Strawberries say summertime
Every summer growing up we went to pick strawberries at Jones Family Farms in Connecticut. I still go every chance I get when I’m able to visit in June. We are always looking for delicious things to make with strawberries, once we have exhausted the classic strawberry shortcake and strawberry ice cream desserts. Vegan strawberry panna cotta is a lighter take on the creamy Italian dessert you’ll find at a lot of restaurants.
What you’ll need to make Vegan Strawberry Panna Cotta
• Medium saucepan
• Dessert cups or ramekins
About the ingredients
You may not have used agar powder or kudzu before in your cooking. I like to use a combination of the two to get a thick, creamy texture of traditional panna cotta made with heavy cream and gelatin. If only using agar, the consistency is too hard and rubbery. If only using kudzu, it is thick like a pudding. When using a combination, it is the perfect texture, more like a smooth custard.
Agar powder is a vegan substitute for gelatin that is derived from red sea algae. You’ll see agar being used often in Japanese cooking to gel desserts. I recommend ordering the NOW brand of agar powder online (if you can’t find at the store) as it has the best taste and has good gelling power. I used to recommend using agar flakes (a less concentrated, less processed version of agar powder) but it is getting increasing hard to find at my local stores and it is much more expensive than agar powder. Also, agar flakes need to sit on top of the liquid for 10-12 minutes before cooking to dissolve completely, which complicates the recipe.
Kuzu powder is a thickener, derived from the kudzu root. It is considered healing for the intestines, high in minerals, and is a great substitute for corn starch (which can be GMO). In a pinch, you can substitute arrowroot for kuzu, but arrowroot has a sticky texture, whereas kuzu is smooth. Eden brand kuzu works well, but there are various brands you can use.Print
This non-dairy version of panna cotta is light and creamy and perfect for summer when strawberries are in season!
1/4 cup raw or roasted cashews, soaked in water for 3 hours or overnight
2 cups unsweetened almond milk, divided
3/4 teaspoon agar powder (NOW brand recommended)*
1 rounded tablespoon kuzu powder**
1–2 tablespoons cool water
1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons pure maple syrup
pinch Himalayan salt or sea salt
a few strawberries, for garnish
a few fresh mint leaves, for garnish (optional)
shaved chocolate, for garnish (optional)
Drain cashews and set aside.
Pour about 1 cup of the almond milk into a medium saucepan and sprinkle with agar powder. Slowly bring to a boil over low heat, whisking frequently to combine.
Meanwhile, dissolve kuzu in a small bowl or cup with 1-2 tablespoons water. Using a spoon or tiny whisk, stir until kudzu has dissolved. Whisk dissolved kuzu to agar mixture and simmer for a few minutes. This will thicken the milk slightly. Turn off heat.
Put remaining cup of almond milk in a blender with cashews, strawberries, vanilla, maple syrup, and salt. Blend until smooth, then add mixture from the stove and blend on low until just combined.
Pour mixture into dessert cups or ramekins. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a few hours or until set. Garnish with sliced strawberries and mint leaves or shaved chocolate.
* Agar is a natural, pure vegetable quality gelatin and a much healthier alternative to commercial animal, chemical gelatins.
** Kuzu powder is chunky and will become smooth when combined with a cool liquid. There’s no need to try to make it into a powder when measuring. Just use a slightly rounded tablespoon and you’ll have the right amount. Arrowroot can be substituted, but it has a stickier texture. Kudzu is more velvety smooth.
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