Coconut Panna Cotta with Spicy Mango

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I know people who organize their restaurant meals around dessert.  Pas moi.  The dessert light in my brain flickers fitfully, according to context, and the availability of something attractive to my retrograde tastes.   A slice of fruit tart is never amiss at the end of a picnic; or if I know that a master of crème caramel, flying in the face of fashion, resides in the house, I can be tempted.  Homemade panna cotta, that exquisitely delicate Italian wobbler, another seduction.  When Sara Cravedi, the pastry chef at Trade, introduced a coconut panna cotta onto the dessert menu, my dessert light began flashing an SOS.  Sara’s dessert includes a scoop of avocado ice cream, crumbled peanut brittle and a mango macerated with lime and habanero pepper.  It comes together in an interplay of heat, fat, sweetness, delicacy and unctuousness.  Jody’s Coconut Panna Cotta with Spicy Mango pares things down to just a pair of flavors–coconut and mango–just in case you don’t have an ice cream machine and pastry kitchen standing in readiness for the next dessert launch.  To make it even easier, there’s no need to un-mold this panna cotta–it’s served in its glass, topped with a spoonful of spicy mango.  Think of the panna cotta and mango as a couple that wandered off the terrace party to do a little dance by themselves down on the beach.

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Many of this week’s photos are on the blurry side, shot in the dim light of our kitchen without the flashes that would have crisped up the pours and stirs.  The confines of our kitchen are too small to fit visitors and big light modifiers.  We were honored to host visiting Japanese blogger Ayako Ohi and her charming mother Sachiko.   Ayako, an inveterate photographer and world traveller, is a dedicated documentarian of her experiences, whether wondering the streets of Macau or visiting a French restaurant in Tokyo.  We gladly sacrificed some sharpness in our photos to allow them to watch what we do.  At the risk of sounding clichéd, it’s a treat to discover that there are real people behind all the generous comments we receive on our posts.   We’re happy that they could taste some of our experiments with the panna cotta, even if the process comes off as a bit blurry.  You’ll notice that in the ingredients photograph a small radish bowl appears, empty.  It was a gift from Ayako.  We probably should have filled it with the shaved coconut, but then you wouldn’t have been able to see what makes it a radish bowl.

The recipe makes 8 generous 4-ounce portions of panna cotta (a half-cup of panna cotta!).  You can stretch it to 10 servings, and still give everyone a satisfying experience with a dessert both rich and a little heated.  Enjoy.  Ken

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Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango

Adapted from Trade Pastry Chef Sarah Cravedi

Panna Cotta


  • 4 sheets gelatin 9″ x 2 ½”, or ¼ ounce granulated gelatin
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups organic full fat coconut milk
  • 1  cup whole milk yogurt


  1. Soak the gelatin sheets in 2 cups cold water to “bloom.”  The goal is to make the gelatin sheets pliable.
  2. Heat the milk with the sugar and salt over medium heat until the sugar melts.  Don’t let it boil.   Remove from the heat.
  3. Squeeze out excess water from gelatin and drop into the warm milk.   Whisk until the gelatin has completely dissolved.
  4. Whisk in the coconut milk and yogurt – whisk well – this likes to separate.
  5. Strain through fine sieve and whisk again.
  6. Pour into 8 4-ounce cups.  Refrigerate at least six hours, or overnight.

Mango and Assembly


  • 2 cups mango, cut into small dice (see photographs)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon habanero pepper, minced
  • ½ ounce toasted coconut flakes


  1. Toss the diced mango with all the other ingredients except the toasted coconut.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Place a spoonful of the spicy mango atop each portion of chilled panna cotta, garnish with coconut and serve immediately.



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Coconut Panna cotta 3-1-2

Coconut Panna cotta 2-2-2

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Coconut Panna cotta 3-3-2

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Jody Notes:

Sarah Cravedi, our pastry chef at Trade, put an amazing coconut panna cotta with avocado ice cream and spicy mango on the menu.  I was inspired.  Hers is a more complex dessert with the foundation of a simple panna cotta made with coconut milk, whole cows milk, sugar, gelatin and a pinch of salt.  

I got hooked on Liberté Coconut Yogurt a few years ago, and let’s be clear, it’s a dessert–not health food.  As you spoon your way down through the mildly tart coconut yogurt, a yummy coconut jam awaits you in the bottom of the cup.  Another case of agrodolce.

I wanted to include a bit of that sweet-tart business in the panna cotta and so substituted yogurt for half of Sarah’s whole milk.  

Most gelatin is made from animal collagen.  If you’re vegetarian, there are vegetarian alternatives and the internet is full of suggestions and equivalents.  Since I haven’t experimented with them, I’m not comfortable making a recommendation.  If you have experience with vegetarian gelatin and know more than I do, please share what you know with our readers. 






42 thoughts

  1. Wowsers. Bring on my favorite flavor combo, why don’t ya? ;) I love citrus in desserts, how the “tart” balances out the heavy richness.

