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.
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.
A Note About Measurements
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
For the Coffee Layer
- 1 ½ cups half and half
- ½ cup Irish Cream Liqueur
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons espresso powder or instant coffee
- 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
For the Irish Cream Layer
- ¾ cups heavy cream divided
- ¼ cup Irish Cream Liqueur
- pinch of salt
- ¼ 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.
Did You Make Any Changes?
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Make some of this Bailey’s panna cotta. I promise you’ll be happy.
Have a lovely day!