I hope you guys enjoy this Bailey’s Panna Cotta recipe. It’s creamy, smooth, and just boozy enough thanks to Irish cream liqueur. All the goodness of Irish coffee in dessert form to be enjoyed one cool bite at a time.
If you’re a fan of panna cotta, you may also like my chocolate panna cotta and lemon corn panna cotta and Gelatin-Free Panna Cotta (Chocolate Mint!).
Are you just learning about Panna Cotta? Here is my Basic Panna Cotta Recipe.
And for easy browsing, you can find all my individual desserts in one place. Enjoy!
What Makes This Dessert So Good
Panna cotta is very easy to make. Here’s the formula:
Basic Panna Cotta Formula: 1 cup dairy to 1 teaspoon gelatin, sweetener to taste, and flavorings.
In other words. it takes 1 teaspoon of powdered gelatin to set 1 cup of dairy. You’ll use as much sugar as you like–somewhere around 3-5 Tablespoons per cup.
This particular panna cotta uses instant coffee or espresso powder rather than brewed coffee, but you can absolutely use strong brewed coffee if you’d like.
For more contrast between the Bailey’s layer and the coffee layer, you can leave the dairy out of the coffee layer.
In that case, you’ll have a coffee “Jell-o” layer topped with a creamy Bailey’s layer.
I prefer creaminess throughout, and it’s not technically panna cotta without the “cotta” part!
One of the great features of this dessert is the different textures.
The coffee layer is smooth, cool, and sort of “slick,” while the Bailey’s layer is creamy and foamy. You can see the difference in the photo below.
How to Make It
Again, panna cotta is an easy dessert, and it only requires a few ingredients, some of which make an appearance both in the coffee layer and in the foamy Irish cream layer.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Bailey’s Irish Cream: provides the boozy flavor and adds to the volume of liquid
- half and half: the main dairy component of this recipe
- heavy cream: “supplemental” dairy used in the topping so it can be whipped until thick
- sugar: adds sweetness and also some body since it dissolves into a light syrup in the panna cotta mixture
- powdered gelatin: provides the setting power. Note gelatin is an animal product so panna cotta is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians. You can substitute agar for a vegetarian version although the texture won’t be quite the same
- instant coffee or espresso powder: Another option is to leave out the dairy entirely and just use strong sweetened coffee, swapping out the Irish cream for Kahlua to keep it dark and coffee-colored. This will give you more of a contrast in color between the coffee layer and the cream layer. Note that if you do that, the coffee portion isn’t technically panna cotta but more of a coffee gelee. Panna cotta needs the dairy component to be called panna cotta
- salt: focuses the flavor
- vanilla extract: rounds out the flavor in the cream topping. Strictly speaking, it’s optional, but I do love vanilla, coffee, and cream together.
The procedure for making both layers is pretty much the same:
- Bloom gelatin in liquid.
- Heat to melt the gelatin and add the rest of the ingredients.
- Strain, portion, and chill.
The only difference between the two layers is that, for the Irish cream layer, you whip a portion of the cream until thick and then fold that into the rest of the topping.
Adding this extra step allows for a creamy rather than “slick” panna cotta, and it is generally my preferred way of making it, unless I am going for textural contrast, as with this Bailey’s panna cotta.
Q & A
No. Because it is set with gelatin, which is an animal product, panna cotta is neither vegan or vegetarian.
You can substitute agar agar 1:1 with the gelatin. The set is a bit firmer with agar, but that takes the animal product off the table.
I have not tried to do this, but if you are up on your vegan desserts and are comfortable with using agar agar, you should be able to use your favorite plant-based milk in place of the half and half and cream. I’d consider using oat milk since it already has nice body. I’ve not tried this, but I think it is worth experimenting if this panna cotta sounds good to you!
Yes, keep your panna cottas refrigerated until about 15 minutes before serving. They will keep in the fridge for about 5 days. Since gelatin continues to thicken over time, your dessert will have the best texture if you eat them within 3 days.
Yes! Panna cotta freezes really well. Freeze individual panna cottas, until firm and then cover each with some plastic wrap and a layer of foil. They’ll stay good for 4-6 weeks. To serve, put them in the fridge the night before and then remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
To serve, you can certainly just Dig On In, or you can whip some More cream (hey, it’s a holiday) with some Irish Cream (and some Kahlua. Sue me) and top it.
You can also put a wee chocolate-covered espresso bean on top.
Or maybe sift a slight drift of cocoa powder on top.
Serve with a crispy/crunchy item of your choice. I am going with an Irish-inspired shortbread, but this lovely caramel walnut shortbread would be great accompaniment as well.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend. If you’re unsure, please read my post about how to use a food scale.
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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Bailey's Panna Cotta Recipe
With a creamy coffee layer topped by an even creamier Irish cream layer, this Bailey's panna cotta is a wonderful individual dessert to serve for St. Patrick's Day or for any day when a creamy, cold boozy coffee dessert is just the ticket!
For the Coffee Layer
- 1 1/2 cups half and half
- 1/2 cup Irish Cream Liqueur
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons espresso powder or instant coffee
- 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
For the Irish Cream Layer
- 3/4 cups heavy cream, divided
- 1/4 cup Irish Cream Liqueur
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- maybe 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
For the Coffee Layer
- In a medium pot, sprinkle the gelatin over the half and half and liqueur. Let bloom for about 5 minutes.
- Heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved and the dairy is hot but not boiling–probably no hotter than 130F-140F.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust salt/sugar/espresso powder as necessary.
- Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a pitcher, and fill 6 6oz dessert cups about 3/4 full.
- Place the glasses in the fridge to set up for about an hour or two.
For the Irish Cream Layer
- In a small pot, bloom the gelatin for five minutes in 1/4 cup of the cream and all the liqueur.
- Add the salt and sugar, and heat until the mixture is hot and the gelatin is melted (no graininess). Taste. The mixture should seem a little bit too sweet. Set aside.
- Whip the other 1/2 cup of cream and a splash of vanilla until it mounds softly but doesn’t peak. This will make the cream layer a little bit fluffy and mousse-like for a slight textural contrast with the jiggly-smooth, barely set coffee layer.
- By this time, the liqueur mixture should be about room temperature or just slightly warm. Whisk/fold in the whipped cream. Pour over the set coffee layer almost to the Very Top of your dessert glasses.
- Put back in the fridge to set up.
- OPTIONAL (but pictured) serve topped with whipped cream mixed with a bit more Irish cream liqueur and top each dessert with a chocolate-covered espresso bean.
NOTE: Do not let your gelatin mixture come to a boil because it will decrease the setting power. Fortunately, gelatin dissolves well below the boiling point of water. You'll know it is all dissolved when you don't feel any graininess when rubbing a bit between your fingers.
KEEPING: Your Bailey's panna cotta will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. Since gelatin continues to get firmer and firmer as time goes on, eat them within the first 3 days for best texture.
FREEZING: Panna cotta freezes quite well for several weeks. Just keep the glasses in the freezer and remove to the fridge the night before serving (or that morning if serving in the evening).
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Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 371Total Fat 17gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 6gCholesterol 55mgSodium 161mgCarbohydrates 29gFiber 0gSugar 29gProtein 4g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
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What Others Are Saying...
Daily Spud says
Would you get a load of those panna cottas! I’m so pleased that Italy said you could play with their custards (and I will be very curious to see the shortbreads later). Happy Paddy’s Day to you m’lady 🙂
Thanks, ma’am, and to you too! Sometimes Italy is a Helper.
[email protected] Noodle says
Oooh, aaah! Love this particular float in the Paddy’s Day Food Parade! I’ve never made panna cotta before, but then again, most recipe seem to take pleasure in making it seem like a mysterious concoction that mere mortals such as myself could never hope to attain. Thanks for breaking the spell! Now there’s no telling what I might panna-cotta-ize! 8-P
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
That makes me very happy to hear, Tracey. The dairy to gelatin ratio is pretty standard, you can switch up the dairy however you like (coconut milk sounds reasonable, for example), sweeten to taste and flavor however you like. Easy. =D
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you, too!
Brian @ A Thought For Food says
This looks darn good… combining some of my favorite things (most notably the booze) into one dessert.
Yeah, booze is pretty much imperative! 😉
wow looks perfect love the layers what a fun treat
Thanks for this great idea. My grandfather was very irish, but though we celebrated with corned beef, we always had cake with icing that said Erin Go Bragh (I think that’s right). Now though I wonder what traditional irish desserts are.
You’re right–I should maybe look to a traditional dish next time. Time to do some research (while eating a panna cotta, or three)! 😆
skip to malou says
i love the different layers of flavors… that spoon is calling my name… haha.. but yeaf if only i could grab that spoon right now…
I love the texture of perfect panna cotta! It holds together but just barely, then it’s like velvet on the tongue. Gorgeous work here! GREG
Thanks, Greg:) There is something really off-putting about a “boingy” panna cotta. Or one that’s too “slick” in the mouth. For a simple dessert, it’s not necessarily easy. Learned a lot of tricks at the restaurant! 🙂
Thanks for checking out my Irish Coffee post. I had an incredible time in Ireland with my mom and it was made all the better as I got to hook up with the Daily Spud. It was our second in-person meeting (the first time was when she came to SF) and it just reinforced what an incredible person she is, so amazingly talented. Love reading her posts, although I am well behind lately.
I look forward to checking out more of your blog. What I saw made me convinced I do not have enough hours in the day as you have me craving to get back into the kitchen.
How wonderful–would love to hang out IRL with the wonderful DS. The Hinternets are great and all, but sharing a real cup of tea and hearing a person’s voice can make all the difference:) Glad you stopped by!
Mozaik Pasta says
They look delicious. Health in your hand. A little later I also enjoy your meal. Thanks
It’s only September and I already want to make this!
I think you should definitely go for it, St. Patrick’s Day or not, @c8822fdb6e614eaeb8c3a35200e52149:disqus ! 🙂
Cat Smith says
Can you make this with Earl Grey Tea instead of coffee? I really don’t enjoy coffee.
Jennifer Field says
I have never tried it, so I cannot say for certain. Do you mean using all the same ingredients aside from coffee and just subbing Earl Grey? Because that would work as far as texture, but I’m not sure about the flavor profile.