Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta

Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta will indulge your craving for something creamy, chocolatey, and nutty in one delicious, elegant dessert. This recipe gives the classic Italian dessert a rich, luscious flavor by adding semisweet chocolate and hazelnut spread and make it even more special with a yummy surprise at the bottom!

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Panna cotta is essentially the Italian version of pudding, which is to say that it's made with much better ingredients and therefore tastes a million times better! The name "Panna Cotta" sounds so foreign and fancy, but it's actually a really simple recipe to master.

This recipe marries the velvety texture of panna cotta with the rich, nutty flavors of chocolate and hazelnut. The hazelnut liquor (such as Frangelico) is optional, but adds another layer of flavor that makes this Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta really sing! If you love anything chocolate, check my collection of chocolate recipes from cookies, and bread, to cakes and other pastries!

If you're a lover of Italian desserts, try my Pignoli Cookies, Italian Ricotta Pie or Affogato!

Why This Recipe Works

  • Sophisticated, yet simple to prepare. Just 10 minutes to prep!
  • Single-serve desserts that you can make ahead.
  • A special surprise added to the bottom for added texture and flavor.

Ingredient Notes

  • Unflavored powdered gelatin- this is traditionally used to give the panna cotta its thick, pudding-like texture. Use any brand that is colorless and flavorless in powder form. Look for unflavored powdered gelatin in the baking aisle of your grocery store or next to the Jello products.
  • Heavy cream- its high-fat content will give the base a rich and luxurious creaminess and also aid in stabilizing the gelatin, allowing the panna cotta to set properly. 
  • Semisweet chocolate- I like that this gives the panna cotta an intense chocolate flavor without making it too sweet. You can also use dark chocolate if you want. 
  • Chocolate hazelnut spread- I used Nutella, but feel free to use any other brand you like. Make sure that it is on the creamy side to ensure that the cream is smooth and silky.
  • Hazelnut liqueur- this is optional but will give the dessert a more pronounced nutty aroma and flavor. I used Frangelico but any brand will do. You will usually find this in the alcohol or liquor aisles of supermarkets.  
  • Whole milk- this will thin the cream mixture and give it a smoother and lighter mouthfeel making it super creamy without being overly dense.
  • Assorted chocolate hazelnut candies- this is also optional but will add texture and flavor to the dessert. You can use Baci or Ferraro Rocher which are roughly chopped into smaller pieces 
  • Whipped cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts- for topping. 

*Full ingredient list with quantities is in the recipe card.

Helpful Equipment

  • Pour the water into a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over top, and stir to combine. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream up to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and salt, then stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Pour the mixture over the gelatin and gently whisk until combined.
  • Whisk in the hazelnut spread, hazelnut liqueur, and milk, then set the mixture aside to cool slightly. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped chocolate hazelnut candies in the bottom of 6 ramekins or cups, then pour the mixture over.
  • Cover the ramekins loosely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight) to set. To serve, top with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Step by step instructions

  1. Pour the water into a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over top, and stir to combine. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream up to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and salt, then stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Pour the mixture over the gelatin and gently whisk until combined.
  2. Whisk in the hazelnut spread, hazelnut liqueur, and milk, then set the mixture aside to cool slightly. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped chocolate hazelnut candies in the bottom of 6 ramekins or cups, then pour the mixture over.
  3. Cover the ramekins loosely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight) to set. To serve, top with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts.

Tips For Success

  • Dissolve the gelatin in cold water first and make sure to sprinkle it evenly across the surface of the water so that each granule can fully hydrate. 
  • Stir the cream mixture consistently to the bottom from burning and prevent lumps from forming. This will give you a smoother panna cotta base. 
  • Use room-temperature ingredients so they can easily be integrated into the mixture. 
  • Allow sufficient time for the panna cotta to chill and set in the refrigerator. It typically takes at least 4 hours, but overnight chilling often yields the best results.

Serving Suggestions

Take them out of the fridge right before serving then top with whipped cream chopped toasted hazelnuts. You can also serve them garnished with berries, chocolate shavings, caramel sauce, or a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve as a dessert to any Italian mains like Beef Braciole, Chicken Milanese, Italian Meatballs, Cioppino or Italian Baked Stuffed Clams Oreganata.

FAQ

What is panna cotta?

Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert that literally translates to "cooked cream" only that's slightly misleading because the cream isn't always cooked. Panna Cotta is a thick, pudding-like dessert that can be flavored in many different ways. It's smooth, creamy, melts in your mouth, and like most Italian desserts, it's usually not too sweet. It's always thickened with gelatin, rather than other similar desserts that are thickened with eggs, flour, or cornstarch.

Can I make it ahead of time?

Yes! In fact, it has to be made ahead. Panna Cotta needs at least 6 hours in the refrigerator to set up, otherwise, it will be too loose and liquidy.

Can I freeze it?

Yes. Panna Cotta can actually be frozen, too, with good results. It's perfect for entertaining because you can make it several days in advance and then just pull it out of the fridge when you're ready.

Can I use another setting agent aside from gelatin?

Agar-agar is a vegetarian alternative that can be used similarly. Follow the instructions on the agar-agar package for the appropriate substitution ratio.

A ramekin with chocolate hazelnut panna cotta and whipped cream.
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Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta 

This recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Panna Cotta is super easy to whip up and makes a delicious, elegant dessert! Creamy, velvety, nutty and soo chocolatey!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 538kcal

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ cup chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur such as Frangelico, optional
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 6 assorted chocolate hazelnut candies such as Baci or Ferraro Rocher, roughly chopped
  • Whipped cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts for serving

Instructions

  1. Pour the water in a medium bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over top and stir to combine. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream up to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and salt, then stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Pour the mixture over the gelatin and gently whisk until combined.
  2. Whisk in the hazelnut spread, hazelnut liqueur and milk, then set the mixture aside to cool slightly. Place about 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped chocolate hazelnut candies in the bottom of 6 ramekins or cups, then pour the mixture over.
  3. Cover the ramekins loosely with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight) to set. To serve, top with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped toasted hazelnuts.


Nutrition

Calories: 538kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 243mg | Potassium: 377mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 31g | Vitamin A: 951IU | Vitamin C: 0.4mg | Calcium: 142mg | Iron: 3mg

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This came out perfect! I used ferraro rocher for the centers and it was absolutely delicious. Made it for an early valentines dinner and will make this again every single year!

  2. 5 stars
    That panna cotta is getting to me. So silky! Also, so jealous! I love Italy but haven't been in years 🙁 Someday!

  3. 5 stars
    Italians. Holiday spirit. Adorable dishes. And mascarpone pasta. Chocolate Hazelnut Baci Panna Cotta. Dude. Ain't no party like a Coley party 'cuz a Coley party don't stop! 😉 These look phenomenal lady. Drooling. Also going to stalk you on Instagram now.

    1. Haha! This might just be my favorite comment ever. Thanks for stopping by and also for following on insta. Stoked to stay in touch!

  4. 5 stars
    Oh MAN!!! I gotta stop reading your posts on my fasting days!! These are KEEPERS, Coley! LOVE everything about them (and it's not just my empty stomach talking here)!
    My kids LOVE Nutella and I LOVE Frangelico so the dessert is a definite 'go'... The pasta also sounds absolutely luscious! Thanks for sharing!