    • Jody’s instincts were right on. I suppose as we (Jody and me – not whippersnappers like you) our inclination toward sweetness seems to grow less and less. We still love sweet things, but sweeter is not necessarily better. We like other things to shine through, instead of being masked by sugar. If you’re a fan of panna cotta, this one is worth trying. (Especially after digging up your front lawn.) Ken

  2. Nice job folks. My only fear is you make it look easier than it might be. I’ll give it shot when we get back to the big world later this month.

    • Us? Make it look easy? Surely you jest. As I suggested above – there really isn’t a trick, except to keep stirring and make sure the heat is on low. Also, this is a no-unmolding version, so even if you make it a little loose, it will still look wonderful and taste delicious. Ken

  3. WOW! Your imagery of smooth and spicy dancing on the beach is awesome!! Once again, you’ve made my day!! Can see panna cotta gracing a ‘happening soon’ backyard barbecue! Thanks, Ken!

    • Hi, Bettina–Thanks for stopping by. You don’t usually see panna cotta and habanero in the same context, let alone mangoes too, but I think all three work together. Let us know how it goes. Ken

  4. This looks so delicious. My grandma taught me how to cut up a mango the same way Jodi does. I always wondered how to make panna cotta and these wonderful tropical flavors are a great place to start. The avocado ice cream and habanero pepper are right up my alley. OMG. I think your photos still look great (I owe you an email on that front). Cool that you had a visitor! I love the radish bowl. I’d put my pickled radishes in it.

    • Thanks, Amanda. This is a wonderful dessert–the full-blown TRADE version is a visually understated sleeper that’s one of the more spectacular dessert taste combos I’ve ever had. Sarah Cravedi deserves applause. Re: the radish bowl. She also smuggled in a fresh wasabi root for us, which we grated over fresh sushi last night–incredible heat with a focused delicate floral quality. I’m beginning to sound like an idiot with a neural tic for superlatives, but if fresh wasabi root were available here I’d never eat the commercial stuff again. Ken

  5. What a perfect combo. I love coconut and mango but that chilli just sets this going on my taste buds!
    I’m envious if your mangoes. They are few and far between over here or expensive dud to recent EU ban :-(

  6. Habanero is such an unexpected, interesting addition! If I use agar agar instead of gelatin, is the ratio still the same?

    • I suspect not. We haven’t worked with agar agar (unlike other recipes when we have familiarity with the proposed substitute), and even a casual perusal of some of the responses to Googling “Can agar agar be substituted for gelatin?” produces a complex picture, not only of ratios, but also of texture–as well as few complaints about failed panna cotta. I’d try to find a vegetarian cook you trust to answer the question. If, by the way, you’re asking because you’re vegetarian, I believe that there are some Kosher vegetarian gelatins. Good luck. If you find something definitive we’d love to hear back from you. Sorry not to be of more help. Ken

  7. This is so up my street. And coconut yogurt – WTF? How did I not know about this? Where can I get this? I live in LA. This must surely be at Wholefoods or at the very least in Santa Monica. Lovely recipe – thank you. Sophie

    • Liberté is carried by WF, at least in this part of the world. And it’s really good (but so is sour cream if you get my drift). Just to be clear, we didn’t use coconut yogurt in the recipe, just plain. The habanero-mango combo is dynamite with the panna cotta.

  8. Oh good! This looks like a lighter, wobblier version of panna cotta, which I stubbornly prefer over those so laden with cream, you may as well be having chilled cream pots. As for spicy mango, swoon, and I wish it was mango season here again.

    I’ve tried agar agar as a gelatin substitute, but I think the texture is meant to be different (the jelly splits when you bite into it, rather than the slight “give” you get from gelatin), I’m also yet to become confident with it. So…not very helpful I’m afraid!

    • Thanks for the praise. Our problem is the opposite here – you find panna cotta that is so reinforced with gelatin youfire a bullet into it and it would bounce! This is neither that, nor of the too creamy variety (I hope). I am so jealous of people who get great mangoes, a dicey proposition here. On/off on/off… The business about agar agar (sounds like a British comedy troupe) fragmenting seems to be a common observation. Is there a reason, other than preferring a vegetarian ingredient, for using it instead of gelatin? Chili and mango is a good combination – I’m waiting for someone to adopt it as a yogurt flavor. Ken

  9. What a great post – how can it not be – I’m in it. :) And the panna cotta was yum. It would be difficult to get habanero in Tokyo though. Maybe substitute with wasabi(!)

    So on fresh wasabi root, I said peel but you don’t have to, I have learned. Other things I have read: You can keep it frozen for up to 6 months w/o losing flavor (you grate it frozen). Refrigerated (some say wrap in wet paper towel and plastic film wrap or in a glass of water but others say keep it dry and plastic film wrap tight and ziploc), it would keep for a month. Will start to turn black on the outside but it doesn’t mean it’s going bad (and you still don’t have to peel). Inside it will be green.

  10. Hi Jody and Ken, This delicious dessert has the letters melt into each other while reading.
    How is this only at the tasting? Unthinkable

  11. Pingback: Behind the Scenes at the Garum Factory | A blog by Ayako Mathies

  12. Pingback: Lunching @ Trade, Boston | A blog by Ayako Mathies

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