layered this panna cotta with red hummus, broccoli florets, baby spinach leaves, morel mushrooms and sugar plum tomatoes. Assembling them is very simple and they can be prepared in advance. Serve this panna cotta with a large salad and a baguette and you’ve got yourself a delicious, light meal.


Yields: 10 servings

1 (0.88-ounce) package agar agar powder
10 morel mushrooms in water, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon canola oil, as needed
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup broccoli florets
¼ cup baby spinach leaves
15 sugar plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
3-3/4 cups filtered water, cold
6 ounces crème fraîche
2 tablespoons red bell pepper-flavored hummus (click on the link for the recipe)
2-¼ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1-½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground


Preparing the broccoli:

Fill a saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli florets. Cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt. Drain and immediately transfer the greens into a cold water bath. Pat dry on a towel. Finely chop.

Cooking the morel mushrooms:

Pat dry the mushrooms on paper towels. Coarsely chop them.

In a small pan, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook until slightly golden. Add the morels. Lower the heat and cook for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley.
Set aside.

Assembly time:

Cut 5 tomatoes in half and coarsely chop the rest. Set aside.

Dissolve the agar agar in water. Pour the agar agar liquid into a sauce pan. Heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then immediately lower to medium. Keep stirring for an even,  slightly thickened, smooth texture.

In a different pan, heat the milk and heavy cream until you reach a near boil. Add the agar agar liquid. Stir well. Add tarragon and crème fraîche, then lower the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Move immediately to the next step; otherwise the mixture might set in the pan.

Brush verrine glasses (see tips) with cold water for easy un-molding. If you're extra cautious, you could also line with plastic wrap (I didn't). Add the chopped tomatoes. Pour a ladleful of the dairy mixture into the mold. Let the first layer set for about 2-3 minutes, then add the morel mushrooms.  When the top is a little sticky to the touch but the liquid hasn't reached a gel consistency, repeat the same procedure with the broccoli, then the fresh spinach leaves.

Note: It's important that you wait enough time in between each layer so that the layers bind together and don't mix with each other.

Mix the remaining milk mixture with the red hummus; it will create a thin red layer as a finishing touch. Pour that last layer.

Let the vegetarian panna cotta set at room temperature until it's completely cool.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours, preferably overnight.

Agar Panna Cotta Recipe with Picture

When you're ready to serve, gently un-mold the savory panna cotta by running a knife around the inner wall of the glass . Flip each glass onto an individual serving plate.

Garnish with halved sugar plum tomatoes.

Serve chilled.

Bon appétit!


If you're lucky and fresh morels are in season, use the fresh version. You could also use dried morels and re-hydrate them in lukewarm water.

Agar agar powder is a good gelatin substitute for vegans and vegetarians. It is derived from seaweed and is cooked the same way you would gelatin powder. It is widely used in Asia. I buy the Thai Telephone Brand; it's sold in 25-gram packages. (FIY 0.88 oz = 25 g). Depending on the agar agar product you use, the amount of liquid added might vary a little to reach the perfect consistency.

"Verrine" is just a fancy word for "glasses"; they're the latest trend in French cooking. You could use any small containers, such as ramekins

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on August 3, 2011.


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