Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta

vanilla fennel panna cotta (gaps, paleo)

It only sounds pretentious

Yes, I will admit: “Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta” sounds like it belongs on a snobby restaurant menu and not a  dish served after a casual family dinner. So while this dessert boasts a rather pretentious title, it tastes homey and delicous.

To further contradict the uppity title, this quick dessert is extremely simple to make with ingredients you probably have in your pantry.

Lovely Fennel

Fennel boasts a mild licorice flavor. Here, it is steeped into the coconut milk base for a light flavor.

vanilla fennel panna cotta (gaps, paleo)

What is a Panna Cotta?

 Panna cotta is an Italian gelatin-set custard. It tastes lighter and more refreshing than egg-based custards, but rich and luscious at the same time due to the dairy base. Here, I use additive free coconut milk place of the usual milk, cream or half and half.

Bright, juicy pomegranate seeds make a perfect complement to the silky custard:

vanilla fennel panna cotta (gaps, paleo)

Fennel Vanilla Panna Cotta

Yield: 2-4 servings


  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 3/4 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed (measure then crush)
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tsp. grassfed gelatin
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. raw honey
  • Small pinch of salt (yes, it's important)


  1. Reserve 1/4 cup of coconut milk in a small bowl. Heat the remaining coconut milk and the crushed fennel seeds in a saucepan over low heat. Keep just below simmering for about 15 minutes. Strain out the fennel seeds and return the coconut milk to the saucepan.
  2. Mix the gelatin into the remaining 1/4 cup coconut milk, let sit while you bring the fennel-steeped coconut milk up to a simmer. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the hot coconut milk. Turn off the heat, let cool slightly, and whisk in the vanilla, honey and salt.
  3. Pour into 3-4 individual ramekins or 1 larger dish. Set in the fridge overnight before serving.

Eat well and heal!™

Have you made panna cotta before? What is your favorite use for fennel seeds? 

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  1. Christina says

    If I wanted to use pastured raw dairy (milk or cream) instead of coconut milk, would it the same ratio? Thanks!

    • says

      Yay for pastured raw dairy! Yes, that would certainly work. I would recommend using half milk and half cream for richness. But you would still use the 2 cups dairy to 2 1/2 tsp. gelatin. And it is best to heat the raw milk as little as possible. So this is what I recommend if using raw milk:

      Soften the gelatin in the 1/4 cup milk, as with the coconut milk. Then, heat only 1/2 cup of the milk and with the fennel seeds. Strain back into the saucepan, heat until hot, add the gelatin mixture, and whisk until the gelatin dissolves. Then, you can whisk this mixture into the unheated raw milk.

  2. Heidi says

    Awesome! We were just talking about a ‘dairy based jello’ yesterday and you came through with the goods!

    Is the fennel just for flavoring? I sort of have an aversion to fennel seeds which is odd because I love licorice, so I suppose I could try this and flavor it with cardamon or chai spices.

    What do you think?

    Also, what do you think of making your own coconut milk with shredded coconut and water?

    • says

      Um, yes! Infusing this with chai spices instead of the fennel would be delicious. So delicious, in fact, that I might just borrow that idea and use it for a future post, if you don’t mind! :)

      I don’t really like the taste/texture of homemade coconut milk. Mine always turns out watery. If you don’t have canned coconut milk, you might try homemade nut milk or the raw milk/raw cream version I discussed with Christina in the above comment.

      I think your chai suggestion is brilliant. I’m so tickled to have awesome people like you reading my blog!

  3. Beth says

    I had an amazing panna cotta in New York City that used avocado, which added creaminess but not avocado taste. Lauren, you’re so wonderfully creative, I thought you might want to experiment with an avocado variation! I also think a hint of cardamom would be lovely. Will you come make this for me?

    • says

      Well thanks for saying I’m creative, but I think you are brilliant to suggest an Avocado and Cardamom Panna Cotta. I will totally play with that idea and make a recipe for it!

    • says

      Hey Megan! No, chia seeds would make this too “pudding-y” and not firm enough. I’m personally not a fan of chia seeds because they are high in oxalates (I’m going to post an article about that tomorrow). But if you do like chia, then I think you could make a chia pudding with the infused coconut milk. It would be yummy, but just not the same texture.

  4. Andrea says

    OMG! I was looking for a panna cotta recipe since I just bought some grass fed gelatin! Yay! Also, we had a key lime panna cotta at a restaurant recently, so I might try those flavors too! Thank you for posting!

  5. Andrea says

    This sounds great ! So timely as I was looking for a panna cotta recipe to use my recently purchased grass fed gelatin. Also, I might try to duplicate a key lime panna cotta that we had recently at a restaurant. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Elaine says

    I use flax seed milk with chia seeds soaked over night, kind of tapiocaish. Been using vanilla but would love to try the fennel for a dessert. Usually have for breakfast. I am allergic to dairy and coconut so cannot do above. Thanks!

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