Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote

My decision to serve panna cotta at our recent Canada Day party was influenced by a culinary lesson learned in London: the simple goodness of panna cotta should not be discounted in lieu of flashier desserts.

Creamy, light-as-air-panna cotta is scrumptious on its own and even better when served with a seasonal fruit compote. These days I have all the local strawberries I could wish for, both in my backyard garden and at the markets.

Hence a patriotic red and white dessert made the final menu on July 1, but on merits far worthier than colour alone.

Panna cotta falls into the pudding category of desserts, at least in my opinion, and that translates as pure comfort food. We served it in every restaurant where I worked, back in the day, topped with any local fruit in season, and it was always a best seller, right along with creme brule.

Although I love a winter panna cotta, like my maple-sweetened, slightly bitter Blood Orange variation, it’s hard to beat the summer edition. The cool silkiness of a panna cotta is delicious on a hot July day, and in this recipe the tang of the sour cream contrasts nicely with the sweet, jammy strawberry compote.

All the rains of May have made for a less-than-stellar strawberry crop this season in Quebec. The berries are heavy with juices, but are lacking their characteristic sweetness. But don’t worry, this compote is the ideal recipe for those lackluster strawberries. A squeeze of lemon brightens the berry flavour and plenty of sugar makes up for the tartness.

Panna cotta can also be made well in advance, which means its an ideal party dessert. I prepped 24 mini jars a few days ahead of my event and then spooned on the berry compote just before serving. No one can resist a tiny jar of dessert and my Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote disappeared fast.

This recipe was adapted from my friend Renée’s beautiful cookbook, All the Sweet Things, and is not the first recipe I have prepared from the book. We also love her Brown Butter Spelt Brownies and Buckwheat Molasses Cookies, and found the Lemon and Cream Cheese Muffins to be a dream. Thanks, Renée.

Be sure to scroll past the recipe for our July #EatSeasonal round up. 

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: Serves 6-8
Adapted from All the Sweet Things by Renée Kohlman
For the Panna Cotta
  • 2 1/2 tsp unflavoured powdered gelatin (1 pkg)
  • 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 cup full-fat sour cream
For the Strawberry Compote
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
To make the Panna Cotta
  1. Place 1/4 cup cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Let it stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Scrape in the vanilla bean seeds and then throw the whole pod in too. Bring the cream mixture just to a simmer, whisking occasionally. Add the gelatin and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and whisk in the buttermilk and sour cream.
  4. Divide the cream mixture between 6-8 small serving dishes or jars and chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator until set, at least 4 hours.
To make the compote
  1. Place 1 cup of the strawberries in a medium saucepan with the sugar, lemon juice and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes, being sure to stir often.
  2. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the back of your spoon and smoosh the berries, breaking them up even further. I use a potato masher for this job.
  3. Add the remaining 1 cup of sliced berries and cook for about a minute longer. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool completely in the pan. The berries will continue to cook slightly more.
  4. Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve, then divide the berry compote among the jars and serve with spoons.
The compote will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Once the panna cotta has set, top with the compote.

The panna cotta can be made up to 5 days ahead. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

If you do not have vanilla bean, just add 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to the cream for the panna cotta.

Eat Seasonal: July

The markets are bursting with seasonal produce! Here’s some fresh recipe inspiration for using those cherries, berries and more. Find the full Seasonal Food Guide for July over on Becky’s site, Vintage Mixer.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. I agree, panna cotta is total comfort food and fancy in its own right! Love this sour cream version!!

  2. This definitely looks like the perfect summer dessert! I love that this recipe breathes new life into a disappointing strawberry crop!

  3. Shawnna Griffin says:

    hey girl- this looks so yummy!

  4. You’re so right about panna cotta — it’s so simple but always a crowd pleaser. I could never pass up my own little jar with that delicious compote. I don’t make panna cotta enough and need to change that!

  5. I couldn’t agree more — panna cotta is the perfect choice for any celebration, even if just to celebrate summer! Hope you enjoyed your Canada day festivities! These panna cotta are just STUNNING and makes use of all the strawberries, even when less-than-stellar 🙂

  6. I’m joining two old foodie friends on Friday for a season feast and I’m in charge of bringing along some homemade pizza doughs and dessert. I think I just found my dessert 🙂

  7. Panna cotta–definitely an underrated dessert. How gorgeous your presentation is! I want a creamy spoonful–right now!!

  8. I haven’t made panna cotta in ages! It’s so perfect for Summer. Nice and cool and light. Your berries are just darling. I can see this dessert being a big hit for your Canada Day celebration!

  9. Jennifer says:

    I think I will use some of my watery strawberry jam (adding more strawberries to it) to top your panna cotta! I made it from the same strawberry crop you described. My eight jars look like they are holding red water! Do you think I could open my jars to try to boil down the jam some more and then preserve again? Or even add some pectin? (My jam is just strawberries, sugar and lemon juice). Thanks.

    • Ugh. I was afraid of this. Everyone is reporting the same terrible strawberries and I have had concerns about how my (low sugar, no pectin) jam recipe would turn out.

      You can definitely reboil, and reduce. I’m not sure about adding pectin at this stage, though. Good luck.

  10. I love pudding-y desserts like this!! This one looks so creamy and decedent with all the fruit piled on! I hope you guys had an awesome Canada Day!

  11. Happy summer, my friend! The panna cotta looks marvellous and I’m so glad you’re enjoying my cookbook! xoxo

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