Saffron Pistachio Panna Cotta Recipe

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While panna cotta may be known as an Italian dessert of sweetened cream thickened with gelatin, every culture has its own version. In India, this is called "China Grass." Same idea except that the thickener is agar powder instead of gelatin. Saffron and pistachio are a classic combination of India — the coolness of the fragrant saffron pairs beautifully with the delicate crumbs of chopped pistachios. Known as the "queen of spices," saffron is the most expensive spice on the market today. It has a floral, aromatic sweetness with a deep golden yellow color. This is also a very easy dessert to make at home, and given the complexity of most Indian food, makes for a simple, elegant finish to a meal.

Makes 4 servings | 20 minutes + 2 days soak time

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2¼ cups whole milk, divided
  • Generous pinch saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon crushed green cardamom pods
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 package gelatin
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chopped pistachios


1. Two days before making the panna cotta, combine the heavy cream with 2 cups of milk, saffron, and cardamom and refrigerate. This will help infuse the flavor.

2. Bring the saffron cream mixture to a gentle boil and immediately turn the heat off.

3. Soak the gelatin in ¼ cup milk for 2-3 minutes, then whisk it into the warm saffron-cream mixture and continue whisking until smooth and creamy. Stir in the honey.

4. Strain the mixture and cool it down over ice, or frequently stir for 5-10 minutes before pouring to set. Alternately place plastic wrap directly on the mixture to prevent milk skin from forming.

5. Once the mixture has cooled sufficiently, pour it into 4-5 small bowls. Sprinkle pistachios and a few saffron threads and refrigerate overnight.

Notes & Variations

* The best way to extract the full potential of saffron is to do it over time, so don’t rush it.

* Replace whole green cardamom pods with green cardamom seeds only or crushed cinnamon sticks. The idea is to just infuse the flavor, not taste the spice — otherwise, the panna cotta will be gritty.

* To do a non-gelatin version, replace gelatin with agar powder.

Tags: Desserts, International Cuisine

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Written By

Anita Jaisinghani

Anita Jaisinghani is a renowned chef. For more information on Anita, visit her online here. See Full Bio

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