Saffron panna cotta is the panna cotta flavour you didn’t expect. Traditional panna cotta is spiced up with a hint of saffron to give it a new flavour depth and an irresistible bright yellow colour. Make this yellow panna cotta and enjoy a saffron dessert this spring.
In Italian cuisine saffron is used in savoury dishes. The most notable dish where you find saffron in Italian cooking is risotto alla milanese. Growing up in Italy, I have always linked saffron to savoury. Yet, saffron has the brilliant quality of working great in sweet recipes, too. Saffron panna cotta is a fantastic example.
If you’re used to having saffron in savoury dishes, a saffron dessert will be a wonderful surprise. It hits you immediately with the very distinct flavour of the spice. But belonging to a sweet mouthful it’s different receptors in the mouth that are at play. So you get the taste you’re familiar with from savoury dishes, but as a completely new experience. Not to mention to beautiful bright yellow colour saffron lends to the foods it’s added to.
Saffron in Sweden
Saffron is a pretty expensive spice, so I was never using it much. Until I came to Sweden, where saffron is largely used in sweet recipes, the most notable being the Swedish saffron buns lussekatter. Even in Sweden saffron is still pricey, but it comes in small half-gram packets that make it quite affordable. Saffron is widely available throughout December because that’s when everybody bakes saffron buns.
Since I developed this recipe here in Sweden, I have obviously used one of the many small saffron packets I hoard in December. I have used half of that packet, 0,25 g. No regular kitchen scale can possibly weigh such a tiny amount, of course. So what I do when I need to measure my saffron is take it all out of the package and halve it by eye. I recommend you do the same, it’s the best way to get an approximate amount of what you need when no kitchen scale or measuring spoon can help.
How to make saffron panna cotta
Saffron panna cotta is very easy to make, because it follows the traditional panna cotta recipe, with the additon of saffron. Panna cotta literally means cooked cream because that’s what it basically is. A mixture of cream, sugar and vanilla is heated then mixed with gelatin. The resulting dessert is very creamy while also firm from the gelatin.
What I normally use is a mixture of cream and whole milk. I choose the fattest cream I can get (40% fat whipping cream is my favourite) and mix in one part milk. If you cannot find such high-fat cream, you could skip the milk and do all cream with a lower fat content. But if you can buy high-fat cream, I’d recommend to follow my directions and mix cream and milk.
Saffron panna cotta ingredients:
- Heavy cream (40% fat)
- Gelatin sheets
- Pure vanilla extract
Quantities are indicated in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. A description of the recipe with step-by-step instructions follows.
Step by step instructions
- Soak the gelatin in cold water for a few minutes.
- Combine cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan and set on medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- When the sugar has dissolved, add the saffron and keep stirring. Cook mixture on medium heat until just before it reaches boiling temperature. Remove from the heat.
- Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth to separate saffron threads/debris. This is completely optional if using ground saffron, but could be a good idea if using threads. Saffron debris will most likely sink to the bottom of the mould. See recipe notes below.
- Drain the gelatin and add to cream mixture, stirring to dissolve. Lastly, stir in the vanilla extract.
- Pour hot mixture into moulds or serving cups. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until set.
Other no-bake desserts
Sometimes you just don’t want to turn the oven on. But you’re still craving something sweet. Thank goodness no-bake recipes are here for you. Here’s a selection of my favourite desserts that require no oven time. But they’re still surprisingly good!
- Black forest crepe cake – yes, black forest cake, you read it right. Instead of sponge cake layers, we’re using crepes! Genius, right? How to have that divine chocolate-cherry-cream combo without turning the oven on!
- Strawberry Bavarian cream – pretty similar to panna cotta, yet not quite the same thing. Bavarian cream is a similar milky preparation with gelatin, and this one features real strawberries.
- Hazelnut ice cream – a no-churn ice cream version of one of my favourite gelato flavours. If it’s too hot for the oven it might as well be the right time for some homemade ice cream!
- Liquorice panna cotta – so here’s another panna cotta recipe that doesn’t quite follow the traditional flavouring options. If you enjoyed saffron panna cotta, you may also love liquorice!
This is an updated version of the recipe I originally published in 2017. Among the good things about re-writing a recipe, there is the chance to add improvements along with new and better photos or technical explanations that may have gone amiss.
When I was making this saffron panna cotta recipe in the past I didn’t much care about pouring my panna cotta mixture through a sieve. Now I do, and this is why I added this step in the recipe directions. This is completely optional, as saffron debris in the panna cotta pose no threat. I just want to show you that if you do not filter your mixture, your final product may show some darker spots here and there (saffron panna cotta made with ground saffron). Still pretty to me!
Saffron panna cotta
A delicious yellow panna cotta made with saffron. Love this panna cotta's unique flavour and colour!
- 300 ml cream 40% fat
- 100 ml milk
- 60 g granulated sugar
- 4 g gelatin sheets
- 0.25 g saffron
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Soak the gelatin in cold water for a few minutes.
Combine cream, milk and sugar in a saucepan and set on medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
When the sugar has dissolved add the saffron and keep stirring. Cook mixture on medium heat until just before it reaches boiling temperature. Remove from the heat.
(Optional) Pour mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth to separate saffron threads/debris.
Drain the gelatin and add to cream mixture, stirring to dissolve.
Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour hot mixture into moulds or serving cups. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until set.
This recipe was originally published in December 2017 and has been updated in September 2020 with new pictures, better wording and a recipe card. Last update March 2021.