Recipe: Holiday Cranberry-Vanilla Panna Cotta

This healthy panna cotta is easy to make, but will look impressive at your holiday table.

Panna cotta might sound intimidating, but I like to think of it as an elevated version of Jell-O. To me, it’s a perfect dessert option: quick to assemble, practically foolproof and stunning to serve. This version is a lighter take on the typical whole-milk version. Thick Greek yogurt keeps it luscious and creamy, but with about half the calories and fat of traditional recipes.

If you can make Jell-O, you can make panna cotta. Bloom the gelatin in a bit of cold water, then add to a simmering pot of cream and fresh vanilla bean. The gelatin keeps the filling wonderfully delicate and wobbly.

Since vanilla is the primary flavor here, it’s worth seeking out whole beans. Most well-stocked grocery stores will carry them in the spice section, though they can also be found online and in specialty grocery stores. Slice the bean lengthwise, then carefully open to reveal the fragrant seeds inside. Use a small paring knife to remove as many of the seeds as possible, then add both the bean and the seeds to the cream mixture.

This cranberry-vanilla panna cotta is a gorgeous option for any holiday gathering. Made ahead of time, the panna cotta will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Holiday Cranberry-Vanilla Panna Cotta

Makes 6 servings


2 tablespoons cold water

2 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup cane sugar

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

2 cups low-fat, plain Greek yogurt

1 cup fresh orange juice

1 cup fresh cranberries


Place the cold water in a small bowl, then sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand until softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring the cream, sugar, and vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Whisk gently, taking care not to overheat. Remove from heat, then stir in the gelatin until melted.

In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt until fluffy and smooth using a whisk or hand mixer. Remove the vanilla bean from the vanilla cream mixture, then gradually whisk in to the yogurt bowl. Pour the mixture into six 1/2-cup ramekins, then place in the fridge until set, at least 3 hours.

An hour before serving, combine the orange juice and cranberries in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the berries have broken down and the liquid is reduced, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

To serve, loosen the panna cotta by running a clean butter knife around the inside of each ramekin. Set a plate on top of each ramekin, then invert the panna cotta onto it. You may have to tap the ramekin to loosen the panna cotta fully. Spoon cranberry compote on top and serve immediately.

Per serving: Calories 218; Fat 8.3 g (Saturated 5.2 g); Cholesterol 31 mg; Sodium 50 mg; Carbohydrate 31.7 g; Fiber 0.8 g; Sugars 29 g; Protein 4.7 g

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (, a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.”

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